This Friday, Diamond Glassing, a beloved surfboard glassing shop in San Diego, will close its doors forever. Over the four decades of its existence, Diamond became an institution of San Diego surf culture where resin and fiberglass sheathed the shapes of Skip Frye, Stu Kenson, Dan Mann, Rusty Preisendorfer, Hank Warner and Joel Tudor, among many notable names. When customers saw the diamond-shaped logo placed on boards glassed there, they knew they could expect good work.
So why is the shop, where so much glass was cut and resin kicked, shutting its doors forever?
As Tudor explained in a since-deleted Instagram post, he thinks it’s because of the offshoring of surfboard manufacturing done by some of the biggest names in the industry. “Another one down to China,“ the longboard icon wrote on Instagram Monday afternoon in a post that garnered more than 1,000 likes and scores of comments before being deleted. “I’m guilty of supporting that shit at one time …glad I quit doing it…pretty much death to backyard builders,” he wrote. By Tuesday morning, Tudor had taken the post down from his account, but his words continued to reverberate through the local surf community.
Tudor didn’t mince words in fingering who he feels is responsible for the loss. Tagging Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian and Tomo Surfboards, he let loose, writing: “Hope y’all are proud of what is happening as a result of the world’s best surfers getting behind this China-made garbage – slow death to the very thing that gave us all a job [sic].”
Tudor’s remarks fueled a storm of comments, with many agreeing on the importance of buying surfboards from local manufacturers. Mike Jacobs, a surfboard shaper in Hawaii and grandson of Hap Jacobs, chimed in telling Tudor that he will have to close his own shop soon. “Business has taken a huge dive since Slater Designs started pumping um out. Everyone wants what Kelly is shredding. And why buy a mid length when you can get one at your local Costco then return it when it snaps.”
But plenty of other people, some in the Instagram comments, some outside of social media, paint a picture more complex than manufacturing migrating overseas.
“There are plenty of glass shops in San Diego that are alive and well. But if you mismanage any business it will suffer. This one’s been mismanaged for years,” Bird Huffman, owner of Bird’s Surf Shed in San Diego, who worked at the Diamond facility in Miramar for several years, told me. “It wasn’t the quality of the work, that was on par with anyone I’ve worked with,” he said.
“I love Joel dearly. He’s a good friend of mine, but I think in this case he’s pointing the finger in the wrong direction.” Huffman characterized FireWire as a homegrown surf company built on innovative technology. “They’re not somebody who’s all about building cheaper surfboards.” The proliferation of mass-market soft-top surfboards has hurt the shaping and glassing industry more than overseas production, he added.
The announcement that the business would close came suddenly from owner Bob Boche earlier this month, San Diego shaper Hank Warner told The Inertia. In recent times, Diamond Glassing has produced up to 100 boards per week.
Diamond Glassing did not return a request for comment; neither did FireWire Surfboards.
Warner, whose brother-in-law once owned the business, says the industry has taken some lickings from the offshoring Tudor blamed, but it’s a relatively small factor. “Diamond Glassing’s closing is maybe 10 percent from that,” he said.
“There’s definitely been an impact with the overseas building of boards, but Diamond Glassing closed because the owner wanted to bail out,” Warner said. “It was a personal decision. It had nothing to do with the industry.”