Challenger Eastern Surfboards

Why Carl West or Tinker came to NJ was always a story.  As told to me, he was brought to Court in Pacific Beach for one reason or another and released if he would leave town.  After knowing Tinker, I think there was a lot of reason to come to the area.  There was surely opportunity for growing a surfboard manufacturing business. He left Surfboards by Challenger in San Diego and headed east to establish Challenger Eastern Surfboards. He was known to be a real craftsman in the industry.  But, aside from being a craftsman, Tinker was an incredible musician, playing the harmonica (Blues Harp) or 12 string guitar and making up lyrics on the spot while passing the gallon bottle of Red Mountain wine.

 

Tinker at Woodstock

Tinker at Woodstock

So aside from surfing music was always a big part of Tinker.  At the time there were also a lot of things were happening in NYC, the era was heralded by the likes of Bob Dylan and some of the things that were happening in the village. Later, he was manager for Bruce Springsteen in his early career. He started to manage Bruce before he made it big and referred him to a producer who eventually put out Bruce’s first two albums.  Supposedly, money got tight and Tinker had to have Springsteen reduce his band, which may have been the beginning of the end. But at some point Springsteen got a new manager and became “The Boss.

 

But this is a surfing history memoir so, back to surfing.  Tinker was a craftsman, a true perfectionist.  He would employ kids to just take a needle or pin to get the pin air out of his layups.  His boards were precision, traditional, truly classics.

The Challenger East factory was always open.  And everyone from the island would make regular treks up to Belmar to surf and visit the factory in Neptune.  Tinker had a great workplace, all of the shaping, glassing through glossing was done there.  All of the fiberglass nose blocks and tail blocks were done there as well as occasional batches of fiberglass skateboards.

 

Challenger Eastern Surfboards L-R (Bob Sergeant, Tinker, ?, ?, ?, ?, AC Lifeguard?

Challenger Eastern Surfboards Factory 1968 L-R Back Row (Bob Sergeant?, Tinker, ?, ?, ?, ?, AC Lifeguard?) L-R Kneeling (?, John Page)

 

Tinker with his red hair distinctive handle bar moustache and straw hat was the lead character. There was also Jim Phillips and Michele Junod who worked for Tinker shaping and building boards.  Both Jim and Michelle are still shaping and both reference the impact of the time spent learning from Tinker.

As nose riding became increasingly the big move of long boarding all of the Surf Team riders clamored for Tinker to move away from the 17” nose template.  Tinker constantly referred to wide nose boards for nose riding as a gimmick.  He eventually conceded with an 18 “ nose with slightly harder rail design.

One of the team members that Tinker had imported from the west coast was Dale Dobson.  After watching Dale surf it was clear why Tinker thought nose riders were a gimmick.  Dale was incredible, as was Michelle Junod and several of the other guys here from the west coast. 

It was also during the Vietnam War era and a favorite hang out of law enforcement trying to catch up with draft dodgers.  It appears that the factory would look like a modern day immigration raid would look like with people out the back door and disappearing into the neighborhood.

If you Google Carl “Tinker” West you will find that he has an incredible history, engineer, musician, etc. And he has affected a lot of people in a very positive way. I know he has done so to many who hold the memory of Challenger Eastern Surfboards and the way he helped define the era of Absecon Island Surfing in the 60’s.

3 Responses to “Challenger Eastern Surfboards”

  1. Randy "Waldo" Whited Says:

    Greetings,

    Let me help you with some of the names and history of Challenger Eastern Surfboards.

    The photo is BEFORE 1968. It appeared in Eastern Surfer Magazine when we put an ad in it when we came to Jersey in 1967. IMO this was the spring or summer of 1967, not 1968.

    But first, the people in the photo from left to right standing are:

    Wally (Far Rockaway NY Challenger dealer and Challenger Eastern dealer),

    Tinker,

    Craig Bruha (Mission Beach CA, Challenger Surfboards surf team member; was visiting for the summer),

    (unknown),

    Randy ‘Waldo’ Whited (wearing sunglasses, Mission Beach CA Challenger Surfboards member; glasser / glosser for Challenger Eastern)

    Ernie Vose (friend of Wally from Far Rockaway, became sander for Challenger Eastern)

    Last on the right is Wally’s little brother and partner in the Rockaway Beach NY dealership)
    ————————-
    Left to right Kneeling:

    Jimmy Dalton (Mission Beach CA Challenger Surfboards surf team member; visiting for summer),

    Art Meinung (cartoonist and friend of Craig Bruha and Randy ‘Waldo’ Whited; he was visiting for the summer).

    If you want to correct some of the inaccuracies in your story I will gladly lay it out completely for you.

    But a brief summary. Craig, Jimmy, Art, and I lived in Mission Beach California and were on the Challenger Surfboards surfing team. Dale Dobson was on that team too.

    I had been in Florida surfing with my pal Fletcher Sharpe, who also surfed for Challenger Surfboards for awhile in ’66-’67, and sold boards there while in high school. I surfed at Indialantic, shark pit, Ft. Pierce, and up and down the coast from there.

    When I went back to Mission Beach (1965) Tinker had become an owner with Baines. I convinced Tinker that the east coast was where we should put a factory.

    The next spring we build a surf van that held about 20 boards and headed for the east coast. Dale Dobson, Jimmy Dalton, Me (Randy ‘Waldo’ Whited), and Tinker drove the truck from Mission Beach to New York (Wally’s place), up to Maine, and down to Florida, and back thru the texas gulf coast. We surfed and picked up dealers along the coast.

    The next year, after returning to California, we moved to New Jersey and rented that factory in the picture. It was in Neptune, NJ if I remember correctly.

    After that season I went back to California and then to Alaska and missed the next year in Jersey cause I was checking out Alaska.

    When I came back Tinker had rented a factory which is famous because Bruce Springsteen and his band ‘Child’ (later name changed) practised as did other famous bands like James Cotton Blues Band.

    I glassed that year and trained another person to do the glossing cause we had to do 40 custom boards a week.

    Email me if you have any questions or want to know more. PS … the Red Mountain Wine was my importation from California. When we first came to NJ no one carried it. We convinced a liquor store in Belmar to carry it and we always made sure the inventory did not stack up too much.

  2. Randy "Waldo" Whited Says:

    PS … Before Tinker became a part owner of Challenger Surfboards in Mission Beach, CA, he was a rocket scientist who worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, CA …

  3. Randy "Waldo" Whited Says:

    PPS:

    Here is an URL to a piece I wrote for a follower of Springsteen:

    http://www.castiles.net/eyewitness/randy.html

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