Bird Huffman is a California surfer who is the owner/operator of The Shed in San Diego. After accumulating an envious collection of boards and memorabilia, Bird’s Shed evolved to become a true gathering place for the local surfing community. We spoke with Bird to learn more.
What was it like growing up?
I was blessed and still have both my parents, three brothers and five sisters. It was crazy around the house, but there was always much love and mutual appreciation between ourselves. My dad held down two jobs for the longest time to raise us and my mom was a full-time mother… times two. Always were brought up to appreciate whatever we had and we learned to live a lot on very little.
My folks came here from Minnesota in the early 50’s and never looked back. My mom would pack us all up in the family VW van and we’d spend all day long at La Jolla Cove diving and learning about the ocean from real lifeguards. My older brothers, Mark and Rex, got into kneeboarding very early and I followed suit. Started hanging out and working at Select Surf Shop in 1970, and have been doing basically the same thing for over 40 years now. I’m still loving it everyday. I’m 25 years married to Amy, and have two daughters and two sons.
When did you get your first board?
My older brother Mark handed down his Newport House of Paipo to me when I was eight or nine.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood up on a board?
I was a kneeboarder, but, to me, riding any type of wave on anything is a very hard thing to put into words. I couldn’t have been able to describe it then, and I still can’t find the words now.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
Bill Caster was the biggest influence in my surfing life then and even now though he’s been in heaven for many years. People of that kind of integrity and love stick with you throughout your life.
Explain how the idea for The SHED came about.
I have always been totally absorbed in all things surf, but especially more so about anything that concerns San Diego. Having grown up here for my entire life with some of the greatest surfers, shapers and designers all around me, I just took down mental notes and physically started to collect pertinent things that related to surfing. Nothing was organized or planned—a board here and a few more there, an old wetsuit, trunks, mags, films trophies and so on just kept getting squirreled away here and there without me ever really paying that much attention to it all. Years kept rolling by, as they do, and about four years ago, I found myself sitting out in the water at Cloudbreak with a troubled mind. I was burning out on retail and the general direction in which surfing was being jammed down people’s throats. I found myself wanting to just bail on it all— sell all my stuff, grab Amy and the kids and go underground in Australia or some such place and just surf! I figured to come home and liquidate EVERYTHING.
That same night, after the Kava ceremony, a more peaceful idea slowly started to form in my mind. I decided that I, as an individual who had been given so much through surfing, needed to give something back. From that point on, I started to formulate a plan where all that I had acquired could be shared with ANYBODY who wanted more of a true surf experience. Upon returning home, I found a large Quonset hut building, and slowly started to unearth and gather all the many things that I had collected through the years. Once I had most of the stuff in one big building, I sort of freaked out at the shear amount of items I had amassed. I realized then that it was coming to a time in my life where decisions had to be made. So with the support of my family and a very close group of friends, The SHED concept started to develop to where it has wound up today.
How did you get the name Bird when you are so into fish designs?
The name Bird really belongs to my older brother, Rex. It morphed over to me over the past 30 some years and as the great Greg Noll says, “It’s better then being called Shit Head!” My association with the fish was natural because of my love of the design and my chance to have been able to work closely with Steve Lis and Skip Frye in small ways over the years. I am just as involved with bonzers, quads and newer types of boards, like Firewires, as I am with the fish. People tend to gravitate towards this design or that depending upon whatever the trend may be. I prefer to stay on top of it all as it’s the sum of the whole that makes surfing what it is.
Who or what inspires you?
God above all other things… always. Being able to work with people, both young and old, who have a passion and will not turn away from that no matter what the popular consensus may be.
What is the greatest thing that you have learned in your life?
That there is one true God who walks with you through all the trials and tribulations that you must endure in a lifetime.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done things differently?
You bet, and I discover more every day. But as long as you learn from your mistakes and try and do better the next time, I’m okay with that.
What are you most proud of?
Thirty-one years of being with the same wonderful woman.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has been a part of my life for so long that this is a hard question to answer. I guess that surfing has taken some of the rough edges off of me over the years.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Peace and quiet.
Who are some of the individuals you feel are shaping the path of surfing today?
In shaping, I would have to say my number one guy would be Jeff McCallum. He has that something that I have only seen a few times over the many years. Ryland Rubens, who is my friend Pete’s son—who, at age 12, surfs with a passion and style that all can appreciate. And a million other people of all ages who decide to pick up whatever they choose to ride and go surfing!
What is your favorite board? Your favorite spot?
Right now, my 5’4″ Firewire Sweet Potato is my constant companion. You can’t beat J Bay for the Rights or Restaurants for the Lefts!
What is your favorite meal?
Amy’s meatloaf, but using turkey meat only.
What are you currently listing to on your iPod?
“Is Your Love Strong Enough?” by Bryan Ferry, with David Gilmour on guitar, from the “Legend” soundtrack.
What causes/projects/organizations do you support?
Mainly grade level school auctions or private injured surfers causes right now.
What’s next for Bird Huffman?
I’m going surfin!
Photography credits: Cher Pendarvis (1, 4, 8), Kirk Aeder (2), Peggy Ketchum (3),
Sangiolo Images (5, 6, 7).