Derek Sparks

Born and raised in the sad state of Oklahoma, Derek Sparks moved to the Pacific Northwest some ten years ago. The proprietor of dSparks Creative, Derek is both a photographer and a graphic designer. He has a healthy appetite for Single Malt Scotch and strange, pig shaped surfboards. I met Derek last summer, and after countless hours around a campfire, he and I have become good friends - sharing strong drink and sizable swells. That said, I asked Derek to describe his feels about surfing, shaping and something he calls the grey stoke.

When did you start surfing?

I started surfing not that long ago. It was the summer of 2005. Our small group was Todd Welter’s first surf students as Wave Hounds. Our first beach was Shortsands in Oregon.

Tell us about your first surfboard...

My first surfboard was a 9’2” Modern. White with red rails. We called it the “Red Rocket” due to the many times it shot in the air when I would wipe out. I sold it to a friend on the condition that she would sell it back to me if she ever got tired of it. Of course, she traded with Mark Velez for another board. Everyone had great rides on that board. It was easy for beginners but was considered a performance board. I loved it. I shaped my first wooden board based on the Rocket’s shape after I traced it out with Todd’s help. I believe it finally gave up the ghost and is no more.

What makes surfing in the Northwest unique?

Everything. That’s why most southerners won’t surf here =) It’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s grey with little sun, water’s cool enough that you need a wetsuit, etc. You really want to have to surf here. If you’re in the water with me, I take it you WANT to surf for surfing’s sake. There’s no pros. No media. The whole vibe is different, I think. Pure happiness. Pure stoke. Getting stoked in the grey... greyStoke!

Where do you find inspiration?

I think you can make the decision to be inspired or not to be inspired. You then choose what inspires you and I chose everything. Anything can be inspiration, even trash. It can be easily seen whenever you look through a lens.

How did you get into surfboard shaping?

I just wanted to do it. That’s all. I love surfboards. I don’t know what draws me to them. They’re works of art. Functional art. Art that connects you to nature as you stand riding this wave of energy through the water. I could get really hippie dippy but I won’t. It’s their seemingly simplicity yet everything... rail, rocker, nose, tail, bottom, deck... every little detail makes that board different. One little variation on one aspect changes the ride, performance and feel, making every hand-shaped board unique. If my wife would let me, I would have a huge surfboard collection.

What are you currently surfing?

10' Bing Pig, 10' Walden Hanglider, 9' Walden, 9' Meyerhoffer (when I figure out how to make it a tad heavier.) I got a couple of shorts but I don’t bounce back like I used to.

Tell us about your surf wagon...

My Sube. “Black Betty.” 2009 Subaru Forester that I got in spring of 2008... that’s right. And two weeks later, I got hit by a guy running a red light downtown. When they fixed it up, they had to call the factory for all the parts since it was so new and parts weren’t available anywhere else. Since then, been hit again and now the windshield is cracked. A Subaru with a cracked windshield... I’m now a full-fledged NorWesterner. I got her just for surfing and camping. It holds a lot of gear, several surfboards, and I can sleep in the back. AWD will get me to the break. I love it. She’s my baby.

What's your favorite thing to eat and/or drink after surfing?

Nothing with salt and glass of cold fresh water. I dig a Gatorade or Propel... and a beer... or two. My favorite beer while surfing is Sapporo. Just the right size. Light and dry with a little burst of energy. For food…anything.

What's next for Derek Sparks?

Who knows? I found if you lower your expectations, the less you become discouraged and disappointed. No goals. The unaimed arrow never misses. I realized this when I just stopped making plans because nothing ever came out the way I wanted. By just letting life be, things turned out better than I ever dreamed. Weird, huh?

To learn more about Derek, check out dSparks Creative.