Gun Slingers (Part 1)
I believe surfing has more in common with music than sport. That it’s a form of art rather than physical activity. There are endless ways to participate and enjoy this lifestyle, just as there are countless forms of music. From longboarding 1 foot peelers to charging waves the size of buildings. Competing in contests to determine whom is the best surfer, to searching the globe in hopes of finding empty perfection. It’s about finding your own moment and what makes you happy. Like listening to music, you can choose the station you want to listen too. There are some however, that strive to push the boundaries of what is possible. Like those musicians that redefine a musical genre, there are surfers that want to ride waves that were once considered too dangerous to paddle in to. To accomplish this, it takes the dedication and commitment from several individuals, not just the surfer. Like a musician who needs his band mates, it takes multiple people who are just as committed as the surfer is to pushing the limits of what is feasible.
As a musician has his instrument, a big wave surfer needs his board. A specifically designed piece of equipment that is unlike any other surfboard. Something that you cannot find sitting in the racks of your local surf shop. It is designed to put the surfer into life threatening positions, while at the same time helping him escape from it. It’s focused on speed and performance but also providing stability in the most unstable of circumstances. There is very little room for error because the consequences are so severe. Just as a big wave surfer must train every day to prepare himself, the surfboard shaper must be just as dedicated to his craft to produce a board worthy of the challenge. When approached by local surfer and Moment Team Rider Tony Perez to build a “gun” for this big wave season, Lee Leatherman jumped at the opportunity to push his skills.
Lee is quickly building a name along the coast as a gifted young shaper. He has dedicated himself to learning his craft and has intently studied the history of board design. A very skilled surfer, he has made connections throughout the surf industry and has been able to mentor under some of the best and most progressive shapers in the world. With an eye on past design but a deep understanding of modern board theory, he has a strong foundation for developing his own shapes. He tests his boards daily and often heads back to his shaping bay at his house to make improvements or changes to a design after a session. Excited to start experimenting in big wave riding himself, he was stoked at the opportunity to build a gun.
He met several times with both Tony and fellow Moment Team Rider Jeremy Rasmussen to discuss designs and how to best approach this process. The decision was made to make 4 boards. Two of them would be 10’6 with dimensions of 21 ½” wide and 3 3/8” thick. The other two would be 10’4 x 21 ½ x 3 ¾ with slightly more aggressive rails. All the boards would share a similar rocker design. The thinking was to test all the boards extensively and then head back to the shaping bay and build a final 2 based on rider feedback. This is the shaper/surfer relationship that is vital to produce boards that can push progression on both sides. Lee then went to work on shaping them. For weeks all he did was meticulously go over every square inch, dialing in each outline and rocker, making sure the rails were right. He told me afterwards, that he was so physically and mentally exhausted from the process, that he had a headache for days. His concern for getting it right, and focus on the details, left him drained. But he was satisfied when it was all done and the boards turned out as envisioned.
As I mentioned earlier, it takes a team of several people to help the surfer push the envelope of big wave riding. A very important and often over-looked member of this group is the surfboard glasser. The rider gets the glory, the shaper builds a recognizable name for himself, but the glasser is rarely mentioned. In our community, this person is Brad Kavonius from El Brado’s Fiberglass and Board Repair. A very skilled craftsman with an eye for perfection, he relished the opportunity to test his abilities on boards like these. Like everyone else involved in this process, he looked at this as a chance to advance his techniques and an opportunity to learn what is required in waves of such consequences. For the week he had the boards, he didn’t work on anything else. He was focused only on the guns, dialed in on the moment and what he had to do to make them perfect. There was no margin for error and the finished product reflected his attention to detail. The boards are gorgeous!
Glasser Brad Kavonius enjoying a well deserved beer!
Shaper Lee Leatherman and glasser Brad Kavonius share the stoke of a beautiful finished product.
Now that the boards were done, all they needed to do was paddle out and give them a go…… (Part 2 coming soon!)