When the student is ready, the master appears.

We’ve all heard that expression, but how many have been that fortunate?     And, who was the master that opened your eyes and mind?     I’m talking about surfing, surfboard design, and surfboard building.      Me, I’ve had many along the way.     I’ll discuss mine later.      Now, who provided that crucial insight for you, when you most needed it?

For wood

Wright Bowman 67-69

taught us about building and repairing koa canoes

and helped me make my first plywood “spoon”  paipo to surf waikiki walls bending in the curves using cuts and heat


For surfboards

Issac Tanaka

who was building in his quonson hut shaping room thin and light boards non-beak nosed shortboards with textured decks before anyone knew what thin and light was. Boards were almost epoxy light before anyone knew about epoxy. circa  67-71

Issac was the Reno Abellera of my homebreak.


Back to you Bill!

When I was playing with rocker radii, you gave me a couple of hints on balancing the whole. That with beveled rails. Last weeks swell was the proving grounds.

When I began to do production shaping work,

this was the early 90’s,

super-flipped tips were all the rage.

One day, after watching me use the shureform to scoop out and thin noses,

Gary Linden grabbed my planer and said watch me. I’m only gonna show you this once.

He proceeded to take the planer, turn it sideways with the blades parallel to the stringer,

and proceed to thin out the nose in seconds.


The master just taught me a trick that I still use to this day.

Over the years that I worked for him, he showed me many more tips.

For that I am greatful.

With so many fine shapers going through those doors,

I would be a fool not to learn from those who blazed the trail before me.

I’ll share those stories another time.

My old man taught me to listen and learn from the old timers.

If they teach you anything, they have chosen you to pass this knowledge to.

Pay attention when the master speaks.

Mother ocean.  Most of what she taught me I learned the hard way, often just after I needed it most.

Wood boards and foam, Tree-to-Sea and… Swaylocks!

From internet I learned to plan and design, to build, to shape, to glass, to layout fin placement, install a fin box, and countless other facets and details.  Most of it right here on Swaylocks.  And I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

Swaylocks is overflowing with an abundance of surfboard making know-how, and all the other stuff that people complain about is just background noise to my mind.  IMO, there is no book or school that could ever teach as much as Swaylocks can, if you’re listening!

Just this week I learned… to use a hot melt glue gun to anchor my router jigs while routing out for fin plugs - just tried it, and it worked awesome, so much better than the tape method I used to use.  Easy peazy.

And there are some other limited but nontheless good sources for board making history and knowledge on internet, if you look.  A lot of them I found out about from Swaylocks too, haha!

I met Jim Phillips around 1963. I was 15 years old. I became his main flunky. He taught me pretty much everything. It was an ongoing deal…he still teaches me today. If I have a question I call him. Thanks Jim

John Carper, Swaylocks, trial and error.  I wish I had a mentor when I was  16 but that never happened.  If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.  Don’t ever give up!

My grandfather & uncles all wooden boat builder’s. All grafters with a great work ethic. My Granpa used too say " See ma loon there’s no straight edges, just smooth lines and sweet curves, it’s got to be eye sweet" I think the same can be said of surfboards! Also there’s some great online resources, youtube & of course right here on Swaylocks! Unfortunately I built 4 before I found sways. Slanj

Originally inspired to shape surfboards by Glen Kennedy of Kennedy Surfboards when I was a teenager in high school. I moved to Oxnard CA in the early 1980s where I started shaping more frequently. Then I met Malcolm Campbell, Casey McCrystal and Sammy Cammack, as well as a few others who inspired me even further. Through them I acquired different shaping techniques and was able to incorporate their influences into my own designs.

Bob Moore, Bruce Grant, Dennis Andries. I feel fortunate.

In my earliest forays into making surfboards I found a mentor who gave without asking anything in return. He’s continued to provide me with an endless source of inspiration and the confidence not to follow the crowd. His name is Bill. If he ever hangs up his tools I hope it’s my hand that picks them up next.



I was about fifteen and had just purchased my very first second-hand surfboard, a giant Barland 3-stringers; A few days later, I hit the rocks with the fin and it was ripped from the board. Fortunately, I found the missing fin and went back to the surf-club, thinking that the world had just come to an end; (I had absolutely no clue how surfboards were made at the time and I was pretty sure that my board was definitely useless…) That’s when one of the elder boys took a look at it and offered me to fix it for 50 Francs (about $10, I think); I hastily agreed and I watched in awe as the guy put the board on saw-horses and proceeded to sand the whole area around where the fin had been; Then he reached for a plastic bottle half-filled with a rather viscous liquid and some pieces of a weird-looking silvery cloth that I had never seen before; He stood the fin back on the tail of the board and had two strips of masking tape hold it straight by sticking them to the tip of the fin and to both rails. The pieces of silvery cloth were draped around the base of the fin and onto the tail and he mixed a few drops of another liquid into what he called “resin”; And then I witnessed magic: when wetted with this resin, the cloth would lose its silvery shine and become glass-clear! I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was the very first time I ever watched fiberglass and resin put to use. Then the guy said: “OK, let it cure about one or two hours, then sand everything flush and then you’re good to go back to the water.” I was too happy to even argue about sanding not being included in the $10.

To this day, this guy is responsible for my starting to wonder how surfboards were made, which soon led me to strip down a few oldies and re-shape what was left of foam inside. Everything else proceeded from that very crude first repair. Unfortunately, I never had any real shaper to teach me things but Mr Trial and Mr Error, which is why it took me so long to start making something that vaguely resembled a surfboard…

bammbamm808. He offered his tutorialship after I brought in my first shaped board to get futures fin boxes routed. Thanks to him I have learned processes and techniques that have been passed down and picked up from who’s who in the Hawaiian board making community. But most of all through him I have learned to keep an open mind about the process as there is usually a different way to arrive at the same result or even make the result better. 

double post and i think that “tutorialship” is not even a word… 

In 75’…LBC Heights…Rick McHale(lived a block from my mom’s house)…ICONIC…(A transplant from Santa Cruz,Ca…his FAVORITE  home break… was Moss Landing.) Rick was a very established shaper in the LBC/Seal Beach/H.B. area.

I had built my first complete surfboard(that was of professional level )after returning from Makaha,Hi. in the winter of 75’.

Rick was introduced to me shortly after that by my younger brother Raymond …I showed Rick my board and he had asked me ,“how many boards have you built?” I replied,…3…but the first two(built in Bell,Ca.) were trashed, logs that I stripped down for the foam/ blanks…,and the glassing supplies came from …donators(gordie,the Waldens)…boatyard scraps…Standard Brand Paints store in Downey,Ca. for the rest…this newest one in question, board number 3, was all new supplies, I bought the blank from Rich Harbour(via Mike Wilson and Kurt Ausberger),and got all my resin/glassing…(that I could afford)… supplies from Marina Fibercraft in Seal Beach,Ca…The first two were my learning curves…and BOY were they!!!

Rick asked me where did I do my work ,…so I took him over to my mom’s house on Loma Ave.& 14th st.,and showed him the patio where I did my work from…he was amazed that I could get a board,looking so nice from just a few crude tools…flipped redwood picnic bench on crates for a rack…chopsticks for stirring sticks …butter bowls and old bait buckets for mixing containers…nail polish remover for acetone(got it cheap,down the block)…the list goes on…Rick did make the statement that the first power tool you should buy is a good sander…that was, at the time, the only power tool I owned, w/ the exception of a, B&D 3/8’ drill and a jigsaw…I got my Sears,all metal body,multi- speed, sander/polisher ,at a garage sale for 15 bucks,with, and assortment of accessories.,including a nice 6" hardpad and a 8" softy,I believe they were automotive sanding pads…also, a wool polishing wheel/bonnet,that I still use today.(that sander died in 98…gave it to a guy to fix and keep for himself).

back to my story::::::a few day later after meeting Rick for the first time, I thumbed/hitched a ride from my good Buddy, Bob Loos (R.I.P.)…We surfed H.B. pier that afternoon…after I got out of the water, I strolled over to Dyno to have a look see, and to my suprize,an old school mate(Bell High,Bell,Ca.,home of the Hawk bros.) was working in the shop,(Tommy Niggemann)… Dick Lippincott ,owner of Dyno Surfboards, walked in shortly after I did,Dick Dyno asked who’s board was that on the sidewalk out front…“mine,I replied,and I built it myself” …Dyno Dick was so impressed with my board, that he hired me on the spot…so when I got back to Long Beach that very evening,I went over to Rick’s and told him about my encounter at Dyno…Rick called up good friend Dick Lippincott,and inquired about what I had relayed to him… Dick hired us both, Rick as the master shaper, and me as Rick’s apprentice…I was 18 yrs old.

other notables/influences/friends:…Steve lis…,Rich Parr…Les Pronier… Steve Brom ,and Ben Apia…

…later on…Rich Harbour…Bruce Jones…Jerry Mowe( and the crew over at SouthShore)…and Randy Lewis(and the crew over at P.R.W.).

I’m sure i’m forgetting some people…

but none of these other builders opened my eyes to surfboard construction like Rick did…May You, “REST IN PEACE”,My Good Friend, ALOHA BRA !!!


For me " the Master " came in a different way… it happened for me - just watching a few customs built, also, posing a few questions… that said, I never thought I’d shape board - until my hs surf buddy asked me if I thought I could shape a board. I wasn’t sure I could, but I said I’d give it my best shot. Anyway, five hours later we had a surfable board that looked good but wasn’t like a shop board.I geuss whatever I saw the shapers do was enough info for me to get started!? That said, I picked up different approaches - by watching different shapers… one thing I’m glad I did was ask questions if I wasn’t sure what he was doing. Sometimes the knowledge is imparted, but you’re not in tune ( ready to absorb )'the teachings also… this happened to me fyi. It took me two + mos to " read between the lines" as to what a seasoned shaper told me about shaping as to my questions. It’s really up to YOU shaper to figure out whatever it is a shaper tried to teach you. Shape w open mind and absorb the info! It’s there you just got to be able to see it when it knocks on your door…

My old man Kent Prause (his logo reads 'part time since ‘69’ ha!) taught me the basics.  We used Freestyle templates and shaping shacks from Ed Budolf and Reid Anson. Also Craig Simms from Maxed Out. 

Once I started doing it on my own, Drave Krueger at Quest taught me a lot about production glassing.  This was around the time that swaylocks started and I learned a lot from the likes of kokua and jim phillips on sways. And Greg loehr for using epoxy.

Spent some time in Florida where Kevin Mileski at BPC was a big influence. Met Drew Bagget there who has continued to be an influence on me (and the whole industry) for using alternate materials (bamboo/carbon,cork, etc).

Moved out to my birth state of Hawaii for a while and sanded a lot of Arakawas (also K.Tokoro and G.Griffin among others) and really honed in my skills from passing over those curves. Gabe Garduque gave me guidance to really help me to improve. I have to thank Eric Arawaka and Dennis Kirk for giving a clueless haole kid a job.

When I moved back to the East Coast, Clark Foam had shut down and I had more sways influence from types like Greg Loehr and Bert Burger and Drewtang to move into blank building and vacuum bagging. This type of work gave me a really good set of skills that I was able to leverage (along with an engineering degree) to get into the aeronautics composite world. 

Chris Darby moved back home after a stint with G&S and his logs and woodworking have been very influential. 

Jamie Tuttle  has glassed boards for me from the beggining and has been a huge influence.

I have come a long way but it all goes back to my old man taking me out for a surf on a board that he built for me. Thanks dad!



My first exposure to the ‘‘how to’’ of surfboard making, was provided by Wayne Land, who patiently explained the design principles at play in 1958.   He also showed me how to glue up, and shape the balsa pig boards of the day.     Ronald Patterson showed me how to glass a board, mount a wood fin, sand and gloss a surfboard.      State of the art surfboard sanding, was done with a belt sander, in 1958.    Some of the regulars at Windansea, in those early years, were quite influential on me. Guys like Alan Nelson and Pat Curren, were fixtures in the lineup, and were always doing cutting edge stuff.     The two fellows that really opened my eyes, design wise, were Del Cannon and Phil Edwards.     Del showed me how to shape in a methodical and disaplined way, as well as thinking ‘‘outside the box’’ as the expression goes.     Phil Edwards took the time (about an hour) one afternoon,  to answer my design questions, and explain his theories, and understanding of fin design and function.     All of that varied input, woven together, is what enabled me to make what progress I did, in designing and building surfboards.    Guys like Jim Fisher, and Buzzy Trent, were both regular surfing companions, as well as walking encyclopedias of surfing history.     Both were former room mates with Bob Simmons in Hawaii, and both were great story tellers.   All of that information, history, and instruction, is part of every board I’ve ever shaped.    I’ve been very lucky to have had access to so many pioneers of this sport, and fortunate to have been accepted into thier circles.