coffee convo Hwilsin writing


I don’t know if you know this, but I like to think I am a little bit educated on surfboards. Just slightly. 

I feel like I know more than your average guy who surfs, but less than anyone who has ever worked on a surfboard. I used to be naive – I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about, at the least, short boards. I could describe how the boards felt and rode differently from each other, even though they looked almost identical to the uninitiated. In reality, that’s all I knew about surfboards; how to ride one (sort of). 

Since I have resumed my glassing (laminating) training, I’ve been reminded of the ever-many intricacies that come along with surfboards. Things that the average guy just doesn’t know about, even if he has been surfing for 15 or 20 years. If you don’t know what you are looking at or looking for, you’ll never see it. Fin placement, tape lines, speed edges, scratches, weave showing through, shiny’s, air bubbles in the lamination, lap lines, lacquer spray, nose beaks, pin airs, all sorts of details that went straight over my head for the first 15 years of my surfing life. 

One might say, “most of that shit is related to cosmetics.” Well, that is true, but some of it is definitely performance related. For instance, I once helped out on a board made by a pretty prominent shaper for these parts. I’ll spare the name, but he’s made boards for guys on the biggest stage. He’s one of the most popular local guys in my area without argument. This particular board that I was working on looked cool to the naked eye. Some people would look at it and say “wow, that thing is rad.” It had that kind of look to it. Especially once it was finished with a nice clean polish, everything considered, it looked pretty clean. But that’s where the good news ended.

Upon closer inspection, and with a bit of a trained eye, one could see many a mistake. Maybe just accidents, mishaps, whatever. One thing that was consistent with this shaper and his boards was missing bits of foam; it had been bumped or hit into a corner, table or something, likely in the moving process. These nicks would have to be attended to with a heat gun before starting anything else on the glassing process, it expands the foam back into place. Then came the nose of the boards. Many were off centered, bumpy, and just flat out ugly. The left side of the outline would be a bit straighter than the right, or maybe a wobble in the foam on the deck; it felt like the shaper almost didn’t care. Like he was just speeding through his work. Maybe he didn’t have the eyes for the minor details anymore since he’s getting older. I’m not sure. As I’ve always been told though, if the board goes good, what does it really matter?

As far as this particular board, I don’t know if it actually would work. One element of a surfboard I previously hadn’t taken note of was the fin placement. It’s not just where the fins are on the board either – too far forward, too far back, too close together – there is also the angle the fins are sitting at, as well as the splay of the fins, which is how far in towards the stringer the fins are facing. It’s a lot. With that being said, you didn’t need to be a 10 year veteran in the business to see the issues in this thing. 

Even if this board did end up riding pretty fun, there would eventually be problems. This fin box (right side, pictured above) probably blew out at one point or another. Or the rail would get cancer, pinched, or severely dinged, eventually cracking through to the fin box and the deck. The whole box would need to be moved in order for this board to survive. A predetermined death sentence

There was a guy who got a quiver from this shaper, it was 3 or 4 boards. He picked them up and drove straight over to the shop. Not even ridden once, he wanted to put them up for sale. Not one was shaped to what he ordered. They felt heavy. Complete dogs. This was a couple of years back at this point, I don’t know if they have sold yet or not. If I had to guess I would say yes, solely because the shaper is well known. Some inexperienced, unknowing new shredder could have picked up the best board of their life.

I also happened to have a quiver from this shaper. I’ll never forget when I first started at the factory, the guys asked me what kind of boards I rode. When I gave my answer, I almost got laughed out of the room. I thought they were sick, seemed to work well for me. I just didn’t know any better. That’s not to say that I know much more now. As I mentioned, I know I am only slightly educated. 

There’s so much shit to it. I didn’t even start to get much into any performance driven characteristics – rocker, concave, wings, channel bottoms, different cloths and resins. It’s insane how much knowledge truly goes into a surfboard. It’s made me very appreciative of anyone who has ever worked on a board for me. I try to learn something new everyday at work. I ask way too many questions. I can tell my boss gets over it when he starts giving me ridiculously smart ass answers. It’s really rad. I love my “job”. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that I have. Stoked to be in the position I’m in at the moment.

Get some waves. Cheers.


Drew Stanfield

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