The next time you see your surfboard shaper, please give them a hug¿they need your support. You see, shapers are master craftsmen. In any other industry, they’d be revered not only for their experience, but also for their artistry. Surfers take advantage of this. Every time you go to a surf shop and think the boards are over-priced, think again¿we’re getting away with robbery. Surfboards are extremely underpriced for the amount of experience and work going into them. For every board purchased, shapers only earn pennies, so we’d better enjoy this while we can. Chas Wickwire is a great shaper who surfs very, very well and has a big family to support.A few years ago, Chas had to work overtime so he could market his brand and let the world know what people in Orange County, California already knew¿that he shapes incredible surfboards. After busting his ass to pay for advertising, and missing time with his kids, he gave up. He’s still a shaper, but now he just focuses on shaping and not all the bullshit that usually comes with it. Chas is the perfect example of why we need to pay homage to shapers¿they work for peanuts, and it’s all for the love of the sport.¿A.C.
How many years have you been shaping? I started shaping professionally in 1987. I’ve shaped about 13,000 boards.
If a young surfer walks into your shaping room and is maybe on his first, second, or third board, what kind of advice would you have for him? Probably the biggest thing is to come in and talk to me about your surfing needs, what your strengths are, and your surfing. A lot of people seem to get caught up in numbers that really don’t make sense, especially from shaper to shaper. My eighteen-and-a-half-inch wide, two-and-a-quarter-inch thick, high-performance surfboard is gonna be a thousand miles away from Joe Blow who shapes next door. It’s probably because we’re all different. When dealing with any reputable shaper¿hopefully, I’m considered one of those¿tell what your specific needs are so that can be translated into the designs that are used and so forth.
What’s the future for your shapes or surfboards in general? At this point, it looks like refinement of current stuff. There’s been such an explosion of people being open-minded to a huge variety of different designs, which has helped everyone from the hot little twelve-year-old kid to the 45-year-old guy who’s riding a mini log. It’s using everything that’s going on and translating that into the needs of who you’re making the surfboard for.
Who’s your favorite shaper? Most of the people I’ve dealt with have just been people I’ve shared space with, or people who I’ve grown up with. From a craftsman standpoint, Rich Harbour’s unparalleled. I banter a lot with Tim Stampson. I’ve thrown a lot of ideas back and forth with him¿he’s a really good Northern Orange County surfer and shaper. You gotta respect Al Merrick just because he’s the king, and Rusty Preisendorfer from the marketing standpoint. It’s the guys at my level. I think they’re the shapers who are most admired¿shaping boards and in the trenches. That’s where the evolution’s coming from, guys like us.
What do you think will change a person’s view toward appreciating the fine craftsmanship of shaping a surfboard? I don’t think we’re ever gonna get through to the guys who have marketing strength¿we’ll never be on that level. Hopefully, the public will become more educated and have a better understanding of what their needs are and how they can obtain them. A guy like me who shapes 1,000 or 1,500 boards a year, and does it all himself is gonna have an advantage serving the clientele’s specific needs because we’re dealing with the clientele on a more personal level. Hopefully, the consumer will take a look at what he or she needs and how they can communicate with their shaper to get that information.
You’re an extremely competitive surfer. How iimportant is that for you when you walk into a shaping room? That’s my biggest asset because I’m in the trenches, I’m surfing at a high level. I’m trying not to make that sound boastful, but I think it gives me an advantage to where I can make design adjustments and see a real tangible change. I can fine-tune what I have based on my ability to go out and ride it and feel it at a high level. Someone getting second- or third-hand knowledge shapes a board for a hot pro surfer, and the pro comes back and says, “We’ll, it feels like that.” That’s great, the shaper can hear what that feels like, but I can go out and know what that feels like because I’m feeling it.