Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Making Surfboards a Demanding Craft

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Making Surfboards a Demanding Craft

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Longenecker, Shorelines columnist

"Some people pay $5,000 for a hand-crafted wooden dining table," said surfboard shaper Joseph Erie Peeples. He happily makes a living building hand-crafted products that often net him less than the sticker price of $300 to $600.

Last week, I began a series of columns about challenging activities that can be learned and done right here at the Beaches by the whole family, together. They can travel with those skills all over the world for even more joy instead of renting effortless fun at an amusement park.

Erie is the third man is his family named for a grandmother of native American origin. His 3-year-old son, Erie Mason, is No. 4 and is the fourth generation in the Peeples family to surf. Joseph Erie began making boards because his father was a "garage shaper" who also did surfboard repairs at home. Erie Peeples Surfboards began in 1991.

"One day, I just got a blank and went for it," Erie said. He has a new factory in Edgewater, just west of New Smyrna Beach. It is illegal to build or even do surfboard repair commercially east of the Intracoastal Waterway in New Smyrna Beach!

The process of surfboard building begins with an oversized polyurethane foam blank with a wooden stringer (a strip running nose to tail) glued down the center to help keep the rocker (the nose to tail curvature) in the blank.

Erie and local 31-year veteran shaper Mike Whisnant said they can shape the typical short board (under 7 feet) in about an hour. They draw the outline with the help of a template and then hand-saw the rough shape. Using a variety of tools and sandpaper, the fine finishing work follows.

Both say that it is possible to start a board early in the morning and ride it by dark. The usual order time for a custom Erie is about three weeks, depending on the season. Right now, Mike's delivery time for a custom order will be late July. Erie is also that rare builder who will shape a balsa board.

After the handmade sculpture is completed, color work may be done on the foam itself or the "clear" board after it goes to the glasser for the hand-done coating of fiberglass. At least two hours is required for each side to cure. Typically, boards cure longer because they are done in a semi-production line process.

A sanding coat of resin is applied to fill in the tiny crevices and prepare the board for finishing coats, which may include custom paint and/or pin line designs. A fin system is installed and finally, at least one gloss coat is done. More sanding and polishing complete the process. Any misstep in the sequence can ruin the board.

Surfers want and need a light board that they can jump on and beat up. That often means a conflicting situation for the glasser. Too light and the board does not hold up. …

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