I would like to do what I can to help Chris Bauer, Port Angeles surfboard shaper, sander, glasser, ace repair specialist, and old school surf shop owner (which I will explain); and, in return, I would appreciate any help he might be able to provide to aid my career goals (ie; sell some shirts, art). It’s a classic quid pro quo.
Chris has a stripped-down (other than a great mural by northwest surf artist Tod Fischer in the showroom) surf shop in a commercial building on 101 west of Port Angeles (just before- if you’re headed out searching surf- the gas station run by the Lower Elwha folks). There’s a big roll up garage door, usually closed, and a surfboard hanging over the mandoor, the possibly-sharpie-written sign reading, “Last Stop Surf Shop.” Hope I got that right.
If, upon entering, you notice it smells like resin; yeah; it’s because there’s a glassing room in the back, and, on my second visit, I discovered there’s a separate shaping room behind a wall hidden by surfboards, new, used, and under repair.
Chris Bauer, left, dressed in a first edition of the first Original Erwin t-shirt, holding a classic, early 60s style board he shaped, glassed… everything necessary to create a beautiful board- perfectly-wrapped rails, extra layer of glass on the nose, tail, with, on the other side, a deck patch. The glassed-on fin, incidentally, is the old school, squarish, pre-Greenough skeg, which, I told Chris, surfers of the era were very stoked to be moving on from, on to the more rakish, turn-allowing fins.
Nevertheless, a beautiful board.
Oh, part of the thing about being old-school is that his shop isn’t about fashion over performance. Yes, but if he had some Original Erwins…
Okay, shameless self promotion aside (other than mentioning that there are Original Erwins available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE), here’s what Chris and I have in common: Joe Roper.
The top photo shows Joe at his very modern shop somewhere east of Pacific Beach where, in 1971, age 20; and Joe was a 14 or so year old ‘pier rat,’ surfing Crystal Pier like it was Pipeline. Yeah, I have written about this previously.
The lower photo shows Joe’s first repair shop, kind of stuck to the side of the old Gordon and Smith shop in Mission Beach (note the twinfin with glassed-on fins on the trashcan- olllld school).
Chris started his career as a ‘hand sander’ for Joe Roper, the only kid whose name I knew in my time in P.B. (I’ve since discovered another Crystal pier rat, Roper contemporary, Olympic Peninsula surfer ‘Big’ Dave Ring). “Well,” Chris said, “I had to start somewhere.”
And how was Joe, who I once observed kicking his board at and into (full body hit) another surfer because (and I asked him) the guy was from Clairmont, which, incidentally, is less than five miles from the ocean, and probably five miles closer than Joe’s current shop in Kearney Mesa; how was Joe to work for?
“He was gnarly.” “Gnarly?” “In a good way.” “Oh, yeah; of course.”
Joe knows his shit. Chris learned, moved up, and, eventually, up here. If you’re heading out, starry eyed, looking for surf; or, heading back, disappointed; you could stop in; maybe hang out. I think there’s a couch in the main room.
For more on Joe Roper, search Joe roped surfed crystal pier like it was pipeline
INCIDENTALLY; I did catch some very small waves on this trip; me and Helmet Girl- just to explain the lack of shoes.