Hobie Surf: Terry Martin: Life, Boards, and Everything


It can take so much from a person… sometimes.

For Terry Martin, it hasn’t seemed to take a thing. The bounce in his step is there, the twinkle in his eye is there, his laugh still chimes, his heart is full of kindness, his optimism still overflows all over the place, and his smile is as bright during this fight as it has always been. But cancer has taken the one thing that has been a fixture for Terry for as long as some people can remember…

The beard.

Terry Martin and the mighty beard.

Since 1968 Mr Martin’s face has been covered in a mighty beard. I couldn’t find a photo anywhere of him without one. Truly, it seems the only thing attached to Terry for longer than the beard has been shaping.  80,000+ boards since 1963 have passed through his masterful hands. The same saw that cut his first board for Hobie back all those years ago, is still the same saw that cuts the boards today. The only change is the hands that use it have aged a bit since that first slice, they also show traces of the chemo that still hasn’t entirely left his system.

If your feet are lucky enough to stand on a Terry Martin board, it was cut with this saw.

We stand in the shaping room at the Dana Point Hobie shop looking down at what will become my new longboard, he showed me his nails.. “Would you look at that… yuck… yellow and torn up. I think they are all going to fall off.” He smiles. “I hope for your sake they do, Terry, that’s a funky look.” I said. He laughs, that classic laugh that makes you all fuzzy. He bends his hands to me and shares, “look, see how much they bend again, they were so stiff during treatment… now look at them flex.. I can shape now. I couldn’t wait to get back in here.” You can tell, he paces around the untouched blank with a jig in his step, eyes it.. flips it over, smiles and grabs the saw. Pure joy.

We start the process of making the board.. one that he could easily accomplish alone in 40 minutes. They don’t call him the Machine for nothing. Shaping with Terry is more than just making a board.. it becomes a lesson in living. Not worrying about mistakes “Don’t worry about that, there is another step that will fix that”. Each time you say oops.. he’ll tell you what is great about that oops, and how it will benefit the board in the long run. He shows me how to keep from repeating the same steps over and over. How to streamline your efforts and be able to take the board off the racks and let it go when it’s time. A metaphor for life if there ever was one.

Make a mistake, correct it in the next step… don’t let it slow you down… everything is fixable.

In the midst of planers, saws, handmade sanding tools and dust, he tells me about his beginnings with Hobie. Mastering the art of shaping, going from making 2 boards in 10 hours to 10 boards in 10 hours. His desires to be able to have a full time shaping career that earned him enough of a living to support a family. Shaping 7 people deep, side by side in the factory in the early days. Honing his craft alongside Hobie Alter. We talk about the honor you feel when you work for Hobie, how it is being part of something bigger than yourself, something lasting, something true.

Nothing is as critical as you think… take too much out of one rail, just sand it out of the other rail till it matches.

The beard… “My son is 41, he has never seen me without one!” Terry himself isn’t used to it. “I had no idea I had all these lines around my mouth… I look like a shriveled up apple doll.” His laughter floats out, I ask if he is going to grow it back, “Heck yes, I have to cover up all this old stuff on here…”  “You know, Terry, I’m almost 40, maybe I should start thinking of letting mine fill in.. give the waxer a break, I wouldn’t mind seeing less of my smile lines.. the world could always use another bearded lady!” Somehow, in the midst of illness, he is more worried about your tears.. more worried about your heart breaking. He keeps you laughing. He is a man of deep faith… his positive attitude and assurances that he knows exactly where he is going (to Heaven,) if this battle doesn’t go his way, smooth everything out.

Even when you get to something technical, like marking out the fins… don’t stress, use the tool as a guide, place your marks, and if you mess up the sides, don’t freak out… you can always ride it as a single fin. 

We take two sessions to finish the board. Number 80,001 and counting. When it comes time to sign the board, my name goes right next to Terry’s. I’ll ride the board till it is either more ding repair kit than board, or even better, till it disintegrates under my feet. The last step, before it comes off the racks and it gets let go into the hands of the glasser, is a quote by Mickey Munoz down the stringer: “Surfing wasn’t the ride; it was the process of getting to the ride”. Terry looked down at it with the trade mark twinkle in his eyes… “Yeah, that’s really it, isn’t it? That’s all you need to know.”

Number 80,001 and counting… 

-Tracey Engelking

Please respect Terry’s privacy during this time. For more information on Terry Martin, upcoming auctions and ways you can help in his fight: Please visit  www.TerryMartinProject.com

Update 4-25-2012: Please join us May 20, 2012 for: The Terry Martin Project From Wood to Foam

*All photos by Tracey Engelking


13 thoughts on “Hobie Surf: Terry Martin: Life, Boards, and Everything

  1. terry,
    hope everything goes well and you get better soon. you are a jem. one of the best shapers ive ever seen. met you back in the day.i think it was the dyno days with david. i ran the newport store for a summer and sold walker foam for harold when he was in san clemente. thinking of you.
    mark neustadter

  2. All my years in the surfing business I have never heard anyone mention Terry Martin’s name without awe. Special awe and thanks from a grom that started making boards the year Mr. Martin started his beard

  3. Pingback: Life, Boards, and Everything « mySurf

    cannot believe i just found that picture of you & the crew in 1962 standing with that 16ft. longboard in sc. you gave me a few years back, at the stewart factory.. big prayers and will get it to you asap.. god speed !

  5. Know that you are loved and appreciated Terry. Know that prayers are being said for you AROUND the world. Heal fast and smile lots.
    “little sis”

  6. Pingback: Terry Martin: Life, Boards, and Everything | Hobie Surf Shop l BLOG | Distressed Mullet

  7. I had Terry shape me a longboard last summer. We did a video of the shaping an then I had him sign it for me. What a great guy.
    Ron Tamez

  8. Pingback: Terry Martin Project: From Wood to Foam | Hobie Surf Shop l BLOG

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