Month Of The Shaper: Rich Price

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: Central Florida's Rich Price.

Name: Rich Price Surf Designs (RPD)
Zone: Florida, East Coast, Caribbean, Japan 'I go to Japan and shape; have been since 1993."
Years Shaping: 32
Boards Per Week: 20. "This year's been so off; I'd like to do 25-30, but I'm one of those typical surfboard guys whose undercapitalized so I build to order only, pretty much."
Specialty: "I've always keyed in on high-performance shortboards, but I like to take those philosophies and apply them to all the other designs. "

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

It's worse right now. But I was doing pretty well up until about a year ago when the whole thing seemed to slow down. The main negative of Clark closing was the price of boards had to go up. One thing I've found is Clark foam had a lot of good things. He provided consistent quality, good service, good prices. And other amenities, like when they stopped making the Skil {{{100}}} he had someone design the Hitachi planer that was comparable. But he did not have the best foam. He had consistent quality but it was not the best foam. A lot of the foam since Clark has a livelier feel in the water.

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

I don't know about that. I really don't. There's' some real advantages to EPS boards and then some of the other types of construction like Firewire and Surftech. I think there's room for everything. People just have to weigh out if it's worth it for them to pay more money for it. I do know this, though: after Clark shut a lot of people said it was the end of polyurethane foam, and {{{90}}}% of my orders are still for polyester foam and polyester resin. And I like to think of myself as on the cutting edge and high tech and all, but at the same time I think what we do with polyurethane foam and polyester resin is the heart and soul of the industry.

Are quads declining or increasing in popularity?

I think it's decreasing and it's really kind of sad because they have a valid place. I like to put an emphasis on the technical aspect of board design, but with my quad fins-- I have to admit - I stumbled onto the fin placement that I use and I've gotten zero negative response. I just hope they don't go away because I think they have a valid place.

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

I don't have a Surftech model. And I can't say the shops are keeping me afloat, to be honest. Most of the shops I deal with are overstocked with surfboards; I'm in there with 15 lines. I shape with Brian Tudor who has BAT and we're considering opening a factory showroom right out of our place. Just so people can come and talk to us. In this day and age we have to look at the strong points of what we can offer. And guys like me and Brian, we can offer that personal one-on-one attention. That's something a lot of these other companies can't offer.

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

I work with KKL and I've worked with the Brazilian machine Greg Geiselman has in Smyrna. But I don't spend much time on the computer. I've always prided myself on being super consistent and real technical when I handshape. I always do batches of five to ten boards. I get 'em leveled, cut 'em out, do the bottom and the rails and get 'em all to a place where they're ready to be fine-sanded. And that's the way I've always done it. The machine thing to me is for overflow. And right now, things are so slow I handshape everything.

How important is teamrider feedback to you?

It's important to me because shaping high performance boards for these kids I'm not going to get any valuable feedback from myself. I still ride a shortboard but I don't even come close to surfing like these kids. But I do have enough knowledge to make the adjustments to make what they want. So them telling me what's working helps; but there's been more progress in in my designs from people telling me what didn't work. And getting in there and correcting it. Mendia's really good about that. And what I like is he's traveling around the world and taking my boards and riding them in every kind of wave so they're really getting put to the test.

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

Small, high perfomance boards --that's what I love shaping the best. Like a little 6'2" squash tail, triple concave. You know. Something I can't ride. [laughs] Fun shapes are probably my least favorite board to do, but I'll do anything and everything I do I put an emphasis on performance. I even did a stand-up paddle board this year, which a year ago I would've said "Nah, no thanks."

How often do you get to surf?

Not like when I was a kid, but I try to get out as much as I can. As you get older it's hard to get motivated when the waves just suck. But if you don't surf when it's bad around here, you're never gonna surf. And then when it does get good you're not ready for it so you have to force yourself to go out when it's bad. And usually when I do I don't regret it.

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