Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Love Letters From Hawaii
It’s been about a year-and-a-half since I made my first “virtual” acquaintance with Daniel Partch. What started out as a digital romance (yes, we met on Facebook via mutual friends) has blossomed into a kind of love I have never experienced. The common bond between us was and still is a deep love of the ocean and surfing. But over our three-month correspondence and his courtship – which included emails, phone calls, handwritten letters and even a couple of surprise packages via snail mail – I found out a lot more about Daniel. A former marine who suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) after serving in Desert Storm, Daniel moved to Hawaii’s Big Island a year prior to our “meeting” to get away from the hectic SoCal life he grew up with. I also discovered that Daniel is one of the best wood fin makers in the surfboard industry. (Daniel trained with and learned from the best, legendary fin maker Larry Gephart). Daniel is not only a master fin maker, he also does amazing wood burn art (on his fins and on pieces of wood) , shapes surfboards and paints. I was intrigued. And apparently so was he. After that three months of getting to know each other, Daniel decided to hop on a plane from the Big Island back to SoCal to meet me. That was on Valentine’s weekend 2010. He hasn’t left since. He now lives with me and my son and has been a welcome addition to our family. In between shaping fins, surfboards and painting, he grooms both yards, takes care of the dogs, does the dishes and the laundry (should I pinch myself now?). Daniel is as strong as an ox but has a heart and soul of pure gold.
Below is an excerpt from a story I wrote last year on Daniel for my friend Robert Wald’s Ocean magazine:
San Diego’s cadre of revolutionary and underground surf board craftsman has remained a tight knit circle – Steve Lis, Rich Pavel, Steve Pendaris, Jeff McCallum and Many Caro to name a few. This eclectic bunch has had a great influence on surfing, creating novel wave riding tools such as the fish and the Min Sim.
Among this elite group of fiber glass and foam inventors is Daniel Partch, whose handcrafted marine plywood fins have helped propel these highly in demand boards.
From slant back keel fins to tri fins, quads, asymmetrical, cut-aways and single fins, Partch’s peers have continuously required him to push the envelope on one of the most important functions of a surfboard.
Some of the best surfboard shapers in the business have used Daniel’s fins – such as Skip Frye, Josh Hall, Tyler Warren, Many Caro, Michael Miller and Michele Junod. He has also shaped fins for boards created through the Swift movement, a collaboration of influential top shapers, surfers, designers and film makers in San Diego and Australia such as Hank Warner, Larry Mabile, Andrew Kidman, Rich Pavel, Bob Mitzven and Wayne Lynch.
“He has a unique gift,” says friend and legendary surfer/shaper Skip Frye. “The whole surfboard process is an art form, so adding that to your board enhances the whole art characteristic of the board. “They also function well. Function is the first order of business.”
Daniel, who often listens to jazz and ‘70s disco while foiling fins, now uses our garage and backyard as his shop.
“It’s amazing how Daniel can pour such soul into something that is going to bring so much joy to someone’s life – sliding waves on a custom board with a custom art fin,” says friend and shaper Josh Hall. “More important for me is that Daniel’s fins are a connection to a small group of hard core underground locals that I am very fortunate and proud to be linked with. Daniel embodies every aspect of a true craftsman, and it shows in every fin. He’s in a category that few people are in and who is highly sought after.”
You can also check out an interview Liquid Salt did with Daniel by clicking here.
Below are some of Daniel’s amazing fins/artwork. The photo of Kelly Slater holding a Tyler Warren Mini Simmons with Daniel Partch fins was taken by Steen Barnes. The radical 70s surfboard is one that Daniel shaped for a dear friend of ours. I've also included a photo of Daniel during his Desert Storm tour. Thank you for serving!
*Thank you Daniel for your unconditional love, talent and daily inspirations.