From: Vol. 2, Issue 6, February 8-14, 2007

By Christina Scannapiego
San Clemente Times

Surfer and shaper Terry Senate keeps building boards the old-fashioned way: one relationship at a time

Terry Senate is uber friendly and a little sarcastic. If Santa Claus shaved his beard and became a shaper, he’d bear a striking resemblance to the man who’s been shaping surfboards in San Clemente for more than two decades (half of that time under his own label). A surfer first and foremost, who was in search of that magic board, Senate shaped his first board in his parents’ Oceanside garage at the young age of 12. “I didn’t want my parents to have to buy me another surfboard, so I said, ‘I can do this,'” he says. “I had no idea how hard it was going to be.” He made three for himself and for his brother, made a few more for some of his friends and, when his parents moved to San Clemente just a couple of years later, he bought a planer. That’s when things started to get serious. “The reason why I went into it is because I couldn’t figure out why certain boards worked really well and some didn’t,” he recalls of the beginnings of what would become a lifetime career, “-and I wanted good boards.”

Senate’s interest in boards only grew. His next step was to take a job managing the Infinity Board Shop in Dana Point, where he made an immediate impression on owner Steve Boehne. “I kept telling [him], ‘Hey, this surfboard’s off; I think this one’s a little different.’ He was like, ‘You’ve got a pretty good eye, why don’t you come up to the factory and try it?'” Boehne gave him an endless supply of blanks to practice with and helped him along the way. When the shop began selling boards from world-renowned Hawaiian shaper, Ben Aipa-whose boards Senate took a liking to both in and out of the water-Boehne and Aipa split the task of taking Senate under their respective wings. “Aipa taught me about rockers, and Steve taught me about other surfboard design,” Senate says. “Combined, I started having my own design with the help of those two people.” Eventually Senate felt confident enough to create his own label and branch out on his own, selling his boards out of his Newport Beach shop called The Green Room. But according to Senate, he wanted to move out of that area and open a shop in his hometown, so he sold The Green Room and opened up in his current San Clemente location.

Now, 27,000 finished boards later, Terry Senate Surfboards has become an 11-year-old fixture on Calle de los Molinos, the street that houses a majority of San Clemente’s shapers and glass shops and is affectionately known as “the surf ghetto.” Senate’s staff includes Perry Faanes, who does all the ding repair; Chuck Burns, who’s shaped for companies like Infinity and Channel Islands; Michael Morey, who does fine sanding; his assistant, Kyle Terry and his paint pen artist, Heather Ritz. Despite the fact that plenty of pros have ridden and continue to ride Senate boards, including Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, Brock Little and Pat O’Connell, part of the reason why Senate gains more customers than he loses is due to the fact that he takes a lot of time to talk with each individual-as every good custom shaper should. Todd Hunter, a San Clemente resident who started surfing about three years ago, has already sent Senate at least seven new clients. “I told them, ‘If you’re a beginner, you may not know what type of board you need, and that’s where Terry’s friendliness and expertise comes in,'” Hunter says.

But he’s only one variety of surfer who gravitates toward Senate. “That guy will have kids and he’ll bring his family in here,” says Senate. “Or I’ll have the kid in high school who wants a high-performance board, but also wants a better deal and turnaround time than what he’d find anywhere else. A lot of my old customers who I had when I was younger are getting older and they’re now buying hybrids and longboards,” he says.

Sounds like a foolproof way to build a lifelong pipeline of clients…

Terry Senate Surfboards, 208-B Calle de los Molinos, 949.361.1740, www.surfcamp.com

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