I truly enjoy hand shaping surfboards.
Maybe I’m an idealist. Definitely a glutton for punishment, and probably a workaholic. When I was little I always assumed that ‘things’ were created by the people who’s names were on them - not so much major commodities like toilet paper or cars, more the ‘things’ that were really special to us. The art that I was surrounded with, the house I was raised in, the go-karts my brother and I hurt ourselves in; All came from the hands of people I knew, and the community that I was surrounded by. What that did for me, I believe, was create my own bottom line - show me the basics of what I believed needed to be real in order to put my name on something that I was offering to the world.
I grew up a skeptic of large corporations and big brands; watching large bodies of power and money make decisions that I disagreed with, harming people for greed and personal ambition. Perhaps growing up around the liberal art community of Seattle in the early 90’s and maturing through the recession of the early 2000’s will make you wary - I don’t know. I believed that marketing and advertising was untrustworthy and a dishonest trade, and that ‘business’ was a word which carried a bad connotation.
When I turned 19 I started building my own surfboards because I couldn't afford one. I saw what would have been a ridiculous notion a few years earlier becoming a possibility as the few that I made became well-received by the people I trusted. At the same time, while enrolled at Santa Barbara City College, I took a class that I had rolled my eyes at; Marketing and business. It was the quickest way out of school, but sometime during a particular class it hit me like a ton of bricks: The act of offering something for others to buy is not a bad thing when it’s done with honesty and integrity - it becomes bad when it is dishonest, or deceitful. The notion that self employment could mean whatever I wanted it to for myself and those that were supporting my living set me free.
So I checked in with myself.
If building surfboards was going to be something I would try to do for a living, and offer to people to make my living, I wanted it to be real and honest. If my name was on the logo, it would mean that it was of my hands. What I wanted was to never be untrue to my idealized version of my work - and if I could do that and it provided what I wanted in my life, then I had a fulfilling and honest job.
That initial leap and that promise to myself has given me opportunities I never thought possible. Boards of mine have shown up in the pages of the most respected surf publications, in 2016 I was allowed to participate in and won the Icons of Foam Tribute to the Masters Shape Off - a contest which I have held in the highest regard since I was in my late teens. Today I am the highest producing hand shaper in the world - something I'm not sure is a good or bad thing, but I'm beyond lucky to have grown into such a supportive community of friends and customers and I’ll face the challenges head on and with an open heart if this is what people want of my skillset. It has allowed me a life building things with my own two hands, the most amazing gift I could have ever dreamed. I try my best to pay that forward and share what I can when and with whoever I can, and remain an open book for new adventures and challenges. Thank you for taking the time to look into my world and allowing me to build water toys for a living, it is truly an honor.