Month Of The Shaper: Chris Christenson

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with our annual Surfboards Issue (On newsstands Nov. 18), we will be posting one interview per day with a craftsman who contributed to the issue. Some are the biggest names in the bay; others are underground and want to keep it that way. But all of them share an equal passion for the crafts that move us forward. In these tough economic times, they all have a lot to say on where their craft is going. This time: Cardiff’s Chris Christenson.

Name: Chris Christenson
Zone: Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA
Years Shaping: 18 years; 11,000 + shapes
Boards per week: 20-30
Specialty: Being able to shape any style of surfboard

Is your business better or worse since the Clark Foam shutdown?

My business has shown an increase in gross sales every year after Clark foam, but profit margins are way down.

Do you feel polyurethane foam/polyester resin will always be the dominant surfboard construction?

Polyurethane foam and polyester resin have stood the test of time and we always keep going back to it. There have been some amazing improvements in the alternative materials, but the bottom line is the majority of the best surfers and best board builders are still using polyurethane foam/polyester resin. That does not mean that we should settle with it forever. We always need to have an open mind and eye to the alternatives and approach them rationally, one blank at a time.

Do you think there’s an increasing or decreasing appreciation for a custom surfboard?

As a whole the industry is down. If you compare the wholesale to custom demand ratio I would see a slight bump on customs in {{{comparison}}}. As far as individual appreciation toward custom boards it seems to be regional. I definitely feel more stoke from my international customers.

Are quads decreasing or increasing in popularity?

Quads have leveled off. I shape all styles of boards including a variety of quad designs. They will stay in my lineup but only with the proper designs.

What’s keeping you afloat? Custom clientele? Shop accounts? Surftech?

My loyal customers are keeping me afloat. I have a handful of retailers and individuals that have been solid all this time and I owe much of my success to them. Thank you!!

If it hasn’t already, will your surfboard production ever have to go overseas?

The only time my production goes overseas is when I’m overseas building the board myself with my tools that I checked in at the airport. Overseas mass production is the cancer to the surfboard industry.

What kind of music do you like to listen to when you shape?

Radiohead, Mars Volta, Old Crow Medicine Show, Hank Williams III

How much time do you spend on a single board now?

It depends since I do so many different varieties. I could spend 3-4 hours hand shaping a 9’8″ gun for Greg Long to just 50 minutes to hand-shape a twin keel fish or standard thruster.

Do you spend more time on the computer screen or in the shaping bay?

I spend most of my day(s) in the shaping room. I don’t own a shaping machine so the only time spent on the computer is for checking e-mail and doing the books. When I do use the shaping machine I use it as a tool to help me keep up with my demand.

How important is teamrider feedback to you?

Teamrider feedback is the backbone to a good board/model. Being able to interpret it and apply it to the next board with your hands and eye is the art.

What kind of board do you enjoy shaping most right now?

Right now I have been enjoying building guns the most. The lines of a gun plan shape are definitely the most aesthetic of them all. And when they work they are the most rewarding. Greg Long winning the Maverick’s contest and the Billabong XXL “Biggest Paddle in award” on my guns this year was the most rewarding accolade of my career.

How often do you get to surf?

I get to surf 3-4 times per week swell permitting. I like to surf after I get my work done usually. To be successful at building surfboards for a living, you have to be willing to work 50+ hours a week. Banker hours are not going to cut it. The bonus is that we are able to pick and choose the 50+ hours a weeks we work.

Are you actively pursuing “greener” avenues in your surfboard production?

The main focus I have is by being cognizant of my footprint as a company. Making sure to always recycle what is possible to recycle (acetone, invoice paper, etc.), The biggest thing the industry can do immediately is to keep boards being built in America. We have the strictest guidelines and ordinances to follow as a manufacturer. Pushing production overseas means having boards built with more toxic materials, with less monitoring of hazardous wastes and quality.

DAY 1: William “Stretch” Riedel
DAY 2: Mark Price / Firewire Surfboards
DAY 3: Jeff Clark
DAY 4: Chris Gallagher
DAY 5: Matt Biolos
DAY 6: Geoff Rashe
DAY 7: Mark Wooster
DAY 8: Jeff Bushman
DAY 9: Rusty Preisendorfer
DAY 10: Rich Price
DAY 11: Shane Stoneman
DAY 12: Ricky Carroll
DAY 13: Xanadu
DAY 14: Chris Christenson
DAY 15: John Carper
DAY 16: Michael Walter
DAY 17: David Barr
DAY 18: Ben Aipa
DAY 19: Jeff “Doc” Lausch
DAY 20: Jesse Fernandez
DAY 21: Cole Simler

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