Raising Groms: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Kid Surfers

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While many surfers consider the option of raising a grom, until you are immersed in this lifelong activity, you might not realize the responsibilities and challenges that await you. As the father of two groms, 15 and 17, I have provided some tips to help you manage this laborious, costly and time-intensive process.

The first issue with groms is that they are expensive. That is because after you feed them (more on this later) they grow.

Groms grow quickly out of wetsuits, surfboards, board shorts, and shoes. Due to the high cost of boards and wetsuits, you must train your groms to raise funds to pay for their own surfing expenses.

As soon as your groms can walk, take them to the beach and teach them to search garbage cans for leftover redemption bottles and cans. You can train them to do this while they are still in their crib.

You can also make the rounds of your neighborhood and or city on garbage collection day to search for discarded boards and wetsuits. When your groms are young there is no need to purchase new gear when you can scrounge from the street.

The surfed hard.

Parents should become as proficient in ding repair as possible. That is because as soon your groms learn to surf, they will return home on almost a daily basis with a dinged or broken board. If you lack a garage or workshop, feel free to turn your grom’s bedroom into a combo ding repair workshop/bedroom. Just make sure there is plenty of ventilation.

Of course, groms must also learn the art of ding repair. Just remove all carpeting from your home. You can be assured that the groms will track resin and fiberglass (in addition to sand and surf wax) in every nook and cranny of your house. Don’t worry: The sand is organic and provides extra nutrients and sodium when mixed with your food.

After your youngsters begin to surf, consider giving up any other formal hobbies or activities or even a social life that doesn’t revolve around the beach or surfing. That is because you will be required to drive them to the beach and dawn patrol on the weekends or even before school. Consider obtaining your chauffeurs license as well, since most likely you will be transporting a pack of groms on most of your surf trips.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

Groms must be trained to pack surf gear in the car for their entire family. Just don’t be surprised to open the car to find the groms waiting inside without having packed anything, or arriving at the beach and having them be surprised that they were expected to pack mom or dad’s gear too. Also always check to make sure boards have been strapped to the car properly.

When they are young, don’t expect your groms to get dressed and ready to depart the beach when you are ready to leave. Invariably, they will disappear only to be found back on the beach eating kelp, rolling around on a dead sea lion or playing with bird or dog poop.

Feeding groms is the greatest challenge you will face as a surf parent. Many groms surf for extended periods of time and forget their feeding times. They will then invariably complain to their mothers that, “dad starved me” in order to secure a breakfast of homemade pancakes and waffles.

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As mom is ready to serve her own groms their food, she will be surprised by the plethora of extra hands reaching out to grab whatever she is serving. The extra hands belong to neighborhood groms who were invited over to eat without informing mom.

Beware that during their teen years, groms move in large packs from house to house on a daily basis devouring all available food in fridges and cupboards. This will require you to make several grocery store trips each week. Don’t worry; this will only last until they move out of the house. Consider obtaining a second job to pay for your grocery bill.

A post surf session pit stop at Los Traileros is required for northern Baja surf trips.

A post surf session pit stop at Los Traileros is required for northern Baja surf trips.

Groms need to swim well. Very well.

The ocean if a powerful force and it can swallow your groms. If your groms want to surf with you in critical conditions they have to be physically prepared. Swim team, water polo and/or junior lifeguard programs should follow extensive swim lessons. Ocean safe groms make for happy parents and ocean lifeguards.

Your groms will eventually surf way better than you do and go off to college and move away from home. Don’t worry. At some point they will get a job (hopefully), marry and have their own groms. Then you will get to relive the best days of your life by teaching a new generation to love the ocean and surfing as much as you do.

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Shaping New Ideas with Plus One’s George Gall

George surfing Indonesia. Photo courtesy of G. Gall.

George surfing Indonesia. Photo courtesy of G. Gall.

George Gall grew up blocks from the water in Ocean Beach body surfing and riding inflatable mats. Today the third generation board shaper runs Plus One Surfboards.

Serge Dedina: You are a third generation shaper. You would think that the adversity that surfboard shapers face economically would have pushed you away from shaping. Why have you stuck with it at Plus One Surfboards?

George Gall: My grandfather made boards starting in the 1920s for himself and his friends. I don’t know that he made any for money, plus the number of surfers was not that many, so his income came from other sources. He was a bit of an artist, I was told he did graphic/sculpting work on buildings in Balboa Park, worked at the Navy Aircraft Rework Facility on North Island, and worked as a chauffeur/assistant for a prominent San Diego family, the Luces.

I only remember my dad having one foam/glass surfboard and they only had their own boards for surfing and abalone diving. So again there was not a lot of economic pressure to make a living from surfboard building, which is probably why I never heard any discouraging parental words to not shape boards.

George at work. Photo: K. Stucki

George at work. Photo: K. Stucki

Likewise, I had other careers. I went to college and got degrees in mechanical engineering and then mathematics. All the while I made boards, I kind of thought I was going to go the full corporate route, and I did, working for the Space Systems Division of General Dynamics on the rocket program that launched payloads like Cassini, the GPS array and military payloads for the Air Force and CIA.

Then the big change for me happened, wanting to surf more again, I took a big chance and changed careers. I became a high school math and computer science teacher and worked in Chula Vista. This opened me up for summers off, perfect for surfing and travel, and making even more boards.

I was busy to the point of surfing less and working more. Not for the money as much as wanting to make good boards and to stoke people on them. I enjoy it.

George at work. Photo courtesy of Michael Andrew Photography.

George at work. Photo courtesy of Michael Andrew Photography.

Dedina: Is San Diego a good place to be a shaper?

Gall: This is a double-edged sword. Southern California has always been the pre-internet hotbed for innovation and the active lifestyle. This means lots of board makers come here to establish credibility and all the major ingredients: the blank makers, resin and glass suppliers had set up shop near San Diego.

It is good to be a shaper in San Diego, for many reasons: cred, leading edge, testing and close to media to share designs and do business. San Diego is a bad place to be a shaper because there are so many shapers trying to do the same thing, thus the market becomes a bit saturated at times, and the price and profit for boards is probably the lowest in the world outside of China.

San Diego can be an aggressive market due to pro surfers wanting sponsorships and low-ball pricing. Access to materials to home builders has an influence on killing the margin needed to make a living from surfboard building.

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

Dedina: It seems like there is more support for local shapers from the industry and the media. Does that translate to greater sales? Has it helped at all?

Gall: There has been a huge shift from the mindset of pre-2005. Gone are the days of shaping 40, 50, 60 of the same board over and over. Supplanting this is the desire for fresh designs. This paradigm shift has brought the spotlight on “alternate” designs, on new ideas, and thus local shapers.

This translates into different sales, depending upon which side of the threshold the shaper is working. If they were once doing 300 boards a week of the same design, the rise of the local shaper counters their effort. If the shaper is one of the local brands, then yes, they are going to feel an increase in demand, if their designs are good.

However, the local shaper hits a ceiling because there are other local shapers on either side of the shaper’s “territory.” If that shaper has a good share of a particular coastal stretch, then that shaper usually does well, just servicing that business model.

As the territory expands, then the shaper is no longer perceived as a “local shaper” requiring a morph of the public image. In my book, the board has to work, it has to be fun, and the business will come.

Plus One asymmetrical boards.

Plus One asymmetrical boards.

Dedina: What are the trends you see for surfers and the type of boards they are riding right now. What are the hot shapes?

Gall: Experimentation. The average surfer has seen the iconic top surfers trying “new stuff.” With this permission slip, the average surfers are cleansing themselves of the “one-design” constraint of the last 20 years. With this experimenting there will be successes, which will manifest larger quantized jumps in better designs than the small incremental refinements of the old designs.

With this greater design mutation, it is assured you will see greater, more noticeable progress in surfboard design; the door is now open wide, pushed by newfound creativity and also financial reasons. In a way, it is good to see this wide array being tried in the water. Along with this, we are seeing surfing change, less “clonish” with different styles and approaches.

On the other hand, imagine being a surfer who finally gets the hundreds of dollars together to get a new board who must make a decision to go with a “known” design, usually reinforced as a “model,” which implies more credibility to a board, or to take an expensive gamble on an unknown concept that might result in being stuck with it for a while, having to get rid of it, and having to endure criticism from peers–the all-stagnating peer imperative.

George and his racing SUP design. Photo: G. Gall.

George and his racing SUP design. Photo: G. Gall.

Dedina: Is the economic incentive to use more sustainable or “green” materials there yet?

Gall: We are still on the uphill side of sustainable boards at the leading edge of performance surfing. I often wake up wanting to go in the shop and build something that was grown or was from something used previously for another purpose, so it would not be a waste.

Everyone in my family built wooden boards and that weighs on me, especially now. The big difficulty is educating the buying surfer to understand that purchasing a sustainable board is much more than just getting another board to ride.

Seeing the big picture offers a satisfaction, and to some a fulfilling duty, to make a responsible surfboard purchase. We are trying new materials all the time and are in contact with many of those dedicated to finding the coming viable solutions. I do not think there is a surfer out there who would be opposed to owning and riding a surfboard that was 100 percent green. The constraints right now seem to be cost, durability, performance and convenience.

Shaping machine Plus One design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Shaping machine Plus One design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Dedina: What can the surf industry and even the surf media do to promote having surfers work with local shapers? Could local shapers work together more effectively to create a trade association to promote the art of shaping and buying handcrafted surfboards?

Gall: Most of the push is word of mouth. The push is being felt the strongest where it matters the most: in the water. But whether at the local break, or big contest, or daredevil surf spot, the credibility of the shaper is in how the board works in the water. In most cases there is a core group or core surfer who is devoted to a particular board concept.

The shaper needs to be dedicated to listening to the surfer, produce the dream into a reality, and maybe answer the phone every once in a while. Reputation is, or should be, made by the merits of the shaper. The modern “word of mouth” is social media.

I get more and more boards ordered on an Internet-only basis, and it is working. In fact I am seeing less errors on orders since we have written histories on boards and idea development. This has actually made my workload easier and a little less stressful.

Plus One computer aided design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Plus One computer aided design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Another thing I see happening post-2005 (blanks) and post-2007 (economy) is that the remaining shapers have had to pull up their stakes and regroup. It is now common to see five or six shapers have their boards made under the same roof.  At Plus One we have six to eight shapers who will come in to do their work, all of their own brand.

This strategy is a good starting point to go to the next level which is to promote the trade. Shapers are more networked together now than ever before. We have tribute shows and a semblance of a trade show open to the public. A trade association would strengthen the small local shapers and give them a voice and a channel to improve what they make.

Deep Design: Daniel Thomson on Surfboards, Physics and Simmons

Dan Thomson putting it on a rail. Photo courtesy of Tomo Surfboards.

Daniel Thomson of Tomo Surboards is a young and innovative surfer who is part of a core group of San Diego shapers pushing the edge of design and development to move surfing to the next level. He has been affiliated with Richard Kenvin’s Hydrodynamica project that is based on the influence and theories of San Diego’s legendary surfing innovator Bob Simmons.

Serge Dedina: Why did you starting shaping surfboards? And what is it about creating surfboards that you love?

Daniel Thomson: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a surfing family so I pretty much have been surfing since I can remember. My dad (Mark Thomson) is a respected shaper in Australia so ever since he made me my first board, I was involved in the shaping process. As I evolved as a surfer, my desire to shape more specialized equipment became apparent so I continued to follow my passion for exploring the connection between creative art specialized for performance surfing.

Dedina: Who are your shaping and surfing influences?

Thomson: My dad obviously. George Greenough was a family friend during my younger years so his work definitely made an imprint on me.  More recently the work of Bob Simmons uncovered by the research of Richard Kenvin has been inspiring. Also, I like to look outside of surfing for inspiration: modern aviation, quantum physics and the universe challenge the mind to think deeper for new ideas.

Carl Eckstrom and Daniel Thomson at the Hydronamica opening in San Diego earlier this year.

Dedina: How did you end up shaping and surfing in San Diego?

Thomson: After making a few trips out to San Diego from 2004-2010, I realized that the market for progressive designs was stronger in California. Also, I was ready for a change of pace in my life.

Dedina: Your boards have been associated with the hydrodynamic theory and movement espoused by Richard Kenvin that was directly influenced by the design of Bob Simmons? How did you interest in the legacy of Simmons and the partnership with Kenvin occur?

Thomson: Richard was visiting in Australia back in 2003 on one of his first Hydrodynamica missions. He was looking to connect with Dave Rastovich.

In hope that he would be able to film him riding some of the keel fin fish boards he had brought over, Richard tracked down my dad as a support filmer and naturally my dad suggested to Richard that ‘I give these fishes a go.’

A few sessions later, we had some awesome footage of Rasta and me riding these boards. After that I kept in close contact with RK and continued my natural progression in refining the fish design.

Dedina: What are the types of surfboards you are shaping now and specifically what are the designs that you see working best in Southern California?

Thomson: Generally all my boards are fairly suited to California because of the straighter curves and wider tails. The boards that I am currently most excited about are my new Next Generation Modern Planing Hulls (MPH).

They are basically 21st century adaptations of the original Bob Simmons plaining hulls mixed with wakeboards technology. They seem to be very functional designs with a whole bunch of potential to be seen as an apex high performance design in the future.

One of Dan’s Simmon’s inspired planing hulls.

Dedina: Explain what the hydrodynamic principle means for surfboard design and surfing in general?

Thomson: Broadly speaking, you can apply some sort of hydrodynamic principle to any surfboard. More specially describing a hydrodynamic planning hull is a board designed to minimize drag through several different streamlining methods including utilizing a parallel rail line from nose to tail with a wider nose tail profile and straight-line fin placements

Dedina: What materials are you working with right now?

Thomson: I have always been a firm believer in epoxy resin for its strength, durabilty and flex memory. I am currently working with XTR (closed cell styrofoam) Epoxy and several applications of vacuum bag carbon fiber.

Dedina: You are shaping boards for WQS surfer Stu Kennedy. How did that relationship come about and how do you work with him in terms of giving and receiving feedback?

Stu Kennedy with his Tomo quiver. Photo courtesy Tomo Surfboards.

Thomson: Stu has been a close friend from my hometown of Lennox Head so I have shaped for him quite a bit in the past. When I was home visiting in March, I showed Stu some of the latest boards. He was pretty blown away on how they surfed, and he has barely set foot on a regular short board since he tried one.

Since I shaped him a new quiver of the MPH’s he has been dedicated to riding them in high-level completion as he feels he can achieve his best performances on these boards. He recently placed 9th in the 6 star WQS in England and a 17th in the U.S Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

Dedina: Are most pro surfers too conservative with the boards they are riding?

Thomson: Most definitely. The cutthroat nature of competition doesn’t nurture experimentation. Most elite surfers have grown up there whole lives riding one style of design and is not confident riding something unorthodox. Most are jaded to the fact that there could be a left field design out there capable of performing better, so they tend not to have faith in something new. Things are changing though.

Dedina: There’s a photo with Kelly Slater and you when you were a grom and more recently Kelly commented on the boards you shape for Kennedy. How has Kelly’s surfing and his own departure from pro surfing surfboard orthodoxy influenced your own career as a shaper and a surfer?

Thomson: I have always been experimental in nature with my equipment so I haven’t so much been following Kelly design wise. However his surfing is what inspires me most to figure out ways to improve my design to allow me to surf at higher levels.

Dedina: Where do you see yourself going with your shaping career? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Thomson: I would obviously like to be successful. I am more of a surfer/designer than a ‘shaper’ so hopefully I will be surfing more and not be a slave to the shaping room. I have always done it for the love of surfing and a healthy creative outlet. So as long as I am doing that, I will be happy.

Sandy Beach and the Pure Joy of Waveriding

Sandy Beach on the southeast tip of Oahu is arguably one of the world’s most unique waveriding locations. On any given day a group of committed individuals gather together to ride waves on the most diverse collection of tools used anywhere.

Visit Sandy during a south swell and you’ll find kids young and old expertly surfing the vicious shorebreak using bodyboards, soft-top surfboards, fiberglass surfboards, McDonald’s food trays, handmade wooden hand planers, swim paddles, and bodysurfing with swim fins and without.

This is the beach that President Obama famously bodysurfed during his first presidential campaign. When he stuck out his arm in the classic bodysurfin position, surfers all over the world recognized him as the real deal. Our President knows how to bodysurf. And whether it is 2 feet or 10 feet, the waves at Sandy are not easy. You have to want to be there.

South swells are wedged together to pound this 400-yard long beach with terrifying precision in about one foot of water. A local told me, “It doesn’t matter if it just 2 feet. You are guaranteed to get a barrel.” The waves are round and hollow.

The water at Sandy is crystal clear and warm which makes it an inviting place to get wet. But don’t be mistaken by the tranquil looking sea. Just getting in and out of the shorebreak requires negotiating the current, the shorepound and the steep beach.

Turn your back on the waves at Sandy and you’ll be sorry. The lifeguards continually monitor the crowd from two portable towers. They announce on loudspeakers, “Please be careful, the surf is up today. There is no other location in the U.S. where more people have their necks broken. So be cautious and careful.”

On our first visit there, a new south swell was building. With a strong tidal push in the middle of the afternoon, we could feel and see the surf increasing. Since the waves break onshore it was difficult to judge their height.

While out bodysurfing I observed one surfer scratch into a wave. Just before the lip destroyed him, I caught a glimpse of him at the very bottom. The wave was twice his height or about 11-12.’ But estimating the size of shorebreak is difficult. Let’s just say the waves were poundful.

On the east side of the beach are two reefs. Both offer up slabby gnarly A-frames, with the lefts beating out the rights. Waves on the inside reef wedge up and alllowed a couple of expert surfers to snag a few choice barrels. One surfer backdoored the rights all afternoon scoring deep barrels. Another surfed  the left, avoiding a large rock on the inside and connecting to the shorebreak where he was either decimated or barreled or both.

The most impressive performers were the surfers riding bodyboards. They had no fins or leashes and took off on the gnarliest set waves, stood up and ripped, hitting the lip, carving 360s and getting deep barrels.

Sandy is popular, crowded, sunny and perfect. And best of all, after you get tired of being pounded into the sand there is a Wahoo’s Fish Taco Truck standing by to provide up lots of bowls, burritos and tacos to help you get over the pain.

My sons and I surfed a lot of spots on Oahu. We had the most fun at Sandy’s.

My New Surfboard: The Jay Novak Quad Squashtail– 80s Retro

My new custom Novak Surf Designs squashtail quad. 80s colors!

Just picked up a new board from Jay Novak of Novak Surf Designs. It is a 6’6″ x 2″ 3/4 x 21 3/8. This is really an old school squashtail template-the type of Simon Anderson designs I fell in love with when Thrusters first came out in the early 80s.

 

I’ve been riding Jay’s squashtail quads for close to 3 years, and he has helped me really get the shape I want dialed in.EPS foam along with Epoxy really helps me on the flotation and the key for me is width + thickness. I’m a big guy at 6’4″ and 201lbs so the extra flotation is key, especially with a full suit on.

I have another very similar 7’0″ shaped by Jay. It works incredibly well in bigger surf, especially waves with big open faces. I’m looking forward to surfing this one in Baja.

I’m also a big believer in color. And all my boards right now are either electric 80s colors (think Potz!!!) or a cool 70s era forest green and yellow. I have the Futures Rusty quad fins in this one. Hope they work well. Experimenting with correct fin size is key to getting the quad dialed in.

I don’t know anything about surfboard design. I know what I like and what works. Luckily I have Jay to work with who knows how I surf and can work with me to experiment and get these right. That is the key to having boards work correctly. You have to work with an experienced shaper who really knows how you surf.

 

Novak Designs quad. These are the Futures Rusty quad fins.

Brett Bender’s Shaping Life

Brett Bender at work at the TNT factory in Imperial Beach.

From my Imperial Beach and Coronado Patch surfing column of Nov 15.

Brett Bender can be found most mornings surfing his modern longboard south of the Imperial Beach Pier. Brett’s son Noah is one the key members of the Imperial Beach Grom Squad, most of whom surf Brett’s ultra-modern and progressive Natural Selection custom shortboards.

Q: Why did you start shaping surfboards and when

A: I started shaping surfboards at the age of 14 in my mom’s garage, because the whole process fascinated me and I thought it would be fun to make money at something you love to do. At 19 I got a job airbrushing and shaping for Mitch’s in La Jolla, manufacturing them at Star Glassing at Brown Field.

I shaped for labels like Iron Cross, Dove, Airwaves and World Motion, Ezera, Marbella, Tony Staples, Bear, Gordon and Smith, Blue Water and others. The whole time I evolved my own Natural Selection Surfboards designs. I am also airbrushing at TNT and creating retro and 60’s style longboards in Japan. I airbrushed for shapers such as Rusty, Mike Hynson, Skip Frye, Nev Hyman and too many more to mention.

The heyday of surfboards for me was in the late 80s, early 90s when it seemed like everyone had lots of work before cheap imports from China and elsewhere and computer shaping machines.

Q: What shapers influenced you starting out and today?

A: When I started shaping I was interested in Ben Aipa’s shapes until Simon Anderson’s three-fin thruster came out. Simon was the man. I had the opportunity to work and learn from international shapers in the 80s and 90s including Almir Salazar, Paulo Cabral and Geraldo Rinaldi in Brazil, Grant Miller from Australia, Kim Purington and Steve Elliot from Hawaii. I learned their techniques and tricks of the trade.

Most of all, David Craig has influenced me the most because I have been watching him shape since I was a teenager and he is a true master of his craft.

Q: Where are you favorite places to surf?

A: I love surfing here at home in Imperial Beach. My favorite spots are point breaks like Byron Bay and Noosa Heads in Australia or Scorpion Bay, Mexico.

Q: What designs that you are working on?

A: Currently the boards I have been working on that have received excellent feedback have been shorter, wider and thicker using a modern version of the old fish blanks allowing for the extra volume with dialed-in modern rocker.

Q: What is happening with surfboard materials that are new and exciting?

A: All different board designs are being ordered in the epoxy medium, since they are lighter and more buoyant. Epoxy seems to be what a lot of people need because they love them. My favorite boards to make are actually 60s style with resin tints, traditional outlines and rails with modern high performance hidden in with lightness, bottom contours, step decks and a really good fin.

Q: Where did the collapse of Clark Foam leave the surfboard industry?

A: The collapse of Clark foam was devastating. Almost 50 years of experience gone, 100’s of rocker combinations, the special stringers, the famous molds all gone which were irreplaceable. Personally it was difficult because I do mostly handshapes. Dozens of blank companies popped-up only to quickly go out of business. A few good companies remain over five years later already.

Q: Is there a future for the small “handcrafted” surfboard shaper/manufacturer?

A: There is always a place for handshaped boards, the personalized custom board. But there will always be a place for the computer board, the highly evolved high performance shape that takes hours to achieve by hand and only takes minutes by computer.

Q: What it is about shaping that keeps you motivated?

A: The most rewarding thing about making surfboards is creating and surfing them with my son Noah whose love for the sport and interest in surfboard design has inspired me.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and the author of Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

Dan Mann and the Future of Surfboards

Dan Mann of Mannkine Surfboards. Photo: Mannkine Surfboards

This is from my Imperial Beach Patch Column of December 8, 2010

Dann Mann is the founder, owner and head shaper of Mannkine Surfboards. A longtime Coronado and Imperial Beach local, he is always one of the standouts in a lineup, whether he is on a shortboard, longboard or paddleboard racing.

Dan grew up in Maui where his dad Lance taught him to surf at the age of two. He moved to Coronado at the age of 10, competed professionally from 1994 to 2000. Dan started shaping Mannkine Surfboards in 1996. He has also shaped for Channel Islands, Rusty, Joel Tudor and Xanadu.

Until 2008, he worked as the head of Design, Research and Development for Firewire. Dan currently lives in Coronado with his wife Kara and children Lance and Lily. When he is not surfing IB and Nado, he loves to find waves in Australia and Mexico.

Q. Why did you start shaping surfboards and when?

A. I started shaping in 1996 because along with paddling a long distance, I feel it is something every surfer should do.

Q. What shapers influenced you starting out and currently?

A. Starting out, Mike Eaton and Stu Kenson.  Now, Matt Biolas and whoever it is that designed the Oracle trimeran

Q. What sort of designs are you are working on?

A. Right now there’s a board I call the Chum Lee for Mannkine. I did a similar design for Firewire called the Sweet Potato.  It is 6 to 8 inches shorter than the rider and is a 4 finner.  It changed my mind as to what really makes a surfboard work.

Q. How was it working on the new Firewire Taylor Jensen model?

A. It was cool.  Taylor was a good friend of my brother when they were five and up so I’ve known him a long time and like his surfing a lot.  He loves surfing and has an intense sense of what works and doesn’t work in his boards.

Q. Describe some of the innovative work you are doing on board design and development?

A. I feel like we are only now scratching the surface on what surfboards can and should be.  The first thing that needs to change is the process to make a board.   Processes need to change so surfboards can be made more cleanly (eco-friendly), easily and with more consistency so that surfers know what they are going to get when they buy it.  This will increase the surfboard’s value for surfers, inject more excitement and creativity into the industry and make it an inventive vibrant industry again.

Along with changes in surfboard manufacturing processes, we need to use more sophisticated materials in surfboards.  There’s nothing like the dynamics of riding a wave on a board, so the improvements made to surfboards needs to come from those who make them and more importantly, surf them.  I love my old PU boards with a wood stringer, but if we want to experience what a surfboard really can be, we have to use carbon fiber.

This doesn’t mean just make a board and have some sort of carbon somewhere on it.  The carbon needs to be the main force behind the structure and more importantly  the way the board is bending or flexing – the feel of the board. This is the difference between a magic board versus an OK one.

This must be done in a way that does not interfere with the shapers ability to design. I have spent most of my time since 2003 making boards with this sort of stuff in mind and have a patent on a technology I call ‘Incide’ technology that addresses these issues.

Q. Where did the collapse of Clark Foam leave the surfboard industry?

A. It left the industry scrambling in good ways, bad ways and every way in between.  Ultimately we are here (five years to the day!) with several other companies, occupying the void Clark left with essentially the same product with very little meaningful innovation. So, things are a bit flat in the industry.

Q. How do you test-drive your designs? Is it your own feedback or that of key surfers that matter?

A. I definitely love surfing my own designs and ideas but the best and most meaningful feedback comes from other surfers. I feel like the best ideas and interpretations come from the end users.

Q. Handmade vs. computer designed and machine shaped?

A. Depends on what the guy who orders the board is looking for. I find most guys are pretty serious about getting something they are REALLY going to like and for this I think you can’t say enough about a computer aided, properly designed, machine cut board.

Q. Is there a future for the small “handcrafted” surfboard shaper/manufacturer?

A. For sure. I think if young guys want to get into it they simply need to be better than the generation ahead of them. They will need to know about the ENTIRE board and board building process. They also will need to be more inventive and creative.  The big guys are definitely getting bigger though.

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