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Rick Griffin Surfboard

Tom and Anastasia Bernardy with the Griffin Board
As with almost any grom growing up in the 60's in the Southern California, I knew Rick Griffin from Murphy and the iconic surf movie posters like 5 Summer Stories and Pacific Vibrations. And there he was at a party at a friend's house in the early 80's. After working up the nerve to approach this real live artist, I went up and introduced myself, expecting a condescending nod and a so what "sure". But I was totally taken aback by Rick when he treated me as a long lost buddy. When the conversation turned to where he was surfing these days, the answer surprised me, he hadn't surfed for a while and didn't even have a wetsuit anymore. Having a brother that was the O'Neill wetsuit rep solved that issue and soon we were surfing 3 to 4 days a week down at Church and Trestles. After the surf sessions, we would hang out at his laboratory, he would also take me to different rock and artsy events. This continued for about 3 years and then as quickly as it started, poof, he was gone—he had moved to San Francisco.

I didn't hear from him for a year or more and then one day after surfing I came home to find Rick waiting for me. He said he wanted to thank me for getting him back out in the water and he had decided that he wanted to draw something that I could put on my board the next time I got one made. As fate would have it, I was having a custom board made by Jeff Timpone which was going to be glassed that day. I called Jeff and I told him a friend wanted to paint something on the board before it was glassed. Jeff said, "not cool, the board already has my name, Timpone on it". But when I told him it was Rick Griffin, he thought I was kidding. I said we'd be right over to get the board and when we got there, the hallway leading into Jeff's shop was lined with guys he must have called, all on their knees bowing to Rick as we walked in. I had no idea who I was hanging with.

For the next 3 days, Rick worked on a little 3 x 5 inch drawing which he drew over and over on a piece of tracing paper until he got it perfect. Then he taped off the nose of the board with Masking tape and transferred the drawing onto the board. Using a razor blade, he cut the masking tape along the lines he drew and airbrushed the lines. The next day he came back and hand painted the detail and then the board was sent back to Timpone for glassing. 

Before Rick would give me the board—he made me take it out and catch at least one wave while he watched—a Baptism. After I caught the wave, poof, he was gone and that would be the last time I saw Rick...
Tom Bernardy



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