If Rascoe Hunt didn’t exist, we would have had to invent him. The Outer Banks just wouldn’t be the same otherwise.
Impossible to miss, with long sun-bleached hair, a propensity for going shirtless whenever he can get away with it, and an oddly shy demeanor that often gets mistaken for Spicoli-esque burnout, Rascoe is an Outer Banks icon -- not simply for his style or attitude, but for his deep local roots, his long career in the local surf industry, and his enthusiastic support of young up-and-coming surfers.
Born and raised Nags Head, Rascoe’s got more hometown cred than a traffic jam full of window-sticker locals . But he's not one to make a big deal out of it. Sure, get him talking and he’ll tell you all about what it was like growing up here in the mythical era before the real-estate boom and the influx of chain stores and restaurants. And once you get Rascoe talking, it may be hard to get him to stop. But if you’ve got the time, let him ramble. You’ll learn a few things about a few things.
Most folks around town know Rascoe as a glasser, the guy in the surfboard assembly line who laminates newly-shaped foam boards with fiberglass and sands them down to a smooth finish. Working out of the Gale Force Glassing factory in Kill Devil Hills, his output is staggering, and his skill in this unsung art is widely celebrated. He's been the go-to guy for just about every independent shaper on the Outer Banks for more than two decades, and over the last few years he's been adding his own shapes to the production line.
But Rascoe’s not just punching the clock. He owns the shop. In fact, he built the shop. Or, more accurately, he helped build the shop, along with half the surfer/contractors on the beach. It's a long story, but Rascoe wants it told right. So here's the short version:
Rascoe learned his trade under the leadership of legendary shaper-turned-photographer Mickey McCarthy, who, back in the '80's, ran his New Sun surfboard factory out of a cinderblock building across the street from Nags Head Pier. It was technically an illegal operation, as the site was zoned for commercial use, but not for manufacturing. When the Town of Nags Head started getting complaints from neighbors about the noise from sanders and planers buzzing through the night, they politely told Mickey he had to move to an industrial zone. So, with the help of his factory team, the financial aid of silent partner and longtime schoolteacher/shaper Murray Ross, and a rag-tag crew of framers, electricians, sheet-rockers, plumbers and carpenters all donating their labor for the cause, Mickey built a new shaping and glassing factory in Ocean Commerce Park in Kill Devil Hills. It took him over a year to build all the boards he'd promised to all the guys who'd pitched in, Rascoe says. Over the next few years Mickey's growing passion for surf photography prompted him to embark on a life-change, and he encouraged Rascoe and fellow glasser Ted Kearns to set up their own operation in the New Sun space. Thus, in 1992, Gale Force Glassing was born. They quickly became the go-to glassing facility for independent shapers on the Outer Banks, and it wasn't long before Murray and Ted started manufacturing their own shapes under the iconic GFG logo. Then, in 2008, Ted and his wife followed their dream to move to Hawaii, and Rascoe found himself the sole proprietor of Gale Force Glassing. And in the face of the global economic recession and the Asian invasion of cheap imported boards, Rascoe has kept GFG going, growing, and prospering. And now, after half a lifetime of doing everything but in the factory, Rascoe has picked up the planer and started shaping his own boards for GFG.
He may not look like your typical business owner, but make no mistake: Rascoe is all there, and he’s got a to-do list a mile long to show for it: ding repairs for local groms gearing up for a contest, half a dozen GFG boards to glass, half a dozen more glass jobs for local independent shapers, and half a dozen more of his own orders to shape, and then glass. Not to mention shop business, avid participation in the local surfing community, and sponsorship of up-and-coming rippers like Nohea Futrell.
And yet, come Sunday, he’s kicking back on the beach in Nags head, shirtless in faded blue jeans, drinking a cold Budweiser. No beach towel or chair for him; he’s stretched out on the sand, as if he might just burrow a hole in the beach and stay for the night.
Which is something he's no doubt done more than a few times. These beaches were his childhood stomping grounds, along with the maritime forests of Nags Head Woods, the desert-mountain world of Jockey’s Ridge, and the Treasure-Island-strewn marshlands of Albemarle Sound. His elders were commercial fishermen, mainland aristocrats, and small-town shop owners. Crabbing, fishing, camping, diving, playing hide-and-seek in this wild wonderland -- unlike the rest of us Peter Pans who didn’t get the chance to really cut loose and get lost in the natural wonders of the Outer Banks until we were adults, Rascoe did it all before he ever understood that most kids of his generation had to make do with popping wheelies off of sidewalks for kicks.
Looking back, he muses, I was really fortunate to have all that. It was like some kind of Huck Finn adventure. But back then, he says, it was just my life.
One day, he says, I’m gonna write a book about it.
If he can ever find the time, I'm sure it'll be a book well worth reading...