We wanted to grill two of the most popular acronyms (M.B. and J.C.) and respected shapers in the industry. Thanks to international rider support, their labels and boards have been seen in surf shops and surf publications around the world. Based out of Oceanside, California (M.B). and Haleiwa, Hawai’i (J.C.), they also can be seen as shaping figureheads for their respective areas
TransWorld SURF Business: How many years have you been shaping?
Michael Baron: I’ve been shaping for 30 years.
John Carper: I’ve been shaping for about 30 years. I started when I was two.
TransWorld SURF Business: What separates your shapes from others?
Michael Baron: What differs my shapes from others is that I use a planer along with input from surfers worldwide. Being a surfer/shaper enables me to customize the boards for the surfer or spot needed.
John Carper: The difference between my boards and others is that they are mine, which may sound redundant, but that is precisely the difference. Out of thousands of design choices, it’s impossible for two shapers to come up with the same designs, so it’s really a matter of how I see it and then apply it to the complete design. There are so many choices. I like to design a board that is a bit ahead of the surfer, so they can be challenged, but not so far ahead that they get discouraged. My goal is to make a board that does what the surfer wants without him having to think about it, so there can be a spontaneous interaction between the surfer and the wave. The board should merely be a tool — or perhaps an instrument.
TransWorld SURF Business: What kind of shaping advances do you foresee in the future?
Michael Baron: The surfing the youth and Slater are doing today will dictate the designs for the future and I’m sure that computer programs will improve within the next ten years.
John Carper: Hopefully we’ll continue to have as many advances in the next ten years as the last ten years. As long as surfers continue to support shapers and designers, allow them the flexibility to experiment, and don’t yield to peer pressure or overemphasize conformity. Sometimes it’s the mistakes that open up the doors to the future.
TransWorld SURF Business: Will materials improve?
Michael Baron: There are improved materials, but pricepoints limit us. If surfboard manufacturers would just group together, we’d have the ability to buy large amounts of improved materials at lower prices.
John Carper: If the price of high-tech materials and the labor required to use them would be more reasonable, and if surfers were a bit more open-minded, we could already have much better boards. There are some interesting new things out there and we will have a lot of fun playing with them.
TransWorld SURF Business: How can pricing change to give both shapers and retailers more profits?
Michael Baron: Profits? Everybody simply needs to raise their prices.
John Carper: I won’t bore everyone with the “old shaper’s tale of woe” about a low profit margin on a surfboard, but we continually look for ways to be more efficient and realize that nobody said life is fair. Anybody that gets into the surfboard business to get rich is either a fool or looking for a way to launder money. This has to be a labor of love and if one works hard, there is a reasonable compensation. Sort of.
TransWorld SURF Business: By what means do you promote your label?
Michael Baron: I do promotions through ads, videos, team riders, board giveaways, promos, shaping tours, and word of mouth from surfers.
John Carper: I like to work with professional surfers. I kind of fancy myself as part of the pit crew for an Indy 500 race and actually like the pressure. I can change tires real fast. It’s almost as good as being out there myself. Sometimes if I feel like spending thousands of dollars, I’ll run an ad in the magsógreat for my ego. Most of all, I’ve found that a good board sells another one, and another one, and another one, etcetera.
TransWorld SURF Business: How important are fins and the number of them?
Michael Baron: Fins are very important. You need one fin for sure, two if you want to skate, and three for today’s surfing.
John Carper: Fins? I prefer three, kind of like the trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three seems to be a good number. Plus, Simon Anderson is still my hero.
TransWorld SURF Business: How critical is team feedback?
Michael Baron: Team feedback is the most important thing in surfing today and tomorrow.
John Carper: Absolutely essential. But, it’s also important to get feedback from the average surfers as well as my own. I find that feedback usually comes in the form of criticism, which may be uncomfortable to me, but goes with the territory.
TransWorld SURF Business: Do you feel a lot of shapers shape but don’t surf? Is that an advantage to you?
Michael Baron: Well, there are very good craftsmen out there and then there are computer shapers. I know as a surfer, it’s very important for a shaper to try different designs and know the feeling and feel the difference. See you in the water.
John Carper: I can’t imagine why a shaper wouldn’t surf. There are a lot of better ways to make a buck and being able to justify a surf when you ought to be working is, to me, the number-one fringe benefit of being a shaper. My wife still falls for it.
But seriously, it may be absolutely essential for a shaper to surf because shaping is probably more a matter of skills and craftsmanship. I feel it’s essential for a designer, lest they lose touch with what they’re designing, and just start making “white things.” I admit, I have always had a bias against people in the surf industry who don’t surf, but then I guess someone has to do the real work. One thing for sure, a lot of shaping sure takes a toll on one’s surfing. Fortunately for me, I’m still a “living legend in my own mind.” I surf quite often, and I get reminded of just why I do this.