MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. — For Superman, the trip from Miami Beach to Maine and back, would have been made in a bound or two. For Bud Gardner’s “Superman” surfboard, that journey took 36 years before the brilliantly embellished creation was returned to its owner after being stolen from a surf shop window in 1981.
Gardner, now living in Melbourne Beach, created the single fin board three decades ago with the likeness of the iconic American superhero in his red cape draped over his wide blue shoulders and right arm outstretched about to take flight on the bottom of the board. It was a striking design.
Gardner was so proud of his creation that he put it on display in the front window of Bird’s Surf Shop in Miami Beach.
“I wanted to showcase this board,” said Gardner, who has been building surfboards since 1966. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Superman, so when I decided to make this board I knew it would be special.”
Two days later it was gone. It was never forgotten.
Gardner put out an alert for the board and it went out on the “hot list.”
Nobody ever responded and Gardner just assumed he would never see it again.
Then in July, he got a surprise email from a Maine surfer named Aaron Tourlette. The note explained that Tourlette’s father, Paul, had come across a board matching the exact description of the “Superman” surfboard. He sent photos of the battered board that featured the life-size rendition of Superman that Gardner hand-painted with colored resin on the bottom, along with Gardner’s signature near the nose.
“When I told him it was my Superman surfboard and the story about how it was stolen 36 years ago, Tourlette was sympathetic and immediately wanted to return it to me,” Gardner explained.
“Tourlette arranged to turn it over to his friend, Lt. Aaron Hayden, of the Maine State Police in Augusta, in hopes that I could work with him to have it returned to me,” he added.
But after researching the cost to ship the board from Maine to Melbourne Beach, Gardner found it was too expensive.
By chance Gardner had reached out to a friend who manages the R&D Surfboard Factory in Rockledge to discuss some business when they got to talking about the saga of the long-lost Superman board and it being stuck in Maine.
Maine? Gardner’s friend asked.
It turned out that the owner of the R&D Surfboard Factory, Ricky Carroll, was planning to head up the East Coast to deliver a bunch of boards and on his list of stops was Liquid Dreams Surf Shop in Ogunquit, Maine, about 90 miles from the Augusta Police Headquarters.
“When I emailed Lt. Hayden and told him my dilemma, he graciously offered to drive my Superman board all the way to the coast, a round trip of more than three plus hours,” said Gardner. “I could not thank him enough.”
Carroll picked up the board and brought it home.
On Sept. 18, almost 36 years to the day it went missing, Gardner met Carroll at his factory in Rockledge and was reunited with his long-lost creation.
Though the journey of his beloved “Superman surfboard” over the past 36 years may never be known, the story of its discovery and return to Gardner is likely one even Clark Kent, (Superman’s alter ego) and his girlfriend, Lois Lane, would have wanted to write about for the “Daily Planet” in Metropolis.
“I may never know how my board ended up traveling more than 1,500 miles up the coast, or how many surfers ever rode it, but I’m just happy to have it back,” he said.
“There were so many ‘superheroes’ who were responsible for its return and I am very grateful.
“I guess when it comes to ‘Superman,’ there is definitely something to be said about Truth, Justice and the American way.”
Information from: Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.), http://www.floridatoday.com