The surf industry’s power might be derived from apparel sales, but its soul still resides among the hundreds of shapers and glassers who work long hours in miserable conditions making products with hardly any margins.
As a group, they’re critical to a surf shop’s business, but they lack a unified voice at the very time new challenges threaten how they do business — challenges that could have implications for surf shops as well. Overseas production, permitting and regulation standardization, the inability of many shapers to provide their employees with medical insurance — shapers and glassers face all these issues and more.
But in the last few months there’s been significant progress to unify this disparate group of business rivals under a single umbrella organization. Spearheaded by Surf Hardware’s Tyler Callaway and Futures Curtis Hesselgrave, the first Board Builders meeting occurred February 3 at the ASR show.
“Having worked with the SIA Snowsports Industries America and having seen what they do for their members, I saw it as a travesty that the board builders weren’t being supported,” says Callaway. “The whole industry is built on the cornerstone of people who push resin and foam. Curtis Hesselgrave tried to organize a board builders group ten years ago, but we never could get the support we needed. But I believe SIMA when they say they want to provide a backbone to the Board Builders group. Terry McCann knows how to get things done and work with people.”
It appears the Board Builders group got exactly that type of backbone on March 15, when the Surf Industries Manufacturers Association Board of Directors approved the creation of and mission statement for a board builders Special Interest Group (SIG) within SIMA.
“SIMA was impressed with the desire of the board builders to play a more active role in the industry and help contribute to some of the key issues the industry faces,” says SIMA Executive Director Terry McCann. “That is the role of an association, to represent the interests of the industry as a whole.”
But SIMA did have to overcome some skepticism at the first meeting. “The board builders think it’s a good idea and have for years,” says Hesselgrave. “At first they were a little skeptical of SIMA for not doing anything for years, but if SIMA steps up to the plate I think we’ll find 110-percent support. But the ball has really been passed over to those guys, and we’re waiting to see what happens. Ten years ago they approached us, but there wasn’t any follow through. I think this time will be different.”
Callaway says the need for such a group is great. “Just look at the last ASR show,” he says. “There were only five pure surfboard companies who exhibited — the rest of them also had some type of apparel business. The industry will be a lot stronger if more surfboard builders attend the show and are grouped together.”
McCann is in complete agreement: “Without surfboard builders, there is no surf industry.” He says the benefits of the Board Builders SIG will be numerous for the shapers, glassers, and bodyboard manufacturers who get involved. “There are more than twelve different benefit providers — or SIMA partners — that offer discounts and services to board builders that can help them run their businesses more effectively and efficiently. SIMA partners range offer significant discounts on everything from shipping to office supplies to insurance to credit services to legal services.”
According to McCann, these services will quickly offset the 250-dollar-per-year dues structure. For more information on the Board Builders SIG, contact SIMA at: (949) 366-1164.