Next week Wavelength is teaming up with Campus Skateboarding and Bristol Beer Factory for the very first Bristol Board Shapers Expo, taking place at Campus POOL, 11-12th April.
You’ll be able to meet with a collection of shapers to talk anything from concave to fin placement, as well as check out a live wooden board building demo, a ding repair drop off service, Q&As and more. If you’re in Bristol and want to get involved, there are a limited number of free tickets remaining here.
Ahead of the Expo, I caught up with some of the key crew involved from both the local skate and surf scenes.
On the skate side of the table we had Andre Seidel, founder of Campus Skateboarding and Nic Chappell, Core Skateboard Manager at Shiner Distribution, who rep skate brands including Santa Cruz and Arbor Skateboards.
Surfing and skateboarding have had a chequered past – at times as smooth as a long-period offshore swell or freshly tarmacked hill; others as choppy as a howling onshore beach break or a stray stone under an unsuspecting truck.
Rewind to the early 70s in Southern California, and things were looking peachy. The Zephyr skate team were shredding empty pools on land and surfing great waves in the water, with a convergence of styles that naturally flowed together.
Fast-forward to the late 90s and early 00s and surfing and skating couldn’t have been further apart. An anti-establishment, antisocial, skate and destroy skateboard scene was a stark contrast to the clean cut, bleach blonde, over-commercialised surf industry.
So, where are we now? Well, firstly, a surfboard shaper’s expo at a skatepark…what gives?
What’s the story behind the Bristol Board Shapers Expo?
AS: I went for a surf at The Wave and I bumped into three or four Campus regulars who I had no idea surfed.
Every surf since I’d be bumping into more and more crew from the core skate scene. I’m not sure whether it’s an age thing, but it seems that a lot of the older skaters have started surfing in recent years.
Because water’s softer than concrete?
AS: Ha – maybe!
NC: It was the Monster Children Team Average trip that got me back into surfing. Dylan Rieder, Dane Reynolds, Craig Ando, Austyn Gillette and for me, that was the first time that I saw a collective of surfers and skaters going together. It was such a good trip that me and some friends ended up doing our own surf / skate trip off the back of it.
But back then I wouldn’t really see anyone else from the skateboard scene in the water, which is not the case anymore – in the past few years skaters are showing up more and more.
AS: Yep, I’m definitely turning up and seeing more skaters in the water, but it’s not something we ever speak about together as skaters.
So what, secret surfers?!
NC: Yeah, basically.
Is the secret surfer thing a hangover from the fact that surfing sold out pretty hard in the ‘00s whereas the skate scene managed to stay core?
NC: Yeah, for sure!
AS: The big brands have their surf range and they have their skate range and there’s no crossover. You don’t have a big Quik or Billabong logo splashed across the front of your t-shirt as a skater.
NC: But I’ve been bumping into more and more people from the skate scene in the water, and now there’s way more people I know who are surfing which is awesome!
Obviously with The Wave opening it’s just gone from strength to strength, and now the core skate crew, the biggest rippers, are asking me what board they need to be riding if they want to start surfing.
Do you think that the intricacies in surfboard design versus the relative ease of picking a skateboard off the rack creates a barrier for people wanting to get into, or to progress their surfing?
AS: I came into this whole thing from that exact standpoint. I heard about Bristol having shapers and I’m keen to improve my surfing and know what board I should be riding, but I felt so intimidated by the thought of trying to find a shaper!
In setting up this event that was the ultimate goal for me. You can walk in the room, informally chat to 5 or 6 different shapers and make an informed decision from there with no pressure.
So, shapers, what can people expect from coming down to the event at meeting you guys?
DD: I tend to start with questions about what board people are currently riding; what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, where they’re at and where they want to be, and go on a journey with them like that.
There’s a whole generation of surfers now who are just Googling everything. One of the problems with the industry now is that all of the information put out there is soundbitey, it’s all done by marketing departments, not by makers.
So I think there’s a lot of people out there who probably have less information than the need to objectively make a decision on what they should be riding. They have just enough to get themselves into trouble, if that makes sense?
So, I try and switch the conversation and ask lots of questions to find out what they really need.
RL: Yeah, for sure. I’ll try and figure out how they want to progress their surfing. It might be they want to surf faster, looser or to overcome a specific issue.
From there we can go deep into fin placement, fin set up, size, bottom contours, nose rocker – the list goes on!
There’s definitely been a shift in terms of UK surfers riding more user-friendly crafts these days, as opposed to a standard thruster or shortboard. What do you think is behind the resurgence of twin fins, quads and alternative shapes?
RL: I think that’s from education. There’s a lot more info out there now that informs people about why more volume or a flatter board is better, rather than just a shiny product in a very shiny rack that draws you in.
DD: I’ve just got back from a trip back home to Oz and I saw the same thing there. I think there’s really been a movement where people are waking up to the realisation that ‘I’m not seeded on the world tour, so why do I need to ride the same board as John John or Kelly – I just want to have fun!’
And I guess that range in options when it comes to equipment is a big difference between surf and skate?
AS: In skateboarding technology hasn’t moved on. We’re still riding Canadian maple wood pressed together in the classic popsicle shape…
NC: We made the best skateboard back in the early 90s, there’s no point adding to it. The gimmicks that have come in since the 90s don’t work – they’re just for show.
AS: Until the Surfskate?!
Which leads us onto the burning question – should we all be riding Surfskates now, or are we exposing ourselves to a whole heap of derision from the likes of Sterling Spencer and Raglan Surf Report?!
DD: That video, I was in stitches! So I actually got a Surfskate in lockdown and all my skater mates wind me up and tease me about wiggling around the streets. But it’s been really fun, even though I absolutely slammed for so long, and it’s definitely helped improve my surfing.
With all these sports, repetition is the key to progress, and with skating it’s much easier, you have a bowl and it sits there. Surfing’s not like that, when you’re in the moment and the adrenaline is pumping you’re not thinking, ‘right, I’ve got to focus on my form – you’re thinking chase the section, hit the lip, go, go, go!’
I’ve found the Surfskate so good for that as you just have to find a bowl or a flat bit of ground and you can stop and focus on building muscle memory and form. I remember getting back in the water after the first lockdown, having not surfed for three months and all of a sudden my turns were way better, I was faster down the line – it actually, objectively improved my surfing.
AS: Wow – you’re selling it to me!
Maybe that’s the answer then. We all need to step onto a Surfskate – it’ll improve our surfing and bring surfing and skateboarding back together in perfect harmony!
Come down to meet the guys, including six Bristol surfboard shapers and try out one of Arbor’s new Shaper Series Surfskates, at the Bristol Board Shapers Expo. There are a limited number of free tickets remaining, available here.