The outline of a hand-shaped surfboard is drawn directly on the foam using a rigid template as a guide so the left and right rail curves match. Templates – like an enormous set of French curves – lean nearby, out of the way and they all have names. Often it’s a surfboard model or the name of another shaper – once in a while a template will have the ultimate distinction: the name of the surfer for whom the board was designed. The outline curve of the surfboard is drawn all at once – five or six feet at at time and the sound the pencil makes on the rough, skinned blank has a kind of resonance. It’s not like drawing on paper – the sound travels through the foam with a shearing hiss – like ten feet of silk being torn, or maybe a breaking wave. That sound is unusual and specific: if you can hear it, you’re having a board made. If you hear that sound in Lance Carson’s shaping room, you’re in the sacristy of the high church of surfing where experience, art and dexterity all come together.
Lance Carson not only shaped boards for the the best surfers in the world – he was one of them. Skip Frye told me once: Lance owned the nose. For generations of surfers, the name Lance Carson was synonymous with Malibu and his boards – particularly the big pintails – are at home in long point waves, but there’s more to it than that: the big pintails are goddamned beautiful. Achingly beautiful. Pure art.