The third Boards & Waves Expo is happening June 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Melbourne Auditorium (625 E. Hibiscus Blvd., Melbourne, FL). This year’s Expo celebrates surfboard builders and shapers, the sport of surfing and will also honor East Coast Surfing Hall of Famers, Pete Dooley, founder of Natural Art Surfboards, and “Godfather of East Coast Surfing” Dick Catri, founder of Catri Surfboards, for their contributions to surfboard shaping and East Coast surfing.
The landscape of East Coast surfing, specifically on the Space Coast, wouldn’t be as it is today without the help of both Catri and Dooley.
Catri was born in Carteret, New Jersey and moved to Miami with his family as a boy. In 1957, upon graduating high school, he began working as a beach attendant and met a stunt diver named Jack Murphy, who a few years later became internationally known as the diamond-stealing “Murph the Surf’ and achieved infamy for stealing the Star of India, the world’s largest sapphire. Murphy was the one to show Catri how to ride waves in early 1958, and together, they experimented with building boards and traveled north to introduce surfing to the Indiatlantic-Cocoa Beach area.
After many adventures, including being the first East Coast surfer to ride Pipeline and Waimea Bay, Catri returned to Florida to quench the East Coast’s thirst for surfing, founding the Easter Surfing Classic in 1965 and opening Catri Surfboards in Cocoa Beach in 1968. In the 1970s, he became involved in the pro scene, founding the Florida Pro contest in 1972. In the early 1980s, Catri turned his attention to East Coast amateur surfing and coached a number of preteen surfers, including Kelly Slater and Todd Holland.
Pete Dooley rode his first wave in 1963 and was hooked thereafter. In 1965, he acquired a friend’s 9’8’’ board, and, being so thin, he cut it down to 8’ allowing him to turn better and have more control. Word got out, and by 1966, people were coming from miles around for a customized board. Dooley moved to Cocoa Beach and knew he was on to something since all shops still had longboards. After high school, he began college and worked part-time to pay for tuition, all the while people were still asking for boards. So he, along with a couple other local surfers, pooled their money and started making boards full-time.
Natural Art was born in 1971 from the passion of four surfers led by Pete Dooley with a goal of developing the best and most modern surfboard in the world. Natural Art shapers worked closely with professional team riders on designs, and the feedback from those top pro riders was worked into each surfboard. The result was a world-class surfboard for waves and surfers worldwide. Natural Art became one of the most respected surfboard brands in the world.
Well-known East Coast shaper, Ricky Carroll, began working for Dooley in the 1970s when he was given the opportunity to shape surfboards at Natural Art Surfboards. Since then, Carroll has shaped for a long list of diverse talents and attributes his success to the opportunity Dooley gave him 40 years ago.
“Working with Pete helped mold me into the shaper I am today,” Carroll said. “As for Dick, he was a pioneer of East Coast surfers. He went over to California and Hawaii and showed that the East Coast produced world-class surfers too.”
At the height of their production, Natural Art and Catri Surfboards were two of the largest surfboard manufacturing facilities in the entire U.S., overshadowing many of those in California and Hawaii. In addition to honoring the legends, a portion of the proceeds from the Boards & Waves Expo III will be donated to ocean- and surf-related causes on behalf of Dooley and Catri.