“What’s your favorite song??” I’m thinking as I ask this, that Bucky will throw out an answer that somehow involves Ozzy or Metallica, or Michael Jackson, something unremarkable.. but then, it wouldn’t be Bucky if the answer wasn’t surprising.
“Oh, that’s easy.. Moon Shadow by Cat Stevens.”
I got lucky when I went to interview one of my favorite Team Riders for Hobie, Bucky Barry, for this story; I also got to talk with his sister, Marissa, his mother, Teri and, Joe, his father (brother Jack was working at the time.) It was appropriate to hear from them all together, as the only thing that surpasses Bucky’s love of Sports Center is his deep love for his family. Their answers to my questions were funny and honest, like asking Joe what Bucky was like as a kid “He was cool…” Teri immediately corrected him and said “No! He was perfect…!!” Joe just smiled and said “No. He wasn’t…” but there was something in the smile that told me, while Buck maybe wasn’t a perfect child, he certainly brought his parents a lot of joy.
Teri shared that right from day one he slept through the night with a tiny smile on his face. He had the same tiny smile on his face when Teri and Joe found him headed for the stairs at break neck crawling speed after he managed to climb out of his crib. He smiled all the way to the store to buy a gate for the stairs the next morning. He was always easy, content and happy as a child. School wasn’t necessarily his favorite place to go, but he never got in trouble there. To this day he doesn’t like to get in trouble, he is content, and he is happy. He also is never with out his trademark smile.
I asked his sister Marissa to tell me a little about their childhood together: “He was my favorite person.. I followed him everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. I wanted to be exactly like him. He was fun, always fun. Whatever sport he did, I did. Bucky played basketball, so I played basketball. When he learned to surf, I learned to surf. We have always been tight our whole lives, and he and Jack are still my favorite people. They are two of my best friends. We are all very different, but that is what I love about our relationships; we are for each other, what each other is not” When Bucky and Marissa learned to surf at 10 and 8 respectively, they were out for a good time. Eventually, their natural ability on longboards grabbed the attention of Hobie’s marketing director, Sean Douglas. The two became Team Riders three years after standing up on their first waves.
After coming on board with Hobie, it was a blur of surf team practices, free surfing in the afternoons, trips, and contests. Though Bucky is an extremely stylish surfer, he never took to competition well. Marissa was far more suited to compete and faired much better in the rankings. Bucky spent more time in heats wondering how his friends were doing against him and making sure that they got enough good waves to advance, rather than worrying about how the judges were scoring him. It didn’t matter to the bosses at Hobie if he was first or last at an event. All that mattered was if he represented the core values of the brand: Fun, family and living the dream at the beach. Bucky ticked all the boxes and has stayed with Hobie since.
Bucky and I talked for a while about growing up surfing in Southern California. He shared silly stories like being in high school, going to surf team practice at Salt Creek and getting dressed on the grass above the famous break. He tells me how once after practice his buddies, Austin and Mumma, decided to de-towel him when his wetsuit was around his ankles. Not one to give up, he held onto the towel while they dragged a buck naked Bucky around the lawn. He finally let go of the towel and rolled down the hill, only to scramble up and realize they had dragged him through dog poo. Our conversation only turns serious when we start to talk about his board model, The Uncle Buck, and his time with Terry Martin.
“When I was 16 or 17, I got to make the first Uncle Buck with Terry.. I wanted sharper rails and a different concave from what I had been riding… so we made it. Everyone who rode it liked it and wanted one, so we made them and it became a model.” Bucky tells me that “Terry was like a Grandfather to me. When it happened (Terry’s passing) I got into my mom’s bed and cried. I couldn’t get up. It was like my mentor was gone… I still can’t talk about it…” We both stop talking for a while and just watch the waves. Both of us caught in our silent memories of a great man. “That is why getting the Corky Carroll board at the auction for Terry was so important. It was our family’s way of keeping a part of him (read the story of that magical night here). Hearing Candy and Johana say how stoked Terry would have been to know it came home with us… anyway… yeah, I still can’t talk about it… can we talk about something else? When are we going logging…?” We smile and both go back to watching the waves.
Probably my favorite thing about Bucky, besides the fact that if you are ever bored or need to be cheered up, all you have to do is say the sentence “Bucky, tell me a story” and he will launch into an epic tale that wanders through the peaks of nonsense and the valleys of silliness, is his gift with children. And it is a gift, they gravitate to him. Within minutes of being around him, kids will refer to Bucky as their friend. Who knows, maybe it’s the name, really, Bucky is about the least threatening name ever (though his real name is George, but how Bucky became Bucky is a story for another day). He got his start working with kids at the age of 16 when he became a surf instructor at the Paskowitz surf camp. By the time he was 21, he was a pro at teaching, so, Izzy Paskowitz asked Bucky if he would like to come down and teach at a very special camp for children with autism. “I got hooked. I was a little nervous at first, but I loved it. Sometimes you get a kid thats a little wiggly at first, or they throw an elbow **he laughs** but as soon as we are on the wave, they light up. I’ve taught at everyone that I could”. The program is now called Surfers Healing, and it has spread to dates across the country. He also teaches at The Children’s Hospital of Orange County/Miracles for Kids Stand Up Paddle and Outrigger day camps at Baby Beach each summer. Just like with Surfers Healing, he is a natural at teaching children from the oncology ward at CHOC. They love him, and why wouldn’t they? Bucky is just about the kindest person you could ever know. And that is a fact.
Back to the Cat Stevens song “Moon Shadow”… Bucky insisted that I read the lyrics and that I would understand why it was his favorite, and why he lives his life by the words.
“If I ever lost my hands
Lose my plough, lose my land
If I ever lose my hands
I won’t have to work no more…
If I ever lose my eyes
If my colors all run dry
If I ever lose my eyes
I won’t have to cry no more…
If I ever lose my legs
I won’t moan and I won’t beg
If I ever lose my legs
I won’t have to walk no more…”
“You know what it means now, right? There is always a reason for everything-always a tomorrow. Don’t focus on the crummy, just make the best out of it…. Can we be done now?” Yes, Bucky, I think we got it.