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Artisan: Wave of Inspiration 

A surfer finds a new use for his boards.

For the past few years, Crocker, 23, has custom-built surfboards and painted them with colorful graphics and patterns of his own design. Recently, the part-time mechanic and carpenter and Virginia Commonwealth University business major has focused his energies on bringing beach culture inland by crafting functional furniture that incorporates surfboards.

One of Crocker's designs is a coffee table with a surfboard that serves as the slightly bowed tabletop. This rests upon a latticelike wooden podium painted a shade of deep Caribbean blue that provides an airy but sturdy base.

The Chester native's zeal for surfing developed after many family vacations in Nags Head, N.C. "These frequent trips made me into a water-loving creature," Crocker says. After teaching himself to surf at age 9, Crocker begged his mother to buy him a surfboard: She obliged with a used one that cost $235.

During his early teen years, skateboarding vied with surfing as his passion. Now there's another passion: crafting furniture.

Crocker says that it was three years ago when he was applying airbrush designs to his surfboards that an idea dawned on him: "Why not construct the boards as well as paint them? I purchased three training videos and watched them over and over and over."

Meanwhile he was saving his money to buy polyurethane foam materials from which to carve the surfboards.

"I screwed up the first board pretty good," he says. "The second board turned out half OK. The third attempt was a success."

He sold that board, which is now owned by a surfer living in Hawaii. Its surface is painted a pattern Crocker calls "falsa wood."

"I painted it to look antique, like an old board," he says, "to represent the way surfboards used to be made before foam was introduced."

But Crocker didn't discard his first two attempts at surfboard making. Instead, he recycled them as furniture. "Why let an artifact of the surf culture go to waste?" he asks.

Now Crocker is refining his furniture designs and making them more practical, specifically trying to make the tabletops flatter. He is also designing a surfboard chair and a home bar. He operates his design and graphics company under the corporate name Category Five.

For Crocker, his surfing-inspired furniture and accessories are mood-enhancing. "It's all about romanticizing the idea of the ocean," he says. "Everybody wants to go on vacation, and nobody wants to come back. So why not bring your vacation home with you?"

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