Surfboard Artist Ron Artis

North Shore surfers in Oahu know where to go when they’ve broken their boards.

By: By Kathy Chin Leong

 Surfboard artist Ron Artis in front of his painted boards. // (c) Kathy Leong
Surfboard artist Ron Artis
in front of his painted boards.

North Shore surfers in Oahu know where to go when they’ve broken their boards. Trudging their battered beauties up a path that leads to a colorful bungalow, they know Ron Artis will bring their boards back to life. He doesn’t repair them, mind you, he resurrects them into artistic renderings that will eventually wind up in someone’s game room or living room.

On Kamehameha Hwy. in Haleiwa, Artis and his wife, Victoria, live with their 11 children in a modest home known as Resurrection City. You can’t miss it — the front lawn features a painted tractor complete with a female mannequin seated upon it, and quintessential palm trees that make Hawaii, well, Hawaii. Their kids, with names such as PraiseJesus, America and Thunderstorm, are often composing songs, developing online videos or giving tours of Resurrection City.

Artis unleashes his passion as Oahu’s surfboard painter extraordinaire using airbrush as his main medium. You’ll see a sea turtle on one, a plumeria on another, an image of Jimi Hendrix on yet another. Cued up along the front, around the backyard and on his deck, no two boards are identical and all are as unique as their creator.

When I phoned to set up this in-person interview, Artis replied, “I have to follow my creativity, so I’ll see you when I see you.”

I found him at home, jamming with his five boys and six girls, age 23 and under, in front of a group of tourists.

A professional musician who once worked with Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson, he left the music industry in Hollywood nine years ago to come to Hawaii. He has taught all his children how to play not one but several instruments.

The charismatic, 50-something Artis, says people all over the world purchase his unusual surfboard masterpieces.

“I don’t think I have one in Iceland or Antarctica yet,” he said.

The unconventional painter/musician is also a muralist who has created over 850 murals on Navy battleships, airplanes, supermarkets, hospitals and more. Every surface is fair game. Even his asphalt walkway delights visitors with a painted image of a fish pond.

Artis waxes philosophically about all things being for a purpose, and on this day a tour operator brings a busload of disabled Japanese tourists for an impromptu concert. An old expressionless woman in a wheelchair is delivered to the front and listens pensively. She watches as Artis and the kids shake their bodies, wailing on their instruments erupting in blues and jazz manifestos.

Afterward, the woman’s face breaks into a wide smile, and she claps enthusiastically. She whispers to her the attendant and wants him to translate. She has enjoyed his work and wants to let Artis know that her husband is the president of one of the largest TV stations in Tokyo. “See?” he said. “This stuff happens all the time.”

To visit Ron Artis and his studio “Resurrection City”, go to: 66-246 A Kamehameha Hwy. Haleiwa, HI 96712