Parmenter, Dave


Dissident American surfer-writer-boardmaker; pro tour competitor in the mid- and late 1980s; once described by Surfing magazine as "the most interesting surfer in the world." Born in Southern California in 1961, the son of an X-ray technician single mother, Parmenter began surfing at age 13 after moving with his mother and younger brother to Newport Beach. Three years later the family moved again, to the central California town of Cayucos, where the already-caustic Parmenter nearly failed to graduate from high school after refusing to participate in gym class on "religious grounds."

In 1982, the square-jawed 21-year-old established himself as one of California's best pro surfers, winning or placing highly in a string of statewide events. He also gained a reputation as a trenchant surf world observer with his Surfer-published article titled "Raiders of the Lost Coast," in which he dismissed the tribal surfers of his home region who rejected anything—surf-related or otherwise—that was "newer, lighter [or] shinier." Parmenter himself used brightly colored boards and wetsuits, planted his feet in a wide stance across his board, generated as much lateral velocity as any surfer of the period, and often reversed direction with a scything roundhouse cutback.

Parmenter joined the world tour in 1983, finished the 1985 season ranked #14—his highest rating—then quit the circuit three years later. In a 1988 Surfer interview titled "Iconoclast Now," published just before he left the tour, Parmenter railed against commercialization and the loss of surfing purity. Young surfers, he said, were concerned only with "stickers and freebies, [and] their first sponsorship deal is put right up there with losing their virginity. In the meantime, they're missing out on surfing. Competing is just a tiny sliver of what the sport has to offer. . . ." Parmenter voiced similar opinions in many of the nearly 50 articles he wrote for the American surf press between 1989 and 2001.

In 1975 Parmenter shaped his first surfboard; by the late '80s he'd taken the craft up in earnest and was soon making and selling boards under his Aleutian Juice label. Bucking a general trend toward narrower, thinner boards, Parmenter developed a spacious blunt-nosed board he called the Stub Vector; by the mid-'90s, virtually every shaper was offering a Stub-influenced model; the retro movement that began in the early '00s was in part a nod to Parmenter's idea that surfers should make use of a wide variety of equipment, and not blindly follow the board choices made by world tour pros.

While on a surf trip to Christmas Island in 1994, Parmenter met graceful Hawaiian surfer Rell Sunn; they were married the following year, and Parmenter moved into Sunn's home in Makaha, on the west side of Oahu. Sunn had been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer in 1983; when she died in 1998 at age 47, Parmenter scattered her ashes into the ocean at Makaha. He remained in Hawaii, shaping surfboards for a living, and remarried in 1999.

In the new century, Parmenter began to focus on stand-up paddleboarding, and by mid-decade was one of the world's best; in 2007 he won the SUP division at the Noosa Festival of Surfing, and for good measure won the over-45 longboarding title as well. Parmenter is also a cofounder of C4, a company that specializes in SUP equipment. Along with Brian Keaulana, Parmenter was instrumental in reducing the size of high-performance SUP boards.

From 2005 to 2008, Parmenter wrote a monthly fiction-humor column for Surfer called Everybody Surfs. He also occasionally wrote feature-length articles for Surfer's Journal. Parmenter appeared in a small number of surf movies and videos, including Shock Waves (1987) and Just Surfing (1989). "The Land Duke Forgot," Parmenter's Surfer-published article on wave-riding in Alaska, was included in 1993's Best American Sports Writing collection, published by Houghton Mifflin. Craft: Shaping a Surfboard, a limited edition book project with San Francisco artist Jessica Dunne, was published in 2009. John Parmenter, Dave's younger brother, a stocky blond regularfoot, was the 1985 Professional Surfing Association of America tour champion.