It takes a moment to get used to people yelling ‘hail yeah!’ every few minutes when you’re around Jimbo Yarborough. He’ll answer to that, and to most on the North Shore that might as well be his name. It can also be heard when talking about his house or any one of the beautiful big wave guns that come out of his workshop. After a while you just start telling people you’re staying at Hail Yeah’s and they know exactly where to pick you up.
As of late, Jimbo has been catching up on his foam boards, much like the ones he’s shaped with Dick Brewer for over 30 years. There are boards everywhere; on the walls, on the beds, in the yard, in the shop, in the van… literally everywhere. They await only a custom tweak and glassing before hitting the water under the feet of some super stoked surfer. There are also custom boards at various stages of production, each with an amazing backstory.
The boards that fascinate me are Jimbo’s balsa and exotic wood boards. The intricately inlaid designs become a work of art in the hands of a master. I’m not the only one who thinks this. I saw one in a luxury hotel in Waikiki on sale by an art dealer priced to match a collectible art piece – meaning expensive.
Jimbo was a pioneer of big wave board design. Surfers like Laird Hamilton, Darrick Doerner, and Garrett McNamara were regulars at the Dawg Pound, as Jimbo’s home is affectionately referred to, designing and refining the shapes that would become the first tow-in boards. It’s still a regular stop for heavy water surfers. The first day I met Jimbo he was huddled in the shop with Clyde Aikau, one of the most influential leaders in the North Shore surfing community. Another evening during a BBQ I overheard Dave Langer begging to take a particular board to Nazare with him.
Jimbo wasn’t always a board shaper. Raised in the small town of Nederland Texas, he started out as a cabinet maker. As he tells it, there wasn’t any job he couldn’t handle and when asked if he could do something, his reply was always a resounding ‘Hell Yeah!’ If you know anything about a Texas twang, it’s easy to hear how that became ‘Hail Yeah’ in no time.
It’s with that soft Texas accent that Jimbo wistfully talks about Texas and his family. He mentioned more than once that the island had captured him and he couldn’t leave. He would have liked to have spent more time with his mother, who he spoke of often and with great admiration. She was a devout and respected woman in their community. His father was a Marine Corps Dive Bomber who fought in every major battle from Midway to Iwo Jima during his service. He traveled home to see his dad a few years ago and was surprised at how much things had changed; surprised at how much time had passed as he went about his busy life.
Busy is an understatement. In addition to cranking out a ton of surfboards, he hosts visitors from around the world who come for shaping sessions, photography assignments, vacation, or to challenge themselves along the 7 Mile Miracle. He’s a gracious host; always smiling and ready with a hearty Aloha at each encounter. Because he is so welcoming, Jimbo’s North Shore Ohana is plentiful, and they’re a wonderfully kind group of people. Over time, they have become as important as his family back in Texas.
Every evening Jimbo walks the block and a half down to a picnic table on Sunset Point to drink a beer and watch the sunset. He sits under a beautiful Hau tree that he takes pride in, having nurtured it for the last 30 years. He’s joined by long time neighbors (Hi Wayne!) and visiting guests all quietly grateful for the beauty of Oahu and the day they have just enjoyed. You can catch Jimbo’s daily sunset pics on his Instagram and know that all is well in the world. If you happen to stop by to meet up with up him, there’s always an extra seat – and St. Pauli Girl is preferred.