The Craftsmanship of Riding Waves

By Gaynor Strachan Chun

Three Surfboard Shapers That Handcraft The Perfect Ride

An open azure sky. Wind-sculpted waves crashing at their peaks. The scent of coconut sunscreen and salt air. It’s the idyllic scene most surfers dream of when heading to the beach. Although they can’t control the size of the waves, or the weather, one thing surfers can decide on is which tool they use―which surfboard will help them achieve that perfect ride.

Surfing has been around for thousands of years, dating back to a time when fishermen, in Western Polynesia, rode waves to easily return to shore with their catch. This practice was not only efficient, but also fun, and surfing eventually developed into a pastime and then a sport.

In Hawaii, the birthplace of modern-day surfing, the first surfboards were made from only three types of trees (Wili Wili, the Ula, and the Koa). They were also pretty enormous by today’s standards―the longer your board, the higher in society you were. Once the tree was chosen, the practice of shaping it began. This highly spiritual process required both great skill and an appreciation for the sea’s beauty and power.

The tradition of hand-shaping surfboards continues today and can be just as personal and spiritual as it once was. Master craftsmen and women each have their own special approach to forming the perfect board. There’s also a lot to consider while making the boards: How long should it be? Which shaping tools to use? Should it be crafted from wood or foam? And should it have fins?

These decisions, coupled with the creativity, technique, and passion of surfboard artisans, have given the world a wide variety of boards that are as unique as the surfers that ride them.

Matt Biolos, San Clemente, CA

Photo: Ellis

Founder of Lost Surfboards, Matt “Mayhem” Biolos, has been shaping boards for over 25 years. As one of the first artisans to look at the volume of surfboards, Biolos became one of the most in-demand shapers in the industry–especially for short boards. Many of the world’s top surfers compete with Biolos’ boards.

Photo: Lost Surfboards

Biolos isn’t solely focused on making boards for pro surfers though. He also enjoys shaping boards for the average amateur surfer. He has made it his mission to help surfers find any wave fun to ride – no matter how gigantic or small it is.

 

Ashley Lloyd, Santa Cruz, CA

Photo: Ashley Lloyd Surfboards

Though women currently make up almost 35% of the surfing industry, the percentage of female surfboard shapers is still quite slim. Enter Ashley Lloyd. While Ashley enrolled at UC Santa Barbara to study music, her Malibu roots kept surfing close to her heart.

Photo: Nikki Brooks

Ashley’s specialty lies in creating traditional longboards, and while shape is important to her, so is crafting boards that have a minimal impact on the environment. Ashley and her husband, Alex, add fiberglass cloth and resin to coat their boards (in a process known as “glassing”) by using a bio-based epoxy resin, which replaces petrochemicals with renewable, plant-based materials.

 

Grain Surfboards, York, ME

Grain Surfboards out of York, Maine dominates a rare field – building sustainable wooden surfboards from hand. Grain’s founder and co-owner, Mike LaVecchia, started the company by using his wooden boat-building skills and applying them to the fundamentals of surfboard making.

Photo: Grain Surfboards

His passion for sustainability is felt in every board shaped by Grain, as each board is designed “in yesterday’s spirit, minimizing waste and maximizing performance,” to last forever. The company also offers workshops so anyone can build their own sustainable board!

Photos: Grain Surfboards

 Have you ridden waves with a handcrafted surfboard? Tell us about your ride on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with #CraftsmanshipMatters!