With World-Renowned Shapers in Our Backyard, Shopping Local Is a Great Idea
By Jake Howard
The first south swells of the year have graced our shores, water temps have begrudgingly inched up a degree or two, spring break is in the rearview mirror, and all that means summer can’t be far off.
It also means that it’s the perfect time to get an order in for a new board or two before the upcoming warm-water season.
Last week, Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira won the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup in dominant, statement-making fashion. Under Carissa’s feet was a board shaped by Matt Biolos. Under Italo’s feet was a board designed by Timmy Patterson.
Both are local shapers based in San Clemente, and while they’re expert craftsmen sought out by the world’s best surfers, they also make ridiculously fun boards for the everyday surfer.
And it’s not just Biolos and Patterson. San Clemente’s industrious “Surfboard Ghetto” alone is home to a number of world-class shapers. And a little further north up PCH, artisans such as Tyler Warren and Gary Larson at Hobie epitomize what it means to build beautiful wave-riding craft.
Whether you’re buying a board straight off the rack or are interested in going the custom route, to have that kind of access to that kind of equipment is something to celebrate.
I recently stopped by the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, and next door to them are the good people at Catch Surf. Behind their building was a mound of cardboard boxes from what I would assume was a recent shipment of new foam boards from its overseas factory.
“Brands like Wavestorm and Catch Surf, among others, are produced in Agit Global’s 75,000 square-foot Taiwan factory,” reported Surfline’s Dashel Pierson in April 2019.
Mystery solved. Now, I’m not saying that all foam boards are bad—even though I’ve come to loathe Costco’s Wavestorms—kids are learning on them, guys are charging Pipe on them, and they don’t hurt when they hit you in the face. There are all kinds of upsides to having a foam board or two in your quiver. I have several, in fact.
But as I drove away from the Catch Surf offices, I was struck by the contrast between these mass-produced joy machines and the expertly crafted blades that are made within a 5- or 10-mile radius. And I guess that’s my point this week; when it comes to picking out a new surfboard for summer, there is no shortage of choices.
If it’s a user-friendly, durable, ride-anything kind of board you’re after, there are lots of interesting options in the foam board space. But there are also a lot of amazing surfboard shapers, glassers and sanders who live in our community and benefit from local support.
As evidenced by Moore’s and Ferreira’s performances in Australia last week, they literally make the boards that world champions ride—which means they’ll work just fine for your marathon Trestles sessions.
And by supporting your local shaper, not only are you putting money back into the area’s surf community, you’re helping ensure that the tradition of surfboard building lives on for another generation.
This area has a long and distinguished history of surfboard construction. Heck, if it wasn’t for Grubby Clark and Hobie Alter back in the day, who knows what we’d all be riding today?
Over the years, those early, first-generation shapers—including Patterson’s father and uncle, Ronald and Raymond, who were employed by Hobie—honed their skills and were able to pass that knowledge along to current shapers such as Timmy.
Meanwhile, Biolos, who was born in nearby Orange, was adopted by some of the key players in the local shaping community, who helped foster his emerging talents.
If surfboards are going to keep evolving and getting even more fun to ride, somebody has to design and build them, and while you might just be ordering a new board for summer, that investment could help ignite the career of the next great local shaper.
Jake Howard is local surfer and freelance writer who lives in San Clemente. A former editor at Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal and ESPN, today he writes for a number of publications, including Picket Fence Media, Surfline and the World Surf League. He also works with philanthropic organizations such as the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center and the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation.