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Curious about the craft: La Jolla surfboard maker is part of author’s U.S. tour exploring craftsmanship

Daniel Seddiqui (left) stops in La Jolla during his national crafting tour to shape a surfboard with board maker Tim Bessell.
Daniel Seddiqui (left) stops in La Jolla during his national crafting tour to shape a surfboard with guidance from local board maker Tim Bessell.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

For stop No. 61, Daniel Seddiqui shapes a surfboard with Windansea’s Tim Bessell.

As a child growing up in the Bay Area, Daniel Seddiqui was always curious.

When he would get a baseball card, he would seek to learn not just about the player on it but also about the city where the team plays, why the team has its name and why the colors are what they are.

Still a curious adult, Seddiqui is on the tail end of his third national tour to visit cities big and small to learn more about them. On this tour, he’s visiting 65 U.S. cities to craft a piece in each one that represents that city’s culture, industry or history. Graffiti art in Brooklyn. Model cars in Detroit. Cigars in Tampa. A Mardi Gras mask in New Orleans.

So naturally, when visiting San Diego for stop No. 61, he crafted a surfboard in La Jolla.

“I’m obsessed with America and I’ve always tried to find unique ways of experiencing it and connecting with people,” he told the La Jolla Light. “The thing that keeps us going is that people are never going to lose their sense of creativity. Even in the toughest times, people figure out how to survive. I do this as a passion. I go out here to fulfill my curiosity. The pandemic impacted a lot of people’s lives, but they still figured out a way to live out their passion, whatever that might be.”

Daniel Seddiqui and La Jolla surfboard maker Tim Bessell work on a new board Jan. 27.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Meeting with surfboard maker Tim Bessell at his workshop in Windansea on Jan. 27, Seddiqui assisted in the “roughing” of the board.

“He’s doing quite well,” Bessell said. “It’s a very extensive process. The first step is design, the second step is what we call roughing a surfboard with saws and planers and sanders to get it 95 percent there, which is what we’re doing now. Then there is the refinement stage.

“There’s more to it than people realize. It’s more technical. Most surfboards are coming from Asia and made with machines. There are almost none being hand-shaped … it is a mass-produced commodity. But what we make here is a handmade functional piece of art.”

Calling craftsmanship like Bessell’s “the exact reason I wanted to do this project,” Seddiqui said he had surfed before, “but I have never touched a surfboard in this way; I never knew all that went into it.”

Shaking out his arm, which was getting increasingly sore from sawing into the board, he said, “Tim is a pioneer in the surfing community and keeping the legacy of San Diego in the surfing industry going.”

The lessons learned from creating the items during the tour will go into a book Seddiqui is writing. But he said he would have undertaken the journey just to satisfy his curiosity and that the book is just a bonus.

“I would be so happy to have made these crafts and keep them in my office,” he said. “The reason I’m writing the book is to inspire someone else and encourage them to connect with locals when they travel and to have meaningful travel. We’re really divided as a country in so many ways, but I thought we could unite in our craftsmanship.”

Seddiqui has written two other books chronicling his other trips around the country.

“It all started for me because I couldn’t find a job out of college,” he said. “I studied economics but I didn’t have any real-world working experience. I applied for 120 jobs and never got an offer. So I got curious about jobs.”

He traveled the country in 2008-09 trying his hand at 50 jobs in 50 states, including officiating weddings in Nevada and assisting the Border Patrol in Arizona. After that, he said, “my curiosity grew even more.”

Delving into what makes America’s smaller towns culturally unique, Seddiqui embarked in 2018 on a second tour, this time to have “bucket list” experiences. He sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Utah and participated in Scandinavian games in North Dakota.

“I’m obsessed with America and I’ve always tried to find unique ways of experiencing it and connecting with people.”

— Daniel Seddiqui

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people struggling to stay afloat financially, he wondered about the trades that people spent their lives honing and whether they were still able to make their crafts.

He decided to make that the focus of his third tour, which started last year. He visited the city in Wisconsin where the Green Bay Packers football team’s “Cheesehead” foam hat was originated and made a wood-handled butter knife.

“That’s America, that’s how we were founded — people found ways to pioneer an industry or an art and see if it sticks,” Seddiqui said. “These things become part of our culture and a phenomenon. Learning how to make these things from people that are so passionate has made this such a meaningful experience.”

Along with being an author, Seddiqui is a speaker and the director of a career exploration program. To learn more about him and his travels, visit livingthemap.com. ◆