Surfboard building is unlike any other trade – there’s no formal training or trade schools. Hand shaping surfboards breeds a culture all its own, interconnecting generations with knowledge and tradition passed down from one to the next. Techniques are often unique to each shaper and refined over time, and eventually given to someone else to progress knowledge. Mentorships, which often spring from within intimate circles in shaping bays or sanding rooms, have mostly been a benefit of the guys-only club. It can be a tough one to break into.
“Have you ever used a power tool?” was the first response I received when I expressed interest in shaping a board to my friend, who I deeply admired as a surfer and shaper. It’s not uncommon for women to face challenges of legitimacy in trade jobs, but often the biggest hurdle for women in surfboard shaping is simply picking up the planer for the first time.