“You mad? I thought that you’d be happy I made it.” – 50 Cent
No one wants a local shaper to succeed. Let me rephrase. For some reason, there seems to be something inherently repulsive about a surfboard shaper building a prosperous business venture from doing what he (or she) loves. Because (among other things) that means a few unforgivable transgressions must take place to facilitate that transition: pop-outs, overseas labor, and a deep, dark, sinister agenda to ruin surfboards and our planet forever.
But is that true?
The answer, unflinchingly, is no.
But all too often I have observed a writhing resentment and contempt directed at the few shapers who have managed to build a global brand. The refrain goes something like this:
“You should support your local shaper, you shitbag, instead of buying boards from a faceless pop-out corporation murdering our planet.”
They’re out to banish one of the last handmade thangs in USA
Enter the surf corporation #supportyourlocalshaper #nocomputersupinhere
But you know what? Every single major surfboard brand that’s tied to a shaper’s name began in a shaping bay. A shack. Each of those fellas hand-shaped countless boards for buddies in his neighborhood for beer money. Guys like Rusty Preisendorfer, Al Merrick, Matt Biolos, Darren Handley, Tomo, and maybe a handful of others. But they also did something that very few individuals on earth are capable of doing. They successfully navigated the infinitely improbable transition from pursuing their art, the craft of shaping surfboards at a discount for neighborhood friends, to delivering a high quality, desirable, and replicable product at a healthy profit to the masses. Because somewhere in that process, the shaper has to do something very difficult. They have to figure out how to build a viable business. And that is fucking hard. It’s actually a lot harder than shaping a surfboard.
If a shaper exclusively excels at shaping surfboards and selling them to the local community, that’s fine. That’s something to celebrate. Without a doubt, it is a very special thing to glue a local surf community together through crafstmanship.
But this isn’t a zero sum game. And that doesn’t detract from those who can do both: the shapers who have bold ambitions of ensuring that surfers all around the world enjoy their art.
And the individuals who can do those two exceptionally disparate tasks well deserve the success they have coming to them. As fellow shapers with an unrivaled appreciation for the art and craft of board building (and an understanding of the business challenges that accompany it), it seems the shaping community would be able to set aside jealousy, envy, and resentment in order to celebrate the one-in-a-million odds that a surfboard shaper must conquer to enjoy building a successful business.
You know how many shapers can actually relate? We’re talking about maybe a dozen human beings if we’re being generous, because shapers are like the rappers of surfing. The odds are stacked against them. Commercial success is less likely than a mixtape catching fire on the radio and providing a meal ticket out of the projects. It’s rare. Yet no one’s happy for them when they make it. Reminds me of something Kanye said.
“If they hate, then let ‘em hate, and watch the money pile up.”
Because when you say support your local shaper, you’re lying. You mean support him only to a certain point. Support him until he begins to broaden his ambitions.
Support him so long as he never becomes anything more than your local shaper. Support him so that you get a discount that barely earns him grocery money for the time it took to make you a custom board. God forbid he earns a handsome living and provides a livelihood, mentorship, and infrastructure for innovation for individuals with a similar passion.
So think about it when you hear (or recite) another predictable, disparaging refrain about the sellout global shaper. The band who got popular. When you hate on them for becoming successful, that doesn’t make them less talented. It makes you an insecure, jealous dickhead.
So support your local shaper. Then support him when he’s not your local shaper any more.