Pipe Dreams / Joe Falcone | Edition XV
Hello. My name is Chris Live AKA Shaker and, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that, as a Brooklyn born and bred native New Yorker, I have a severely limited understanding of what constitutes a “board”. I know that the New York City Board of Education is on the mend after having been in shambles for decades. I know that every so often the Board of Elections tells me where the polls are located when it’s time to get my civic duty on. I’ve had a few unfortunate run-ins with the Board of Corrections. Ask me anything about surfboards though and you are bound to hear crickets, well, that is, until today.
Apparently, there are two amazing surf beaches at Rockaway Beach, (between 67-69 Streets and between 87-92 Streets respectively) that have given birth to a vibrant surf culture and community in the NYC. Who knew? This had better not be some newfangled outpost for vacuous Hipsters to call summer home though! If so, I would have no part of such shenanigans. A man of my resolve could only be persuaded by a reputable fellow New York City O.G to embrace this other universe just beyond the grasp of the A-train. Enter: Joe “Grey Ghost” Falcone. Joe Falcone is that rare breed of individual capable of being both a staunch defender of tradition as well as being a wonderfully humble Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island-like welcomer of all who share his boundless enthusiasms.
Born on Coney Island, Brooklyn, and raised somewhere between The Wonder Wheel and Rockaway Taco, Joe Falcone gained his sea legs only a few years after learning how to walk on land – he has been surfing avidly since he was 8 years old. In his late teens, when his boards needed repair, rather than continue to entrust his treasured boards to another, he decided to tend to them himself. In the process, that self-edifying hands on experience served as the fateful catalyst that transformed a mere mortal into an artisan of the finest hand crafted breaking wave braving vessels this side of Hawaii … or so I’ve been told. “I felt a weird pull towards shaping”, says a reflective Grey Ghost, tapping memories from surf sessions past. “I was intrigued. I spent all of my money on the best tools”. Please salute this man with a glass axe to grind. His blood, sweat, tears and full-on bank account clearing investment into his calling is the cavalier stuff that entrepreneurial legends are made of.
Based out of the garage of his home in Far Rockaway, Queens, Joe set up a fully functional shaping bay and began mowing his own blanks about 6 years ago. Once he hit the waves, his personal “Grey Ghost” designs drew more than their fair share of admirers. “Shaping boards has a deeper dimension between art and function. I really like experimenting with new materials; playing with new designs; shapes and outlines. This all helps to push my performance forward”, says Joe. Such dedication to one’s art in the face of all of this freeze-dried mass marketed “coolness” that threatens to suffocate us is instantly endearing. If, however, your curiousities are of the fleeting kind, waste neither your time nor Joe’s. Respectfully Joe clarifies his über selective screening process for potential Grey Ghost surfboard suitors, “Because I like to make each board to order, I try to evaluate each customer. For a man who makes 2-5 boards per month and can only truly engage his art when he, “feels good about it”, his ideal patron, if even a novice, is a constant student of the game always in pursuit of the perfect wave to carve. This isn’t about money. As a passionate champion of all things surf, Joe Falcone lives by the creed, “Come correct or don’t come at all”. Although I don’t know my surf board from my surf and turf entree at Red Lobster, I dig where the homie is coming from.
Meanwhile back at the Mollusk Surf Shop ranch (The Williamsburg, Brooklyn arm of this successful California surf outfit owned and operated by his friends, compatriots and mentors Chris Gentile and Mike Machemer) there are few, if any, signs of the Grey Ghost as Joe Falcone chooses to instead play the mild mannered yet attentive and knowledgable store employee to a tee. He typically refrains from using this retail space as his personal gallery … not that there isn’t one in the making. Says Joe Falcone, “Right now I’m about to open up a space called “The Rock Co-op” in Far Rockaway with some friends and it will be a venue for all kinds of artists and a showroom for my boards”. Additionally, Grey Ghost, the accidental brand that damn sure could, just struck a creative collaboration deal with Ducksworth that will see a surf/art/fashion world fusion that promises to drop custom surfboards along with an expansion into limited edition apparel and accessories.
Joe Falcone isn’t some art school drop out bent on digging for praise like so many broken seashells in the sand. No, the Grey Ghost is simply a purist with his own distinct voice and a determined grind. And, in this day and age, maybe an apparition like that is scary enough. Boo!
Words: Chris Live