So having recently bought my first custom longboard, I’m now an absolute appreciator of the art of log riding and the craft of shaping such beautiful creations.
I’d been living in Bias, France for 4 years and heard of Dave’s skills, but never made the step to visit and put an order in. I already had a sufficiently oversized quiver of boards. It was really a happy accident that I came to make Dave’s acquaintance and now my life is all the richer for it with an added toy to the oversized quiver, I’m lucky I don’t have a wife keeping count.
I haven’t had much dealings with surfboard shapers and truth be told, I’ve always been a little bit intimidated. Well, not anymore and I’m converted, any future purchases will be custom shapes for sure.
The board from Utopia is a 9ft2 x 22 1/4 x 2 1/2 "Mod Long” with a satin finish and opaque resin tint with gloss cloth inlay panel. The thing is just a thing of beauty and it’s solid. The board has caught the eye of many a passerby and when they hold it under their arm, they remark on how well constructed it is… this will go the distance for sure.
Everything Dave does is by his hand, from start to finish. He even goes to collect his blanks in his little ‘Smart’ car from Spain, I believe he fit 3 in there on his last trip!!
I never imagined how stunning the board would look and never in my dreams realised how much I would love longboarding!! It’s now one of my most prized possessions and it’s opened up so many more surf sessions, I kick myself for not buying one sooner.
So what makes Dave the shaper tick, where does he hail from and where is he going? Let’s go ahead and ask him…..
SB: Hiya Dave, thanks for taking the time to answer some probing questions. You live in France but hail from the UK. Where abouts are you from originally and how did you find yourself in Mimizan, France?
Dave: Hi Nic. I’m originally from Cornwall in the sunny SW of England, but moved to warmer climates 15 years ago which actually seems like only yesterday! The reason for coming here was I was finding myself coming down every 2 months delivering stock to shops up and down the coast. So after a while, I thought, why not do it the other way around and manufacture in France and then deliver back to the UK when needed… seemed like a plan, even though I didn't speak anything but schoolboy French.
SB: Last time we met, you and your family were packing the van for a holiday, including the budgie known as ‘Speedy’ I believe!! Did you score good waves?
Dave: Yeah, southern Spain was great, again it's a good part of the world where I can surf, try out some new shapes, switch off my brain and spend quality time with my family after a crazy season. Oh, and yes, even the budgie comes with us to catch some sun. The waves are good, the water is warm and the locals are really welcoming both in and out of the water.
SB: What are the 3 must have things (not including family members) on your road trip/holiday?
Dave: A notepad, after about 5 days my mind is racing on things I want to do and build, so I have to scribble it all down, some of it is totally off the wall, but some of it gets done. My Eriba Caravan, I just love having a home away from home where we can chill and be totally comfortable wherever we end up. Last off is a thumping great heavy old-school log... nothing beats it and the smiles it gives me when the people who see it out in conditions it shouldn’t be in... single fin only.
SB: What boards do you normally travel with and why?
Dave: With me it can be a real bunch of oddities. As I said, always a log, that should be a law, hahahhahaha. Then I have a mid-length or an egg, it’s a great ‘mix it up’ kind of board, plus it keeps me paddling more. Then I had something different this trip, it was a 6ft6 x 24 x 3 noserider. Yes, you did read those measurements right. Last time it was a 9ft6 Paulownia, hollow wood construction 60's Pig. Something to twist the mind a little, don’t go comfortable, try something new. It would have been my new 9ft epoxy asymmetric longboard, but I just didn’t finish it in time, as ever, customers come first.
SB: Do you remember catching your first wave and being hooked on surfing?
Dave: Sort of, I remember being on a wooden belly board at Hayle Sands in Cornwall where we used to have summer holidays and that is my first memory of surfing.
SB: What the first surf sled you owned?
Dave: It was a Graham Nile single fin orange and yellow. Oh God, how I wish I still had it! If anyone has a Graham Nile board, I’d be happy to work something out with you to get one back in my hands!
SB: What was the first board you shaped and who taught you or influenced you the most?
Dave: It was a mini mal. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time around some great board builders and from there it was only a matter of time before I started shaping. But my influences are mostly the one and only, Chris Jones. He’s an absolute master in my eyes and should be more recognised than he currently is. Then it would be Richard Henty who taught me all the little details and nuances that most people don’t realise go into shaping a board, nowadays its just too easy to get a preshape, then sand the lumps off and call yourself a shaper!!
SB: Are there some basic must know facts about shaping that could be shared with the unknowing who wish to make a purchase?
Dave: Be honest about your ability is the main thing. Learn the basics before jumping on a 6ft shortboard you can't even paddle and try not to be led by fashion, there will be another pro model ‘must have’ out next week.
SB: What boards do you like shaping the most?
Dave: I love shaping all boards, but I really love longboards, there are less hiding places and it's great blending curves and coming up with that special shape.
SB: What is the hardest thing/part about shaping a board?
Dave: Not rushing, it's too easy to get caught up in the moment. Stepping back having a cup of coffee and then taking a look with a fresh eye is always a good thing.
SB: Can you describe our relationship and process to make the ‘Mod Long’ and what aspects of this board got you most excited?
Dave: The Mod Long was interesting, although the template is my go to progressive board, at the same time we still wanted the noseride to be easy. So placement of foam was important to keep it easy to hang off the front, also the rail line was changed as you are coming from shortboards and didn’t want a sluggish log, so keeping it reactive was an important factor. So something fresh is what excites me on a project like the Mod Long.
SB: Are there any new exciting shapes that you are working on?
Dave: Yeah, a few I’m really excited with. First off would be my 7ft10 Pig, it's real old-school with a rolled bottom pinched nose, wide rear pig but small so it's more accessible to all riders. Teri my wife has one and loves it. Also, double step deck longboards are a thing I keep playing with. I love how they flex under your weight whenyou'rer riding them and trim like a mad thing... oh and as ever I’m always playing with Greenough flexspoon kneeboards…...
SB: As ‘eco and sustainable’ are a huge factor in the industry, we did speak briefly of some of the steps you’ve taken in this direction, could you highlight some for us to inspire others?
Dave: Eco is a real buzzword right now, for me I like to source my materials as locally as I can. I’m lucky as my blanks are blown in Spain and the cloth and resin are made in France. Also I do use the eco epoxy for my EPS boards, of which the core is made 45kms away, so real local too. I think we have to be aware also that the eco thing is easily confused with goods being shipped around the globe, that doesn’t seem right in my view. Buy local!!
SB: You don’t just make surf boards… what else can we expect from your crafted hands @utopia?
Dave: No, luckily I get to play and make all sorts of things from fins, skateboards, SUPs, handplanes, furniture and art, clothing, oh and we make our own wax!! I am lucky really that I have a lot of space and toys to play with.
SB: If one of our readers would like to order a custom board from you, what would be the average cost and time to get under their arm? For example the 9’2 ‘Mod Long’?
Dave: A plain white Mod Long would be 750€. With all bells and whistles like yours, 1100€. Time wise it's from 4 weeks to 6 weeks depending on what's in the queue.
Remember that everything is done with my two hands in this factory and I don’t send the dirty dusty work out to others.
SB: Any other words you would like to add?
Dave: Try to remember and support your local shaper. It’s been hard in the last few years as the market is overrun with Asian imports and corporate brands. Go see the shaper, have a chat and take him a coffee, he will be pleased to see you ….
SB: Thanks Dave for your time and your honest answers, I look forward to catching some waves together on my next visit in France.