Surfer Boardbuyers Guide 2010: Shaper Interview

featured boards

ApacheFalconBlackbird Titanium 3.0 Carbon Rail

Surfer Mag,

the full interview with

Todd Proctor

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Surfboard Label:

a. Head shaper(s):

Todd Proctor

b. History of surfboard label:

(Year founded, home base, any claims to fame.)

I started Proctor Surfboards in 1992 with the

primary focus on the custom approach

to surfboard design.

The use of innovation in construction methods and materials has also played a major role.

If I had to choose one thing as my greatest claim to fame it is that

at Proctor Surfboards every surfer is treated
with the same

level of respect and attention

whether you are a grom getting your first board, a pipeline specialist, a WCT elite, or a weekend warrior.

Attention to the individual surfer, which is a two-fold process, begins with asking the right questions and listening, then building the board that is going to best take them in the direction they want to go with their surfing.

Also, putting in the necessary time with each board is key….you never want to sacrifice by rushing through a

board; every surfer/ every board is as important as the next; as well, never cutting corners on what materials to use or the best methods of construction….

I do not believe in engineered obsolescence.

Use premium materials and be a craftsman with impeccable technique – These are simple principles and the trademarks that have seen my company grow exponentially, mostly by word of mouth, not based on a conjured image marketed to appeal as the “next cool thing”, but as something real that has been forged through many years of hard work and dedication to core principles.

There are so many different types of surfers from locations all over the world ordering boards from us; and to be able to make each board unique, special and dialed to the particular waves they are surfing, their experience, and to help them push on to the next level they want to go with their surfing….man, it’s what gets me pumped….

makes me feel like I’m doing what is right and good

in a world that just wants to increase output and profit

while decreasing quality and variety.

This type of thing can never be done by offering A,B and C models of boards and telling surfers, “Well these are the sizes they come in; find one that’s a close fit.”…..you don’t find your magic board by plugging in to a height and weight chart either; it’s not like getting a new pair of socks….

I find that surfers are realizing more and more the importance

of customization, the surfer/ shaper relationship

and innovation with construction methods.

c. Early shaping influences:

(schooled with or under: where does this shaper or label belong on the shaper’s tree.)

I shaped my first 100 or so boards in a woodshed behind my grandfather’s house in the early 90’s.

The first four boards I shaped, I brought to McCrystal Surfboards (then in Oxnard) to get glassed. Not knowing what to expect from the crew there, I was pretty timid thinking I might be the butt of some jokes. Instead, C

asey (McCrystal – the owner and head shaper) said that if these are the first four boards you’ve ever shaped then “I had it”. That people either have it as a shaper or you don’t, and that he thought this was my gift and that I could make a living out of shaping boards. It was probably the single most encouraging thing anyone has ever told me that I took to heart as far as life’s work goes.

Casey offered me a job there at his factory, I took it and learned many things there at that factory. Some time after that, I met Matt Biolos at a trade show in Florida, he was also very encouraging and we had a really cool connection talking about boards. Matt offered me a job working with him in San Clemente….. moved there and that is where I first really cut my teeth getting to handshape custom boards.

I believe hand shaping boards plays an incredibly valuable role

in learning to break down the dynamics of board design.

Much like an architect, draftsman, an illustrater, or cartoonist, or even an automobile car body designer will work by hand to develop the skill of their eye and their technique before ever moving on to computer modeling programs…..

So for shapers coming into the industry back then anyway, that is just how it was. I don’t know if that really exists the same way for shapers getting into it now.

Matt was very kind to me letting me stay at his (at that time) little apartment until I could get on my feet and setting me up with a shaping room in what felt like the heart of the shaping world for me at that time….San Clemente’s ’shapers alley’. It was a neat time in my life shaping-wise and Matt served up on a silver platter many pros for me to work

with; sending over guys like a young Bruce Irons, Shea Lopez, Casey Curtis, Dino Andino, and a bunch of up and comers whose names I didn’t recognize back then… Aaron Cormican, Otto Flores, etc. ended up on my contractor’s slip….

As there are season’s in life, eventually I felt my heartstrings pulling for Ventura where in my youth I had fallen in love with Rincon and the right points there, the beauty of the open coast and the breath of the farm fields that stretched on for miles.

I also had a vision for a state of the art factory there

dedicated to building highest quality, custom surfboards.

What is the one key component of your company or your surfboards?

Custom/ personal attention, highest quality craftsmanship, all boards made from start to finish out of our Ventura factory.  We also make many (70% of production) handmade custom, alternate technology boards out of high grade composites. These boards have insane flex characteristics, last five times longer than a traditional poly board, keep their life/ spring 3-5 times longer and a made from green technologies that are recycled as well as recyclable. We also have a history of building custom boards for coming up on 20 years now and have steadily grown each year mostly by word of mouth and repeat customers….we have actually seem our most rapid exponential growth over the last few years and during a time when this economy should be showing us signs of famine not plenty.

Your notable test pilots:

I make boards for so many different types

of surfers that to me everybody I make

boards for is part of the team….

like family you know….

and here is one reason why:

Typically, year after year it seems to me you have the same type of thing going when this question is asked. And the answer from shaper’s usually goes something like this, “Well, my teamrider so and so just won such and such contest and has this and that ratings which has placed them in the very special category in surfing’s ranking system of high esteem….they really like this type of board and have done well….they’re feedback has been very positive.” – (insert shaper name).

I am not bashing that; in fact I think it’s pretty sick for a surfer and shaper to accomplish success together; each at what they do best.

I feel I’ve been called to judge a more varied and wider array of feedback from more of a cross-section of today’s surfers than to draw all my ideas and inspiration from a narrow percentage of one small group of surfers.

So, for me my most important feedback

comes from surfers that envision themselves

as on a journey with their surfing where they want

to get to that next level;

to go the places they dream of going on a wave.

They are not the type of surfers that feel they have “arrived” with their surfing and that order their shaper around like a slave. Mutual respect is equally as important as a surfer’s raw talent. So, the best feedback I receive comes from surfers who have a good, positive attitude, desire to better their surfing, and can communicate well. Most of these surfers have names that the surfing world at large does not know; guys like Greg Strugach, a goofyfoot powerhouse from the rippable lined-up points of Malibu; Jay “Pops” Rice from the Trestles wave gamut of San Clemente, Forrest “Box o chocolates” Troxell from the right cylinder reefs of Maui, Ted Takai from Oahu’s town and country wave variety; Vincent Tourtoulou from France’s punchy green beachbreaks; stoked Niall Carlin from Ireland; James Robertson from the UK; Craig Potsep from Spain, Fillippo Togno from Italy’s Mediterranean surf community,  Brynn, a teenage Ponto rippa chick;

Canadian travelers Dave Rutherford and Bryan Andersen who get to live the endless summer six months out of the year; Nancy, a new mom from Ventura; prime-of-lifer Tony Beck from South Africa; mellow on land, on fire in the water Larry Ugale who rides a longboard like 90% of shortboarders wish they could ride their little boards; Guillaume Fontaine from the Netherlands; Richie Gregalot my compadre who surfs like Andy but likes Mick better; David Liu and Mark Hsu core Taiwanese surfers; Yuki Kurita from Japan; Erik Ekert from Oxnard who I log more time with in the water than on land; Engineer Mauricio Paredes who knows board design and is always throwing great ideas my way; Rob Kenworthy, a Pt. Mugu barrel stategist; Dean Faris – middle age bucket thrower and Dad to four in Oceanside; Rob Bent, Pitas Point Rascal ripper and Indo adventurer; Chargin’ Stephen Carson, my brother on a mission in San Diego…..and many others, I wish I could name them all and describe them because to me it’s like a big family. These are real people/ real names and faces…..they are the fabric that the larger tapestry of the true cross-section that represents the worldwide surfing community. These surfers come in all shapes, sizes and skill levels just like the custom boards they ride.

And equally important are surfers whose names you do recongnize….guys like Jarrah Tutton a Von Zippa rippa and insane barrel rider from Australia, Danny Estes, a Texas longhorn ranger turned Floridian who then migrated to Ventura local who knows how to combine the railwork of an oldschool power base with the new era fins-out-buckets-for-days thing. And another Florida gangsta-gouger/ well mannered southern gentleman Tommy O’brien; Oh yea, and Neill Young himself disguised as a heavy gouging pit dweller in the form of Peter Mendia. There’s Tamayo Perry, a charger of the scariest pits on tap; and “down-to-earth-when-most-people-in-his-shoes-wouldn’t-be” Mick from Oz whose feedback helped me develop the highest performance shortboard I make. Then there’s the original Coolie kid Jay Phillips, whose Gold Coast-meets-a-modern-day-Tom Curren style pushed the design envelope of multiple different board models. Those are a few surfers whose unique styles and approaches represent a much larger group which I gain feedback from….that all-encompassing family being each person I design boards for.

b. Most of my top guys are riding _______.

When it comes to a new design, or for testing new concepts, I make all my prototype boards out of polyester/ polyurethane. I do use a unique iso/ ortho blended polyester resin that is the strongest combination you can have for polyester resin. It is also light cured so the boards are fully cured and ready go the same day they come through production. Combined with the higher strength-to-weight ratio fiberglass that we use i.e. Direct Size cloth and S-glass, you get a polyester board that is significantly stronger than any other polyester board out there….and it has reached its full cure strength the day its ready for pickup; really good when you want to get on a board straight away and plan to ride the heck out of it. Once a prototype has been deemed “magic”, then we take the computer file that the magic board was designed from and we make another one, but this time we make it out of our unique custom Proxy (Proctor flexible epoxy v.2). This is the premium board I make for both performance and strength.

The Proxy’s are 3-5 times stronger so the life span of the board is 2-3 times longer than a standard polyester board.

As well, the materials keep their flex life/ memory 3-5 times

longer than a polyester board; so they stay springy and lively

under your feet much longer.

They also have recyclable components and the resin is much better for the environment. All of the materials involved in the construction of the Proxy are higher grade so the cost is a bit more, but it is definitely worth it.

What makes your label different from the other surfboards in the market?

The custom approach to board design, a focus on quality, performance and personal attention. Your not just cruising in and picking from A,B, or C board models, but your interacting and working with the shaper to dial in what is going to be the magic board for you and the type of waves you surf. We also build every part of the board; the whole process right out of our factory in Ventura, CA. Nothing is outsourced, so we are proud to be able to create jobs for people in our community that share the same vision of making something high quality for surfers who we actually interact and have relationships with….it’s kinda like a big family….it’s really unique and cool. It is also very important to me that each person we make boards for is treated the same; with respect and whatever time it takes to dial them in with a board that is going to do what they dream about….you can’t mass produce that, or box it up in a formulated package…people are people unique and different.

When a new customer comes to you for a custom shape, what kind of questions do you ask to ensure you’ll make them what they’re looking for?

They’re height, weight, age, experience, how long they’ve been surfing, how often they get to surf, the type of waves they most commonly surf, and the direction they want to go with their surfing (i.e. big arcing rail cutbacks vs. airs, or both, or just something cruizy and fast….etc), and I then we go off the basic dimensions of their typical “normal” board for when the waves are good/ shoulder high to overhead – this helps to figure out how to build off of what they currently know…. then the goal is to make it better so it takes them to the places they want to go on a wave…and in the kind of conditions.

Tell us about the changes you’ve seen in recent years in the shaping realm, and how it has affected your craft.

Boards are getting faster and more responsive then ever before, materials are changing and making for higher performance and increased longevity, and board designs are as vast as ocean and as varied as its many faces….just as it ought to be since there are so many different types of surfers and so many different types of waves.

My most popular model(s) (is) are __________, which (is) are _________ type of board(s) designed for _____________ type of wave. Why are people drawn to this board?

The Rascal series of boards is very popular because they generate speed like a retro style fish, but you get the hold and responsiveness of a modern high performance board….so you can do everything your good waves shorty can do in good waves (which we get maybe 20% of the time), but the Rascals go looney in weak waves, good waves….everything (which is 80- 100% of the time).

If I had only three boards that had to last me through the entire recession I’d choose the following: ________ Explain the logic behind each.

That is a very hard question….kind of like asking you which of your children to give life jackets to when the ship is going down. I love them all; they each have their own unique personalities with the waves they are made for, but if I could only choose three it would be

The Falcon

for really small weak waves where you don’t want to resort to a longboard, and you still want to speed and throw down turns.

The second would be an

Accelerator

because it is the shortboard you can take out in 80% of the waves we get here in California and it does not let you down whether it is knee high or overhead, mushy or hollow; it is a really fast board that generates it’s own speed in small waves, yet will surf real quick and tight in the pocket on pushback days; turns on a dime too.

The last board would be an

SR-71

with a round tail,an inch or two bigger than the Accelerator. This board has a little more rocker throughout;
this would be for the really good, performance days….

there is nothing like this board when the waves are on – super fast, super smooth, drivey down the line, loose in the pocket…the perfect good waves board.

If _______________ went away I think the future of design would be much better.

If needy egos and attitudes of entitlement went away I think the future of design would be much better.  I have been blessed with clients that are really stoked, enthusiastic, and supportive of the way we go about board building. The niche I have in this industry is a relatively small one comparatively….I am happy with that and do not desire to grow to the point where I am twice removed from the actual people I am making boards for. I enjoy the personal side of it. So, I guess you could say I am sheltered in a way from what goes on out there in the dog-eat-dog world of who’s who; and the energies that are spent on striving how to make your indelible mark as a member of the inner circle.

But, I do see what goes on out there and there are some things that concern me for the future of board design. Sure, I guess you could say, “let’s take away cheap Chinese labor, or get rid of molded board technology….or let’s not allow another Clark Foam to sweep in and monopolize any area of the surfboard world.”, but that doesn’t really strike at the heart of the issue.

I think it is always good to take a look at our motivations;

why do we do what we do?

I see a cycle that has gone on for some time that is detrimental to the progression of surfboard design. I see it as a two-fold issue: the first being that there is a mentality out there with many surfers that shapers ought to work for next to nothing and give bro deals to anyone who surfs halfway good or knows another “bro”. I have seen more shapers than I care to mention that have skipped out on paying taxes, run a factory way under code, skimped on materials quality, held out on paying their employees what they ought, put in long hours year after year resulting in their wives leaving them…..and for what? So surfers can have a board made for them for so cheap that they can say to other people yea, ….I got my board for such and such a price.

This ain’t cool….and it stems from an entitlement mindset which is very sad to me. The other side of this is the shapers. More often than not, I believe shapers want so bad to see their boards out and about that they are willing to play into what I call the “more more cheaper cheaper” death cycle of board building…..this is an over needy ego that thinks it’s going to be satisfied by catering to people that will, in the end leave for the next cheaper or cooler image driven thing.

This whole ugly cycle hinders good boards from being built.

It results in less hours for the shaper to spend on dialing boards in and it breeds poor quality work in employees that build the boards, and it drives the use of quality materials and innovation out the door. I believe that this is the reason we have all this China/ Thailand/ outsource talk that goes on. Because the margins have been pushed to breaking in many cases and so a foolish alternative has been found in outsourced industries for the simple fact that board manufacturers won’t have to pay as much to build the boards, and because pollution regulations/ requirements are low to nil there.

And while I’m harping away, as a sidenote….we wonder why this county is in a recession/ depression. It is simple business…you’ve got to bring in more than goes out. This principle applies on a national scale too. Every time businesses move oversees and everytime you purchase something outsourced, there is an economy elsewhere that is being supported. This will actually over time directly affect you and your family so it is good to think about it….even if you don’t want to. I know I don’t enjoy thinking about this stuff, but these are important things. So what you gotta do is to ask yourself, “Well what am I supporting then by putting money into an economic system elsewhere?” Is it a  government that turns a blind eye to pollution and the largest child sex slavery rings in the world? …..you may say, I’m not really supporting that am I….I’m not really doing any harm am I….it’s only a surfboard….
Being able to make things cheeper so Americans can buy more stuff doesn’t help a thing.

What does help is when people take their God-given talents, apply a proper work ethic and care enough to make something of quality that blesses others.

Surfboard progression comes from shapers innovating their designs and technologies through close knit interaction with the surfers they make boards for.