Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cher Pendarvis: Part Two

Rell, Susie & Cher
courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive


Cher, you were friends with Rell Sunn. Do you have a favorite story about her?

Rell and I met in 1975, waxing up for a heat in a WISA event in Oceanside and spent much of that summer surfing together and we had great fun! Rell loved to look for special vintage goodies in second hand stores and it was always fun to make little stops after surfing with her. I still have a 1950s silk Hawaiian dress that Rell bought me for $1, in 1975, and we shared this dress on occasion. Rell and I were close friends for more than 25 years.

We visited back and forth many times, and sent faxed letters to keep in touch. When I was visiting her, we had great times surfing Makaha, the South and North Shores, and she took me diving for fish and we would gather shells at special beaches on the West side. Once we were diving on a clear day near Kaena Point and we saw a big Ulua. Rell wanted to spear it, but the fish was too fast. Later, I think she did go back and capture this fish. Rell showed me to true Aloha.

When did you start shaping, glassing and painting on boards?

Picking up from patching dings to earn my first board in the mid-1960s, I was comfortable with surfboard building materials. I began building boards with my first husband and dear friend, Tom and friends in 1968. I did a little shaping for myself in the early 1970s, but Tom was more adept at it, so I focused on color work, glassing and designing and making fins when I worked, to earn money for college. Tom and I worked with Mike Sheffer building Fresh Fish Surfboards, also our own, and for friends.

1970, Cher glassing her 5'2" fish
courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

It was a thrill to shape a family board this year with Steve, on my 59th birthday. Since this was the beginning of the last year of my 50s, I wanted to build a board from start to finish. It is a "6'7" high aspect twin fin fish.

How did you feel about the transition from longboards to shorter boards?

I loved my last longboard, the 9'8 Surfboards Hawaii Model A. Surfboards were getting shorter after Nat Young won the 1966 World Contest in Ocean Beach on his shorter, more maneuverable board, Sam.

My first short board was an 8 foot Hansen 50/50, and after that we began experimenting and building our own boards. Our boards went shorter very quickly after that.

We began to build our own boards in 1968, first from cut down longboards, and soon after that, we were buying blanks from Mitch's Surf Shop in La Jolla. Mitch was a good friend and you could buy all of the supplies for making your own boards at his shop.

Design was changing rapidly and many friends were experimenting, and we loved sharing ideas and trying one another's boards. It was an exciting time.

Cher, featured in an ad for Channin, 1976. Riding the 7'1" Channin Swallowtail shaped by Mike Casey.
Photo by Aaron Chang


From some of these photos, it looks like you are a real charger on the short boards. Did that come naturally to you once you started surfing short boards?

Jamie, I loved the shorter boards, they were faster and more maneuverable. I love the glide of nice longer boards, too. I have always loved to grow and push myself with surfing. It's just so much fun and so creative. The fish has been my favorite surfboard design since 1970, but I love to ride a lot of different shapes, as well.

Who at that time was your inspiration and did you pick up any tricks from other surfers?

My main inspirations were Thomas Threinen, Skip Frye, Bunker Spreckels, John Riddle, Jeff Ching, Larry Gephart, Steve Lis, John Brockway, Larry Bertlemann, Shaun Tomson and of course, Steve Pendarvis.

Jeff Ching was especially inspirational because his surfing was extremely quick, and stylish and smooth. Jeff was the first stand-up surfer to ride a fish, and I was in the water when he first borrowed Stevie's kneeboard and began surfing it standing up. Shortly thereafter Stevie shaped Jeff his own fish. Most of the early fishes were 4'6-5'6.

Soon, Tom shaped me a 5'2" fish, and this little board changed my surfing. It was so free and fast, almost like a bar of soap skating across the water.

My first fish had hard down rails that were inspired by some of the edge boards that Bunker was riding at the time. I loved helping build this fish and glassed it and made the fins.

Tom was a stylish longboarder in the 1960s, and made the transition to shortboards. He was inspired by George Greenough and fell in love with kneeboarding. Tom built himself spoons, tri plane hulls and fish kneeboards.

He, Stevie Lis, John Brockway and other kneeboarder friends, Louis Greco, Mitchell Pelegrin, Marshall Myrman, the Huffmans, Mark Skinner and others... their deep tube riding was inspirational.

Cher surfing a 5'5" fish in Mexico, 1974. Shaped by John Belik and glassed by Cher. This was Cher's fourth fish and she still has it. The photo was used on the press release for the first ever women's pro contest, The Hang Ten Women's Pro Malibu, 1975.
photo by Tom Threinen


Bunker Spreckels was a very creative surfer, who was very fun to surf with and died tragically at the age of 27. During the early 1970s era that Bunker was around, we rode edge boards with small fins or finless, and were speeding sections and then slowing the fast little boards by slipping/sliding 360s and helicopters similar to the folks riding finless boards now. I became fascinated with tube riding and loved traveling the coast with our kneeboarder friends in search of barrelly waves.

When we were working at Surfing Magazine in the late 1970s, I met Shaun Tomson, whose tube riding was ground-breaking. We got to see Dan Merkel's first shots of Shaun at Off the Wall when he first brought them in to Surfing.

Shaun kindly gave me pointers on tube riding and shared ideas for a board that Mike Casey shaped me for Hawaii. At that time, we also met Larry Bertlemann, and surfed with Larry, and other inspirational Hawaiian surfers on the North Shore.

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Please stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow!

3 comments:

BuenoBueno said...

do you have a twitter acct?
i love my package! i blogged about it. THANK YOU! Gonna check out the tunes right now!

Jamie Watson said...

Oh wow, thanks! Please find me on Twitter. http://twitter.com/cocobohemia

pranaglider said...

Great interview series Jamie!

Cher is the queen of Aloha!!