Excerpt: Online Extra
Go to VenturaCountyStar.com to watch Todd Proctor shaping a surfboard in his Ventura shop.
** TIP ** Click on the full screen button above – it’s much more fun!
Expo at fairgrounds for surfboard aficionados
By Zeke Barlow – Friday, May 15, 2009
Full text of article
Expo at fairgrounds for surfboard aficionados
In Todd Proctor’s shaping room, levels and measuring tapes and pieces of sandpaper pack the shelves coated with dust from the thousands of surfboards he has created over the years.
These are the tools of his trade that make his surfboards functional and fast. But the things that make his surfboards things of beauty are more esoteric:
his hands that run over every curve and line
a thousand times before he’s finished;
his eyes that study the contours as he carves the board’s edge; his mind as he imagines the plank cutting through the waves, and just maybe, the air.
Put all those components together and you have a surfboard shaper.
“It all starts with a vision,” said Proctor,
owner of Ventura-based Proctor Surfboards.
“It’s sort of like your eyes and your hands are working together and you are imagining the water flowing around this board. It’s hard to explain;
you almost feel it in your gut and you make it come out of your hands.”
This weekend, much will be said about the vision and craft behind making surfboards into functional pieces of art when the Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo arrives at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
The festival on Saturday and Sunday is not geared toward the casual observer.
“It’s about surfboards, not about selling the image of the surfing lifestyle,” said Scott Bass, organizer of the event now in its third year. “It’s for people who love surfing.”
An entire room will be filled with hundreds of surfboards: longboards, shortboards, guns, fish, eggs and more. Meandering through the room will be surfers ogling them, running their hands down the boards’ rails and waxing poetic about that one glorious wave still fresh in their minds.
“There will be a lot of eye candy,” Bass said.
When Bass was looking for a new place to hold his festival after two years in Del Mar, he didn’t want to take it to Orange or Los Angeles counties. It’s too plastic and doesn’t have as true a surfing scene as Ventura, he said.
“With C Street and the Rincon, the community in Ventura
is ripe with hard-core surfers,”
Bass said. It also has some quality shapers, both big and small, who will be showing their wares at the show.
Bass wants people to get a feel for what it’s like to walk into a surf shop,
and instead of buying a Chinese-made board off the rack,
talking to the guy who will make your board
after learning how you like to surf,
where you shred and how often.
And then the creative process begins.
“That is the beauty of this thing we do; each board is unique,” said Robert Weiner, owner and shaper at Ventura’s Roberts Surfboards, who started making boards when he was 12. He was too poor to buy a new shortboard, so he cut up an old longboard and a passion was born.
“Every surfboard is different and made by hand and it’s still an amazing craft,” he said.
Though most hand-shaped boards today start with a computerized machine shaving the foam blank into a rough approximation of the final contour, it’s still the shaper’s sandpaper that puts the defining finishing touches on a board.
Like many other shapers, Weiner has been hurt by both the lagging economy and the glut of cheap, manufactured boards from Asia. But because he serves a specific niche of the market, he’s been able to survive. He sells more than 1,000 boards a year, half of which are custom built.
Proctor got into shaping as a teenager and mediocre surfer until he stepped onto a better board one day. His surfing was automatically transformed and he realized the board does make a difference. After working for other, larger shops for years, he opened his own eight years ago.
He approaches every board with the reverence of an artist.
“Basically you have something that is almost like a block of marble,” he said.
“What you see in it and pull out of that is going to speak to that person.”
And each person has a unique touch.
“If five people all try to make the same board, they will all come out differently,” said Jeff Hull, a 25-year old Venturan who launched his own line, Resist, six years ago.
The goal of every shaper is to make that “magic” board for the customer, the one that cuts through the wave just so, turns just like you want it to and fits like an old pair of jeans.
“When you get a custom board made for you, it’s a love affair,” said Jason Feist, co-owner and head shaper at Santa Barbara-based J7 Surfboards. “Next to a woman, I’d say a surfboard is pretty damned sexy.”