In the time-honored way of celebrating true artists of anything surf here at the Bunker we again implore you take note of a genius that is more than worthy of your attention.
Pepe makes surfboards and fins in the same way that Ferrari makes cars. They are made by hand, with meticulous care and attention to detail, the finished products are sublime and refined to a ridiculous degree. Pepe works alone like many of the great artists of our time and has an almost cult following and with good reason. With finished products being only a fraction more than 'off-the-shelf' alternatives we struggle in earnest to find a reason not to get our wallet out.
As always we wanted to find more out about the man, the designs, what drives Pepe to make some of the best surfboards we have ever seen.
SB: Hey Pepe, thanks for your time. Where are you based and how did you come to start making surfboards and fins?
Pepe: Since 2013 my business has been established in a village named Gelves, just next to the Guadalquivir river and Seville, in the southwest of Spain.
Well, since I was a kid I’ve been very curious and a handyman at the same time, so since I can remember I always was fixing everything…. electric guitars, motorcycles, small devices, engines in general and boards of any size and shape.
Back in the day I used to the beach very often, so I fell in love with water sports very quickly. Surfing got to me at the age of 16 and once I started to surf regularly I was already fixing all my friend’s boards and the best surf shop in Sevilla gave me all their boards to repair. I continued fixing boards and eventually tried to shape my first one. It was a twin made out of a windsurf wave board! My career as a shaper started in that moment.
From that time onwards my shaping skills got better and better, I got my civil engineering degree at the university and worked as a civil engineer for a while, but my true passion was calling me day after day. So one day after thinking about my future for weeks, I quit my job and got an offer to work as a shaper with the major surf company in the area. That experience was like an intensive course to me, I got all the know-how of the surf industry and was another big step in my career. Obviously, my knowledge about C.A.D and other designs programs from my engineering were an advantage to fin and board designing. That and my constant search of perfectión and attention to details.
Time went by fast, shaping old school boards, mini Simmons, single fins, twins etc. Not just the boards but also the fins like special keels, or flex fins because they were difficult to find and were demanded by these shapes of those boards.
My time was over in that company and I moved on. That took me to open my own business Neyra Custom Shop in 2013, to offer real custom boards, 100% handmade and hand-foiled fins.
SB: We hear making fins is a messy job. What advantages to you see from having handmade, hand foiled fins?
Pepe: Making hand-foiled fin is a real underrated job, you spend a lot of time measuring and checking, touching, staring and sanding, one by one, step by step ….until you get the final product.
The difference between hand-foiled fins and “made in China” fins are like night and day. If you go to a surf shop looking for a 7” dolphin style volan fin, medium flex, for your single 6’0 board, it’s sure you are not going to find it, because they haven’t got it….
That’s my main advantage, the customers order from me what they can’t find in terms of quality/price ratio. In the other hand, the surf industry, (equipment only) is a small group of companies so if you want to purchase a quality fin you know there are only 3 or 4 fin companies that can handle it.
My products are for customers who know the difference between standard average quality and best top quality. So I play in a different league than well-known fins brands. Day by day, like by like in the media I’m gaining more respect as a fin maker so I couldn’t be more satisfied.
SB: Do you play around with different fin templates to see what response you get? What process do you have for testing them?
Pepe: Jose: Definitely. If you want to make it right it’s a must to test every model. All the models from de 60’s are already very well tested obviously, but those with different flexes and shapes, the uncommon ones are proven by our teams riders. I also collaborate with other shapers providing them custom models with different angles and flex.
The feedback I get is priceless.
SB: Are there any other surfboard shapers that you take inspiration from. Who else do you think is making good surfboards at the moment?
Pepe: Well , there is a lot of talent out there, I’d tell you Tyler, either as a shaper or as a surfer he is a reference to me. And of course the Bonzer Brothers…
SB: What is the most interesting and fun surfboard you have ever made?
Pepe: I have and a special relationship with bonzers. The concaves, the 3 or 5 fins, so different and innovative at the same time. I always recommend my customer to try a bonzer to get that feeling, everybody should have one.
SB: We are loving Bonzers at the moment, how much would you charge for a 3 fin bonzer with all the bells and whistles and how long would it take if I ordered today?
Pepe: Well , basically I work the whole year with two seasons in mind, pre Xmas and pre-summer season, and the rest of the year season…hahahah. No low season at Neyra custom shop. As long as most of my orders are custom, it requires a little more time. I keep very little stock of my web products. Although I’d would say that all my work is custom.
About the prize, a 6’0 bonzer in two tints, pinline, plywood runners and central fin, fiber leash bridge…let’s say between 700 and 800 euros, five fins included. It’s a really good deal.
SB: Would you ship a surfboard to anywhere in the world?
Pepe: Currently 90% of my total sales are outside of Spain, people from Hawaii, Brazil, South Africa, Australian East Coast, Italy, France, Germany, USA (West and East Coast)… buy my work. So it’s a daily basic for me.
SB: How important is it for you to work alone and to know your customers?
Pepe: It means you are 100% responsible of the whole thing. You don’t have to agree with another partner, so everything is more fluid. It can be so rewarding or a learning experience so it’s positive anyway.
Regarding my customers, I like to know as much info of them as possible, to provide the most accurate products, so I always talk to them. Most of my clients know exactly what they want, but in the other hand there are a lot of guys asking for advice.
SB: It's like living and learning, this world of surfing. How much we see often depends on how much we want to see. Since I started out writing this article I have had the chance to see and touch on of Pepe's custom-made surfboards with fins. I was blown away and that is quite difficult for me as I hunt out new boards a lot. It is more than crystal clear that his finish, absolute dedication to detailing and undoubted natural skill in this area culminates in a product or thing that is very special. There are no doubts in my mind that it will surf well, I don't even need to think about it. It's a given.
So then were does Jose fit into the Surf Industry? It seems like he is the best-kept secret? Those who know about his skills, simply know and that's it. As this is a new discovery to me I find myself almost lost for words at how we can go and buy an off the rack board, as Jose says the difference IS 'Night and Day'.
If you need a new or want a new surfboard or fins, I implore you to check out Neyrafins and have a chat to Jose.