Thursday, April 2, 2009

Challenger Eastern

Bill Bahne and Frank McLeary started Challenger, they were in financial problems and Tinker had a good relationship with Grubby (Clark). Tinker was an electrical engineer by education, shaped for Wardy, Hobie and the crew from South Bay. He did some impossible jobs for Grubby and came away with a stash of foam for his effort. Frank and Bill were back in business, now with a new partner, Tinker.

Frank glassed, Ernie Vohs sanded, Jimmie Dalton glossed, Bahne shaped…wait, we have a new shaper so later Bill slowly got squeezed out of the partnership. Frank came to work while still dark and got his glassing done by dawn and was out the door for the rest of the day. Then it was a joint and some waves - no time for the book work.

Tinker saw that the lions share of the orders were going to the East Coast and it would be only sensible to have a factory on the east coast and west coast. Frank didn't think much of this idea as it would require running a business and being a glasser. Nothing could be worked out which turned into a division of assets and Tinker went straight across country to Florida, where he and the entire crew landing at Billy Feinbergs Oceanside Surfboards factory in Rockledge. It was a stopping point to put together an additional grubstake. With pockets filled, it was off to Neptune New Jersey, they had plentiful dealers in the area and it was the perfect location to serve north and south.This was where I first came into contact with Tinker.

Up to now I was the shit along Long Island New York and New Jersey beaches. This is where I get chopped down more than a few notches. BUT, this is where there was a MAJOR turning point in my learning how to really SHAPE. There was a connection between Challenger and Challenger Eastern Surfboards and the deal was Challenger Eastern was to not sell boards west of the Mississippi. However, when Bobby Thomas took over as the new owner of Challenger surfboards, he considered the old contract null and void and started a campaign to sell to the east coast. This was at the time of the V-bottom boards and Challenger Eastern was on its decline as a major player on the east coast market.

It was the summer of love and I discovered love in many fashions, some still frowned upon by society and the law. Tinker was not happy that I had brought myself to the attention of the local constabulary, he said that I was going to get busted, that I was a walking bust. Now that I had grown as a shaper I could now do more than the shaping load that was apportioned to me and do it quite well at that. So I stared whoring my self around to Rible Surboards and Surfboards East in Freehold. As you can imagine this went over like a ton of shit with Tinker. He felt, and rightly so, that he had imparted this knowledge and skills upon me and I was out delivering these benefits to his local competition.

Later that winter I went to California, got promptly busted, needed a job really bad and hitch hiked from Goleta to Del Mar to the Bahne, Chaninn and Diffenderfer factory. I got hired on the spot to shape, although Bahne said he would have to re-educate me away from Tinkers “evil” ways.

Tinker and I stayed on very bad terms for many a year. I went to a wedding for Ernie Vohs, the sander, and several years’ later I crossed paths with Tinker while riding around puffing one. I saw him running across the road to me from his still moving car. I raised my hand to signal a sort of wave and he was at my open window. What happened next is not a blur and it is permanently etched into my mind so that lest I ever forget it, I may be struck by lightning. Tinker’s hand snaked through the open window and gently cradled the back of my head in the open palm of his hand. His mouth opened and he said, "Your going to burn my factory down?" Wham! "You’re going to kick my ass?" Wham! Each sentence was punctuated with his other hand, made into a very hard fist, connecting with my eyebrow. After more than a few of these "dotting of my eye" it became time for me to say something in return............ and that was....."Hey can't we talk about this?" Tinker wasn't finished talking yet and he replied "You already done yer talking!" and eased his hand off the back of my very befuddled head.

It was a real long time before we spoke again and it would be even longer before our paths crossed. It was one of the first life lessons that ever sunk in and I don't need a refresher course. We are once again, as we were, very respectful friends.

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