Animal print is so in for 2023
Kelly Slater and Merrick. Jon Florence and Jon Pyzel. Mick Fanning and Darren Handley. Joel Parkinson and JS. Nearly all the World Titles won in surfing have been underpinned by a surfer/shaper relationship. However, few are as unique as the one between Gabriel Medina and Johnny Cabianca. The Brazilian-born, Basque Country-based Cabianca shaped Medina’s first ever surfboard, and from the age of 15 has supplied all his quiver for his professional surfing career and three World Titles.
And yet Cabianca might be the lowest profile shaper to the world’s most high-profile surfer. He prefers a sander to social media and has a philosophy of quality over quantity. Yet from his Cabianca Surfboards factory in Zarautz, Spain he has been pumping out boards that have been integral to Medina’s success and for happy customers all over the world.
With the J-Bay Open starting this week, Wavelength scored an exclusive as Johnny had just finished Medina’s fresh batch of surfboards before they were shipped to South Africa. We talked to him about the boards, the unique sprays, and where the 3X World Champion’s head is at.
Hi Johnny, let’s talk about the sprays. They look pretty wild if you will pardon the pun.
It was Gabriel’s idea. At the start of the year, he had some ideas for sprays that involved the sun, the moon, and the solar system, which he used at the Surf Ranch. Then for the J-Bay comp, he wanted African animals as a motif. We have the facility to digitally print the images on two-ounce fiberglass cloth, which doesn’t affect the performance. So it was something a little different, and we are pretty happy with them.
And the boards themselves; what are the models and dimensions?
They are all the DFK model, the performance model we always use for Gabe. There is a 5’11” and a few 6’0″, 6’1″, 6’2″ and he has two 6’3s”, which he would only use if the surf is maxing. The volume of the boards start around 29 litres, and are 19” wide and 2” 1/2’ thick. The only outlier is a new channel bottom. His new coach Andy King thought that could add some extra velocity, so he will try that out and see if it works. That’s a six- footer.
Has Gabe’s boards changed much, say from the quiver you made him for Jeffreys Bay the time he competed and won back in 2019?
The year’s quiver has more volume and a little bit lower rails, but everything else was pretty similar. This year he is keen to try a few new higher volumes, as even though he has lost a little weight, he is way stronger. He’s been working out a lot, and the added strength means he can cope with more volume and throw even more spray.
And how has Gabe been feeling and surfing this year, after taking some time off in 2022?
At the beginning of the year, he wasn’t sure exactly what the judges wanted. It wasn’t only him, many coaches and surfers were in the same boat. However he’s adjusted to the criteria and worked it out to an extent, so now he’s just trying to finish strong.
He has been working with a new coach Andy King, who helped Mick Fanning in his World Title years, how has that worked out?
Andy was great in terms of helping with the criteria business, but he has also made sure Gabriel hasn’t lost the enjoyment and happiness that he’s always had competing. Andy has also focused on the clean, power surfing that Gabe loves, so they are working well as a unit.
And Gabriel’s goals for the year?
Gabe wants to make the WSL Finals, but Olympic qualification is probably the real goal. It’s not easy with just two Brazilians getting in, but he will fight to the end. He’s happy right now with good friends and he’s being far more social, which I think is healthy for him.
And what about you Johnny, what are your hopes and dreams?
I just try and hold my side of the bargain up and make the best possible boards for Gabriel that suit his surfing and let him show his incredible talent. Then my focus is just making the best boards I can for all my customers here in the Basque country and all over the world. If I do that, I’m happy.