Is My Board Done Yet?

“‘Take your time’ is the worst thing you can say to me,” Jimmy Goldberg warns when we stop by his ding repair shop one foggy May afternoon. He’s counted sixty-four dings on the old long board we’ve dropped off, and at $12 a pop, it’s not a cheap fix. But Jimmy is the best—and only—in the area, and the more he talks, dishing on his surf trips to Costa Rica and on working as a commercial fisherman, the less fussing over money seems like an issue. That, and with his husky voice, tanned skin, and hands with calluses that each hint at a story more hardcore than the next, Jimmy comes off as the kind of guy with whom you don’t necessarily want to end up at the negotiating table.

Everyone firmly rooted in Montauk has a story. For Jimmy, it began with his Bayshore High School science teacher, who taught him how to repair surfboards when Jimmy was 14, the same year he learned how to surf. It was 1961, and Jimmy honed his craft both in the workshop and in the water before heading to California to work at Hanley. But as many others like him, who grew up riding the tough swell of the Atlantic, he couldn’t stay away too long, and returned shortly to launch Hook Surfboards. “Somebody asked if I made boards, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll make you a board.’ And if they liked it I’d continue. If they didn’t like it I’d never do it again.”

Along the way Jimmy earned a reputation for taking his sweet time. If you’ve been in Montauk for at least twenty-four hours you’ve probably seen the bumper stickers that read “Is My Board Done Yet?” The lore is that a disgruntled customer—frustrated at sitting on the sidelines while his surfboard was still being worked on by Jimmy—came up with the affectionately taunting slogan. In fact, it was the surf stalwart himself that began circulating the sticker as a marketing campaign for his business.

Admittedly, Jimmy does take a while to finish his boards, as “the black hole”—a pile of boards collecting dust in his tiny workspace—attests. His pickup truck sports the advertisement “Repairs, while you wait” with an infinity symbol under the text, indicating that you could be waiting forever. But Jimmy also insists that if someone really wants their board it can be finished in a day or two: “I can work really, really quick if I want to.” The stipulation being that Ditch Plains stays under four feet, in which case, those sixty-four dings—and his customers—will have to wait.