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The Californian Who Builds—and Rips on—1930s-Style Surfboards

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Nole Cossart was looking to revamp his surfing experience when he started designing 1930s-style surfboards—known as kookboxes— a few years back. He’d grown tired of riding standard performance shortboards off the West Coast and wanted to “recover the original joy of surfing,” recalls filmmaker Ben Weiland, who created a short film, Mr. Kookbox, about Cossart’s work and his relationship with his father, who inspired his love of surfing, in 2020. 

Kookboxes—like DIY surfboards—launched in the 1930s and ’40s and were named after a “kook,” or novice surfer. The idea was that anyone could make and own a surfboard, no matter their skill level. But kookboxes are actually difficult to ride: made from wood, they’re much heavier than normal boards, they can fill up with water, and they lack a bottom fin to help steer. “The reality is, these boards are almost unrideable,” Weiland says, laughing. “I think part of the magic of this little short film is seeing Cossart ride one so well in such high-performance waves.”

Weiland says that filming Mr. Kookbox allowed him to explore different ways of sharing sources’ stories. He points to a scene in the film when Cossart and his father are chatting in their living room, sharing old family photos and magazine articles that Cossart has been featured in. Weiland wanted to feel like a fly on the wall during this scene so Cossart and his father could talk freely rather than feel like they were doing a more rigid interview. 

That scene, in fact, became the most meaningful for Weiland. “It was just a really sweet bonding moment for the two of them,” he says. “And for me, it was sweet to see that relationship and see the passion for surfing that has been passed down from father to son.” 

Mr. Kookbox was produced by Fielder Studios, the production company Weiland founded with Brian Davis.

Surfing