My first 'shape' job was a board that had flown off a car and was given to me. It became an 8'3" from what had been a 10'2" Greg Noll. My brother made a laminated wood skeg for it in his junior high wood shop. After fixng about 40 dings and sticking the skeg on the best we could, we then painted everything but the fin with "candy apple green" enamel.
That was in 1959.
I was 8.
Although I was asked when they did "The Shapers Tree" who my primary shaping influences were, to which I listed John Bradbury and Mike Hynson. The truth is, yes they were influences, but otherwise I am completely self taught. I know that it is very popular for guys to list different big name shapers that they apprentice under, but myself, Al, and a number of other guys I know that are great shapers never really did that.
Personally I felt that 'outside influence to that level' would infringe upon my creativity. That's just the purist in me as an artist, over the practicality of a craftsperson or business man.
It could be argued that my decision to do so never got me anywhere.
As far as Tanner, I don't know if he is a student under someone's wing or if he just has an abundance of innate talent. I know Surferguy has a lot of talent and great ideas, but I agree with JTG that some guys can make a fundamentally correct board up to a point and, sometimes, that is it.
The guys that can make magic.....and I have to qualify that by saying" "the guys that can make magic for someone on a custom basis, are good listeners and translators of what the customer wants. To make magic for an endless string of surfers desiring different designs is completely different from someone designing a model for the masses and then throwing it out there: two entirely different approaches. And, of course, many guys do both.
Good shapers (and even more so, great designers) have an ability to understand plane geometry, hydro and aero dynamics and overall physics as applied to surfboard performance. Especially important is understanding and having an intimate relationship with compounding curves and how they relate to water and the rider." Then take that knowledge and learn how to interface it with tooling and materials from start to finish. I'd say that's fairly complex, especially given the choices in materials and construction these days. A design can be compromised or even be considered a failure by choice of construction materials in this day and age. That really wasn't a factor in 1964.
No doubt Tanner has some innate talent that empowers him to express himself in an acceptable, and even successful way. There's probably nothing more pleasant than attempting something challenging and enjoying some success with it.
My only advice is to stay forever thirsty like a sponge and to always keep soaking up ideas in to keep your designs fresh from stagnation.
New blood keeps things fresh and prevents us of homogenizing everything to the point of sterility. Only those shapers that have already peaked find themselves threatened by the new guard!