THE STATE OF SURFBOARDS
It’s hard to believe that we are already two-and-a-half months into 2013. Last year was certainly a more positive year than the previous couple. The best part about it was how healthy our custom surfboard business was. That trend has carried into the beginning of this year as we’ve seen an incredible number of custom orders come in throughout the 1st Quarter, which is typically a pretty slow time of the year for customs. Now that Daylight Savings Time is here, and there are more hours in the day to surf, I expect to see this trend continue.
Some exciting industry news is the expansion of The Boardroom as it will be held in conjunction with the Vans US Open Of Surfing, from July 23rd-27th. The Boardroom will also be venturing east as they will be co-locating with Surf Expo on September 7th and 8th. The show is a celebration of surfers, surfboard shapers, and the entire surf culture and will feature shaping competitions, seminars, entertainment, autograph signings and hundreds of booths filled with surfboards, legendary as well as contemporary shapers, surf apparel, skate hard-goods and accessory companies. Plus, there will be both a consumer and trade element to the show. This is fantastic news for hard-goods companies looking for exposure to a larger audience.
I hope you enjoy this issue of SHAPES and I wish you all the best as we move into the 2013 season. Take care everyone!
President, Dewey Weber International, Inc.
Chairman, SIMA Board Builder Committee
Board of Director, SIMA
FEATURED BOARD BUILDER, RETAILER: ALMOND FINE SURFINGBOARDS
After an austere decade in surfboard design, the Naughts cautiously ushered in an unabashed — and some would argue careless — era of board building led in large part by the contrasting yet equally as creative minds of Kelly Slater and Tom Wegener. Slater’s 5’11” egg at the 2008 Pipe Masters, which now seems big. Wegener’s alaias under the feet of Rob Machado, which inspired a generation of kids from Southern California to think way beyond 6’1″x18.25×2.25. But beyond their designs, it was both Slater and Wegener’s DIY approach that was the impetus for change. Because of this, today we have surf shops like Almond Surfboards, in Newport Beach, California. Since their humble beginnings just over four years ago, Dave Allee and Griffin Neumann-Kyle have nurtured an innovative vision grounded in historical context — the result being a cutting-edge yet core surf shop that takes a page from the great days of Noll and Velzy.
Shapes: How was the seed for Almond’s unique retail/shaping perspective planted?
Dave Allee: I shaped by first surfboard back in 2006/2007 with no intention of starting a brand. That board was 100 percent balsa with five 1-inch redwood stringers. I spent twelve months on that board, and, upon completion, wanted to shape something that I could actually ride. That was the original seed. As I started to take a closer look at what was taking place, I was beginning to recognize more and more that there were a lot of people doing rad things, but no one was combining them into one singular effort — or at least not in a way that resonated with me. Almond started like anything else: just letting the imagination run wild. The day dreaming began to take shape a bit when I was introduced to Griffin Neumann-Kyle through mutual friend and photo genius, Kyle Lightner. I met Griffin very soon after graduating college, and I was anxious to make something happen. By partnering with Griffin, we could each focus on what we really loved to do: for me that was scheming and dreaming and doodling and talking surfboards; for Griff, it was shaping surfboards with the flexibility of his own schedule and his own playlist.
With Griffin on board, I figured there was no better way to put Almond on the map than to actually put Almond on the map, so I leased a small retail space in my hometown of Newport Beach with little more than youthful optimism and the undying encouragement of family and friends. Those first few months, we used a lot of second-hand furniture to hide the fact we didn’t really have enough product to fill our 500 square feet of newly painted retail space. As time went on the team grew, and we slowly but surely began replacing furniture with racks and displays and inventory.
The intention was always to hit on all the essential product categories that we felt a surf brand should have their hand in. Each season we’ve tried to add a little something else to our program.
Where did the name “Almond” come from?
DA: I loved the word Almond because it has so many uses — it’s a shape, it’s a food, it’s a color … there were plenty of directions to take it. I liked that it has a somewhat organic-vibe to the word. I like the shape of the word, if that makes any sense. So, I fell in love with the name Almond and never looked back.
Talk a bit about the trend in DIY surfboard building. How do you feel it is progressing surfing, shaping, and the surf retail environment?
DA: It only makes sense that the DIY surfboard trend and the “ride everything” attitude would go hand-in-hand. In my opinion, it starts with the longboard guys who are my age; the guys who all looked up to Joel [Tudor]. Take [Alex] Knost for example: he reminded (if not defined) what was possible on a longboard, with his flair and style and mind-boggling quick feet. He took the attitude that longboarding is either a cheap imitation of shortboard moves or something old guys do, and completely turns that on its head. Watch guys like Knost, JJ Wessels, Andy Nieblas, Tyler Warren, Christian Wach, Yuta Sezutsu, Robin Kegel, Harrison Roach … those guys make it as interesting and fun as anyone on any surfboard. Those longboard guys — all the guys who came up after Joel — already had the mindset of “riding anything,” and the whole thing got really validated when it started to influence the top shortboarders. When Kelly and Dane are throwing curveballs in their regular quiver, the movement takes on a different feeling. It’s good for surfing — it pushes surfing, it pushes board design, it gets everyone thinking outside the box.
We’ve been fortunate to get to work with some rather talented surfers with some really unique approaches to riding a wave. That’s really pushed our surfboard design over the last few years. It makes our job more fun to collaborate with them. We’re currently working on a new update to the model we have with Cyrus Sutton … should be a fun one for 2013.
Explain the Almond customer. What is he/she buying. What questions is he/she asking?
DA: Surfboards are definitely the backbone of what we do here at Almond, so most of our customers and shop visitors are coming to look at surfboards and talk surfboards. We have all varieties of surfers coming in. We don’t do a very large volume of boards for beginners — we tend to stick to our guns on our dimensions, for the most part — focusing, whole-heartedly, on the stuff that we believe in. We have had a retail store for just over four years now, so we’ve developed our regular visitors and shop friends. Also, we’re right next door to Yokishop (Jeff Yokoyama), so we have a lot of cross-over with those guys. And lots of great people come by on Wednesdays for Scotty’s Burger Wednesday; that’s probably the highlight of the week as far as visitors goes.
What is your top selling board model and, in your opinion, why?
DA: Best selling board model tends to fluctuate a bit. Most recently, the Joy model has been a pretty-sure thing — it’s our rounded-pin mid-length model. When you only get to surf once or twice a week, it’s nice to grab something and go without having to worry much about whether or not you grabbed the wrong board, and the Joy is great for that.
What foam company do you work with?
DA: We work exclusively with US Blanks. We do 99.9% poly boards; they’re easier to work with, and I much prefer the finished product. US Blanks are good to us, and we’ve been very happy with the service associated with the product.
Any kind of expansion in your future plans?
DA: There are always plans for expansion and organic growth. We’re a boot-strapped business start to finish, so growth is always slow and calculated, which is how we like it. We have a few ideas or collaborations under our hats at all times … keeps it interesting for us and hopefully for our customers, too.
ONE WAVE, THREE BOARDS
Where our featured board builder chooses three of his board models for three unique approaches to one wave
The Wave: An ideal Newport day — we’ll call it a combo swell, because it tends to be much peakier and more playful when there’s some resemblance of a combo swell in the water. So, 4-6 foot combo swell, at the left off the jetty at 36th street.
5’5″ Mailbox — It’s relatively new to our lineup. It’s a Stumpy little twin-fin with a small trailer fin that makes a surprising difference in reducing chatter when you bottom turn, and smoothing out the idealistic roundhouse cutback. The Mailbox has enough tail width to really get moving with a few precise pumps of the board.
7’8″ Cash-Yew — This choice may seems somewhat odd, but…. The Cash-Yew is narrow and straight, so it’s rather lively from the middle of the board, particularly for sliding it heel-to-toe to find the exact line you want to be on. It’s narrow enough to control in the pocket or in a barrel, but glides enough to find its way back to the shoulder when you creep your weight forward a bit. It likes a high line; I’ve never been into displacement hulls, but I like the idea of surfboards that trim and glide really fast, and the Cash-Yew is geared that way, without all the excess width and thickness.
Quadkumber — It’s been a favorite; it’s probably the most tried-and-true shortboard in our lineup for pushing vertical and surfing more top to bottom. Our Aussie team rider, Simon Patchett, took his 5’6″ Quadkumber to Sumatra last year and went nuts. It falls somewhere between a shortboard and a twin-fin fish.
Conclusion: Three totally different ways to approach the wave: lateral with the Mailbox; more-down the line with the Cash-Yew; or more vertical with the Quadkumber. To each his own … that’s what makes this whole surfboard pursuit so fun — there’s certainly no right answer, just the right board with the right mind-set on the right day.