Friday, December 2, 2011

Craft Re-Constructed

My Craft is making hollow cedar surfboards by hand, one at a time.  True Craft lies on a continuum somewhere between Art and Science.  It requires a balance of both creative talent and mastery of technique.   Not a new concept by any means as the idea of craft reaches as far back as the medieval times.  Industrialization did its best to all but destroy it with its mass production and economies of scale but true Craft persists. 
To some, Craft is viewed as using antiquated techniques to create handmade artifacts, when offshore manufacturers can create similar items in half the time using the latest technology.   But it is in spite of this that these grassroots innovators exist working in sheds, basements and carports all around the World.  Their tenacity is inspiring and it is the similarities between their stories and mine that drives my own endeavours.
There is a simple beauty in the handmade and hand crafted.   We find perfection in that which is imperfect.  Pencil lines, checking, and machine marks give these items a personality, a soul.  It is what makes them stand apart from their mass-produced counterparts. 
Am I standing on a soapbox?  Perhaps I should be.  Be it beer, coffee, skis, surfboards, bikes and snow boards; makers and micro-manufacturers know no boundaries.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More than just a Novelty...

In the 80’s, living just outside Toronto, surfing the Great Lakes was unheard of.  That’s not to say that no-one was doing it or had even attempted it, it’s just that it made no sense, at least to me.  Sailboarding was in its hay day, and why bother trying to surf knee high, wind swell, when flat water and wind was so abundant in Southwestern Ontario.  But today there is an established group of surfers who patiently scour weather forecasts and swell reports waiting to catch some fresh water surf.  Movies such as “Fresh”, “Unsalted” and that kooky scene in “Step into Liquid” have given fresh water surfing some credibility. 

But mention the Great Lakes as being a ‘surfing destination’ and you will get chuckles from the West Coast denizens who cast it off as some sort of ‘novelty’.  But I am all about novelty.  It is for this reason that during my summer trip back to Ontario, I had to find some fresh water waves.  But trying to find any information about where to surf and when it would be good was next to impossible.  It appears as though local knowledge was the key and I had to wait until I was on the ground.  When I arrived in Ontario I checked all the usual swell forecasting tools.  And, as luck would have it there was big swell forecasted on the eastern shores of Lake Huron for about 48 hours after I landed in T.O.  With a few phone calls to old friends and SUP retailer, I narrowed down my location to North Sauble Beach where the Sauble River flows into Lake Huron.  I had a little snag, no surfboard.  I wasn’t prepared to truck one halfway across Canada only to get shut out, so I left them at home.

It turns out, that it truly is easier to find a needle in a haystack than it was to find a rental surfboard in this part of Ontario.  But with my last phone call I found a shop in Sauble Beach that had 2 available for rent.  They were 8 foot Bics but at this point I didn’t care.  So forty five bucks later I stuck this 2 plus 1, funboard in the back of my in-laws corolla and headed for North Sauble.  The guy at the shop, told me the day before was ‘killer’ with locals apparently riding 6’0” fish.  And when I hit the beach the swell was still pumping.  It was randomly breaking all over the place over sandbars, but every now and then a well spaced set of waist high peelers would roll through.  The only thing was is I would have to share the waves with a handful of standup paddlers.  Who’s the pariah now? 

The real ‘novelty’ of surfing the Great Lakes, in August, on the ‘best beach’ in Ontario started to take shape.  The water temperature was a balmy 23 degrees so boardshorts and a rash guard was all I needed.  Sure beats peeling on a 5 mil and booties, like I had to do the previous weekend in Tofino. 

The waves were pretty tight, kind of like surfing the inside of Vancouver Island, another favourite pastime of mine.  So you don’t really have time to grab the rail and turn the board when you see a set roll in so you break the surfer’s code, turn your back to swell and look over your shoulder.  The waves were slow and mushy, but paddling in was never more than three easy strokes and the waves never really broke until the hit the beach.  They just humped up, started to break over one sandbar, but before they actually broke they would flatten a bit, reform and start the whole process over again until they hit the beach.  If you were fortunate enough you could get a 10 second ride in.  

But all good things must come to and end and as the wind started to die down, the waves lost their intensity and I paddled in.  But my 9 year old who had tried surfing in Tofino, but who wasn’t quite ‘hooked’, waded out to me and asked to give it another go.  After a bit of refresher we set out to the deeper water where the waves still had some pop.  The first few I gave him a little push, but after that he got the hang of paddling in and never missed a wave.  Warm water, easy surf, and sunny weather, are apparently the combination required to hook a hesitant 9 year old on the most addictive sport in the world. 

Surfing the Great Lakes may be a novelty to some, but so is surfing the inside of Vancouver Island and now I have done both.  Similar to skiing powder, surfing relies on Mother Nature to create and sustain the resource required to do our sport.  I recently read an article and the author referred to the act of surfing as a ‘privilege’.  Being new to the sport I need to tread lightly.  To call any act of surfing a novelty, no matter how inane it may seem, is an unfair representation of the sport.  All we really need is that feeling you get when you catch a wave, any wave, anywhere.  And that random group of knee high waves in Sauble was all it took to hook a tentative 9 year old.  So novelty or not it was a victory for me. 


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Latest Lumber

Dubbed the ‘Fat Fish’, the Sea Bass is a 6’ 8” twin fin (FCS).   Again Stu and Lana Holmes had a lot of input when I designed the board and I am pretty amped to see this one in the water.

This is the first version of the skimboard designed and hot coated by my 9 year old son.  The coolest thing about this project was how stoked he was to be a part of it.  I turned around briefly when I was done polishing it and he had it set up outside and was shooting pics of it with his own camera.  He later raided my wax stash and I had to tackle him or he would have had it based coated and waxed before I got that shot of it. 

Well I need a break from all this shaping so we are off to Tofino this weekend with a huge crew of people to camp, hangout and of course surf.  I can’t wait to see the latest boards hit the ocean.  Brent’s bringing the camera to capture more footage for the promo video and I am hoping to get some ideas and inspiration for a few more board designs.  I’ll keep you posted….

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Fish Gets Glassed...

That about sums it up.  It's true, one of the two fish I have been working on hit the glassing stands this weekend.  It may have been raining outside but it was a balmy 85 degrees in the shop.  With less than 2 weeks to go before a big surf sesh and demo in Tofino I was relieved to finally tape up the rails and roll out the cloth.  I always get excited when I glass a new board, you never really now how it's going to look and when the epoxy hits the surface the colours and the grain of the wood just explode. 

Brent Curtain showed up and shot the whole thing for the promo video.  He's been great to work with and I can't wait to have footage of us surfing these boards on the West Coast.  We'll keep you posted on when we are gonna launch the video but I imagine it will hit the net in early June. 

I have to say I am pretty stoked about how everything is coming together and can't wait to see more people riding my boards....

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Wood....

I started Splinters Surf as a way for me to design and build a couple of hollow wood surfboards and paddleboards for myself and few friends out of my garage.  But as I got nearer to the end of my first build I knew that this could be something some much bigger than that. Now I could lament about spiritualism, transcending cosmic plains and the transference of a piece of my soul to the board through my chisel.  But I won’t.  Instead I will tell you how cool it was to walk out into Cox bay with this board that I had built from planks of wood, catch the first wave I paddled into and ride back into the beach. 

Growing up I had such a romanticized idea of what I thought a surfboard shaper was, and it wasn’t until last Friday on Cox bay that I actually understood what it meant to shape a surfboard.  I remember when I was younger and my dad appeared in a TV documentary on fly fishing in Canada, called “Lords of the Flies”.  In one of his segments he was discussing how when you tie a trout fly you are able to create the ‘illusion’ of stonefly or dragonfly nymph to the trout you wish to catch.  When you are able to cast a spell on that trout with a fly that you tied with your own hands it somehow becomes this magical experience.  In a similar way, that feeling of being ‘stoked’ when I caught the first wave I paddled for on a board that I shaped with my own hands, was my own ‘magical experience’.

As hokey as it may sound, the thought of being able to build something that could affect those same feelings and experiences for someone else is pretty darn awesome.  Of course the handful of surfers and retailers that caught a glimpse of “Lydia” and asked me ‘How long for delivery?’ is also pretty cool….

So to share the proverbial ‘stoke’ I have designed an entire quiver of hollow wooden boards all of which are in or will be in production by June 2011.    

  • 6’ 8” twin fin fish with a
  • Flat rocker
  • Carries its 2¾” thickness right to the rails

The Kingpin
  • 9’ 0” longboard
  • Performance oriented hull shape changing from concave in the nose to flat through its waist to a mild vee at the tail. 
  • Set up as a 2+1.

  • The original old school, 9’ 6” longboard
  • 60/40 rails
  • Retro hull shape
  • Set-up as a single fin

The Boom Stick
  • An ‘homage’ to the westcoast logging industry
  • 11’ 6” stand-up paddleboard
  • 4” thick and almost 30” across

The Bonfire (designed by my 9 year old son)
  • A low rocker skimboard,
  • made from scraps and off cuts
  • laminated to marine plywood, glassed and polished

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Lydia"....the other woman

Why Lydia you ask?  Well, I was doing my best at impersonating a wallflower at Erin's Christmas party when I overheard her speaking with a group of nurses.  She was commenting at how I spent 'too much time' with the 'surfboard' and referred to it as 'The Other Woman'.  I was stunned, shocked, perhaps even aghast.  I had taken such great care to ensure that it didn't come to this.  I did the dishes, fixed the kids lunches and even cleaned the bathrooms a few times so that my afternoons and evenings spent in the garage wouldn't be miscontrued as trying to avoid time with her.  Besides, I thought it was a great way for me to get out of Erin's hair while she studied.  But there it was, all that was beautiful about this wooden surfboard was dashed upon the rocks.  I felt dirty, the thought that Erin felt this surfboard would replace her.  I had to think quick.  There was no need for Erin to feel threatened by the surfboard.  So I blurted out, "Baby, you don't have to feel threatened by 'Lydia' she's just a friend."  I smiled at her, she rolled her eyes and chuckled, and smiled back.  Who could feel threatened by Lydia.  We didn't know any Lydia's.  I don't know of any movie stars or models named Lydia.  By naming the surfboard Lydia I somehow managed to remove any glamour or sexiness from this so-called 'other woman' therefore removing any guilt I once had with continuing to spend time with her.  But pictures say a thousand words and I think in her own special way she is both glamorous and sexy....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

“The Journey, not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Elliot

In the past I have lamented about the beauty of wood, how it can be shaped, and molded and finished.  I still find it amazing that you can transform a tree into a chair or a salad bowl, or in this case, a surfboard.  But wood is fallible, it can check and warp, snap and burn.  For my brother and his wife they became all too aware of the failings of wood.  Less than two weeks ago, Trevor, and his wife Erin (strange but true), lost everything in a house fire.  Not to worry, they both got out without a scratch, but the shock of losing everything in an instant still lingers.  But with every tragedy, comes hope and eventually happiness.  They have been amazed with the generosity of the people.  Within hours they had donations of furniture, clothes, gift cards and even accommodation.  Later in the week, amidst the rubble and debris both managed to find a few items left relatively unscathed; letters, some scattered photos, and a bamboo fly rod.  Now with insurance they can get new furniture, cutlery and television set, but mementos and keepsakes can never be replaced.  These objects have so much sentiment and emotion attached to them that money just can’t buy.  But tokens of the past serve only to remind us of those events that we felt were important to us or our families, the items themselves had really nothing to the do with the path we took.  Memories of those events are still as strong and as important to our lives as they were when their respective ‘memento’ was sitting on our mantle or hanging on the wall. 
I know that’s the real reason why I loved building this surfboard and can’t wait to build another.  Without sounding too much like Yoda, it’s not the surfboard, but how I got there and the emotion I experienced along the way that was really important.  It’s the look on your faces when you see the board up close that I get a kick out of.  It’s the time I spent with Stu and Lana laboring over the details of board or the late night/early morning when I stripped the clamps off the board with Glen that was really significant. Even last Friday night, when I glassed the board with my wife Erin looking on and counting down the minutes I had left till the epoxy set up was memorable.  I would have to say that the best part about building the board was the time I spent building the board.  So maybe I should build a few more….