Sacred Craft: Surf expo at the Del Mar fairgrounds will feature chairmen of the boards

By Steven Mihailovich

Surfers and the people who love them, as well as anyone curious about the whole romance with the sport, can flock to the Del Mar Fairgrounds this weekend for the Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo. The expo is unique as a surfing tradeshow in California open to the public and dedicated solely to the manufacturing, design and art of the surfboard.

For Scott Bass, executive director of Sacred Craft and a Del Mar native son, the show’s exclusive focus is logical. Strip the fashion, fads and frivolity from surfing and you’re left with one item: the surfboard. Remove the board from surfing and you’re left with swimming.

“You’re not a surfer unless you care about the surfboard,” he said. “We want to create a place where the surfboard can be celebrated. Surfers only care about two things: waves and the equipment they ride them with. Everything else is BS and secondary.”

Sacred Craft will include 145 exhibitors, the most ever, Bass noted. Of those, about 70 percent are board manufacturers and shapers, with the remaining portion offering supporting goods such as wetsuits, fins and such.

Attendees can stroll among the booths to see the latest designs and innovations, and of course, purchase a custom-built surfboard, Bass said. In addition, they can watch presentations of surfboard shaping by the area’s top professionals.

What people won’t be able to do is find cheap, mass-produced boards or the innumerable racks of merchandise and other extraneous accessories that dominate, not only most of today’s surf shops, but the entire $40 billion surfing industry, he added.

“Sacred Craft was started in 2007 as a way for local shapers to have a place to show their wares, because a lot of surf shops weren’t carrying boards by the local shaper, which in my opinion, is the lifeblood of the (surf) culture,” Bass said. “I wanted to create a situation where people could talk to the shaper and manufacturer one-on-one as opposed to going to a surf shop and talking to an 18-year-old girl who wants to sell you sandals.”

Among the highlights of the two-day expo will be an Art of Shaping auction, an Art Grotto of about 20 top surfboard artists, an eco-friendly Sustainable Craft showcase, and demo rides on the cutting edge surfboards. In addition, attendees can bring in their old surfboards on Saturday, Oct. 8, to be appraised by experts in a manner similar to television’s “Antique Road Show.”

“[The appraisers] give insight on it and some history,” Bass said. “A lot of people are sitting on buried treasures. It’s a lot of fun.”

The food, beer and music that are indispensable to surf culture will also be plentiful, he added. The event is designed to be family-friendly and will offer items such as concerts, Korduroy TV short videos lounge, and a longboard skate zone as well as competition that kids can enjoy.

“Any 10-year-old would be stoked,” he said. “Next door will be another exposition on gourmet food and wine. So the husband can check out the boards while the wife goes to that, or vice versa.”

The expo’s coup de grace is the Tribute to the Masters Shape-off, in which six shapers have an hour and a half to create their own surfboard based on the design of an acknowledged master for a grand prize of $1,000. This year’s honoree is Carl Ekstrom, who invented and patented the asymmetrical surfboard in 1967 and who will also be one of the three Shape-off judges.

Currently residing in Rancho Santa Fe, the 70-year-old Ekstrom was raised in La Jolla and was an integral part of the WindanSea Surf Club. Based on his expertise using the specific materials in surfboards, Ekstrom also helped design automobile components, medical machines and military helmets, as well as the surf wave machine.

“In the Shape-off, the shapers are all bringing their own concepts of asymmetry,” Ekstrom said. “It’s a whole new way to express their passions. I’ve always viewed shapers as fine artists.”

Tim Bessell of La Jolla is one of the six competitors in the Shape-off and said he has shaped about 48,000, mostly high-end, surfboards since he started in 1971 at age 13. Owner of 100 Percent, a surfboard company and art gallery in La Jolla for the past 25 years, Bessell will also have a booth for his new company Nomad Mobily Furniture, which fabricates furniture out of surfboard material.

“I eat, dream, sleep and sweat surfboards,” Bessell said. “Surfboards are either art forms or commodities. China came in and destroyed surfboard manufacturing in the U.S. Now, 80 percent of the surfboard market is some cheap rip-off.”

Ekstrom agrees and relishes that Sacred Craft focuses on shapers and manufacturers from San Diego and Southern California. To Ekstrom and those involved with the show, surfing in Southern California on a surfboard made elsewhere is akin to driving a Korean car in Detroit or drinking Argentine wine in Napa Valley. It might not be bad, but it just doesn’t seem right.

Ekstrom believes the time is ripe for a renaissance in the local industry and that Sacred Craft is paving the way.

“This show is looking more toward the future than the past,” he said. “You think you’ve seen it all but you haven’t. It just keeps going. They’re doing new things on waves and they should have new equipment to do what they want to do.”

If you go


Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo


Exhibition Hall at Del Mar Fairgrounds


10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9,


$10 (includes free subscription to

Surfer Magazine

); Free to ages 12 and younger

Schedule and more: