To say that Tyler Hatzikian makes surfboards is to say that Ferrari makes cars. Okay, so I am a fan and slightly biased. Tyler boards for me are the pinnacle of how boards should be made, they seem to follow the natural evolution of classic shapes while keeping the whole concept simple and elegant.
So imagine my surprise when the surfing and shaping icon said that he would answer a few burning questions that I had for Surf Bunker and you lucky readers. For those of you for who have maybe been on a desert island for the last decade or more and have never heard of Tyler Hatzikian, I will quickly fill you in.
Tyler started building boards in his mum's garage at the age of 12. Yes, 12 years old. He has been restoring classic American cars since he was 16 years old and resides in El Segundo, Southern California. He shapes from a different angle, almost as if the shortboard revolution didn't ever happen, and looks to create his own special path in board design starting from where the old masters left off in the late '60s. Today Tyler's boards are amongst the most sought after in the world, and after having a go on one myself I can see what all the fuss is about.
Enough from me, let us ask Tyler about his boards:
SB: Hi Tyler, thanks for sparing us the time at Surf Bunker, I know you are crazy busy at the moment after just coming back from Japan. Do you do a lot of business there?
Tyler: Yes, I actually do a lot of business over in Japan. The interest really took off right after Longboard Magazine did a feature back in 1996. The article was on Tavarua featuring myself, Takuji Masuda and June Ikeda.
SB: Do you remember a point when you were growing up when you knew you wanted to make surfboards?
Tyler: Definitely, I remember I was 12 years old. I sold the second board I ever made for the cost of the materials. I was stoked because at that time my parents wouldn't let me take a job as a paperboy. So I decided I was going to make surfboards and make my own money.
SB: When did you first start surfing, can you remember your first board and have you still got it?
Tyler: I first started surfing when I was 7 years old. My first board was a hand me down from my dad, a 7’0 Pat Rawson garage board. It had a yellow tint and the rails were covered in grey duct tape.
SB: I imagine you take inspiration from the old masters for your shapes, is there anyone else shaping boards at the moment that inspires you?
Tyler: Nearly all of my inspiration comes from the past, but as far as the present goes I like Wayne Rich.
SB: Apart from being awesome, what has made your boards so successful worldwide?
Tyler: I think the reason the Tyler brand is so successful worldwide is due to the direction I went in at the time I did. Heading up a movement rather than following one was a big part of it. I've been advancing traditional longboards and my designs now, for 20 years. It's been amazing really, I guess I made a solid foundation and just built it up from there.
SB: How can I get hold of a Tyler board in Europe?
Tyler: All of our custom orders from Europe come indirectly, either by phone, email and sometimes even via social media. But I would be willing to talk to distributors and brokers. Just as long as it felt like a good fit for the Tyler Brand. Yeah, we would definitely like to be over there.
SB: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Tyler: I really enjoy coming up with new designs, creating new graphics, shapes etc. I enjoy all aspects of my job, it's hard to pinpoint just one part. Speaking with customers and watching them light up when they pick up their boards is a great pay off also. I enjoy all of it!
SB: I loved the film Single Fin Yellow, did Bonga Perkins really break the board at Pipe?
Tyler: Hahahaha, No! He just put a ding in it. The boards now retired and rest here in the shop.
SB: What are you working on at the moment, what's next for Tyler surfboards?
Tyler: Its actually a very exciting time for us, there’s a lot going on! We have two new series coming out, one being the signature series and the other being the Survivors series. I can’t tell you too much about it at present as we haven’t launched either line. But, what I will say is that we will be able to make the Tyler brand more available and affordable for the surfers who have loved our boards but was out of their price range. For the Survivor series, we are bringing in long-standing, experienced shapers underneath the Tyler House.
SB: Again thanks a lot for sparing Surf Bunker and our readers the time for a rare glimpse into the mind of someone who is exceptional at what they do.
All photos thanks and credit to Brent Broza.