IS the day of the local shaper comeing to an end?

I just want to know how other people think about china boards and such! Will the local shaper go the way of the dinosour?

Just a few thoughts to share, friends, There are so many more people getting into surfing, a good number of them wll buy a Bic or Chinese board to try out surfing. (As an aside, I hope this string doesn’t turn into yet another Chinese bashing session). Can’t blame them, can you imagine a beginner talking foil, rocker & concave to a local roots shaper? Or possibly shelling out more cash for a handmade board that will only be riiden a few times? Is not the “threat” of imported and/or mcBoards offset by the huge influx of new surfers? The independant shapers’ slice of the pie may be shrinking, but the overall pie is expanding, no? Also, I was only a kid, but in the early 70’s, when surfing was much more underground, how did the local shapers survive? Even major players like Weber, Noll, and Jacobs found other gigs until logging came back. I realize the world was a different place then. Can you imagine how hard it would be like today if surfing was still ‘underground’ but combined with today’s cost of living? The math doesn’t work. I’m totally for the independant local guy (as my quiver will testify), and it’s rough out there, dont get me wrong. Today, the successful local guys are more agressive marketers. Not very soulful, I know, but it’s all about a lousy buck, always has been, but now more than ever. In this increasingly pre-fab, instant gratification, off-the-shelf, throwaway society of ours, the local shaper needs to get the word out about his or her craft. The local guys will just have to be smarter, it sucks, but it’s a total Darwinian thing. Am I wrong here, friends? I’d love to hear. John H

Think about it…would you ride a board made by a factory of workers who don’t surf, have no idea of the waves you ride in your local area, have no concern about pollution and waste, and work for sub-human wages. A surfboard is not a tennis racket, golf club or baseball bat. The serious surfer will always be focused on how the board works for them, and will seek out the the shaper who can work with them to achieve that goal. The other direction is based on mass-market GREED…an old story. -PK

If he is willing to adapt to technology and treat his shaping the same as a business. Then there is no reason why he needs to be a “Starving Artist”. This does not mean that he should pump out cheap cr@ppy boards. Like other businesses you either want a large customer turn over or a loyal customer base this depends on the shaper. Look at redington Flyrods (those of you that are fisherman). The rod comes with a lifetime all breakage guarantee. This means if your dog chews it or it breaks fighting a fish it will be replaced no questions asked. I am not saying you do this but. I already have one Redington fly rod and I will defiantly be purchasing another. Surfers are eccentric individuals I for one would not like to have a board that is exactly the same as 1 000 000 other people. Look at “Lost” personalize your product give it that edge. I came across a shaper the other day and told his mightiness that I got some tips from the web etc. He made it sound that anyone who got tips and ideas from the net was inferior. When I asked him if he had a web site or ever looked on the net (I even gave him this address) he told me there was no need. I guess he isn’t planning on sticking around. (Sorry for the rant just my 2p worth but I sit behind a PC all day)

i responded to all that wierd bashing of rich pavel.I wonder how this new mass of surfers would react if: they ordered custom boards and blanks and fins from Al merrick or Rusty? I only use these guys as examples.A guy like toby is making CUSTOM surf equipment!Completely different than a large manufacturing business–enough said

The thing I’m most apprehensive of is cost prohibitive supplies …or worse yet restriction or banning of certain materials - outright. also, restricted access to supplies (if you might be on the low volume side) that is. Not so much as a result of the environmental thing (which I believe is justified [and positive]). Would love to see local governments going after smoke belching construction trucks as much as they come after us - to comply. (in otherwords, don’t turn your head to worse and consistent violators - just because they are “hooked up”. Would love to see better (safer for the environment) raw materials (but at a reasonable cost to the people who actually produce surfboards). Greg Loher has the right idea, and I am “sympatico” with his philosophy that some of the best ways to improve the shaper’s lot is to push the envelope on the design side, and to promote better materials technology. The sticky part is that the designers may lead the way, while the mass producers (chiefly) will make the bulk of the “kala”($). Still, homegrown shapers will retain a place. (how do you go after a design infringer who copies what he sees in the water? ). Here we go again, is right! The circle turns.

60% of all the imports from China are from AMERICAN companys who have moved there.

I think there will always be a need for the local shaper. Atleast where I’m located. I think you’ll need to be up on your game to stay competitive. The weak or disadvantaged will fall by the way side. Welcome to a new world economy. Protectionism will just make things worse in the long run.

dinosaurs were destroyed by the big bang hmmm would china and other foreign countries that shell out these wal-mart look alike boards be that big bang?

No.Look at a bigger picure.Take furniture for example,the industry is huge,the chinese are taking it over.In my area there are two world class furniture builders…very expensive stuff,and they are backlogged for up to 3 years.Are the imports gong to affect Brewer,Skip Frye,Jim Phillips and folks like that?

Look, as someone working in the industry, I think there will always be the place for a well made, hand crafted surfboard. As humans, we appreciate the skills and time these things take to make. Take a look at custom homes for example. Now, there will of course be new tchnology(balsa anyone?) and new ideas. We have to figure out what to do with this stuff, and go from there. The people who are getting into surfing because of Blue Crush, etc, will either stick with it, or they won’t. If they do they will eventually understand the relationship between the shaper and surfer and hopefully appreciate a well made board. As for Toby(Choice/Greenroom) I have to say I learned more from watching him, than any video, book, or article ever. Thanks Toby, and if you read this, please say hello to Perico for me.

Even the automotive industry has not been able to eliminate backyard builders, although legislation for safety/emissions certification has made it much more difficult.

Very good point Mikey

The producers of the boards are not to blame, it’t the surf shops who sell them and the shapers who put their names on the things for money giving them credibility. On the other end shapers have not always been the easiest to work with. It almost seems the retail end and the shaping end are at odds with each other from the start because our society want everything cheap. On droves of people getting into surfing: it won’t last and who cares. You don’t see smith and wesson or Winchester hurting many of the master gunsmiths, in fact those guys pretty much write their own checks, Just like Geoff Mccoy,Skip Fry,Jim Philips and a few other master shapers. I still have to call it like I see it on the pop outs though. For the most part with few exceptions kuks sell them, kuks buy them,and kuks promote them. They do have their place for the weekend warrior or beginner, but even they would be better served buying a custom from a master that will actualy be something someone will want to buy in five or ten years. I have tried to keep an open mind about these things and have actually tried them to see for myself, but I simply cannot stand the whole concept. It’s all about and only about Money. It’s a free country though and to each his own.

“No. Look at a bigger picure. Take furniture for example,the industry is huge, the chinese are taking it over. In my area there are two world class furniture builders…very expensive stuff, and they are backlogged for up to 3 years. Are the imports going to affect Brewer, Skip Frye, Jim Phillips and folks like that?” Given a few more years, the answer is an emphatic YES. The following is a cycle which has already begun years ago in other traditional artisan trades: 1) High end craftsmanship is a thriving, living reality with full-time, long-term opportunities for profitable employment. 2) Changes in technology reduce the need for highly skilled human labor. 3) A new low end market emerges, driving many out of business. 4) New talent is discouraged from entry as a serious, full-time profession. 5) Traditional, high quality raw materials become scarce. 6) Prices increase as fewer raw materials are sold. 7) Fewer craftsmen at all levels is the result. 8) Less craftsmen remain with significant depth of traditional skill. 9) The last generation having the highest level of traditional skills are driven to working part-time (2 or more jobs) as a means of supporting themselves and sustaining their craft. 10) The last generation ages, suffers from poor health and passes away. 11) The following generation replaces them with inadequate traditional skills. 12) Changes in technology reduce the need for medicore human labor. 13) A new low end market drives many out of business. 14) The market is too small for skilled human labor to be sustained on a professional level. 15) Traditional, high quality raw materials cease to be manufactured. 16) High end craftsmanship is reduced to an unattainable, nostalgic ideal. 17) The ideal is perpetuated by well-meaning duffers, selling glossy, historical coffee table style books and DVD`s, marketed to those who know even less than they do.



Atom Tan, you have a great perspective. It’s funny how this subject comes up almost weekly on swaylocks. Even though it’s like beating a dead horse talking about it, the china import thing is the biggest news event in surfing in the last couple years and most people have no idea what’s going on. It’ll be interesting to see what eventually happens to the American surfboard builder. I’m still doing alright, got a great local niche. Actually, oddly enough it’s the backyarder selling boards cheap all around me that’s always been the biggest pain in the ass. Costs keep going up constantly, yet market forces(cheap imports coupled with illegal backyard competition) make raising prices almost impossible. In fact, I hear the used board market in California is dead, the boards have no real value because a new one at Costco is almost the same. I quit taking trades years ago, got tired of looking at the profit sitting in a rack all winter. Anyway,these threads make me rant on too long…no offense to Swaylock backyarders either-except the ones selling to their buddies without a retail license!

I do wonder who the next generation of master shapers will be, because many of the new shapers have grown up with easy to shape blanks, shaping machines, and shortboards that are basically the same measurments and worthless to the average intermediate or older surfer on anybeach USA. I just don’t see the same level of soul and craftsmanship in many of todays young shapers. Nobody wants to point the finger at Channel Islands and Rusty but to be honest they are the ones that started the whole mass market of thin glassed narrow surfboards and helped magazines promote the same 11.5x18.5.13.5 6’1’’ toothpicks. I think the kids are going retro because surfboards had gotten real boring until recently. I think many surfers old and young just want to go surfing again for the feeling of enjoyment instead of pretending to surf like some pro in a magazine that your average surfer can no longer relate to anyway. Actually being able to float and paddle your surfboard has become popular again. Master shapers rule in that area. Nothing against Al or Rusty personally, they both handshaped many nice surfboards for many real talented surfers and there product looks pretty good as mass produced surfboards go. Didn’t Al Merrick say there is no soul in shaping a surfboard? It was just a business like any other business. Sorry for another long post.

I feel it is up to the local shaper to keep his craft out there. The people who are selling these chinese boards are not to blame or are the people buying them. Check where your boardies are made then have a good look at yourself and the moral bullshit that is this whole argument. It is up to the local guy to rise above , make his product better ,take note of the market.It is no good having a bunch of 5’9" 80’s style thrusters in stock if no one is riding them. The chinese boards we are so worried about only really appeal to entry levell surfers and people who you probably wouldn’t want on your sticks anyway. I know of guys who won’t even repair them I do a ding is a ding. As most people I have to pay my bills as well. The shop owner makes more money on a chinese board than on one of mine. There is no money in whole sale unless you build in bulk. stuff we already know. When people are ready they will turn up at the local guy’s shed and tell / ask very nicely if you can put your heart and soul into there new vehicle for a price ,name down the stringer. personalised. They won’t do this in china. And Mr fender won’t do it on your new strat. We are so lucky to be surfers. If bussiness is slow go surfing.