In The Shaping Room

The Shaper Series - Larry Mabile

Larry Mabile in the shaping room, San Diego California

Inland – far from the bright, sunny beaches where everybody surfs – is another world where surfboards are made. Surfboards are beautiful, clean sculptural objects. Surfboard factories are not. A surfboard factory usually has a small front office with battered furniture. Scattered piles of dog-eared surf magazines sit covered in a fine layer of polyurethane dust. Just down the hall, racks of unshaped foam blanks wait to be roughed out. There will be glassing racks splattered with bright catalyzed resin; bolts of fiberglass will be wall mounted and the air will be heavy with the scent of polyurethane resin. But the heart of the surfboard factory – the heart of surfing itself is the shaping room.

A shaping room is a small, controlled area where a shaper sculpts foam, by hand, into a finished surfboard. The rooms themselves are tiny: usually eighteen feet by seven or eight feet wide. Side lighting is essential so a set of longitudinal florescent fixtures will be wall mounted at waist level. In that respect almost all shaping rooms are the same, but that’s where the similarities end. Shapers are individualists – no two will pick the same wall color or rack height; no two will use the same tools or have the same templates. No two will start or finish a surfboard exactly the same way.

The way surfboards are made is changing. Computer numerated cutting machines are common and now most of the boards you can buy in a surf shop or at the mall are created via digital software or mass-produced in Asia. A small number of die hards continue to shape boards by hand, one at a time, but every year that number dwindles as the overhead and costs of making a board by hand diminishes the profit margin. Pictured here is Larry Mabile in his San Diego shaping room –  part of The Shaper Series.

About John Durant

Professional photographer in California
This entry was posted in California, Mabile Surfboards, Panorama, Portrait, San Diego, surfboards, surfing, Third World Exotic. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s