Remember Chilli Surfboards? They’re from Australia, but nearly a decade ago they were all the rage in America. One of the hottest brands on the US market. Chilli’s fame was partly thanks to Andy Irons, who had a habit of destroying CT events whilst atop James Cheal’s spicy sliders. But then… poof! Chilli’s disappeared from American board racks as if commanded by Sargeant Pepper himself. That doesn’t mean Cheal quit, though. Over the past decade, Chilli’s founder has continued to improve his shaping and his brand, hence his current plan for (re)American expansion. On top of all that, Cheal has a secret(ish) technology that he wishes to share with the people, along with the a few ideas that may stir the pot. Let’s just hope he doesn’t overspice it.

SURFING: Chilli Surfboards is coming back to the USA after a significant hiatus. What happened and what’s the plan?

Cheal: We were working with …Lost back then, building boards in San Clemente, and we kinda grew too quick. There was just so much going on back in Australia, it was really hard to keep our American operations running. I thought I’d be back in the US in a year or two, but it just didn’t happen that way. Finally we’ve started again, this time shaping all our boards in Australia and shipping them to the US.

Will prices be hiked up considering freight costs?

Yeah, a bit, but we put so much emphasis on our board production that we feel they will do fine over there. As long as the dollar stays where it should, of course.

How many guys do you have working to put all these boards together?

Shaping-wise, it’s just myself and two others. We really put a lot of emphasis on our machine, having it tuned and cleaned at all times, so it can consistently pump out quality shapes. And then we don’t need lots of shapers.

You recently did a trip with Mitch Coleborn, Jay Davies, and a few other team riders to test boards in Bali. How was that? What did you learn?

Yeah that was our first proper R&D trip. We brought lots of different shapes and board materials down there. One of the main thing we wanted to test were our new carbon boards, which are EPS boards that use carbon tape on the rails and bottom deck. According to the boys, the carbon boards feel super light and springy, while still producing powerful turns. Sometimes when boards are too light and fluffy, you’ll feel like you’re surfing good, but when you go back and watch the footage, you’ll realize you’re not throwing any spray. That wasn’t the case here.

A lot of different companies have come out with new designs, many of them carbon/EPS related. Yet, at every contest, we still see 95% of pros riding a standard PU shortboard. Do you think there will ever be a replacement for the stock shorty?

As good as these new boards are, I really feel it won’t be EPS that takes over surfboard making. But I feel like there’s something out there, some type of material that can mimic and surpass polyurethane. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel it’s just a matter of time.

For anyone interested in hopping on a Chilli sled, what’s your best go-to, all-around shape that someone could be stoked in on various conditions?

Right now, it’s the Rare Bird. If someone could only afford one board, the Rare Bird would work best for them in pretty much all conditions.

All photos by Scotty Hammonds.

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