Month Of The Shaper: Geoff Rashe

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: M10's Geoff Rashe - based in Santa Cruz.

Name: Geoff Rashe
Zone: Santa Cruz
Years Shaping: 20
Boards Per Week: 25
Specialty: EPS Short boards

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

Demand is the same. We're just super consistent over the twelve years that we've been in business. That being said things have been more complicated since Clark Foam shutdown, the marketplace has been unstable. We were importing boards from Brazil for a while and have been doing things different ways. Since Clark shut down we've had three different factories and doing it in Brazil also and now we're back to just this so things are totally stabilized for us now, but it's been a rocky three years for sure as far as the logistics of getting boards built.

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

Nobody wants it around here, nobody. Nobody asks us for it. Here in Santa Cruz, zero. I have a guy up in Humboldt that only wants it, but that's one guy. But I never have a customer come in here, ever, and ask me for a polyester board.

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

Increasing. Before that's all there was really and then alternatives came out, you know with a lot of boards made over seas and I feel like there's a backlash against it. And there's less availability of custom boards, a lot of the custom shapers have dropped off or quit. That's brought us more custom business. Our wholesale business has dropped and our custom business has risen to where we now do almost all custom boards. We used to do a good amount of shop boards for wholesale stock, but now it's damn few. I got consistently a hundred boards backed up and it's basically a line of a hundred individual people ordering custom boards.

Are quads declining or increasing in popularity?

Versus two years ago increasing, but for where they are now I'd say they're steady, if not decreasing over the last year. It's some but it's still the minority by far of what we do.

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

Surftech dropped us, so they don't keep us afloat. Shops, no, for sure. It's definitely the custom boards that keeps us going. If you look at what we have going here, a customer can walk in and see their board getting cut on the machine, they got the boards getting glassed right behind that door, and the shaping room is upstairs. It's a real hands-on environment. The customer can come in and see and feel what's going on custom board-wise, it's happening before their eyes right here. This is like a candy factory where the taffy and the chocolate gets pulled behind the glass wall, it really inspires the custom order, the layout of this factory here.

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

We had production going on in Brazil for almost two years, but not anymore. Two things happened: the quality was too difficult to control on a consistent basis and the dollar deflated drastically. So it got way too expensive to even consider doing. Quality up and down, price way to high, forget about it, not even an option.

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

I got a {{{200}}} disc CD changer and along with the rap, you might have some Tool, it's pretty broad really, but I'd say that most of it is Bay Area rap, like Mac Dre and stuff like that.

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

Hand shape takes about an hour and a computer shape takes about a half an hour.

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

On the computer. Right now I have a pinched nerve in my neck, but it varies. I'll go gung ho shaping, to where I shape a lot and then I'll not shape because I have a pinched nerve in my neck, so I'm trying to let that calm down before I get back in the shaping room. When you own a business you'll get involved in different things, you'll focus some time on this project and then you'll focus some time on that project and then you spend some time shaping and then you'll do this and you'll do that, that's what keeps me going. I need variety in my life, if I do one thing too much I'll get bored and burnt out on it. I like to vary my focus, and production shaping is one focus, design is another focus, computer designing is another focus, riding the boards is another focus. You gotta mix it up.

How important is teamrider feedback to you?

Teamrider feedback is important, but customer rider feedback is just as important. You have to listen to everybody. A teamrider can lead you down the wrong road, just cause a teamrider likes a board doesn't mean you're gonna like it. You gotta listen to their feedback so that you can keep them happy, so that they're out there ripping on your boards. It's more like an individual thing based on them then it is directing the product line. The product line is meant to address a type of individual. Within your product line you need a board for a guy that like to surf like this and a board for a guy that likes to surf like that, without making it too complicated. Some of my competitors have like a hundred models, which is a complete cluster-f*ck for any surfer. You have to keep it simple; this is for small to medium waves, and this is for good waves, and this is for a guy that likes to drive off his front foot, and this is for a guy that likes to drive off his back foot. Keep it simple so that you can speak in basic terms that someone can understand without overwhelming them. It's about that more than it's about having a pro model. Taking the case of Channel Islands, it's not like the Kelly Slater Model is their number one board. He's the number one surfer, but it's not like everyone wants to have his board, because not everyone surfs like him, and they know it. The value of a teamrider is having a guy out in the water, ripping on your boards, putting out a good positive vibe for you and your brand. Maybe they might get a shot in a magazine too.

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

If it's a hand shape it would have to be something that's different. I never shape a true retro fish. But I was in Japan and somebody wanted an honest-to-god retro fish, and I'd never shaped one before. There was no computers or template. I had to piece together a template from another shaper and shape the board going based on what I've seen before. I really enjoyed it. It's all about variety. Something that I've done over and over again isn't necessarily fun; it's just repetitive motion. Something where I'm drawing from my creativity, that's enjoyable.

How often do you get to surf?

I go through periods. If I surf four times in a week, that's a lot for me, and I might go for a month or two where I surf that much. Then I might go for a month or two where I don't surf at all. I have a family and a business, and sometimes the waves go flat. I don't do anything super consistently in my life except try and be there for my family and make sure the business goes forward. I love surfing but it's not like if I don't surf for two weeks it's going to be a tragedy because I have a lot of other things in my life that are more important than surfing. When you're talking about five and seven-year-old little girls that need their daddy and a group of employees that need a livelihood, those things are much more important to me than surfing.

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

You're sitting here and boards are getting glassed and you don't smell it, right? And we're not blowing anything outside this factory, it's a zero emissions factory. We have no solvents in this factory. We don't have any chemicals that are gonna light on fire in here. We have no VOC's, nothing here to cause cancer, how much better can we do? As far as I know we're making as green a surfboard as can be made. If there's something that comes out that's green and applicable, yeah I'll take a look at it, but I'm not gonna use some heavy brown bio-foam that works like shit, because at the end of the day people want boards that work good. Working good is primary over biodegradability. What we're trying to do is make a durable board that people won't throw away in six months. That's the best thing we can do to keep our product from becoming garbage.

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