Taking Shape draws parallels between a spiritual search, physical
creation and cultural growth. It is a product of a minimalist search that
fueled a desire to shape a surfboard and in the end revealed the
development of a culture.
1980 Spiritual Physical Cultural
Ski Shape 3000 B.C.E.
I began skiing at the age of four and fell in love The shaping process involves a careful eye and Peruvian ruins which, date back at least 5000
with the mountains. Skiing quickly became my being reluctant to shave off too much of the board. years, feature depictions of men riding waves whild
favorite activity because it gave me a sense of You can always fix mistakes unless you take off too standing upon ‘cabalitos’ which are small boats built
1983 freedom, speed and being outdoors. Later on I much foam. The large amount of foam dust pre- from bundles of bound-up reed in the approximated
became irritated by how the commercial aspect of vented photographic documentation of this stage. shape and scale of contemporary surfboards.
the sport was extremely expensive and
environmentally unsound. Blank 525 B.C.E
The board shape begins as a blank with many dings and abrasions on the It is believed that the Kanaka Maoli, who were the ancestors of the
outside surface. Nearly and inch of its surface wll be removed in areas. Hawaiians, brought the activity of surfing with them when they first arrived
Once the outside shell of material is removed it is fragile. in the archipelago approximately 2500 years ago.
The ancients create exquisitely sculpted wavesliding boards from native
woods like koa and wili wili.
First, the board's shape is templated out on the blank and then cut out.
After this process the edges of the board are smoothed out and alined
with the templated shape.
Once the board has a relatively accurate edge, the specs of the board are
applied in terms of its rocker and rail shape. The rider's weight is usually
taken into consideration here because a "beefier" or thicker board will
have more floatation and allow beginners to catch waves more easily.
The ancestors of the Hawaiians arrive in the isles,
Rails apparently bringing the practice of surfing with them.
The last and most important part of the board is shaping the rails. If the
rails are poorly shaped the board will not hold to the water when turning
as it was intended to do. A metal sandpaper is used here that is made
especially to remove foam. The special lighting and blue walls come into Nails and bolts discoverd in the drifting of Spanish ships are recycled and
1989 play at this stage because they help reveal any minor imperfections. modified for use as weaponry and tools.
Hiking combined my love for the mountains and Captain James Cook, the English seafarer, arrives at the Hawaiian islands
gave me the independence to travel under my
and is worshipped as a god. He will overstay his welcome and be
terminated (in 1799) by angry Polynesians.
own power. There was no need for a chair lift. The
activity still seemed littered with a lot of gear if you
wanted to stay out for multiple nights. There were many aspects of the board's contstruc-
tion that limited the graphic possibilities and largely
impacted the eventual outcome. Unfortunately I had
to use acrylic paint which had many downsides.
The coat was too thick and ruined the color quality
on the back because it didn't allow for the resin to
penetrate into the pores of the foam.
Paint A boatload of New England missionaries arrives. They discourage such
pursuits as surfing, singing, chanting, and dancing. They destroy as much
I first painted the underside of the board. The entire bottom was tiled with of the indigenous culture as their good Lord will allow. Many aboriginals
masking tape and a blueprint for the design was placed on top of it. With die, and surfing is soon virtually extinct except among a few holdouts.
an exacto blade the entire blueprint was trimmed out and then peeled
back to reveal the cut masking tape. The tape was then peeled back to
procuce a stencil that would then be painted over in acrylic paint. 1872
Mark Twain recounts his misadventures on a Hawaiian surfboard in the
book ‘Roughing It”.
Imported California redwood and commercial iron
tools are first used in surfing.
Railroad tycoon Henry Huntington imports Waikiki beach boy George
Freeth to California to demonstrate the sport of surfriding. Thousands
Kayaking combined the adrenalin I got from skiing flocked to Santa Monica Bay’s southern beaches to witness Freeth’s
with a sport that harnessed nature's energy. You aquadic wizardry.
had to adjust quickly to the river's complex forces.
I eventually built a wooden kayak that allowed me 1912
to get into sea kayaking and paddle to Alaska. Duke Paoa Kahanamoku goes Olympian and breaks the work record for
the 100-yard freestyle. The world's fastest waterman begins traveling the
globe, spreading the sport of surfing. Dukes' selfless actions were in
keeping with the sacramental board-building approach of the old-time
Hawaiians: pure, simple, and direct.
Los Angeles surfing enthusiast Meyers Butte produces the first
Printouts were made onto delicate rice paper. This was a cumbersome commercial surfboards. Butte’s final choice of a visually distinctive
process because the paper had to be fed through the printer while stuck combination of alternating redweed, balsa and pine strips sets a standard
to a regular weight sheet. When it came time to remove the low-tack that continues in the sport today.
adhesive the rice paper began to rip. This conveniently happened at the
panicked time the fiberglass was being put on the board.
Santa Monica Lifeguard Tom Blake relearses his latest hollow box board
through the Los Angeles Ladder Company.
Dale ‘The Hawk’ Velzy, a third-generation Dutch woodworker commissions
the creation of a round light blue laminate to be fiberglassed on top of his
The top letterforms on the left had a simliar stencil treatment in an effort to
light-weight all balsa-wood surfboards.
reveal the handcraft involved in the surfboard making process.
Surfing is simply the hardest thing I have ever 1957
attempted. One is quickly humbled when being Kathy "Gidget" Kohner takes up surfing. Her experiences inspire her
thrown around in turbulent water. There isn't the novelist father to write a book. The book becomes a popular film, and
surfing bedomes a fad.
excess of gear to clutter you experience on a wave.
Tapered racing stripes were given to the tail to reflect a traditonal style.
Full-on surf mania breaks out from coast to coast.
Kids in Kansas bolt surboards to their hot rods and
add decorative accessories. Surf music and beach
party motion pictures perpetuate the heroic myths
of surf riding.
Fiberglass Don Hansen utilizes a fully automatic replicating machine to make blanks
that reproduce the design of a model board.
The fiberglassing process is too messy to allow the Renegade purists begin cutting down their long boards into shorter, more
glasser to handle a camera. It must happen quickly maneuverable vehicles. Within a year, the days of hanging ten and walking
the board will be virtually extinct.
because there is a minimal time frame to work with
the resin before it hardens.
Two sheets of fiberglass cloth are rolled out over the top of the board and
Surfers begin to be paid in the first pro tours.
Marketing of the sport becomes more intense.
Shane Stedman gets polyrethane maker Barry Bennett to blow foam
blanks in a size nearly identical to his finished stubby-model shaping
specs with a theoretical cpacity of two hundred finished boards per day.
Renny Yater enlists the aid of John Shields and the University of California
computer lab to analyze the cuves of his templates and to establish the
Graphics optimum arcs and corresponding volumetric relationships.
At this time the graphics are placed underneath the cloth and wetted with
resin so they do not slip. 1979
A CNC (computer numerically controlled) full-shaping machine is
introduced in France by Michel Barland. This process makes it possible to
replicate and scale boards using the computer and to transmit design
specs over phone lines, thus linking the shaper to off-site factories.
Aerials inspired by skateboarding begin to influence
A generous amount of resin is poured over the board and spread out with Longboarding begins to re-emerge from obscurity.
a sqeegee and evenly worked into the fiberglass until it is glass clear.
Once the overlapping excess fiberglass is completely saturated with resin,
work the cloth around the rail until it is flush with the board .
Skateboard-inspired tricks are the dominant trend in
surfing. Televised contest tours expose the sport of
Hawaiian kings to a much wider audience.
The fiberglass needs to lie over the edge and be completely saturated 1992
with resin and then tucked under the rail as flush as possible. This Pat Rawson shapes close-tolerance blank plugs for Clark Foam. Using a
process should be repeated to the other side once dry. blank specifically designed for a particular final shape yields a stronger
blank and results in far less waste. It also cuts production time, because
shapers don't have to remover inches of unneeded foam from oversized
As the third millenium approaches, pods of unlike-minded individuals labor
intensively, driven by the feeling that there's obviously more to be done.
They are unified by the code of innovation. At no other time in the sport's
history have there been so many individuals working on so many varied
technological approaches to board building.
The finishing coat is brushed onto the board once it has dried completely.
This is the finishing touch before sanding and polishing.
Longboarding and shortboarding are close in
popularity. The sport is bigger than ever.
The business-as-usual aspect is a key part of the story. According to the
Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, 1997 sales were $1.5 billion. It
is estimated that some four million Americans have surfed at some point in
their lives. Quicksilver's 1997 consolidated net sales were $281.8 million,
up 19.8 percent from 1996.
The surfing industry is defacto subsidized by a dedicated army of
craftsmen-practitioners who steadfastly hold the prices down in effort to
keep the sport affordable. That they also remain employed is a minor
concern; these individuals live to surf.
*Stycek, C.R. "Surf Culture." Timeline, 2003. 224