It’s just occurred to me that I don’t know Bird Huffman’s real first name. I have no idea what his parents called him, but I’ve always known him as “Bird” and that’s what everyone I know has called him for more than 30 years now.I first met him either at Windansea through some of the local boys there, or at Phil Castagnola’s Select Surf Shop in Pacific Beach. Either way, in the surf or in the shop, he seemed to have an elevated view of everything around him. And he always had the best surfboards mostly Caster’s as I recall with coolly airbrushed channel bottoms created by master shaper Bill Caster.It seemed like Bird always had a full quiver of Casters that moved smoothly and effortless into deep pockets beneath his feet. Time passed and I saw Bird less in the lineup and more in the shop he co-owned, South Coast, in Pacific Beach. The place was a super market of surf stuff, cool and well-stocked, but it never did seem like a good fit for Bird.
I’d walk in and someone would be pestering him for a new set of rubber sandals. He would pause to politely fill the order and then walk me back to show me an old board he had purchased. Surfboards have always been a huge passion for him.
We didn’t see each other often, but whenever we did we’d talk about surfboards. But I had no idea how his surfboard collection was growing. Then somebody showed me a photo and I couldn’t believe how vast and deep his one-man museum was as it took me back to my early days as a surfer.
I recently explored Bird’s Surf Shed, where I expected to see some of the Casters I foolishly sold years ago. No such luck. I did, however, see various blue-railed deep channels like the ones I rode at Windansea in the mid ‘70s. The Brewer semi guns remind me of the boards my brother shaped for Dick Brewer in the Islands. The coveted Frye collection made me ponder California’s best Fish and Egg maker and my favorite surfer on this coast for the last 40 years, Skip Frye.
There are boards for sale, boards you can ride and boards you look at and wonder at the waves they have dropped into. There’s a shaping room in the back and a library filled with early volumes of the Australia surf magazine, Tracks and Breakout, California’s Surf Magazine. I had the pleasure of working for both publications in years past.
There are also classic surf films and book signings scheduled from writers and photographers like legendary surf photographer Art Brewer and surf photographer turned writer Kirk Ader, whose recently completed book on Chris O’Rourke will be available through the Shed.
Above and beyond all that are a man and his dreams. Bird is a walking encyclopedia of surfing and a surfer who loves his chosen sport so much he displays decades of its heritage on the walls for the world to see. Every surfer needs to visit Bird’s Shed. Your education as a surfer won’t be complete until you do.
Bird’s Surf Shed is located at 1091 W. Morena Blvd in San Diego. It’s worth the trip, but get there early, because parking sucks.
To learn more about Bird’s Surf Shed and get a calendar of coming events there, visit birdssurfshed.com.