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 a name on something that you were selling to the world.
I grew up 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 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 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 - it becomes bad when it is dishonest, or deceitful.
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 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, last year I was allowed to participate in and won the Icons of Foam Tribute to the Masters Shape Off, and 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. 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.