Eric Arakawa

Hawai’ian Island Creations has a long history of incredible surfboards and some incredible shapers producing them. On a small island with millions of good shapers, North Shore resident Eric Arakawa always seems to be in demand. The shaper for top ASP surfers such as Andy Irons and Shane Beschen, you could definitely learn from a guy like him. This interview with Eric was done on the North Shore of O’ahu this past December.-A.C.

How long have you been shaping?
Since ’74.

What made you get into it?
Lack of funds to buy boards. It was just a means of saving money for myself. I was only fourteen years old, and back then a brand-new board cost 100 to 120 bucks a board. For a fourteen year old, it was tough to come up with that kind of cash. I decided I was gonna save some money and build myself some boards.

Who are the top surfers you make boards for?
Andy Irons, Shane Beschen, Braden Dias, and a few of the touring pros.

In terms of guys like Andy or Shane, what are some of the more important points they stress to you when it comes to ordering a board?
Andy’s still developing knowledge and articulating what he wants, so basically the feedback from him and his demands are that he just wants a magic board. Shane is better at articulating what he feels and what he wants. It’s refreshing to work with Shane because he knows how to communicate what he feels-most surfers in this generation don’t. There’re a couple of reasons why they don’t: there’s so much more money in the industry, and the tour’s so much more expensive that there’s not as much time to work with a shaper-at least that’s the general excuse. Before that, say in the previous generation of pros, there seemed to be a much more recognized value in working with a shaper. To be fair, the pros weren’t touring as far and as long as they are now.

In your opinion, what’s the best way for a surfer to figure out and translate what he wants to any shaper?
The best way is very basic-establish a relationship with your shaper. You have a starting point, you have to establish that. You have a shaper help you interpret what you feel in the beginning. The more you start to understand the way a board works-the fundamentals and basic hydrodynamics-then you can start making interpretations yourself. Otherwise you’re just going, “I feel this, I think it’s this, the board’s stiff, or the board’s too loose.” I’ve been taken down wild-goose chases due to miscommunication from teamriders telling me this. I’ve made the mistake of doing the opposite of what the surfer needed just because there was a gap in communication.

Should kids shape their own boards to get a better understanding of how a board works?
I had preconceived notions of what made boards work in the beginning-I was fourteen years old. It wasn’t until I hooked up with another shaper who went over some basic fundamentals of board design, and that just got me going. Educating yourself is definitely a possibility, but my advice to the groms is to establish a relationship with a shaper, pick his brain, tell him what you’re feeling, ask him questions, and ask him ways he can interpret how you feel.

Do think your shaping grows from day to day?
It may not be day to day-it comes in phases. Hopefully it’s an upward curve. A lot of times it becomes three steps forward, two steps back-that’s one of the inherent things with board design. I guess with any kind of design aspect, you experiment and it doesn’t work. You get set back and you come back to the drawing board, but hopefully you’re progressing. That happens so you don’t know until you try, and sometimes your mistakes become really valuable lessons and help to set you back on track.

Where do you see your shaping going in the next five, ten, twenty years?
I wish you could tell me that. I’m using a shaping machine, most of the top board builders in the industry are using one or have been. I’m working with a CAD sysstem-it’s revolutionized my business and the way I approach surfboard design. It’s a lot more systematic, more consistent-it’s carries surfboard design up to pace with modern technology.For example, I’ll do a board for Shane, and he’ll say the board works great, but he wants more concave. I’ll pull up the file, look the board up on the computer, and I’ll keep all the things but one-the concave. It keeps everything constant, it’s not a hit and miss thing. If we can use that technology in pushing the envelope out, then the surfers are going to benefit. We’re gonna start seeing more and more shapers employing the technology that’s been available to us for years.