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Tidelines: Gregg Tally—White Owl Surfboards PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Kew   
Tuesday, 07 September 2010 19:46

Gregg Tally is a direct descendent of José Francisco de Ortega, the first Commandante at the Santa Barbara Presidio. Tally, 59, is also a diehard surfboard maker who revived White Owl, one of Santa Barbara’s first surfboard labels, ran by Jeff White and Brian Bradley in the 1960s. In early August I chatted with Tally at the Beach House in Santa Barbara, exclusive White Owl retailer, for the lowdown.

DEEP: How’d this all start?

Gregg Tally: Marc Andreini and I grew up surfing White Owl Surfboards, and we hung around the Summerland shop so much that Jeff White finally put us on the surf team. We were very loyal to White Owl, wouldn’t surf anything else, and it was a wonderful, wonderful shop where the older guys treated us like we were adults instead of little kids. They were like our older brothers; they let us hang out and watch things and learn and really made us a part of the whole deal.

Andreini and I were pretty religious about White Owl Surfboards, and when we surfed, we hooted at each other and had all kinds of sayings like “White Owl forever!” and “White Owl rules!”

In 1970, I moved to Hawaii to surf and work in the surfboard industry. In the mid-‘90s, I came back to Santa Barbara to have knee surgery, and I ran into Andreini at the Beach House. I was doing restoration work for Roger (Nance, Beach House owner). We started talking about the old days and we decided we’d better bring White Owl back, so we started with the team and we started with some longboards, then the Vaquero board came into existence; we worked on those for a couple of years and everything got going really well. Now we’re both at the Beach House and we’re selling our boards––it’s just like old times. We’re having a lot of fun.

DEEP: And Jeff White is still around?
GT: Yeah. Andreini and I went down and had lunch with White, and he was very agreeable in letting us use his logo. It was one of the most emotional days for me, a very prideful day, to get that logo, and I’m sure Andreini feels the same way. It was a big deal for us.

DEEP: Whose idea was it to put a White Owl Surfboards section in the Beach House?
GT: Well, White still owns part of the Beach House—he’s a silent partner. Nance has kind of taken White’s place in my life insofar as the surf shop type of thing. We do a lot of projects together, like restoring old surfboards, so this was the natural place for White Owl.

An Owl surfboard has a lot of soul in it. It’s made the old-fashioned way. In the old days, I preferred them because they were a well-made board and they surfed really well. I surfed Eichert boards before that, and I surfed Yaters in between. Andreini never did. Andreini was real serious, but I cheated a little bit. (laughs) I always went back to White Owl. One of the best longboards I ever had was one of the last Brian shaped before he retired. He made one for Andreini and me, and they were fantastic longboards. Just fantastic.

DEEP: What should people know about White Owl?

GT: That a White Owl was a real quality surfboard back in the ‘60s, with some real quality people involved in making it. People you would consider to be your brothers or fathers or whatever—just wonderful people.

And I really want people to understand what White put into Santa Barbara surfing and how it evolved. Andreini and I feel that same way, and we are so proud to be affiliated with White after all these years. We’re still together.

The whole idea is to bring the White Owl label back so people realize that there was a White Owl Surfboards being made in Santa Barbara. It’s historical. It’s nice when people do recognize the White Owl label. They ask, “Hey, where’d you get that old board?” And I tell them, ‘It’s not old—it’s new!’

Tally’s White Owl Surfboards are sold only at the Beach House, 10 State Street, Santa Barbara, (805) 963-1281.


Last Updated on Friday, 10 September 2010 22:19