A love affair with Hatteras surfing and one special surf shop
By MICHAEL LETSO
Chadwick Beach, N.J.
As a new surfer growing up in New Jersey in the 1970s, I was always
intrigued by the bumper stickers on local guys' cars that said
"Surfing...is a Natural Art." I always wanted one of those stickers,
but first I needed a car and driver's license.
Back then I had a counterculture view of surfing that opposed
competition and viewing it as sport. I myself believed that surfing was
more of a creative art form. I guess the closest comparison was to
dance, only on a board riding on waves on the ocean. A few years later
I agreed to go with some guys at the college on a surf trip to some
unknown place called Cape Hatteras.
We drove all night and arrived at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at
sunrise. This moment changed me forever. I felt I'd found home at the
foot of this beautiful beacon. It was April of 1982, but I remember it
like it was yesterday. Then, we went surfing, sitting out there and
surfing these perfect waves while looking up at the lighthouse in awe.
The waves were so fun, so easy to ride, such long rides, and much
warmer than New Jersey, where the water is freezing in April. Like
every visit since that first time, I never wanted to leave.
The love affair has only grown these past 25 years, as I have
discovered the kindness of the local people and all the other wonderful
spots in Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras village.
In Buxton I discovered the source of my favorite bumper sticker,
Natural Art Surf Shop. I also discovered that the owner hand shapes
beautiful surfboards, and calls them "In the Eye," the perfect name for
a surfboard made in Hatteras. I brought home some of the great surfing
T-shirts, such as one with "In the Eye" and a graphic of a hurricane
symbol. The shirts are exclusive to Natural Art, so they made great
souvenirs of that first great trip of discovery. One of my favorite
shirts in recent years sums it all up perfectly. It says,
“Surfing Makes Me Happy!" So simple, it's brilliant.
Everything that the owners of Natural Art sell and the way they do
business seems to be the same – to tell it like it is, Hatteras
Carol and Scott Busbey own the surf shop, which they opened more than
30 years ago. My first impression of Scott was when my son dinged his
board and it needed repair. Here in New Jersey, these repairs can take
up to two weeks. But we needed it right away, since we were so far away
in Buxton and wanting to surf. So I went to Natural Art, expecting
nothing, talked to Scott for the first time, asked if he could fix it
for me, and he said, “It will be ready tomorrow!
That's the Hatteras local way I've learned. I went back the following
day, picked it up from another employee. I was very happy and thought
the price was great also. I saw Scott hanging out with some guys in
front of the shop on my way out, and he stopped what he was doing, came
over, and asked to see the board. He then apologized, took the board
back, and told the guy he did it wrong! He came back out, apologized
again, and said it would be repaired correctly later that same day. Of
course, it was, and my son was back surfing on it that very afternoon.
Another time I recall Scott disciplining an aspiring young surfer for a
lack of dedication. I was totally impressed with his caring,
no-nonsense approach again. I believe a lot of surfing is too laid
back, and that meaningful results are achieved through industrious
living. Scott seems to be really dedicated.
Last August, 30 years after the Busbeys opened Natural Arts and my 30th
year of surfing, I returned to find one of Scott's boards. "In the Eye"
looked like the perfect board for me. He listened to me, gave
straightforward ideas, and gave me all the attention I needed as
someone who's going to ride one of his boards.
Instead of just selling, he's helping. He designs the boards and shapes
the fiberglass blank. Scott oversees the entire process, as his own
highly-skilled people glass it and do the color artwork at his same
world-class facility, all for a very good price. One of the talented
artists for In The Eye surfboards is Daniel Pullen, who is another
Hatteras local who helps run the Natural Art shop, writes a column on
The Island Free Press, and owns an outstanding photography business
with his wife, Kate. Very good people all around -- the entire surf
All surfers wish they had a local shop they could walk into and meet
the guy who shapes the boards – a shop that designs the board for
the surfers' specific wishes and shapes it right there. This is
something many surfers only dream of. A good surfboard shaper has to be
a great surfer, master craftsman, artisan, and artist. A great
surfboard is a uniquely amazing creation.
Scott Busbey's boards are true works of art. My In The Eye board works
remarkably well. It's my favorite board that I am currently riding, and
I'm getting lots of notice with it from other surfers here in New
Surf shops and surfboard shapers are vital to surfers, and Natural Art is the best. It’s In the Eye at Cape Hatteras.