Umm HELP with my life lol

I don’t mean to be redundant or meander from the topic of surfboard design, but I have one month to make a huge decision in my life. I want to start my own boarding company one day and i’m sure alot of you have alot to say about that and I know its not easy, but I don’t expect nor want it to be. i have to choose a college either in Hawaii (chaminade University), or somewhere on the east coast. To you guys in Hawaii, coming from the mainland do you think it would be feasable for me to get a job shaping somewhere near Honoulou, I want to continue my shaping and keep progressing as with my surfing, nothing in my life gives me greater joy, I have no thoughts about walking away from all of this…I would probably bring with me my personal quiver, all vaccum bagged epoxy boards with sick paint jobs on them, a different type of quad fin setup, with a new type of concave, sorry I don’t really want to post this yet as it is unique and I feel its really amazing…all fins are foiled by me, with my personal flex patterns. I would prob bring down the quad, a semi gun, a gun, and a lis type fish or canard quad, not really sure yet. Everytime I go into a surf shop I try to talk with the manager and owners about designs, technology and what not…usually I impress them, i would put my craftmanship up against any board…I can mow foam pretty quickly. I like to try new designs and keep pushing the level of both my shaping and surfing. i can usually turn some heads on a wave too, however, the level is of surfing I’m sure is goign to be insane in hawaii im not expecting anyone to be that impressed. My family is on the east coast but surfing is pretty much my life and I want to make a career out of it, a few years in hawaii could give me credibilty and allow me to make the contacts I need to make to grow my business. My question is how easy is it to get a job over there with a shaper i can do regular poly/poly boards as well. Thanks for any advice…you guys have helped me so much already…

good luck to ya i would say hawaii not here oon the east coast, there you will have better feed back from better riders in better waves but, keep connections with thte eastcoast, huge market.

While it’s not all on-point, may i suggest;post=140466;page=1;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;mh=25; - read Atom Tan’s stuff and ignore the old fool with the three letter username.

Also, search the Archives for more of Atom Tan’s posts on the surf biz in general. Worth reading!

And…the surf biz isn’t necessarily about what’s best. Just the opposite, in fact. The utter cr@p marketed to the unwary and gullible has won out over good stuff time and time again in this industry. Be forewarned and most definitely have a plan B.

"Our industry has a magnetic thing to it even with all the bull. IF surfing was not so blasted addictive we would be able to cure our disease. "… Atom Tan

hope that is of some use


Yea thanks, twas a good read… I’m well aware of all the bullsh*t, and I don’t really want to own a company that sells more clothing then boards i want to help “share the stoke”, design, progress, invent, travel, all the good stuff. My aim is a little different, my company is going to be called Ohm Lifestyle. Basically an Ohm is one of the oldest symbols on earth, and its a part of many eastern religions. It symbolizes the sound that was made when the universe went from being one energy, one entity, to splitting up and becoming everything. It symbolizes peace, eternity, nature… I don’t really want to be all hippy and peace and love, im not going to be like selling sweaters made of hemp its not like that…lol(it really isnt about religion either) i want to target everybody, the older and the younger guys, its brand image is about living and life itself, not just about a piece of foam and fiberglass. I really wish I could jsut shape low volume and still have enough money for myself and family to live well, and i’ll admit it I liek having the toys and want a nice house all that stuff so I do want to be decently big one day ( just aspirations) I was thinking alot about the image and I dont really know how well it would sell. alot of people don’t take time to understand anyhting. I was thinking of keeping the name but splitting into two different brands down the road. One brand to target older guys and more “classic” surfboards, old scool longboards, noseriders, fishes, with resin tints,swirls, pinstriping, ect. And one brand for the more youthful market, the kids who buy alot of volcom and lost type stuff, sell mainly shortboards, but not limited to, and then more youthful art. Not sure, right now; I can do alrigth just by the quality of my product, but of course I have total control. That is soemthign I will lose exponentially as it grows. And I know that fashion is huge…thats where the real big money is, but if you don’t have the right image to build on nobody is goign to want to buy your stuff. I also never want to be in Pac Sun or stores like that, there are enough surfers out there where its not essential to make money, it caters more towards “fashion” then about surfing. I would also like to fund guys in different areas by creating partnerships, snowboards, skateboards, wakeboards, kiteboards, ect. The technology is gelling alot now anyway so its not even that different, and we all share similar lifestyles. I surf, wakeboard, skateboard, and snowboard, so you can see how someone with brand loyalty could potentially spend alot of money. Just ideas…I’m definatley getting a degree probably in Business, always have been interested in law and politics, but I’m not going to hardvard or anyhitng so it will be hard to have credibilty in the long run. I have alot of business owners and entrepueners in my family alot have done well so hopefully I can be successful, well see how this summer goes, I’m jsut goign to try to shape as much as possible and polish up on all my “skills” before going away…Kind of nervous about going to hawaii, but this is somehting I want and I’m not easily dettered.

My $0.02:

You shoud consider Hawaii. Your skill and creativity will be welcome, if you find the right foot in the door. Many of Hawaii’s most influential surf figures are transplants who have contributed tremendously. Unfortunately, here on Oahu, nepotism and bro-ism run rampant. Nothing is easy when you just pack up and move to Oahu by yourself. Many people come here with a vision and a dream, only to go home frustrated and broke soon after.

You need to be mindful, resourceful, and carefully find your opportunities here. With some luck of course. You should have a lot of fun in the process.

Why stay on the East Coast when you can broaden your horizons here, and surf waves here that people everywhere dream of? Plus, get a degree.

Sorry, that was a little arrogant. But the waves here ARE good.

Awright - without getting into a whole lot of detail that will bore the bejeezus out of you, a few suggestions;

Work in the industry for a while before starting up on your own. Work in a surf shop, work as a rep and work in the main offices to figure out how it’s done.

Yeah, there may be a few out-of-nowhere success stories in this biz, like every other, but I think you’ll find that the vast majority of ‘overnight success’ stories tend to involve people who have worked at it for years. There are basicly two kinds of surf businesses. The ‘people following a dream’ who go bust when the money runs out and the hard-nosed cynics who stay with it and make a living, in some cases a good living.

While it’s fashionable to want to make boards and skip the clothing, well, the bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks. His answer: “It’s where the money was” or something close to that. In terms of bang for your surf shop inventory buck, custom surfboards ain’t even a wet firecracker.

Put it another way, if there was real money in custom surfboards, there wouldn’t be a small surf shop left on the planet, outfits like Nieman Marcus and some of the other big chains would have taken it over long since. The rise of inexpensive cheap-labor-manufactured boards may be the beginning of that sort of thing. And now that the manufacturing capacity is there it’s not going away. Factor that into your calculations, because you will most definitely have to compete with 'em.

You’re very right about selling an image or a ‘lifestyle’ ( gawd, I hate that word) - it’s a hell of a sight easier to sell an accessory to what people already think they are or want to think they are. Consider all these incredibly stupid ‘sport utility vehicles’ - the name itself is an oxymoron. But you have some short, fat urban white guy who wants to think he’s gonna conquer the Zambezi or he wants something that will at least make other people think he will. Or Banana Republic clothes and such- clothes that might fool a casual observer into believing the wearer really was adventurous and well-travelled instead of an insurance salesman from Scarsdale. And in all that sort of biz, the cr@p supplants the original good quality stuff: lower quality and more glitz taking over for high quality and less ‘style’.

And then there is the business of selling people stuff they don’t need but have been told they want. Those with too much money, in other words. Great target market.

Ok, enough rant out of me. But before you go dropping everything else to get into the surf biz one way or another, one last suggestion. What ya might call the ‘Mister Pierce test’.

Think of Mister Pierce as the loan guy at the local commercial bank. He’s seen it all, and he’s cynical and he already has all the business he needs. Write up your biz plan concisely and ask yourself if he’d give you the money to start it up or if he’d just chuck your application in the bin. This is useful in two ways, as a reality check for yourself and as a prep for when ya really do need the startup money.

'Cos if you already have the dough to start a serious surf company, don’t, just live off the interest the rest of your life and have a good time.

hope that’s of use


thanks for advice…My dad is a financial advisor so believe me I hear about the moeny issues all the time. I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket though. I’m still planning on a degree and I’ll work on that end too. but I know now, there is a huge gap between what people know about a surfboard, and whats now available…I guess I want to strike while the iron is hot…theres no doubt in my mind that new technology is goign to replace the old within the next decade, its jsut common sense, someone is goign to bring the proper product to the public (like my alliteration haha) and when that happens its goign to open up the flood gates. I’m goign to run with the name for now…the people I’ve talked to about it have liked the idea, it will just take smart marketing in the long run and good talented people behind it. Talking about your Mr. Pierce…well i know this is a bit different and you havent seen any of my stuff yet, but what do you think personally as a shop owner, would you carry my product? (just hypothetical) I have friends who know Oakleys East coast rep not sure of his name hes a neighbor of theres I’m prob goign to meet with him soon. The local scene is pretty welcoming, my cousin is about 11 years my senior and hes helping my out, I’m shaping him and a couple really talented friends boards at cost. I’m sure Hawaii will kick my ass, but I’ll learn alot and get to surf waves I dream about…I jsut want to kinda pick up where I left off there though…I wish I could keep shaping and everything, well see what happens. I think I’m goign to go for it though…wish me luck


"Talking about your Mr. Pierce…well i know this is a bit different and you havent seen any of my stuff yet, but what do you think personally as a shop owner, would you carry my product? (just hypothetical) "

Ah, without hurting your feelings - of course not.

I’d have to see 'em, see the prices and shipping and such, run the numbers to see if I could make more or less money on 'em than competing stuff and I’d need to have an idea of how well or badly they held up. And run a few by friends whose opinions on what makes a good board don’t agree completely with my own but might reflect my customer base better than mine do.

Then there is delivery, reliability, etc. If I order X boards, when do they show up if they show up at all, do they faintly resemble what I ordered ( not always the case ) and are ya sending me first line stuff or the stuff you couldn’t shift out of your retail shop out front of your factory. Will you replace defective boards ( and do it in a timely manner that lets me keep customers - and everybody ships a defective board now and then ) or blow smoke up my ___ and give me aggravation.

Really - I’ve had to deal with all of these problems during my time in the biz. Surfboards are the #1 pain in the butt in the whole surf shop business. Biggest pain and the least profit.

The #1 priority in business is making money. A close second is staying in business.

I would rather have a mediocre board I can get and get on time and make money on that holds up as well as most others than the latest, greatest thing with a few bugs left to be worked out that may or may not show up at all. Cos I have to hear about every bug and glitch for the next couple decades and I don’t need that aggravation. I was around for hollow boards, the honeycomb jobbies that were not ready for prime time when they came out, and I’m in the ‘once burned, twice shy’ bunch when it comes to new tech in boards.

I agree that surfboard tech has taken a giant leap forward - but selling it to surfers is another thing entirely.

Another example:

Ever hear of Dr. Gary Kildall? No? Well, back when, he had an operating system for personal computers called CP/M. It was at least as good as ( and it could be argued, better than) it’s main competitor. But Kildall didn’t promote it nearly as aggressively as his main competitor did, nor was he willing to work with the IBM people to make changes in his product to the degree his main competitor did. His market share went to zilch. Kildall died a few years ago at the age of 52. There are still pieces of CP/M floating around incorporated in various operating systems and I am given to understand the lawsuits are ongoing.

His competition? Something called MS-DOS, which became the basis of Microsoft. Guy called Bill Gates. Him you’ve heard of.

Somebody is going to take the new technology in surfboards and run with it in a marketing sense, if they ain’t doing it already. But bear in mind that Volan-glassed repros of 1966 surfboards still sell very well indeed. I do indeed wish you luck, but you’re in for an uphill battle.


Yea, I know exactly what you are saying… Dont worry no hurt feelings lol…What I meant was in more general terms such as if you liked the idea of the name, ect. I only do custom orders and I’m perfectly happy with doing that, I don’t need a middle man. If I was going to be targeting shops, I would have a factory, machine, ect. and pump out serious volume, but that doesn’t even pay that much unless you can play with the moeny and everything and make it work and I’m sure it’s a huge headache, one that I’m not dealing with for awhile… I’m actually very good with my customer service, I jsut try to do the rigth thing for my customers alot of them are friends or friends of friends or people I surf with I’m not looking to dick anyone over, it comes back to you anyway, build a good solid reputation and people like yourself will someday be more inclined to do business when the time comes…the word gets around…Anyone else reading this comment if you would like, mainly about the name and ideals of the whole thing…I jsut want to know what you guys think about it being a crowd of hardcore surfers. Name isnt that important in this stage of the game, I can just sell boards based on reputation and quality…