Years ago, while working on a feature about San Clemente's prolific shaping district, several people I talked with called it, "The Alley of Broken Dreams." The surf ghetto, as it's also referred to, is on San Clemente's north side, on Calle de Los Molinos between Pico and El Camino Real.
With its rugged, industrialized buildings, it just as easily houses pipe fitters and painting companies as it does a surfboard industry. In the 1960s, shapers and surf shop owners began infiltrating the low-rent area to use as a manufacturing base. Brad Basham's glassing shop eventually went in, and as the sole distributor of Clark Foam, he'd rent shaping rooms for five bucks a board. The surfboard manufacturing boom had begun.
Among the throng of shaping dignitaries like Hobie Alter and Terry Senate and Steve Boehne, rose a talented young craftsman from Dana Point, Timmy Patterson, whose family was also surfboard builders. Shaping surfboards is no easy task - on the mind and the body. "The Alley of Broken Dreams," took plenty of souls down with it who tried to make their way in a tough industry, often unable to get out of their own way, Timmy Patterson among them.
Christian, Taj, Parko, Andy, Jordy, have all sought out his craftsmanship. But as the surf industry exploded, the temptations came from all directions and Timmy began to fall prey.
But maybe there's a sweeter denouement in Timmy's story: He began making boards as a grom, eventually creating wave riding tools for some of surfing's most talented players, was brought to his knees by alcohol and drugs, busted through the muck, and essentially realized a career re-birth when he connected with Italo Ferreira in the mid-2000s, helping him win the 2019 world title as his primary shaper.
It's been pretty cool to watch. The Brazilian's explosive style of surfing fit Timmy's boards perfectly. And with the success of the Baía Formosa-native, Timmy has seen his stock rise as well. It's well-deserved notoriety for a man who has never wavered in his quest to build the perfect shortboard.
Alley of Broken Dreams? Maybe. It's been anything but for Timmy. He's become the soul of San Clemente's surf ghetto.
Editor's Note: More of Joe Carberry's conversations with personalities from the surf world and beyond can be found here.