How a Lost Surfboard Floated from Hawaii to the Philippines

19 Aug 2020 1 Share

Photo: Justin Baluch

Photo: Justin Baluch

COASTALWATCH | FEATURES

By Dashel Pierson

Keys, wallet, phone – these are items that most of us misplace on a regular basis. But some things are tougher to relocate, once lost, and especially the ones that can’t be found by rifling through the couch cushions.

That’s the predicament Hawaii-based photographer Doug Falter found himself in when, two years ago, his leash unstrapped while surfing Waimea Bay. Falter swam after the board, but to no avail. He assumed it probably washed up somewhere nearby on the North Shore. So, he enlisted his social media followers to keep an eye out; but nobody found it. Fast-forward to today, and Falter’s board has been found – 8,300 kilometres away in the Philippines.

To hear more about this crazy tale of the mighty surfboard that could, we hit up Falter to hear what happened. Check out our chat below.

Falter (front) and the lost board, pre-session at Waimea. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Falter (front) and the lost board, pre-session at Waimea. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Take us back to that day in February of 2018. What were the waves like and what happened?

I don’t remember exactly how big it was, but it was at least 10-foot Hawaiian – some 20-to-30-foot faces. I caught a bunch of waves. It was a good session. I remember about seven good waves that I caught from that session.

Then, at about 6:30 pm, I fell on a wave and my leash just came unstrapped. It didn’t snap; the leash was intact; the board was intact; there was no damage. I swam after it. I was about two minutes behind it, when it went all the way pretty much to the sand. Then it wrapped around the bay and basically disappeared. The current at Waimea acts like a horseshoe. It flows in where the wave is, then curves out at the other end of the bay.

I swam straight to the beach as fast as I friggin’ could, ran along the sand, then got to a high vantage point, and I couldn’t see the board. I still had my impact vest on, just scaling the whole rocky area on the other side of the jump rock. It was pretty much dark by then, and I didn’t see it anywhere.

Doug with the board a few years back in Hawaii; Giovanne with the board today in the Philippines.

Doug with the board a few years back in Hawaii; Giovanne with the board today in the Philippines.

So, what happened after?

Nobody saw it.

I printed pictures, posted them online, put some up at the harbor for fishermen to see. Just a couple months ago, a buddy of mine lost his board at Himalayas. It washed up to the beach and somebody posted a picture on Facebook. I saw it and let my buddy know. He wouldn’t have got it otherwise.

I’ve heard crazy stories about boards washing up on Kauai. I’ve heard stories about fishermen finding dudes’ boards like four years later. But that didn’t happen with my board – until, fast-forward to a week ago, and some guy has my board in the Philippines.

View this post on Instagram

LOST BOARD!!! - While surfing Waimea yesterday my leash came off and I couldn’t catch up to my board in time before it floated off into the channel and kept goin. If anyone sees or hears anything about a light blue @lylecarlsonsurfboards washed up on the beach or rocks please DM or call me at (614) 580-3100 - This was my only big wave board! 😭 If anyone feels like reposting or sharing on their story I would be forever grateful. I last saw it floating really close to the rocks on the left side of Waimea Bay just before dark at around 6:45pm. There is a good chance it could be washed up between Waimea and Haleiwa Harbor. It could definitely be around Alligators, Lanis, Hultons area as Ive heard or boards washing up around there before. Keeping my fingers 🤞🏽

A post shared by Doug Falter (@dougfalter) on

Must’ve been a pretty special board…

I think I had that board for like two years prior. It was really meaningful to me, because I surfed it the day of The Eddie [2016]. After the event ended, I paddled out with my friends. I caught the biggest waves of my life that day. It was the craziest session of my life on that board. That’s the thing that bums me out the most. That was such a memorable day for me, but I lost it.

It was shaped by Lyle Carlson. It was 10’6” and about 23” wide and maybe 3 ¼” thick.

Flash-forward to today, and how’d you hear that the board turned up?

The guy in the Philippines saw the logo, then looked up Lyle on Facebook. That’s how they linked up.

Apparently, it was found near this tiny little egg-shaped island off the Philippines. Some fishermen found it in the middle of the night, wrapped up in their net. The fishermen thought it was a sunken boat or something. I’m not sure how long the fishermen had it – there’s a little bit of a language barrier – but they sold it to this guy for like 40 dollars. He bought it so he could learn how to surf.

A simulated trajectory of the board’s journey from Hawaii to the Philippines. Photo: NOAA/Ocean Surface Current Simulator

A simulated trajectory of the board’s journey from Hawaii to the Philippines. Photo: NOAA/Ocean Surface Current Simulator

What do you know about the guy who bought it?

He’s a schoolteacher. He teaches elementary and middle school. We’ve been in contact and he wants me to send surf magazines to stoke out the kids and so they can learn to read English better. I don’t think he knows anything about surfing. I told him that he needs to buy wax for the board, and he had no idea what kind of wax I meant.

He seems interested, though. I’ve been sending him YouTube clips explaining how to surf.

“When the surf is big, there’s a huge amount of water funneling through the bay, much of it trapped and bouncing off the rocks and cliffs on both sides of the bay. The trapped water escapes in the form of strong currents that run along the inside of the point, along the beach, and then back out through the deeper water in the middle of the bay.” – Surfline Explainer, the Mechanics of Waimea Bay  Photo: Sean Davey

“When the surf is big, there’s a huge amount of water funneling through the bay, much of it trapped and bouncing off the rocks and cliffs on both sides of the bay. The trapped water escapes in the form of strong currents that run along the inside of the point, along the beach, and then back out through the deeper water in the middle of the bay.” – Surfline Explainer, the Mechanics of Waimea Bay Photo: Sean Davey

Are you interested in getting the board back, or are you glad this guy has it?

I’m conflicted; I feel both. I finally have closure, after all this time, and I’m stoked that this guy has it. He seems like a rad dude. It was such a special board to me, but this guy gets to learn to surf on it. That’s pretty rad. Obviously it’s not the best board to learn on, but it’s big enough for him to catch waves and learn how to pop up on it. I’m stoked the board gets a chance at a second life.

This article also appeared on Surfline

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