Matt Biolos in the shaping bay.

Matt Biolos in the shaping bay.

The Inertia

Matt Biolos was 17 years old and living on his parents’ boat in Dana Point Harbor when he decided to shape his first surfboard. It was May or June of 1987. He shaped it in his friend’s garage, right on Golden Lantern, above the harbor.

“I bought the blank from Surfside sports in Newport beach, the old location. They’d sell blanks upstairs,” Matt remembers. He took the blank back to the garage, where his friend had a copy of Essential Surfing, by George Orbelian. George was the Surfboard Design Editor for SURFING Magazine, and his book outlined step-by-step how a board was designed, along with examples from the top shapers of the time. “I kind of followed the steps and hacked out this board,” says Matt. “It was pretty crooked and rudimentary.”

The board was a thruster with glass-on fins. Matt painted it with a torn-up sponge, a trick he had learned in high school art class. He dipped the sponge in orange, yellow, and red paint and dabbed it all around the rails.

Then he drew a logo on a piece of tracing paper. The logo was also the name of the board. It said “Ratz Ass” in black, swooping punk rock-style lettering with an orange drop-shadow. “Like Stussy,” says Matt. “Like a punk-rock, sarcastic version of a new-wave ’80s surfboard logo.” He thought the tracing paper would work like rice paper, but it didn’t.

The Orbelian book also detailed how glass a board, but Matt had seen his friend shape boards in that garage for years and the way those amateur glass jobs had come out. “I thought that the glassing is what made the board look so much less professional or good or clean than a store-bought board, so I remember literally getting the Yellow Pages and looking through for surfboard factories,” he says.

He found Surf Glass, a factory in San Juan Capistrano. It’s not there anymore, but it was 100 yards from The Coach House, a concert venue. Matt called them up and asked if they could glass the Ratz Ass for him. “Yeah, bring it down, we’ll glass it for you,” said the voice on the other end of the line.

“I went in there and I looked around and saw this big giant factory,” recalls Matt. Up until then, he had spent his summers working in the harbor at the Dana Point shipyard, but this place had the smell of foam and resin in the air, and everywhere he looked there were surfer dudes working. This was the place for him.

He asked Ron House, the owner of Surf Glass, if they had a job. “We really need a polisher, can you polish?” Ron asked.

“Well, I polish boats,” replied Matt.

Ron laughed. “Well you can drive the delivery truck, but Chris here can start teaching you.” Chris Stanley started teaching Matt how to build surfboards in June of 1987.

After the board came back from Surf Glass, Matt took it out for a test ride. “I distinctly remember surfing it at Strands when I first built it,” says Matt. Out in the lineup, he ran into Terry Senate, a well-known shaper. Terry was the shaper for Infinity for decades and a hotshot surfer in San Clemente and Salt Creek in the ’70s.

“You’re kind of sassy on that board. You’re catching a lot of waves,” he called out to Matt. He paddled up to get a better look. “Let me see,” Senate said. “What is that thing?” He read the logo aloud and let out a loud laugh. “’Ratz Ass?’ HAH HAH HAH HAH. What, you don’t give a rat’s ass, or what?”

“I didn’t really think of it like that,” said Matt.

But Terry did, and he’ll never let Matt forget it. “I see him still practically every day,” says Matt. “His shaping factory is literally 100 yards from ours, and that motherfucker still calls me ‘Rat’s Ass’ almost 40 years later.”

“Hey, Rat’s Ass, what’s up?”

“Rat’s Ass!”

“Still calls me Rat’s Ass. I’m like a 54 year old man now.”


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