Monday, January 31, 2011

Challenger Eastern Revived? Visit from Tinker...

My Challenger Eastern tailblock & fin
Right before Christmas we had a cool visit from a surfboard building legend...Carl "Tinker" West.  Tinker owned and shaped surfboards for Challenger Eastern Surfboards in Neptune, NJ in the early to mid 1960's.  Born out of the San Diego label Challenger Surfboards, Tinker saw a large market in the Northeast and after a quick stop in Florida, set up shop in Neptune. 
My Challenger Eastern lam.

Tinker, Myself and Rick
My son and I were working the shop and a throwback lookin guy came in with his girlfriend...we asked them if they needed help and they politely said "no thanks" and got lost looking around at the boards hanging in the shop.  After a while, they walked towards the front counter and I overheard him tell her "it used to be in here, but they must have gotten rid of it".  Just as I asked him what it was he was looking for, he pointed up to the super clean Challenger Eastern slider above the counter and said "There it is, I shaped that board, that was my label".  With what I knew about the Challenger Eastern, I figured I was either talking to Michelle Junod, Jim Phillips or more than likely Tinker...I knew what Junod and Jim Phillips look like from photos, so I reached my hand out and said Tinker, it's a pleasure to meet you.  I made sure my son realized we were looking at a Surf Industry legend...especially here in the Northeast.

Tinker called up one of his buddies, Rick Barry, and asked him to come down to the it turns out, Rick was Tinker's salesman.  As Tinker put it, "I hired him because I was such a pain in the ass to deal with and Rick knew how to handle people.  If I had to deal with people we wouldn't have sold any damn surfboards".  We talked for quite a while and they talked story about the good ole days.  They told us about the days with Bruce Springsteen playing in the back of the factory (Steel Mill I believe), they talked about their California days, teaching Michelle Junod how to surf and shape, told us about his dealings with Jim Phillips in the early days, and when he first came to NJ and what they called the different town.  If I can remember right, Manasquan was Manasquat..."an Indian walked up to the Inlet and saw a white guy takin a dump and said Manasquat", Bay Head was "Head's by the Bay", Asbury Park was Raspberry Park, Sea Girt, Sea Grit, Point Un-Pleasant, and lots more.  We talked for a bit about the way his "Challenger Eastern" label was taken from under him by the guys at Rockaway Beach Surf Shop and being bastardized in China.

Tinker and Jim Phillips in the shaping room...
Bottom line, it looks like Tinker, Rick Barry and Jim Phillips will be making a handful of Classic replicas for sale in select shops...Pretty cool!  Sounds like they got the templates from Michelle Junod's shop and are going  to build some at Jim's place and have Channin glass them.  This was just what they were throwing around, so let's see what develops.  For my son and I it was a really awesome stroll through some cool New Jersey surfing history.

For more info. on the history, check this thread...

Jim Phillips and Tinker, CA


dj trish said...

Wow that is so cool!Thank you for sharing that!Trish

Joyce said...

This story is the greatest!! Only a knowledgeable surfer would have had the name of Tinker on the tip of his tongue. It shows the bond that exists between surfers & board designers. Thanks!

Gregory Lagueux said...

Great story, I just saw a long board on craigslist here in RI and its a Challenger looked like a good board, I couldn't figure out why it was only $500.00, I've been surfing longboards for over 45 years and have some old longboards from the 60's. When I researched the board I came across your article. There is no way Tinker shaped this board and learning from your article it must be a pop out from China. You just saved me $500.00 thanks. My favorite boards have come from a modern shaper out of Virginia Beach named Austin Sanders at Austin Surfboards

Will Tinker be making longboards anytime soon???