Letter of the Week, Presented by Futures

posted by / News / September 8, 2010

letter_of_the_week1

LOTW runs for seven days, with the week’s most brilliant submissions picked and posted every Monday on surfingmagazine.com. There are two ways to write in: send an email to surfing@sorc.com, or use the Write a Letter tab on our Facebook page.

More than a dozen surfboard shapers have written in to respond to our “This Has Everything To Do With Surfing” column about shapers markets [Oct. 2010 issue]. Below is one of the more well-argued replies, from Cayucos, CA shaper Shane Stoneman.

Letter of the Week: The Small-Batch Craftsman

In your latest article regarding small-scale shapers, I think you nailed the emotional landscape of a guy like me who, after doing this every day for over a decade, is still trying to build a surfboard business in a surfboard climate that is growing more corporate every day. Thanks for writing about it. It seems you are on the side of the quixotic hand-shapers and still believe we are necessary…or at least worth keeping around for entertainment.

One thing i think you got wrong though is that a small-scale shaper can’t compete on “price, variety, or quality of product.” In the retail world, my boards on the rack at Wavelengths Surf Shop are priced $180 less than the hexiburton’s next to them. Of course, if by price you are alluding to the fact that every San Clemente ghetto factory (or hexiburton “blem” and fire sale) is shooting boards out the backdoor for less than i can can wholesale, then yes, you are right, I can’t compete on price.

Variety…no, since I have to cater to a local clientele I have shaped everything from bellyboards and kneeboards to SUPs and big-wave guns, etc…so guys like me have plenty of boards to offer and offer friendly access to the builder.

On a good month, we do 40 boards — each is made with care and expertise. There is no better way to control quality than to limit quantity. The small-scale guy should be viewed as a handmade guitar builder, not as someone who lacks the skill to compete with giants. The giants have to manage 200 boards a month going through how many glass shops and how many sanders? Did the blanks get loaded on the machine correctly or was the stringer off by an 1/8th of an inch, throwing off the “perfection” of the CNC cut? Did the finish guy see these problems?

I’d better stop…mostly I meant to thank you for making your readers consider these things and realize that their local shaper might actually know what he’s doing. And maybe he can’t compete with the giant’s marketing budget partly because he likes to surf and play with surfboards too much…and that’s a GOOD thing!

Cheers,
Shane

I want to believe you, Shane, but I can’t be convinced until a couple of hand-made “sample” boards arrive here at the office for me to test out. It’s the only way to be sure you aren’t just making shit up. The address is in the magazine. 5’11″ x 18.75″ x 2.375″. Thanks.

—Ed

elevoniso383

The Futures Elevon fin

Shane, the magazine is better thanks to your input. Thanks for taking the time to share with us and for keeping the small, local, community-oriented shaper ideal alive in the age of Wal Mart and Ikea. We’re sending you Futures’ new Elevon fins to try out on some of your hand-shapes. What’s that called again? R&D.

In honor of back-to-school season — our sympathies, children — Dakine is awarding this week’s LOTW with a sick backpack and giant duffel combo. Write us with your thoughts — consider it homework.

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One Response to “Letter of the Week, Presented by Futures”

  1. Diego says:

    This is so true. So true. Kudos to Shane Stoneman for speaking his mind and for making a case for the shaper, who is not dead or just for entertainment Shane. I will not buy a pop-out until the day I die. I am glad you’re still working with your hands for surfers you care about. Don’t fold to globalization. There is value in things that take time.

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