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Doc Lausch, the mad doctor of Huntington Beach. Photo: Surf Prescriptions

Doc Lausch, the mad doctor of Huntington Beach. Photo: Surf Prescriptions


The Inertia

For Jeff “Doc” Lausch, the shaper behind Huntington Beach, California-based surfboard brand Surf Prescriptions, working with his hands has always been part of his relationship with surfing.

Doc (although he wouldn’t be called that until much later) got his first board in the mid ’60s, when he was 10 years old. It was a massive 9’4” Jack Haley, pigmented blue. “The board weighed more than me. I could barely pick it up,” he remembers. “So my brother and my dad had this great idea like, ‘Oh, you sand all the blue off this board, it’ll be so light you’ll be able to carry it.’ So I’m all, ‘Okay, I’ll do that.’”

Lausch’s dad (who was “kind of an inventor guy” that one time attempted to make home-made wetsuits for his sons) set Doc up in the driveway with two sawhorses and a rented sander. “I’d be out there from like, eight in the morning ‘til four in the afternoon, just sanding away on this thing with this vibrating sander,” says Doc. “I finally got all the blue off and I remember just sitting there, standing on it, and I look up and my dad was drinking a cup of coffee, looking out the window at me, laughing.”

Obviously, removing the tint didn’t do much to improve the board, but the project ended up transforming Doc instead. “They created a monster,” he says. “Because if I could take the blue off of that thing and make that giant thing white, I can do this.”

The Lausch family lived in Fountain Valley, two miles from Huntington Beach, where they would surf and eventually dive into the city’s thriving shaping scene. Doc’s brother, Melon (real name Steve, but everyone in Doc’s family seems to have a colorful nickname), started working as a clean-up kid at Plastic Fantastic, a Huntington surfboard brand with a stable of notable local surfers on its roster. Soon, he was taking home shaped blanks and glassing them in the family garage. The project expanded until Melon had taken over the entire space for his own homemade surfboard brand, dubbed “Freedom.”

Young Doc first watched from the sidelines, but quickly followed in his brother’s footsteps, carving out his own space in the garage to glass blanks made by the Plastic Fantastic shapers. He also had his own brief stint at the shop, though it was helping restore a motorcycle, rather than shaping. “I was just sitting there trying to get the rust off the spokes and just kind of watching what’s going on,” he remembers. “I felt the energy, even as a little kid. Like ‘This, this whole surf thing is rad and I’m at one of the raddest vortexes of surf happening on the planet right now.’ I was aware.”

Doc didn’t actually make his first board until he was 15, when he managed to get ahold of an old Weber Performer that had been languishing in the tall grass of his then girlfriend’s backyard. “That board would be worth so much money today,” reminisces Doc. “It was just classic. All shiny, fabric inlay, pin-lined. I think it was yellow tint. It was gorgeous.” However, rather than ride the log, he traded it to his older brother for a Skil 100 planer, possibly the single most influential tool in the history of surfboard manufacturing and an auspicious start for any fledgling shaper.

At that point, he knew plenty about glassing, but had yet to actually shape a blank himself. The closest he’d gotten was when he and a grade-school buddy reshaped a board they found, though that had been a bit of a debacle. “We stripped it and reshaped it, just with sure forms and blocks and sandpaper and stuff,” he explains “Then we glassed it with a sheet. We didn’t really know what we were doing.”

Now, planer in hand, Doc was ready to take the leap. He bought a blank and made it into a 7’ 2” diamond-tail single-fin that was absolutely flat, because he didn’t know how to add rocker. “My older brother had some templates and I just laid them on the board and I go, ‘Oh, that looks pretty cool,’ and just went for it,” he remembers. Later on, he found out that he had put the template on the wrong side of the blank, but the board turned out surprisingly well, all the same.

But that was really only the beginning. After his second and third boards didn’t turn out as successful as the first, he looked for ways to sneakily add to his skillset. Doc found he could learn from local shapers by bringing them blanks and asking to watch them work. “Some guys were cool about it. ‘Yeah, come on in. Sure kid,’” he says. “Other guys were like, ‘Okay, stand in the corner, you say one word and I’m stopping.’ Other guys were like, ‘No, beat it.’”

Every time one of them said yes, Doc learned a little bit more. He started to develop his own style. One of those shapers was Shawn Stussy, who famously made the transition to surf apparel magnate and created one of the defining streetwear brands of the ‘90s. Stussy became a mentor for Doc, overseeing him with a meticulous eye for detail. In turn, Doc helped shape boards as he was growing his burgeoning clothing empire.

Eventually, Doc’s parents sold the house, and the garage days were over. By that point, Melon had long given up on shaping, but Doc was keeping Freedom alive with his younger brother Stork (real name Steve, but they called him Stork because of his long nose and lanky, bird-like gait), who had been making a name for himself shaping fins. They struck out on their own in a tiny industrial building that became their first factory.

It was around that time that Stork gave Doc his nickname, and in turn the name of his brand. One day, Doc emerged from the shaping bay, a mask covering his face and foam dust clinging to his long, hippy-ish hair. It reminded Stork of a mad scientist, so he dubbed him “Doctor Mad” and the name stuck.

Soon after, it came time to rename their company. It was 1982 and “Freedom” had too much of an air of the ’70s to it. “So it’s like, okay, I gotta call my board something. I’m ‘Doctor Mad,’ so maybe I’ll call them Surf Prescriptions,” remembers Doc.

He’s been the mad doctor of Huntington ever since.

Editor’s Note: The Inertia’s Cooper Gegan works with well-known shapers to tell the stories of the first boards they created. Read about Stretch Riedel here and Darren Handley here. 

 
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