Experts & Insiders 9/29/2010

E&I: SIMA Shapes - Thirty Years of Three, Ghetto Rat, Sacred Craft, SurfExpo, and More

SHAPES.                   FALL.2010.
Plug in to SIMA (Surf Industry Manufacturers Association) at http://www.sima.com

Ocean Institute Photo

The State of Surfboards, from Committee Chairman Shea Weber 

When I was tasked with writing the intro for this issue of SHAPES, I struggled with what I wanted to talk about. Then it hit me: FAMILY.  

Fam·i·ly noun \ fam-uh-lee, fam-lee\ plural fam·i·lies: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head; a group of persons of common ancestry; * a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock or by common characteristics; a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation

 
Why family you ask? It seems to be the common theme of my world lately. As I've tried to navigate through the last 24 months, my reality and perspective has become crystal clear on what is important in my life: My wife and my kids... mom, brother, and sister... nephews, nieces, and in-laws. I knew all of this before the recession, but challenging times tend to put things into focus and my family is the center of my world.

But this also made me realize something else. I started to look around the neighborhood (Surf Alley) and realized how the majority of the shapers and glassers got along, and even more so, how many were collaborating or utilizing each other for different things (see our story in this issue, "The Ghetto Rat"). Then we went to Sacred Craft and witnessed a group of surfboard business owners (from different areas) that were all under one roof that had far more in common then they realized. I started to understand that for as much as board builders want to believe that their competitors are the enemy, in actuality - and by definition - they are more like family. I think a lot of us are starting to realize that and this is a very good thing for the hardgoods side of the industry. I truly believe that the 'every man for himself' mentality has got to be a thing of the past. The more we can support each other and work together, the better off we'll all be. Consumer education and outreach, retailer training and education, and increased product awareness and valuation are just a few things that the board builder family can work on together to improve the dynamics of hardgoods sales.

Right or wrong, this is what I will continue to promote as the Chairman of the SIMA Board Builder Committee. For me, it just makes sense. Take care everyone and I'll catch you next issue!

 

Shea Weber
President, Dewey Weber International, Inc.
Chairman, SIMA Board Builder Committee
Board of Director, SIMA

 

Dewey Weber Logo

 

SACRED CRAFT AT ASR 

Scott Bass discusses the outcome of Sacred Craft's union with ASR

SacredCraft2




August 14, 2010 marked a big step for the Sacred Craft show. Since its inception in 2007, Sacred Craft had been gaining momentum and attention from the surfboard industry coast-to-coast. So when Expo Director Scott Bass announced that he would run this Fall's Sacred Craft in conjunction with ASR at the San Diego Convention Center, everyone was excited to see how the transition would go. And true to form, Sacred Craft did not disappoint.


How did the idea come about to stage Sacred Craft concurrently with ASR?

Scott Bass: ASR and I had talks a few years ago, so we've had a mutual eye on each other for a while. However, it was important to establish traction with Sacred Craft prior to our partnership. ASR exec Andy Tompkins came up to our Ventura Expo and we began talks about joining forces so that both the ASR client base and Sacred Craft's exhibitors would benefit. After our first Sacred Craft Expo in 2007 I remember quite distinctly a conversation I had with Gary Linden in which he said, "Scott, this show is great, the consumer market is great, but I'd also love to see some retailers." And of course he's right; if there is a way to mix consumers with retailers it makes sense. The opportunity to produce one of our two expos per year alongside the ASR Marketplace came along and I pulled the trigger.


What opportunity did you see in creating this partnership with ASR?

Exposure. The big opportunity is for our exhibitors to get more exposure via the massive world-wide media outlets that show up at ASR. But perhaps more importantly and from a granular level, the possibility for a buyer from a shop in, say, New Jersey or Japan or England to roll up and place an order for 15 boards. That type of exposure is incredible. And at a consumer-only show - although a little more rootsy, a little bit more guerrilla - it doesn't offer that retailer opportunity for our exhibitors. The big bang. That is what a guy like Gary Linden is looking for, so that opportunity is quite valuable.


What was the initial reaction from board builders when you first announced that Sacred Craft would run concurrently with ASR?

Overwhelmingly, the board builders were stoked. Business is about change. You've got to try new things or your competition will. But business is also about... hold on to your hats... business. Our exhibitors are smart. They are aware of the power of the ASR Marketplace.


What was the biggest difference that you noticed at this year's show, compared to previous shows?

We had the surf softgoods industry seeing our expo for the first time. The industry giants that create the multi-billion dollar soft side, were, I was told, overwhelmed by the creativity and the stoke that Sacred Craft exhibitors provided. All of our exhibitors - the Timmy Patterson's, Richard Kenvin's, and Gene Cooper's of the world - they deserve all the credit, all of them. Having the two-sides of the industry co-mingling for the first time in a long time - that was the biggest difference. The Sacred Craft exhibitors really shined in front of an entirely new audience.


How big was turnout, in both vendor and visitor numbers?

We had roughly 100 vendors and 7000 people walk the floor.


What were the leading trends at this year's show?

The ongoing trend in surfboards is that anything goes. Whatever makes you happy, ride it. There is a palpable move toward letting the waves dictate what you ride, so a real desire to maintain a quiver that allows for diversity. Many have a longboard, a handplane, an alaia, a quad. Different stuff that keeps you in the water no matter what.  A wise man once said: "There is no such thing as perfect waves, just perfect boards to ride them with."


Talk a little about the Tribute to the Masters shape-off.

The Tribute to the Masters Shape-off is our foundation. Surfers - our community - we don't buy into false prophets. The real legends deserve some recognition and that's what we attempt to do. Throw a little light on the good guys. We've honored Diff, Caster, Bradbury, Brewer, Yater and Simon. We'll be honoring Doug Haut in Santa Cruz in March of 2011. These are the Masters. There are many more who the surf industry marketing machination may or may not acknowledge. There are so many underground guys who deserve kudos it's ridiculous: glassers, sanders, pinline artists. We'll do our part to get it right.


Could you give us some insight on upcoming Sacred Craft shows and if they will once again run concurrently with ASR?

I'm planning the Santa Cruz Sacred Craft Expo right now. As I mentioned, it will happen in mid-March of 2011. I'm super excited about it. Santa Cruz has an incredible surfing heritage. It is a super hardcore surf community. There will be more info on that very soon. And initial reaction to the San Diego Expo in conjunction with ASR Marketplace would tell me that yes, we will do the San Diego Sacred Craft Expo with ASR Marketplace.

 

Check out the Sacred Craft and ASR websites.

 

SURF EXPO WRAP-UP

By SIMA Executive Director Sean Smith

Surf Expo Convention Center

 

 

 

The September 2010 Surf Expo trade show featured a very lively floor in terms of retail buyer attendance, manufacturer exhibitors and overall vibe. Despite the ongoing economic climate, the mood on the floor from buyers was very positive - but the fact that it's been a hot, sunny and wave-rich summer on the East Coast probably helped a lot, too. Overall, business was good on the East Coast this summer, and it showed during Surf Expo.

In regard to board builder presence, the focus was definitely on SUPs. Historically, Surf Expo's January show is the showcase expo for surfboards, as East Coast retailers buy up - and drive home with - boards in preparation for Spring and Summer. While there were a number of well-known surfboard brands on the show floor from both the East and West Coasts, the SUPs still remained the focal point, as they have for the last couple of years. Surf Expo did an excellent job of positioning the SUP booths into a common area on the show floor as has been done in the Board Builder Pavilions of years past, and they even went as far as to again feature a huge indoor pool to allow SUP demonstrations and test rides.

For the January show, Surf Expo has hinted to SIMA that they have some big plans for showcasing surfboards and board builders, including live shaping  demos on the show floor and more. In addition, show management plans to offer a free surfboard shipping program for West Coast board builders who will be exhibiting at the January 2011 Surf Expo show. More on that offer to come once details are finalized!

 

Check out the Surf Expo website.

 

 

 

THIRTY YEARS OF THREE

Rusty Preisendorfer on the significance of that little middle fin


Interview by Andrew Lewis

 

Simon Anderson


 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Simon Anderson's thruster. Indeed, there have been many innovations in surfboard design and technology in the decades since, but it is hard to find a shaper out there that doesn't believe that sticking that third fin right in the middle wasn't the single greatest maneuver in surfing history. Just to be sure, we caught up with a man who can be credited with a few revolutionary moves himself, Rusty Preisendorfer, to discuss just how impactful the thruster really was.

 

 

Considering all of the technical advances in surfboard construction since modern design elements such as rails, concave, rocker and all the way through to the machine, where would you rank the invention of the thruster?

Rusty Preisendorfer: Number One.


What was the chief draw back with the shortboard before Simon stuck a third fin on?

Limitations on width and rocker, which ultimately affected the range of any given board. Twins were fast but when the surf got heavy the downside was a loss of control. Singles could be built to handle heavier stuff but bogged in comparison to a tri in weaker surf. Nothing touched the combination of speed power and control that a three fin setup offered.


You were really involved in the pro events at the time. Can you explain the level of criticism that was going around regarding the thruster when Simon first brought it out into the light?

A lot of the guys were riding twins in small surf and said that the third fin felt like  driving with the hand-brake on compared to how loose and fast the twins were. The majority of the comps were still being held in venues where the surf was very hit and miss - definitely not the Dream Tour. Some good surf early in the tour in 1981 (Bells) allowed Simon to showcase the potential of the design and shine brightly. The litmus test would be Hawaii. The skeptics and traditionalists (the single fin crowd) were silenced. Simon's free surf performances and Pipe victory removed any doubt about the validity of the three fin design.


As a shaper, what was your reaction to Simon's rapid success after implementing three fins on his competition boards?

Very deserved. To me, Simon's approach to the hull always seemed to be that of a minimalist - less is more - in the sense that I didn't see him trying to keep reinventing or adding bells and whistles... because he nailed it the first time.


The quad is the only other set-up that has ever challenged the thruster in the competitive arena since the 80s. Do you see this changing? And if so, what sort of new fin set-up could we see?

I think the quad is probably the only other fin set-up that we'll see in a pro surfer's bag of competitive clubs. There are only a handful of guys even trying to make them work. And still, observers are quick to point out the shortcomings over the attributes. The fact that Simon's design caught everyone off guard and his performance level was so high from a relative standpoint, it forced everyone to look at the design. Quads have been around the block a few times and they are evolving, but not at the pace of the original tri-fin. Consider that it was like the Manhattan Project, but on a global scale: just about every shaper on the planet focused on the design and there was a ubiquitous effort to raise the bar on that one particular design.

 

  THE GHETTO RAT

Jerry O'Keefe makes world-class surfboards for his label... and everyone else's

 

Interview by Andrew Lewis

O'Keefe Logo


 

Surf Alley. Soul Alley. The Ghetto.
Though there are multiple nicknames, most of you reading this probably already know what we're talking about. Truly there is no place on earth as rich in board-building history and talent as that patch of winding, dusty alleyways nestled in the hills of San Clemente, California. Names like Dale Velzy, Herbie Fletcher and Walker Foam got started there, and have since invited in on the action new faces like Timmy Patterson and Matt Biolos. Being on such a large production scale these days, the big names rely on the "glue" in the Ghetto - guys like Jerry O'Keefe who, along with producing his own line of surfboards called Soul Stix, have mastered the art of the APS3000 and providing honest-to-goodness American-made shapes for everyone. Though Jerry has become one of the top go-to guys in the Ghetto for his work on the computer, his prowess with the planer is nothing to scoff at: he's been Head Shaper at Dewey Weber Surfboards for 12 years now, and his Soul Stix label has become the brand of choice for top names like Neco Padaratz.


What's your specialty?

Jerry O'Keefe:
Customizing surfboard designs that have been created and refined by myself and other seasoned shapers, tested and proven by the top pros, and providing surfboards that are viable to each unique individual. It is my priority that no matter the surfer's experience, the board I shape them allows them to take their surfing to its highest level.


What are your favorite boards to shape?

Custom - that's where the challenge is. This is what separates me and other shapers from a CNC shaping machine or a Chinese artisan.  CNC machines, their software and Chinese artisans - none of whom have surfed - have been trained and programmed to mass produce a product they know little or nothing about. They simply can't do what I and others like me can do, which is to design boards for individuals using experience gained through years of surfing and  being a surfer. It takes a surfer to understand a surfer.


How did you get into shaping?

My dad taught me how to surf practically before I knew how to swim at Dana Point, before the harbor was put in back in '68. He was also a championship sailor and respected by guys like Micki Munos and Phil Edwards, who were also world class sailors. I remember my dad, my brother Tom, and I would be up late fine sanding and applying a certain type of speed finish  (the earlier version of the  speed finish I apply to the boards I make today) to the bottom of the racing cats he modified on the side of our house. He would explain to my brother and I things like drag, lift and speed while shaping the foam into the dagger board slots, so that he could run them narrower, thinner and deeper than the way they came in the stock boat. With all of this going on, plus the smell of resin going off, is when I remember thinking, "this is the kind of thing I want to do!"

Around that time I lucked out when Rick James said my brother and I could watch him shape my brother's first custom board next to where Harold  Walker was making foam down in what is now known as the San Clemente "Surf Ghetto". It was the summer of '71, I was only eight years old, and listening to Rick's stories. All the while I was thinking I could do this. Once I got a little older I tore the glass off some old boards we had in our garage and shaped and glassed smaller ones out of those. When I was 11 my parents told me they were friends with a guy named Gordon Clark, who they had told about my new found hobby. Clark invited me to take a tour of his factory and pick up a free surfboard blank. I almost crapped my pants! It was a great experience for me and after giving me a few shaping tips, he said "Now get out of here and go make a mess!"


How did you end up in the "Ghetto"?

Around 1986 I decided it was time I gave shaping my full attention. Obviously I knew the Ghetto was a good place to be if you were a serious board builder. Brad Basham, who I had been getting my glassing materials from since he set up shop down there a few years prior, told me he'd give me a shaping bay to work in if I gave him my glass work. By this point I had a really nice custom following: I was filling in for Timmy at Hobie's, and Jacks Surf Shop was selling a ton of my boards in Dana point and Huntington, as well as Zuma Jay surf shop in Malibu and the Surf Spot in San Clemente. So I felt It would make sense to have someone specialize in the glass work while I specialized in the shaping.


Describe the environment in the Ghetto.

It's really a special place that many insist is the birthplace of the modern surfboard. It started in the '50s when Dale Velzy and Harold Walker were making boards down here. There was also Clark foam ten minutes up the street from Hobie's. Herbie Fletcher, Dewey Weber, Hamish Graham, ...Lost, Timmy Patterson, myself and many other shapers have called this area home - as well as Lok Box, Official Fins, Rainbow Sandals, and a whole bunch of glass shops. Being a part of the movement down here is exciting because I never know who's going to walk through my front door. The other day I got a knock and there was Rory Russell and Herbie Fletcher standing there - they just happened to show up at the same time and hadn't seen each other in years. So I got to hear some epic tales from two of surfing's most colorful legends. Another day it was Joel Tudor checking out my spot when Neco Padaratz came in to pick up a board from me after just saying hello to Jordy Smith in the driveway. Another time I stepped out of my shaping room and there was Bob Hurley boxing with my Boxer!

You offer a cutting service. Who are you cutting boards for?

I cut boards for Dewey Weber - where I'm Head Shaper - Hurley, Hamish Graham, Michael Barron (Byrne Surfboards), Moss Research, Tommy Moore, Rick Rock, Greg and Jed Noll, Cole, ...Lost, Garth Day, and Soul Stix.


Those are some big names. So do you put more focus on your own boards, or keeping up with the demands of these clients? 

My 16-year-old daughter Luki - who loves to surf - cuts for me and does an excellent job. Normally, I don't get bombarded by everyone at once, so when I receive an order of say ten or twenty boards I can usually get it done in three to five days. During the season things can heat up so when needed I put in the extra hours and take on more help. But do I put more focus on my own boards? Of course - and for some reason these guys just keep coming back!  


What is the most popular design being requested at the moment?

I would say the squash tail thruster with different rocker variations and bottom contours as a daily driver is most popular, as well as the step downs which more and more people are finding to be a vital part of their quiver. As for longboards, I'd have to say traditional 50/50 rails with a low entry and plenty of tail rocker, like Jed Noll's 'Joe Aaron' model or the Dewey Weber 'Planer'.


You are seeing many different brands of foam come through your doors these days. Is it improving with each year and who is leading the charge?

The foam has definitely improved over the years and I would dare to say that just in the last six months it has become really consistent. Surfblanks America has really gotten their ultra-light formula to an excellent level of consistency and a very high strength-to-weight ratio. U.S. Blanks is right up there and has an excellent array of hand-shape blanks.


It seems like extreme overseas pressure has eased a bit in 2010. Is that because everyone is just tired of talking about it, or could it be that the American shaper is holding his ground?

Yeah, no doubt we're tired of talking about it, but nevertheless we definitely needed to. I don't know one shaper that has decided to stop shaping because the going got tough, so, to me, that is proof that to the American - or any true shaper for that matter - shaping is a labor of love. Also, I think word is out on the boards made overseas. Private board labels, SIMA and the surf media have made a good effort to educate the consumer, whom I believe is becoming more board savvy. As some guy who wore glasses explained to me: the Chinese "Pop Out" factories are subsidized by their government and need to produce X amount of units to justify use of their facilities. As the boards from overseas flooded the market - largely due to retailers fearing they wouldn't have enough boards to sell after Clark went out - the world economy became weak and the big factories in China weren't flexible enough to downsize, so many were forced to go back to making toilet seats and other types of products that will sell well in any economy... flooded or not!


Check out the
Soul Stix website.

 

FEATURED RETAILER: SURF RIDE

It wasn't all sunshine this summer in Southern California, but things were pretty bright inside one of San Diego's biggest surfboard retailers

 

Surfride



Board builders have had a lot to grumble about in the last five years. The residual effects of Clark Foam's dissolve in 2005 spilled right into the economic crisis of 2008. To be sure, the shapers' loyal retailers have also walked a long road through the darkness and have learned some very valuable lessons along the way. San Diego's Surf Ride is no different, and they too have felt the ups and downs, and according to Board Buyer/Manager John Ennis - whose been at it for ten years now - the valuable lessons learned as of late have brought a much needed light back to the retail floor.


Hardgoods as well as softgoods producers were looking toward 2010 with optimism and as a turn out of the dark economic times of the last two years. After summer and going into the holiday season, how would you rate 2010 so far, compared to 08/09?

John Ennis: It was an interesting summer to say the least - no sun and a lack of waves had people scrambling for high performance grovelers. Board sales were actually quite good compared to previous years. In hard economic times one thing will always be consistent: the good feeling you get when you bring home a new board... better then a therapist!


Surf Ride has always had a tremendous selection of surfboards, from both local shapers as well as big-name international brands. In the last two years, have you seen any sort of shift from one to the other (as far as inventory numbers)?

Yes, absolutely. Board design is alive and well, and it's great to see healthy competition amongst shapers. I feel it brings better quality shaped surfboards to the masses.


Looking back on this summer, what was your top-selling surfboard - both in brand and design?

I would have to say the Channel Islands Dumpster Diver. It was so highly sought after... I'm just glad we had enough of them in stock. The Firewire Dominator was a good choice, as well as the Rusty Dwart.


You see a lot of new designs come through the door. What is the most popular design trend now with your average-to-above average (surfing ability) customers?

I personally like the shorter, wider outlines for the typical surf that you see in Southern California. They pick up speed fast, get over the flat spots, and still allow you to rip small waves.


What has Surf Ride learned as a business in the last five years, as well as the habits of its customers? And what has been some of the marked changes Surf Ride has made to adapt?

What I think we did best is we cut out a lot of the "frilly hope it will sell" stuff and focused on a deeper size scale (surfboards) to always have the right sizes in stock. The idea, of course, is that between the two Surf Ride stores, we should be able to get you the board your looking for without waiting for a custom - and I think we've achieved that. There's something to be said about instant gratification.


How do you expect surfboard sales to be going into this holiday season?

Well, I'm kind of a glass three-quarters full optimist, so I always hope for the best.


Check out
Surf Ride's website.

 

CONNECTED: 5 LINKS EVERY SHAPER SHOULD CHECK OUT

The last edition of Shapes featured wizard Ben Thompson and his project, boardformula.com, which he's hoping will revolutionize the way we purchase surfboards. See what he's been up to.

It's always interesting when the mainstream media tackles a "surf story". MSNBC catches up with Jeff "Doc" Lausch to discuss the state of the American shaper.

UCSD is well known for its scientific prowess in such fields as biotechnology... but surfing?

Jerry O'Keefe illustrates San Clemente's Ghetto in words, Surfline illustrates it in pictures.

The always entertaining Chris Cote of Transworld Surf magazine takes on the world's most ridiculed surfboard.

 

   FALL CALENDAR OF EVENTS

 

  • October 7-18, 2010: Rip Curl Pro (Men and Women) // Peniche, Portugal
  • October 30-Nov 10, 2010: Rip Curl Pro Search (Men and Women) // Somewhere, Puerto Rico
  • November 8-9, 2010: SIMA/BRA Industry Boot Camp // Huntington Beach, California
  • November 12-23, 2010: Reef Hawaiian Pro // Alii Beach, Haleiwa, Oahu
  • November 24-Dec 6, 2010: O'Neill World Cup // Sunset Beach, Oahu
  • November 24-Dec 6, 2010: Gidget Pro // Sunset Beach, Oahu
  • December 8-20, 2010: Billabong Pipe Masters // Banzai Pipeline, Oahu