Can you explain for those who are unfamiliar with the craft of surfboard shaping and its culture, the basic principles behind the art form?
For as long as there has been a surfer there has been a shaper too, like the old saying goes “behind every great man is a great woman” I think this also applies to the surfer/shaper relationship too. I’m guessing in the early years of surfing the surfers were probably carving out their own boards from massive lengths of native wood!
Not much changed in terms of design and construction till the 1900s and then it just seemed to snowball, I think it was Tom Blake in the 1920s making hollow boards with narrow tails and later adding a single fin he got off a boat. This was huge and in the coming years boards would get smaller and lighter, with polyurethane foam coming onto the scene and then the birth of twin fin and eventually the thruster I guess everyone was trying new things, it was purely trial and error.
Nowadays lots of surfboards are mass produced with a lot of machinery doing the hard work, I don’t disagree with this method but it is a bit of shame in that it takes away that surfer/shaper relationship and that connection too.
What are some surfboard shapes that you enjoy making?
When I first started shaping I was making these wacky surfboards, like tryna do something new that’s never been done which didn’t really make sense, it was like I was tryna run before I could walk, haha! Honestly, I enjoy making all kinds of shapes there’s definitely some that get me going more than others, these high performance alternative boards are really exciting to make, but because I’m still pretty new to shaping I appreciate every opportunity I get to make something. I get super focused when I shape. I like to write everything down so I know exactly what I just did and can look back on and study. Hopefully one day I won’t need to write everything down!
Any particular shapers that have inspired you?
For sure my biggest inspiration is my good friend Baptiste Taffet Aka Endless Fun Surfboards if you haven’t seen his boards yet, go check them out (@endless_fun_surfboards) was doing board repairs for years and always wanted to have a go at shaping boards, I went over to Bappy’s one day and he had turned his micro shed into a shaping bay. I had the same size shed but never even considered it! My micro shed became a micro-shaping bay and off I went. We had nobody showing us how to make boards we were just bouncing ideas back and forth – god we made some terrible boards hahah! When he would make a nice one I’d be like “fuck I need to make a nicer one!”. It was so good to have each other, anytime we would learn something new we’d be over sharing the new techniques or whatever. We still do, I’m lucky to have a mate to share thoughts and ideas with. Bappy your a legend I love you bro, I know we are by no means pros and still have a long way to go but I wouldn’t have done it any other way!
How do you feel about the future of sustainable materials within the surfing industry?
There’s definitely steps to try and reduce the impact on the environment, surfboard manufacturing is pretty hectic, I once read that making one surfboard is the equivalent to driving for 20mins in your car, might seem small but it definitely adds up! On a brighter note I’m seeing a lot of shapers using bio resins made from plant matter as well as flax cloths and recycled blanks which are less harmful on the planet. One small thing that I have been doing is reshaping old, beaten up, unused surfboards into new boards, to date 1/3rd of the boards I have shaped have been recycled.
Any upcoming projects you are working on?
I recently cut up a blank and added my own stringers to it, this was just because we are limited to the blanks we can get here in Ireland and alternative blanks aren’t really an option here. Nobody in Ireland glues up their own PU blanks so it’s something that I’d like to do more of, it would be nice to try and do something that’s a bit different and that nobody is doing. I’ve made a few triple stringers and I’m already in the process of doing something different with a bigger shape.
How do you think surfboard design has evolved in the last 15 years and where do you think it’s going?
It’s evolved a lot I think! In good ways and bad ways for example In competitive surfing when I watch ASL videos from the 00s everyone is surfing those skinny ass rockered out 6’0 thrusters, they slowly died out and boards started becoming smaller and wider and the designs definitely improved. One bad thing that happened is that pro surfers seem to have got an unlimited supply of surfboards, in their quest to progress and push the sport they needed lighter boards but that also meant the boards are weak, that’s fine if you have unlimited boards right? Sadly surfers around the world want what their favourite surfer is riding and now people are buying the lightest boards possible for the craziest prices and they barely last a full year which sucks because that means there is a lot of boards going to landfill.
Every couple of years there seems to be a craze that everyone jumps on, whether it’s an old shape or a new one it’s hard to call which way it will go. The twin pin & mid length seem to be in right now! Will they stick around or will they fade away it’s hard to know, I’m sure social media will have a big roll to play in what the new faze will be.
Special thanks to Tom for being such a pleasure to chat with & become inspired by!
Check out & support Tom on Instagram on: @th_surfboards