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  • Andrew Cowell


“The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or is playing. To him he is always doing both.”

-- Zen Buddhist Text

Much has been written about Terry Martin. Consequently I’m not sure what, if anything of significance I can add. I personally knew Terry for a very short time, the better part of two years. Yet, as a surfer, I’ve known of him for a long time. His reputation as an efficient, accurate, articulate, and versatile craftsman of elegant surfboards preceded him. To own a Terry Martin surfboard, whether a longboard or shortboard, meant that you rode an authentic piece of surfing heritage, a linage directly linked to surfing’s Polynesian roots.

We know that Terry’s given name is Glenn Terry Martin. We know that Terry was born in 1937 in California’s Imperial Valley, and at age fourteen his family moved to Point Loma, San Diego. We know that for the last 59 years Terry has been shaping surfboards of balsawood, polyurethane and EPS foam, although the later never held favor with him. We know that he started shaping for Hobie Alter in 1963, and more than 80,000 surfboards have passed under his planer.

Terry’s profession, that of a surfboard shaper, is a venerated one; the good ones are practically worshiped. Terry is revered! To watch Terry shape was akin to watching a Fred Astaire-like dance. His moves were smooth, strong, and graceful. Choreographed; no wasted motion. He embraced the rough blank with a master’s assurance that although the work would be hard the outcome would be well worth the effort.

Terry told me that all he wanted to do was work; to make surfboards for the “everyman” of surfing. Terry was, and is the embodiment of the “mindfulness” philosophy that each moment enjoyed is a life well lived. He continues to be an inspirational messenger of, and about, everything that’s right and good about life. Terry was fully aware of the dimensions of the full reality of a human existence: happiness and suffering, art and ethics, spirituality and goodness, beauty and, above all consciousness. His was a universal view.

He knew he was blessed; even lived a charmed life. Terry knew that no one chooses from where they come, they only choose the direction in which they go. His currency was genuine stoke; for family and friends, for the surfboards he shaped, for those fortunate to ride them, for the music he made, for you and me. Terry was a humble and gracious man who left an indelible mark on me, and whom I am honored to call my friend.

Happily, this isn’t the end of the Terry Martin legacy. Terry left us in good hands, especially us surfers. His son Josh, a master of “The Terry Martin Method” of shaping, is producing elegant, hand crafted surfboards under the label Martin Shapes. Thank you Terry for everything you have given us. I am forever grateful.

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