NORTHERN STATE OF BOARDS: 10 Questions w/ M-10 Shaper Geoff Rashe

Santa Cruz’s Geoff Rashe crafts high quality surfboards under his “M10” label. Since we sometimes appear SoCal centric in our subject matter, we thought it appropriate to touch base with the man behind the “10” for a quick 10 questions regarding the state of the surfboard industry in NorCal. – Scott Bass

1) The dust has thoroughly settled from the Clark foam closure, from your vantage does the surfboard industry stand on firm ground?

Geoff Rashe: I think the surfboard industry is still a little shaken up after the Clark Foam debacle. The foam supply is certainly not a problem. What is more significant is that the price of surfboards rose to an extreme that is disproportionate to inflation. This has hurt sales for many of us. Most surfers are not rich, and I think the old price structure was a result of balanced market forces. My opinion is that prices must come down for things to return to firm ground.

2) What types of new construction techniques excite you?

The Firewire thing is cool. People seem to either love it or hate it. Those who hate it might just not have ridden the right shape. Their difficulty to make customs for an affordable price will certainly be an impediment. I’m working on an eps board with parabolic stringers and the rails wrapped with bamboo veneer. This is very exciting.

3) Have we come full circle to realize that the polyurethane foam / hand laminate is still as valid or more valid than ever before?

I believe that the hand laminated polyurethane surfboard is a beautiful thing. That’s not to detract from anything else, but the shapeability, the flexibility, the dampness, the cost, and the limited water intrusion, make it timeless. I do not think anything better will come along soon that will compete effectively with this classic construction.

4) What type of construction is your bread and butter?

We make polyurethane/epoxy, and eps/epoxy, as the bread and butter, polyurethane/polyester might be the crust, and Tuflite would be the gravy.

5) What is your take on the overseas surfboard both in terms of quality of product and in terms of competition to the US market?

There are a lot of different boards being made all over the world. The Cobra factory in Thailand is probably the most sophisticated factory in the world in terms of technology and cleanliness. Clearly there are a few Australian manufacturers leading the world industry in terms of performance pu’s. China is not yet a threat, and might never be. They are mass production oriented, which is the enemy of quality when you are making surfboards. Good surfboards are hard to make, and control gets lost when you try to make too many. A serious factor that limits the competitiveness of the imports is the weak dollar. We tried to import Brazilian eps boards and nearly lost our shirt because of the dollar. Now we make everything here.

6) What is the number one problem facing M10 surfboards?

Our biggest problem is one we all share: a soft economy.

7) What is the the best solution M10 has come to rely on?

Our best solution is to make everything in-house. It gives me the most control over the business and the boards. It also gives me the best contact with my end customers, which results in them getting what they want quickly and more cheaply, and my job not getting outsourced.

8) Would you say that M10 surfboaards is customer oriented, if so what are some examples?

I think being as customer oriented as possible is the key to long term success in this business. I have a DSD shaping machine behind a glass wall where people can see their board get milled before their eyes and pick it up a couple of weeks later. This is right next to the epoxy glass room with almost no resin smell, so they can see boards getting glassed too. This kind of involving of the surfer in the production of their new board will effectively compete with imports.

9) Is there a need for a unification of the USA board building industry, a figure head, someone everyone can rally around to speak for them, or no?

As I said before, good surfboards are very difficult to make when you up the numbers too much. If we keep it small, no one producer can supply everyone. That means we can all coexist to supply the surfing population as artist and craftsmen. Surftech has their niche too. Not enough has been said about how much they have supported shapers like Dale Velzy and Renny Yater who started this whole thing. We need to work together as surfers who build boards out of love of the sport and the craft. The clothing companies and outsiders trying to make a buck should butt out.

I don’t think we need a single figurehead to represent us. I think not. Gordon Clark took on that role and I think he was too swayed by self interest. That would probably happen to anyone in that position. But I like Rusty for a pretty objective guy in a high place. He speaks for us more than anyone.

10) Do you see a new breed of young shapers or have we skipped/missed a generation?

The young breed of shapers will be fewer and farther between as time goes on. I’m 38 and I am part of the last generation of shapers who got the opportunity to do production handshaping for sizable board companies. You really need that all-day after all-day of shaping from a blank with a planer to get really good at it. Now all production boards are preshaped by cnc machines. But there are definitely some young guys out there shaping some nice boards. More power to them.