Matt Biolas – Experimentation – 4.5

Experimentation: most surfers don’t have the money, the will, or the relationship with a shaper to play around with different designs that in the end make them a better surfer-they should try. In the creative mind of Matt Biolas lies a theory that everyone should find what’s right for them, not Kelly Slater or Bruce Irons. One page isn’t enough to pick the mind of a shaper whose theories are the ones that have helped surfers like Cory Lopez achieve superstar status.-A.C.

TransWorld SURF: You have one of the most progressive teams around, what can you do to help them launch higher or do the things they do?Matt Biolas: Not one person on my team has ever asked me to make them a surfboard to do airs-bottom line. Aaron Cormican never comes to me and says, “I want a board to do airs.” I’ve said it before, but if you’re watching one of your teamriders and all he’s doing is airs, it usually means he doesn’t like the board. What guys want is a board that feels like an extension of themselves, so it’s not even there, and they can go anywhere they want on a wave and finish it off with an air. I don’t like the term “air guys,” I’m not into the air-show contests, and I think it just takes the creativity out of airs doing it in that format.

What’s wrong with the shaping world?What’s dragging shaping and designs are the top surfers. Because the biggest companies, teamriders are top 44 guys or guys trying to qualify, and we’re making boards for them to do good in contests on, and it’s making a bland, consistent board. Everybody’s boards right now are more alike than they ever have been before. And that’s kind of lame, but that’s because everybody’s teamriders just want to make it through some heats. At the same time, they end up being the best boards anyway. Everybody’s making the best boards that have ever been made. When Chris Ward and Cory Lopez were teenagers, we threw them on the fish, and they got crazy on them for a couple years. We still sell a ton of fish boards to the market because they’re great for avid surfers-they’re fun to ride. Kids today, -sixteen, seventeen-year-old kids who are ripping-don’t want anything to do with it. They just want a perfect little squash tail-they’re afraid it’ll the fish shape hurt their surfing.

Should kids experiment? Does messing with different designs and shapes improve their surfing?It makes you a better surfer. You ride different boards, you can jump from different boards, it might not make you a better contest surfer, but it’ll make you better at riding waves-you have more fun if you have the right equipment for the right waves. You want to talk about the kids reading the magazines, f-k, they should have a fat little fishy board to ride the one-foot, sloppy days when they’re hanging out at the beach with all their friends instead of running around the city doing stupid shit-keep them in the water. We can talk about making boards for pro surfers all day long, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t help the average surfer all that much.

What three things would you advise any upcoming shaper to do?One, if a thousand guys started shaping around the time I did, maybe one or two would’ve had a successful business like we have. Maybe twenty percent would end up as a production shaper working day in and day out, getting paid board by board, not making a lot of money, and not surfing that much. It’s not an easy way to make a lot of money, and it’s not a surefire way to keep surfing all the time. If you’re creative and you’re talented, it can be rewarding and can take you around the world.