Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. – Steven Wright.
A Born Surfer
My passion for surfing started in the summer of 1961 in Kailua, Hawaii. My mom, Sally “Maka Lea” Brockman lived in Hawaii for the beach, the water, the sun, and the beauty. Yes… the beauty of the Islands, the people, and the surf is what I got to grow up around. My mom was a regular beach girl at Waikiki in the late forties and early fifties, surfing tandem with the beach boys. At six years old, my mom introduced me to Duke Kahanamoku, who was a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian, 1890-1968), a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, and was widely credited with making the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing popular. I distinctly remember Duke’s enormous hands, stout posture, and his welcoming gestures. The stories Duke shared will never be forgotten. The sport of surfing was full of new ideas and early technologies then. Our first ankle leashes were made out of nylon string. Surgical tubing was tried later, but it was so stretchy that the nylon string ended up being placed inside the tubing for a controlled stretch. Our fins were originally made of wood but then evolved into fiberglass. Paraffin was our wax of choice. Then came SEX WAX, and that was cool! David Nuuhiwa, Fred Hemmings, Fred Van Dyke, Greg Noll, Buzy Kerbox, Eddie Aikau, Buffalo, Jose Angel and Peter Cole were household names of professional surfers we grew to know as friends in our surfing community. We would ride our bikes to the beach and surf before school, after school, and even during school. We, I, could never get enough of the water; the salt water on my skin…Surfing is a lifestyle. World renowned competition surfer, Kelly Slater, could not have described it better… “You’re DONE. Once you’re a surfer you’re done. You’re IN. You know… it’s like the Mob or something. You’re NOT getting out!” This is so true and not a day passes that I don’t think about surfing. I am always looking for that next wave and that bigger boat, with a big wake to surf. Especially now with my dog, Red, who loves riding on the board with me.
Surfing Was Not My Everything!
In addition to surfing, sports were always a big part of my life… baseball, water polo, volleyball, martial arts, motocross, go-karting, sailing, and competitive waterskiing – both slalom and barefoot. My Dad loved boating and taught me to drive our first ski boat at age ten. We boated almost every weekend. When I was almost old enough to drive a car, my dad got involved with power boat racing and loved to watch the Unlimited Hydroplane Races in Seattle. We belonged to Kaneohe Yacht Club where we sailed Flying Juniors, El’toros, Cal 20’s, and raced a 44′ Islander around the Islands. Racing was in our blood, and I didn’t know any better than to just go fast, hold on, and pass whoever was in front of me. I won many High Point Year Awards during my ten year tunnel boat racing career.
I Became a Surf Board Designer
A fond memory and stepping stone for me came in the form of elite surfer, Ben Aipa. He showed up at one of my boat races one weekend in 1975. He introduced himself, his son Akila, Buttons, and Mark Lyndel. Wow! These guys were all over Surfer Magazine and their style just ripped! Ben complimented me on my racing achievements and asked me to explain how and why my boats were so fast, why they turned on a dime, and how they seemed to actually fly on water. I had a tunnel boat and a hydroplane there that day. I was humbled, and showed him the configuration of the chimes, the hydroplane shape, and the step bottom of the boats. Ben calmly absorbed it all in a way that only a Hawaiian engineer could. Three months later, I surfed with Buttons and Mark Lyndel at Velzyland, a famous surfing spot on Hawaii’s North Shore. We used a board that Ben Aipa designed and that utilized my race boat technologies. It was fantastic! What a proud feeling knowing that my ideas could help to create a board so stunning! When I moved to California, a good friend introduced me to fellow surfer, John Neve, who had been making surf boards since he was a teenager. I shared my secrets and he created his magic. With these new boards that we made, we only had to “think left” and “think right” to shred a wave in our wake. Way too much fun! I was not only surfing, but actually riding the surf boards that I created!
The Birth of My Stand Up Paddling (SUP)
I started paddling in California the summer of 2006, with the help of many “Sweepers”, a title earned from their distinct paddle stroke. This stroke was off the charts! With it, they boasted, their wave count increased significantly and the visual was dead-on for setting themselves up for the next wave. Mastering stand up paddling was very addicting, and produced laughter, smiles, and a feeling that glows a grin a mile wide. I then did the “transformation paddle” from surfer to SUP’er. So glad I did.
The Birth of a Better Paddle Board
In 2008, my son and I brought home three extra large surfboard blanks from San Diego. One was 11′ x 30″ x 4.5″ thick and the other 10’6″ x 30″ x 4.5″ thick. This was unheard of in the SUP community, for a board to be 30″ wide. “Too wide, won’t turn. You need to make it 27 or 28 inches wide and no wider”. “Hhhha”, I said, “I live in the desert and if I can get these inland lake people to try this sport, they will be more successful upon first stand and they will have the confidence to go farther”. That is exactly what happened. As a further test, I left my 10’6″ x 30″ paddle board with a board shaping buddy to let our friends and locals try the board. “Best Board on the Beach”, they said…The best part of Arizona is the climate, but the hottest summer months have forced me to make a board that will also withstand the extreme heat. With the help of my Industrial Technology background/degree, I decided to distribute a sealer mix over the foam, with a blend of heavier fiber glass and lighter glass, to prevent delaminating under the sun’s heat.
My dream always has been to create fun on the water. Go Stand Up Paddle is the name of my SUP company that does just that. I have been renting out paddle boards and giving lessons since 2005; for three years at Lake Pleasant, and for the last eight years at the Bartlett Lake Marina. It’s very important to me to teach a basic stroke that my students can build upon. Once this stroke is correctly in their bodies, learning more advanced paddling techniques comes naturally, should they want to develop into stronger, faster, more agile paddle boarders. Brockfish Paddle Boards is a business that I started in the spring of 2007. I have created over 50 specially designed paddle boards. The best part about my boards is that they are made in the USA with custom dimensions to fit the body riding them. Not one board is alike and they all have their own character. My boards glide fast over flat water, surf, and win races.
Committee Member – Annual Hot Head Race
The first time that I paddled Tempe Town Lake, I was with my son back in spring of 2008. We were flagged down by this weathered-looking, well-mannered gentleman named Oakie. He was in charge of the rowing race division for Tempe Town Lake. For the next five years, Oak and I kept in touch by phone and through testing my SUP Boards together. Oak and I shared a lot of insight, discussing the growth of stand up paddle boarding here in Phoenix. Unfortunately, Oakie was a high risk diabetes patient. One day, in 2013, he fell from a committee boat and severed his insulin tube that kept him alive. My good friend and cohort passed away. As Oakie’s friend and well-established Stand Up Paddle pioneer, I was invited to be on the Committee for the Annual Hot Head Race in his place. I was honored to be chosen and for my ideas and experiences to be heard within this group. “Shotgun” starts with different board sized classes racing in a co-ed fleet of paddlers. Now this is racing! We will miss you Oak!
“Arizona-SUPers” Meet-up Group
Paddle boarding is the fastest growing water sport world-wide. To take advantage of the boom, I started a meet-up group to introduce paddling to interested Phoenicians. Arizona-SUPers has been my baby since the spring of 2009. I found that my experience as a waterman and my passion for teaching SUP allows me to share the joy of paddling while keeping my meet-up safe and fun.
Living the Dream
Many people have commented that I am “living the dream”. I really am! I love what I am doing, and I am excited that I have established a major lake in the Valley as a premier stand up paddle recreation and education facility. My ultimate goal is to provide first time paddlers, families, and dedicated paddling athletes the safest and most stimulating activity on water!