Do Surfboards Have Souls? - Stab Mag

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Do Surfboards Have Souls?

An award-winning documentary on Chad Campbell’s ‘Stoker Machine.’

cinema // Jan 12, 2024
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 2 minutes

I destroyed my surfboard last week. 

A seriously medium wave landed on my beloved 7’8, finishing what a crease from earlier in the session started. Staring at the exposed polyurethane, bobbing like a discarded cork, I was bummed to be sure, but we’d had our time in the sun and it had been a reliable board. And at least it’s just an inanimate object, right? It’s not like I killed something. Right? 

After watching Stoker Machine, I’m not so sure. 

The 12-minute short created by filmmaker Darieus Legg focuses on lifelong surfer Chad Campbell and his connection with a decades-old relic called the Stoker Machine. 

Chad, who resides on Hawaii’s Big Island, seems like a delightful guy to share a few waves and swap a few tales. An enthusiastic collector of aging models (peep that Steph Gilmore DHD!), Chad believes that like people, surfboards are shaped by experiences, with personality and soul intertwined. 

Stoker Machine won the coveted Viewers’ Choice award for best short film at the 2023 Florida Surf Film Festival. It also won Campbell’s heart.

The film’s focus is on the aforementioned Stoker, built by 65-year-old Santa Barabara OG Randall “Stoker” Rastoker, who still surfs south of Point Conception to this day. After escaping the clutches of a private boarding school in his youth, Randall designed his V-Machine to ride both Isla Vista crumble and more legitimate pointbreaks. It was a big hit when it came out more than 30 years ago and is still adored in local lineups.

According to The Lineup, a book by Daniela Schwartz and Lukas Olesinski about Santa Barbara surf culture, “World-famous surfers and shapers like Rabit Kekai and Wayne Lynch praised the board. More and more people wanted to try them, and soon Stoker was selling hundreds. ‘Wayne (Lynch) said that because of Randy Ross Stoker, surfboards changed. That was like a huge compliment, coming from Wayne. Hearing Wayne say that is like god just spoke, so that was really cool,’ Stoker said.”

Somehow, a yellowed machine ended up under Chad’s house. Chad wasn’t just struck by the novelty of 6-foot-something’s boxy rails and glassed fins, he thought it performed well enough for closer examination.

This film is healthy reminder to enjoy surfing in whatever way you can for as long as you can — and to treat your surfboards better.

“Surfboards can become really special and have really cool stories,” Chad said. “Just like people do.” 

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