His name is Cowboy. He’s been sleeping in the shadow of the entry way for the last three hours, and he did the same thing yesterday. By the looks of the perma-fade in the cement, he probably does it everyday, but that hasn’t stopped him from winning Employee of the Month for six months straight.
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Maybe that’s because he’s the only employee that shows up as much as the owner of Surfboards by Tim Stamps. You can tell he feels comfortable in the office. He blinks and yawns sleepy-eyed before retiring once more to the shadows. And standing directly adjacent to the framed photo of Cowboy – the only surfing canine in America who has won employee of the month honors for six months and running, stands a grinning Tim Stamps.
Born and raised in Seal Beach, CA Tim Stamps has etched out a name for himself in the custom surfboard market, and he’s done so making an impressively diverse quiver of boards for his customers with a smile on his face and an honest devotion to the art of board building. Learning the craft from the bottom up, Stamps lets his enthusiasm and quest for knowledge mold his journey in shaping, which has lead customers to his door time and time again when searching for the perfect tweak or something a little different.
In the center of his shop rests a 13′ standup rig, beside that is a composite alaia board which is bookended by a few fishes, an egg, and a high performance chip… No one trick ponies here – except for maybe his employee of the month, who just entered REM cycle number four.
Inquisitive as we are, SurferMag.com caught up with Stamps to figure out what makes him tick, and gain a little more insight into his world.
How did you first get started in shaping?
I grew up around Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach and shaped my first board in 1989. [Harbour]'s been doing it since the mid 50's, and I learned everything from the bottom up as a grom hanging around that shop – from sweeping the floors to shaping to being a kid buying wax to doing ding repairs. We were glassing old-school-style like when a surf shop was really a surf shop – you know? When the guys in the back were making boards and they were selling them out front, which doesn't really happen anymore.
Is that what piqued your interest in shaping?
Being around it definitely helped. And my dad always was building stuff, he was into boats. But there was definitely an element of building stuff with your hands and a creative part which translated into surfing. I got into surfing, and being a pretty good surfer and being into what I ride, like why does this shape do this, and obviously having a mentor like Rich Harbor – you can't pay for that kind of knowledge. There are only a handful of guys like him out there and a lot of it was dumb luck. I had an aptitude and was in the right place at the right time.
Would you say most surfers are knowledgeable about their equipment?
A lot of surfers aren’t – a handful of them are. Most guys go by feel, which is pretty valid. That's a good starting place then you get into it and get surfboards and want to do it yourself. That's what I'm into. Taking what you have and improving it.
At what point did you know you wanted to make shaping a career?
I'm still waiting…. (He laughs) I just graduated into it. I like doing it more than anything, which is why I think anyone who shapes for a living does it. I don't think the chances of becoming financially wealthy are that great, but we get to do what we love everyday and it pays the bills each month.
Can you point to any popular trends in shapes for this summer?
Four fins of all sorts. People in the summer want a fun board for junky waves, but it seems like the waves are actually pretty good around here in the summer. If you count how many days of good waves there are in the fall and summer, it's probably a lot more than the rest of the year, but winter's cold and dreary…in the summer it's like, "Let me grab the egg that's fluorescent yellow and the quad and head out to the beach all day." Summer is a lifestyle.
How do you feel custom boards compare to those purchased off the rack?
Both have their place for sure. I think a lot of guys don't necessarily have the access to custom shapers, but off-the-rack is a great place to start, but if you want to fine tune something you should definitely get a shaper to work with who is open to take your criticisms and his knowledge to make something new.
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