THE SHAPER/SURFER RELATIONSHIP IS MORE OFTEN BOOTY CALL THAN THRIVING UNION, with the surfer only calling the shaper when there's some need to be filled. It's rarely love. No deep talks. Certainly no cuddling. Just dimensions typed hastily in a text, yearning for that next tail blow. Then, when the thirst is quenched...silence.
I'm not saying Eyesymmetry Surfboard owner Max Stewart and team rider Hector Santamaria cuddle. They probably don't. But they've certainly struck a dynamic so admirable and profound that it'd make even the sluttiest of surfers think, "Maybe there's more to this." They're an unlikely pair -- yin and yang. Max, 24, is a forward-thinking and driven shaper from Sydney, Australia. Hector, 23, is a giggly and cosmic surf character from Puerto Rico. They met a year and a half ago, clicked, and have been surfing, shaping and traveling together ever since. Yesterday they were in Japan on a content creation/R&D trip. Tomorrow they'll be collaborating in Australia. But today, they're sitting on SURFING's couch with a computer screen propped at 90 degrees. On that screen, Hector flies down the line of a chest-high wave and launches a massive tuck-knee air. A red cloth trails from his torso, dancing in the wind.
"What's that on your waist, Hector?" I ask.
"Jajajaja -- ninja!" he says.
And with that, I just sit back and listen. About board design and octo-rails. About creativity and collaboration. About the odd and thriving partnership between budding shaper and professional ninja surfer. --Taylor PaulPhoto: Chris Grundy
MAX: His character and his surfing are just different than the competition style of surfing that is so mainstream right now. It's inspiring to see him bring a different light to the surfing world. I don't necessarily think he's the best, most well-rounded surfer, but he's one of the most interesting to watch. And that's compelling. Most of the population doesn't surf to win world titles. We do it because it's fun. And he's doing tricks I don't see a lot of other people doing.
HECTOR: If a board doesn't work I can just tell him I'm having trouble with it and we will figure it out, which is easy because we are always traveling together. We have such a good relationship. We smile at each other, dude. We throw so much chi together! He's also very creative at what he does and I'm very creative, too. That creativity just grows together.
On Creativity Growing Together
MAX: I can make anything and throw it to him and he will try it out. It's great working with someone like that, because it keeps things fresh. We're always testing different kinds of designs and fin setups.
Hector: Like, I never wanted to ride a quad in my life and he got me to ride a quad and I was like, "Dude, this thing's going to slide out." And he's like, "Just try it." And I surfed it and it was so cool, more like a thruster, really fast and good for barrels. I don't think they're really good for turns, though. More for huge, Nathan Fletcher straight airs. Max and I share so many ideas and that energy is endless, dude. I love that he's always trying crazy shit because nobody is doing stuff like that. People just want to stay in one mindset but I think we should try different mindsets. There are so many mindsets to try out!
On A Different Mindset
HECTOR: The octo-rails are amazing. They're my favorite right now. I tell him to make every board I have an octo-rail. It's that good. At first I didn't feel the chi, but then I surfed it and was like, "Ahhh, I really know the chi you're throwing now!" The board really goes on rail and when you're on the carve you get speed out of nowhere. Like, I saw Max do a bottom turn and blowtail on that board and I was screaming from the cliff, "WHAAAAAAA! Fire!" I'd never seen him surf like that. The board just speeds through turns and you can cross sections flying.Photo: Alex Brunton
MAX: The octo-rails I do, I take the typical curved contour of the rail and shape it into a series of hard edges. Because curved surfaces create drag. Every shaper will tell you that straighter rails will go faster -- it's just hydrodynamics. So you have that curved surface on the rail, which is constantly engaged with the wave, and the thought is, what if we made that curved surface hard? Obviously you can't make a square rail, but you can create several hard edges so when you're putting it on rail it creates more speed and drive. It probably only takes five minutes to put it in when you're in the shaping bay, but then you have to nurse it through the whole production of the board. The glassing and sanding is really tricky with the octo-rail.
On Board Production
MAX: It's tough to pursue experimentations on a bigger scale, because if the consumer isn't going to buy it, it's really hard to get that idea to fly. Bio-inspired tech is really interesting, and I think a lot of people are going to want to pursue that, but at the end of the day if the quality of the product is less than market standard, it's going to be hard to sell. You have to pay the bills. Like, even with the octo-rails, the industry doesn't support that kind of approach in high volume. It takes a smaller operation. I'm trying to build a crew that can do higher volume, but I'm not going to let quality be reduced by greed. So if I have to work 14-hour days to maintain quality, so be it.Photo: Chris Grundy