Each year, an assembly of shaping legends and surfboard geeks gather at The Boardroom International Surfboard Show in Del Mar, California to celebrate the past, present and future of board making. For each rendition of the show, the event’s directors and producers honor a legendary shaper who has made an indelible mark on the history of board design–and this year they’re paying homage to Santa Barbara native and edge-board aficionado Mark Andreini. Andreini’s been in the stick-crafting business for the past 50 years, most recently leading the charge with George Greenough’s infamous “edge boards.” In preparation for The Boardroom opening on May 5th, we called up Andreini for a quick chat about earning the Icon of Foam title, his past and what’s so great about edge boards.
First of all, congrats on being honored as the Icon of Foam—how does it feel?
It's hard to describe really. It's a great honor because when I think of the people who have already been honored, they're all of my personal heroes and I never even considered myself as being on a list with those people. I’ve been saying they must've run out of all the legends [laughs].
From my understanding in addition to being honored, you also get to choose which design the shapers competing in the Master Shape-off are going to replicate. Do you know what you'll have them shape?
That's between me and Scott Bass [the Boardroom event director]. Everyone would love to know so they could start practicing. One thing is for sure that even my simplest boards are extremely different than what most shapers are used to building. So it'll be a challenge just because more people have a different set of standard ingredients. Most modern shapers put the curve through the rocker of the board and leave the bottom flat and I do the opposite–which is what's been traditionally done since boards were developed. So it's nothing new, it just hasn't been common since the late '60s.
Lately your name has become synonymous with the edge boards you’re known for shaping. When and why did you become interested in those designs?
It was an accident actually. I wrote a book [The Gift, which will be released at the Boardroom] that explains the whole edge board thing in detail. I go through the evolution of surfboards, from the ancient Hawaiians to modern and along the way I talk about the primary architects of board making. By ’71 it was fairly well known that he [George Greenough] stopped riding his spoons and started riding these edge boards. I'd seen him and wanted to make one in the worst way but I was always really busy.
When I started writing this book, I called up Greenough to get his blessing. I told him I wanted to make one and he said, “I'll send you all my templates.” So that's how it started. From that point on I started collaborating with him. I'd send him photos of my boards and he'd tell me what to tweak. Once I started riding them I fell in love. I've been applying the design to every type of surfboard with the end goal to apply it to big-wave boards. They're a blast. I prefer them over my regular boards because they ride well in a variety of waves and they love crappy surf.
Why is that?
The design is like the bottom of a boat which is designed for rough seas. It just goes right over the top of it. The rails are round and lifted way up high to manage all the chop and the wind. It's got concave channels to the bottom like a Boston Whaler so it just floats right over the top of all the lump so you get a lot a lot of speed and a real soft, smooth ride. And they have an overdrive gear in them that kicks in whenever you get in a really juicy section.
For those who don't know much about the edge boards—who would you recommend the edge boards to and why?
If you like to ride B spots, you've got to have an edge board. You get a lot more out of marginal surf on one. A really finely tuned board— like a Kelly Slater glass slipper form the 90s—they only work in perfect surf. There aren't manly designs that can deliver maximum performance no matter how crappy the conditions get. And they work on any design–shortboards, gliders, longboards. The beauty is whatever you can paddle into, it'll ride it well without any limitations.
Greenough was definitely the progenitor of high-performance designs. Was it exciting watching him surf back then?
I remember the first time I saw him surf while I was at the Ranch with Margo Oberg. We surfed Rights and Lefts and when we went to government point we saw Greenough and Danny Hazard. It was a pumping south swell, 6 to 8 feet. I watched him from the water and he was doing the most incredible, fully-laid-out bottom turns, going straight up into the pocket, vanishing from sight in the barrel and he would come out of the tube like he was shot out of the cannon and go into a full figure-8 cutbacks, accelerating back up into the lip to do a rebound. Not only did he invent the whole approach—accelerating out of a turn and barrel riding–but he developed all of the equipment to do it in an era when it had never been done before.
You’ve said before that your designs were inspired by Phil Edwards’ regal style of wave riding and also the futuristic high performance of Greenough—how did you marry those two styles in your own designs shapes?
Basically, I think that sums up my whole surfing life. Phil Edwards, for my generation, was considered the greatest surfer of all time. He was famous for doing these big beautiful turns and having perfect positioning–power surfing with the most beautiful style. All the great surfers of that transition era embraced the performance and the speed of a modern board but they kept the regal style and flow of longboarding. Speed, agility and flow. Those people infused those two eras together and that's why I say Greenough and Phil were my two main influences because together they’re a combination high-performance and style. So in my shaping, I make the boards work if you surf that way. There are a 100 guys who can make standard thrusters and that's why I make mine to reflect my image of what beautiful surfing is.
Do you think now surfers are becoming more open to experimenting with more alternative designs?
No question about it. They're much more open-minded. It was very close-minded—in the ’70s, especially. It was just a bunch of guys dragging their knuckles on the beach and everybody did the same thing. They didn't want anyone from out of town and you could only ride one board or they're going to laugh at you. It was ridiculous. But I think more people are getting more enjoyment out of surfing now because you're free to ride what suits you and you're not having to ride what's popular.