There are few surfboard shapers who can rip on the surfboards they design as well as Guy Takayama. Not only does Guy dedicate himself to the art of shaping, he’s a competitive longboarder, tandem surfer, host of the Guy Takayama Pro (now in its 14th year running August 1-3 at Oceanside Pier) and a member of the legendary Takayama ‘Ohana too. Earlier this spring, Guy released his new lineup of high-performance surfboards made with advanced materials that go beyond anything in the market right now. Walking through the racks of a surf shop, you can’t miss these surfboards: bold colors, carbon fiber construction and pinstripes that emulate hot rods. I sat down with Guy Takayama as he explained the inspiration and design behind the new Takayama Surfboard models.
It seems that you’ve really taken a major leap in board design. What were you going for, and how did you execute your plan?
I feel the industry needed something a little different. Polyester materials have been around for a long time and the boards are usually heavy, or if you made them light for performance, their life expectancy was short. Epoxy is lightweight and durable, but I wasn’t quite happy with the performance, and it took a lot of work and time to layup a different stringer system to get the characteristics that I was looking for in a performance longboard. So, my plan was to find a strategy to combine different materials and an unconventional stringer to make the “next generation surfboard.” Ultimately, I was going for performance, durability and aesthetics, and I feel that this was accomplished.
What materials did you use to design this new lineup of surfboards?
There are a larger percentage of people looking for more lightweight, performance-oriented product, and they like my designs, so I started shifting over. I found these materials doing specific stringer design in the foam itself, and then using the carbon fiber for strength, lightness, and durability. It also looks really nice on these boards. I sort of feel like that hit the next level, the more futuristic boards so-to-speak, of longboards right now.
I feel now with these new materials and the shapes I’ve redesigned, the boards are going to perform really well. The durability is definitely going to outlast the polyester boards, and you don’t have to be as careful with them. Aesthetically, they look great.
Many people are under the impression that all carbon fiber surfboards are hollow. How are your carbon fiber surfboards constructed?
You don’t see boards like these out in the market; you probably won’t see too many carbon fiber boards at all. Most people that have seen them, they’ve only seen the hollow carbon fiber surfboards. There’s no liveliness to them. It doesn’t really react like a regular surfboard, in my opinion. It’s kind of like riding a boat; you’re missing that liveliness from it.
I feel that if you’re going to manufacture surfboards, don’t come from another industry and try to build surfboards. I build surfboards. I’m not building cars. I’m not building boats. I’m building surfboards. So if I’m going to use other materials, I’m going to have to take the same approach of a regular surfboard design and the characteristics: you need some flex, you need a little bit of twist, and you need to have some give. You can’t have a real rigid board and expect to surf on it and have it perform well.
What is the vent system you use in the carbon fiber surfboard models?
These GORE-TEX vents allow the boards to equalize themselves from pressure. Whether they’re in an airplane or the board gets heated up, it will release the gases out of there so you won’t get bubbles under the glass, de-lamination, or anything like that. It’s just a protection procedure that we use, putting these GORE-TEX plugs in. It kind of looks a little funky because people haven’t seen that in surfboards, but it actually makes for a better board. It’s kind of an insurance policy that your board is not going to be damaged by heat or pressure.
What is the XEON fiberglass that you’re using?
The XEON Fiberglass is a proprietary fiberglass that has been tinted and dyed with the color. We use the clear polyester, or you can use an epoxy resin over it and get some nice clarity. That way, you get the vibrant colors without using tints or pigments in the resins.
What type of feedback have you received from people surfing these boards? Who has been riding them?
Well, right off the bat, everyone who has handled them, picked them up off the rack, picked them up off the floor says “Oh my gosh, these boards are really light. I like that.” They like the rail design on these things, They feel like my rails, even though I’m using a different type of material because I had to taper my rails down a little bit.
In the water, they are very lively. Right off the bat, just paddling it, you’ll notice the first two, three strokes, oh my gosh, these things glide great. You do need some time to get used to these boards because they feel very lightweight in the water as well. For me, it took a few days to get used to the boards. I’m used to a heavier board, but I can actually sit a little further out and take off a little earlier now on these new boards.
There are 12 ounces of fiberglass, and some with carbon fiber, in each of these surfboards, how does it change the performance of the surfboard?
Traditionally, 12 ounces of fiberglass is pretty heavy. Using these new materials may equal out to the strength of 12 ounces, but the reality is, it feels like a double four-layup surfboard. So you’re getting the strength of 12 ounces, but the performance of a four-ounce board.
Your background is unique because you’re not only a shaper but a competitive surfer as well. How has this influenced the way you design boards?
It’s influenced me a lot. I never really wanted to shape. I always wanted to surf. That’s the fun part of it. But I feel that I don’t have to go to my team rider to tell me what board works, what doesn’t, and why. Sometimes, the interpretation is lost between the rider and the shaper. So my interpretation if he tells me “oh, it turns this way,” and I start shaping it… it’s just a little bit too distorted. For me, I can make my changes on a board, and know exactly why I’m making these changes as a surfer to a shaper, and vice versa so there’s not misinterpretation. I think that’s why my boards are unique.
I’ve only known a handful of surfers, who were basically world-class, who I grew up with as a kid who became very good shapers as well. And basically it’s the love for the sport and the lifestyle that creates this unique individual. If I could become like one of them, I’d be totally stoked.
What’s all the buzz about the 9’0”Ali’i GT-7 XEON Fiberglass + Carbon Fiber model?
The GT-7 has been my go-to board for quite a few years now. I can ride it in one-foot surf, I can ride it when there’s 10-foot faces as well. It rides really well. It tail rides and nose rides as well, so it’s a good competition board. But I think it’s just an easy board to use all-around for anybody to jump on and just have fun. And, I tell you, the sky is the limit on performance. This board will match the performance level of the surfer. So that’s why I think most people gravitate to that model.
Uncle Donald passed away last year. What is your role in carrying on the Takayama family name in the surfing world?
Well, I feel like I do have a responsibility. We’re two different individuals who hold the same last name and we both have the love for the sport and the lifestyle. My feeling is that, yes, I do have a little bit of a legacy to uphold and carry on, and I’m trying to do that as best as I can with due respect to my uncle and how he would have done things.
However, we grew up in two different times, so I look at technology to drive my designs and using different materials to keep the sport moving forward. Just like cars, every year you’re going to have a better model. I’m expecting to do the same thing.
Right now, looking at my little cousin here, Kai, who is doing really well in the competition area of amateur surfing right now. I’m hoping that he takes an interest, that he’ll want to come on board eventually, and carry on the name for the next generation.
Anything to add?
This has been a great life so far I love the lifestyle. I wasn’t planning on becoming a pro surfer at any point. It just kind of happened. To be shaping boards for a living, I just kind of fell into it. I’ve been blessed to do something that I really love to do and have it as an occupation.
Learn more about Takayama Surfboards at www.TakayamaSurf.com