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Wednesday, July 06, 2005 | Several spouses of candidates in the mayoral election possess public and professional records, and are practically as distinguished as the candidates themselves.Voice of San Diego’s series of profiles of these spouses and their foreground and background roles as they accompany the candidates through the campaign continues today with Skip Frye.

It wasn’t love, but debate, at first sight, on Dec. 21, 1980, when Donna Sarvis walked into Pancho’s Villa in Pacific Beach and met Skip Frye.

“She was there having lunch and I had come in to watch the football game,” Skip said. “She and I started talking about the game (Rams vs. Falcons) and who would win. We bet on the game (Donna, Rams; Skip, Falcons) and who would win. She won the bet (Rams 20, Falcons 17, OT).”

It could have ended the relationship. But it didn’t.

“I fell in love with her over time,” Skip said. “She was kind, and very caring. She took an interest in me and my well-being and really cared about me.”

She was also tall and tan with long blonde hair. They married almost 10 years to the day after they met, Dec. 22, 1990, at the home of Donna’s parents in Clairemont. Both had been married before, and Skip had three children from his prior marriage. (He now also has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)

When they met, Skip was more famous than Donna. He was a surfer, but more famously, a maker of surfboards finding a market with surfers around the world. She was unemployed. “Her first job after we met was working at the Naval Training Center gas station,” he said. “She pumped gas, cashiered and checked the air in tires, oil level, etc.”

Now, she is San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye, and her next job may be mayor of San Diego. It has brought some changes in their lifestyle. “We spend much less time together and she is on the phone constantly when she is home,” Skip said. “On the positive side, I receive good comments about her and people are excited about having a person in office who actually represents them and listens.”

It is an approach that jives with a bit of surfer Zen that Skip offers on the mayor’s race, and the pension fund issue in particular: “Don’t try to surf in the fog because you won’t see the waves coming.”

“She would be a better mayor,” he said, “because she does her homework, asks questions and understands what’s going on. If she doesn’t get a straight answer, she keeps on it until she does.”

If Donna is getting all the headlines, Skip is not hurting for attention in his business, either. Among the famous surfers who ride Frye boards are Brad Gerlach, Rob Machado and Derek Hynd. A Frye surfboard also once represented the city of San Diego. It is now in the possession of Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. He won it in a bet with San Diego Mayor Susan Golding over who would win the 1998 World Series, the Yankees or the Padres.

Harry Richard Frye was born in San Diego on Sept. 7, 1941. His dad was a Navy mechanic and his mom was a homemaker.

“I have a high school education (Mission Bay) and attended a junior college (San Diego City) but did not graduate since I became involved in surfing. I got into the surfing business by doing surfboard repair at Gordon and Smith.”

He started shaping boards in 1962.

“On average it takes me eight hours per board since I shape every board that bears my name,” he said. He does, in fact, sign every board, and draws a pair of wings, his logo, on the board as well. “I shape a variety of models ranging from 5 feet to over 12 feet. I also shape many different models, including Eggs, Fish, Eagles, Squaretails and Swallowtails.”

He said the different lengths are required to ride different types of surf.

“It’s called a quiver,” he said. “Longer boards have more planning surface and work well in smaller surf. Smaller boards work better when the surf is bigger. Longer boards are faster, shorter boards are quicker and snappier. It’s kind of like golfing. You wouldn’t use the same club to putt as you would to tee off.”

Customers say Frye boards are special because of smoothness of handling, the “glide” of the board, and the custom tailoring that Frye provides with every board. The board starts as a polyurethane blank that is shaped and then finished with fiberglass and resin.

“I use a variety of templates to draw the outside lines of the board,” he said. “After that, most of the finish work is hand sanding.”

For the customer nearest his heart, what kind of board would he provide for the political waves in this mayoral race?

“It would definitely be a tandem board,” he said, tongue only half in cheek, “because running a campaign for mayor is a team effort and one person cannot do it alone.”

“It would be at least 12-feet-6-inches, so it has lots of glide and is easier to paddle against the currents. The shape would be an Eagle, so it can soar above the roar of the negative campaign rhetoric that will come from some of Donna’s opponents. It will be called the ‘Clean Mary’ to help remind all of us of the task at hand and the one to come: keep it clean and then clean it up.”

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at

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