If you spent more than 10 minutes at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk this summer, you probably caught the act of Doug Hofkins, the Surfing Magician.
Really, how could you have missed the guy? He logged in 20 performances a week, alternating between sites at opposite ends of the Boardwalk. If you didn’t see his Copperfield-meets-Spicoli persona entertaining a largely pre-adolescent audience with card tricks, sleight-of-hand and goofy comedy, then you probably caught him hustling to the next show, carrying a surfboard mounted on an ironing board.
“I did four and a half, five miles a day just walking back and forth.”
The season is now over at the Boardwalk, at least for Doug, and now comes time to lay down some plans to make 2016 a magical year. Sometime next spring, Doug aims to open a business at the Boardwalk, a magic shop with magic supplies, party gags, whoopie cushions, fake rubber vomit, the whole enchilada.
The Surfing Magician has been a part of the Boardwalk summer for three years now, and when he’s not there, he’s entertaining at school assemblies, hospitals, restaurants and private parties for his most devoted audience — kids, who believe that surfing and magic are about the two coolest endeavors in human history.
But he’s also thinking big about the future, even beyond the opening of his new shop. “I got dreams,” he said.
Among those are producing more big magic shows — “stage shows” in magician parlance — involving more elaborate illusions in front of a paying audience in a theater. He wants to beef up his offerings of his YouTube videos, and, like an magician worth his bowtie, he’s thinking up big wow moments for his act.
“I’d really like to produce a live dove while riding a wave,” he said, with a grin. Much of Doug’s appeal as a performer comes from that kid-like demeanor. He’s relaxed and playful on stage, will often allow his young audience to “catch” him with a trick, only to dazzle them with another.
Part of the inspiration in opening his new store came from the Tom Hanks film “Big,” in which a 12-year-old boy wakes up in the body of a 30-year-old. That’s close to the kind of vibe the Surfing Magician aspires to on stage. It allows him to tap into the joy of his performance, he said, as well as stay loose as a performer.
“I like to freestyle it,” he said. “I mean, I do have structure to my show. But I like to kinda wing it, depending on the audience and the venue and the mood. I think it makes me different as a performer that way. Whatever’s happening, go with it."