How else are you going to learn about what this shape is doing unless you ride it for some time?
We first met JD San Jose at the 2014 Fish Frye on Long Beach, NY, noticing his unusual, angular boards, reminiscent of Manual Caro’s Mandala Custom Shapes. After chatting with JD in the water and learning about his backyard shaping bay in Port Monmouth, Northern New Jersey, we drove out to meet him and discuss his efforts to master the three disciplines of surfboard making: shaping, glassing and sanding.
Our interview took place over a relaxed lunch and iced teas in JD's yard, to the misplaced joy of his dog, who was under the impression that lunch might be a shared enterprise... Firstly, we wanted to know where JD had first discovered his desire to shape.
“I've wanted to shape since I was a kid. I started surfing aged twelve. I didn't grow up on the beach - I grew up thirty miles North of here. So it wasn't like I could just walk to the beach. Magazines were huge for me. As cliche as it is, the movie North Shore is really where I first saw shaping! It’s funny because Rick Kane was going to art school to become a graphic designer - that's what my career path is, as a graphic designer. Without knowing it, that movie was pretty influential on my life. I also used to call the surf report hotline, even though I had no way to get to the beach, I would call just to get the report - I wanted to hear what was going on!”
“Skipping ahead, Green Light Surf Supply eventually opened up in Belmar so I walked in there and got a blank. I bought a cheap electric planer and taught myself how to shape - I used the internet to research it. This was 2010, so I was thirty-four. The thing is, I rode so many boards before I started. I had all this knowledge of all these things I wanted to try. Otherwise how else are you going to learn about what this shape is doing unless you ride it for some time?”
Naturally we were curious about how JD had tried so many boards living in New Jersey. It soon became clear that he had been bitten bad by the board collecting bug.
“I was a board addict! For a good seven or eight years before I started shaping I was buying and selling everything I could. There were so many boards I wanted to try and I got to try everything. I probably had a hundred to two hundred boards during those years. It was almost like every other week I was buying a board. And I'm here [New Jersey], so everyone filters over to the East Coast from the West Coast and there was a lot of diversity in the boards available. Craigslist was huge for me. This was like early 2000s, during the height of the fish renaissance, and bonzers, single fins - it seemed easier back then. I don't do it now obviously because I shape myself!”.
“That was how I learned about surfboard design - from riding. I'd say the majority were California shaped boards. And now we have different shapes on the East Coast from one town to the next. I found those California boards were awesome on the right day. But on average days here, a lot of them were just difficult to ride. Whether it was the weight, design, fin setup. There was one board I was dying to try for years - an Australian Geoff McCoy. After trying that I felt like I'd tried everything I wanted to try. I wanted to take all that stuff I learned from those boards and apply it to something that's just going to work better for me here in New Jersey. That's how it started.”
Photos: Julien Roubinet
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