By Jake Howard
The perfectly harmonious fusion between a board, it’s rider and a wave is the grail craftsmen like Dana Point artist and surfboard shaper Tyler Warren seek.
“When you get on a board you’ve made, and you don’t have to think, when you’re standing there and the board is connecting your feet to the wave, that’s what it’s all about,” Warren said. “There’s a pureness that’s hard to describe. I guess you’d just call it stoke.”
Trained in the arts and science of surfboard construction by Hobie’s iconic shaper, the late Terry Martin, who whittled an excess of 80,000 boards in more than 50 years behind the planer, Warren’s what you might call a renaissance man. His designs have undertones of bygone, perhaps more “classic” eras. He shapes all of the boards he rides, testing them out in varying conditions around the world. And when not consumed by foam, dust or salt water, you may find him noodling on his latest painting. A talented fine artist, creativity simply oozes out of the 25-year-old regular-footer.
“With shaping, you have all of the measurements and the numbers. But all of the curves have to come together in the right places,” tells Warren. “So much of it is done by eye and by feel. It’s running your hands down the rails not just seeing, but feeling the curves that are aesthetically pleasing. That’s art. And sometimes you can look at a board and just know it’s going to go good. That’s art. It’s envisioning what you see and creating that with the tools you have. There’s some math there, but once you get started it’s like one big art project.”
Just like oil on canvas, the art of the surfboard is meant to transport one to another place, another mindset. For a surfboard shaper, they’re trying to achieve a oneness between the surfer and the wave.
“If the board is performing well it makes me feel good, and if I feel good, I know the board is performing,” says Warren. “It’s sort of like you can’t have one without the other.”
Like any art form or technological advancement, when it comes to a more perfect union, surfboard design is built on the successes and failures of previous generations. It’s the whole, “good artists borrow, great artists steal” concept.
“A large part of shaping is looking at successful design ideas of the past and bringing them forward,” continues Warren. “It could be something as easy as taking an old template and reconfiguring it with a more modern or advanced outline. There’s a lot you can do with the rails or the foil to pay homage to a previous generation, while still giving it very modern characteristics. Bottom contours, fins, even the materials you use can be manipulated to create an offshoot of an idea that came before. As a shaper, you’re building on all of those ideas.”
There’s always an easier way, a road more travelled. New designs, new creations and new artistic endeavors require blood, sweat and courage to push boundaries and to take chances. But what fun would experimentation be without all that stuff?
“I think it’s probably easier if you’re not shaping your boards. I know you’d have more time to surf,” laughs Warren. “There’s a lot that goes into making your own boards. You have to order the blank, shape it, get it to the glass shop, and then hopefully it’s ready by the time you need it. It would be much easier to just go to a shaper, order ten boards and wait for them to show up. It’s definitely a balancing act, but I really enjoy riding my own shapes and it’s all part of my surfing experience. I really couldn’t imagine it any other way.”