I only went to the local shaper to return two boards that my friend had asked me to drop off. Twenty minutes later I come away having ordered a custom 9’2 long board!
Why Get a Longboard?
The usual comments from my younger friends and shortboard riders ‘hey, you’re not that old yet, why you getting a big board like that!?’ and ‘you ready for surfing retirement?’.
The reason I wanted one is they are a thing of beauty, crafted sleds of endless possibilities, from big waves to small waves. Watching a surfer catch waves with such ease and gracefully gliding above the water with their twinkle toed action is really something wondrous to behold, it’s a dance with nature and it’s proper roots.
From a technical aspect, it will also improve my shortboard game. Basically, if you don’t learn to shift you foot position and apply weight in the right area’s, you’re not going to get the board turning for love or money. Too many people are in a hurry to get on a short board without actually learning the importance of good foot placement and weight shifting. We see it so often with surfers that have been surfing for years on a short board with very poor foot work. I can’t recommend it enough to give it ago and then see your turns, arcs and maneuvers improve ten fold.
The Build Up
It’s taken me a few years to get my quiver filled with toys for almost every condition. There’s maybe a few more than is really needed and a lot less than I really want, first world problems!! They range from fun shaped hybrids at 5’4 and going through the range to a 6’4 Step Up for bigger waves.
The one thing that’s always been lacking from the bag of weapons was a long board. The usual excuses varied from not having space in my old minivan, cost and just plain laziness. The idea of having to overstretch my arm reach to lug around a heavy log under my arm simply wasn’t appealing.
So once the faint notion of buying one had knocked about a few times in the empty space between my ears, I started looking at my purchasing options. Quality custom shape of beauty or mass produced and cheap. On pondering, if I was going to do this, it had to be done properly and I didn’t want just any old long board, but a work of art, a thing of crafted elegance, an investment, something that would last and be with me till the end…custom was the obvious choice.
So, it was an ordinary day and I found myself turning right off the main road towards a ramshackle of random warehouses. This is where I was to find the coolest workshop warehouse, a little beat up and rough around the edges, but full of charm and obvious function. No fancy shop window with snazzy shiny things to entice you in, just a workshop where jaw dropping crafted sleds are shaped, pure and simple.
The Shapers Image
I’ve often found or maybe had the misconception that going to a shaper was quite frankly intimidating. I’m an ok a surfer and I’m ok at the basics of board design, but when faced with a pro surfer or a shaper, all that confidence and knowledge seems to falter massively! I become, for better of a word, a kook! The thought of those knowing eyes searching my soul and knowing I’m a mere mortal in their godlike surfers' eyes makes me shiver!
Reassured and Welcomed
That misconception was blown out of the water and my opinion completely put to rights when I met the gentle soul David Kingdon, a shaper, a surfer, a family man, a creative mind, a passionate dude and the innovative creator of the beautifully crafted custom boards Utopia Surfboards. The minute I shook Dave’s hand and I was welcomed into his workshop, I was inspired and looking at the array of boards in the workshop, I was in pure board porn heaven!!
Family Team Affair
Then, from the second-floor window overlooking the display entrance, the warm and welcoming vision of Dave’s smiling partner in crime, Teri. This is where she has set up camp to create her superb custom-made board bags, 'Board Bag Company'. So you can order your board and the cover at the same time, all custom made specifically for your needs.
Then we got to talking and I mentioned my interest in purchasing a board at some stage, I never had it in my mind to actually go ahead and buy one. This opened Dave up to his passion and he gently started to ask me specific questions about my surfing style and desires, with no hidden agenda. Armed with this information he then, ever so calmly, started to share his insight into what would suit my style. I was blown away, he was so passionate and knowledgeable about his craft, it gave me goosebumps! I found myself getting more and more excited, totally captivated.
After he’d kindly given me the time of day to talk me through the process, without even a thought of me actually buying one, I bid them fair well with the usual ‘I’ll go away and have a think about it’, got in my van and drove off, filled with inspiration and excitement. I only got ten metres, pulled over, said to myself ‘this feels right! The whole set up felt right and with that, I turned around and walked straight back into face Dave and say, ’you only live once, let us make this happen’…so we went ahead and did just that.
Shapers and Surfers Bond
I’ve often heard the importance of having a bond with your shaper and now realise how true it is. Both Dave and Teri really love what they do and so happy to share their passion with open arms. We then got to talking more in-depth about the finer details and the look. It felt that Dave and I were on the same page from the start, feeding from each others knowledge, experience, and artistic values. This relationship remains to be true, even after the completion of the board.
Design and Shaping Process
Now my longboard shaping spec knowledge is limited, so coming from a shortboard style Dave started discussing how to make a longboard versatile enough that it didn’t feel to alien to me to step onto a log after being on small boards for so long. He and I also wanted to make sure that even though the tail might be really pivotal and maneuverable, we still wanted the nose to be a nose riding thing of beauty(even though I don’t know how to do this…yet!). I will get Dave to explain a little more in the Q&A in the shapers article to follow.
As for the look, I wanted a clean and simple looking board that let the craft do the talking, with some little stand out details. The vision started with a single dark wooden stringer as a starting point. It then progressed to a white resin wash tint, making the stringer a little milky, which was a suggestion from Dave and I couldn’t be happier. Then for the spoon in the nose, I did want something that subtly grabbed the eyes attention, but not too obvious so one would spot it and it would entice folks in for a closer look. The print I chose was actually from a cloth Dave had used to make a resin skateboard deck. The design was kind of ‘Mexican Festival of the Dead’ style, which I’ve always been a fan of, so without hesitation that was the choice.
Armed with our discussion, Dave proceeded with shaping and molding the 9’2 ‘Mod Long. Throughout the process, we had contact for the finer details and I always had total trust in his decisions and the result does the talking, I seriously couldn’t be happier at the work of art that Dave has created, along with the perfectly crafted board bag for the sled to live in by Teri.
How She Rides
Like a bloody dream! I’m not a longboarder, so I can’t yet do the sled true justice. I now have a van big enough to fit her in and the board is no way near as heavy as I had envisioned. After the first session, where I picked off and glided into waves that they were struggling with, I knew that I’d be riding the ‘Mod Long’ more often than I thought. I’ve often found the phrase a little cheesy ‘the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun’, but now it makes a lot of sense! I think it was a log rider that first uttered that sentence.
The board was actually a lot more twitchy and responsive than I had imagined, thanks to the design and the walk to the nose (I say walk, more of a shuffle at this stage) really is a stable and confident ride.
I simply can’t get enough and it’s opened up so many more waves to be ridden, I really don’t know why I didn’t get on it sooner... I’m not old and over it, I’m and have a new approach to surfing… cheers Dave and see you next time for a couple of fun waves in France.
So in summary…
Don’t hesitate, get to your local shaper and start up a conversation, you never know where it’ll lead, but I’m fairly confident it will lead you to fun times!
For the low down on Utopia Surfboards….article to follow.