Fans of all things foam and fiberglass, rejoice — The Boardroom, a consumer surfboard trade show created several years ago by Scott Bass, is coming East for the first time on September 7th-8th thanks to a partnership with Surf Expo.
Originally called the Sacred Craft Expo back in 2006, Bass started the hybrid consumer/trade show for one reason: to allow local shapers to interact with local surfers. But after several years of runaway success — including our man Ricky Carroll winning three of Sacred Craft’s signature Icons Of Foam Tribute To The Masters Shape-Offs — the newly christened The Boardroom show has evolved into one of the largest surfboard-centric events in the world. So teaming up with Surf Expo to visit the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, later this year, offering the general public its first chance in years to enjoy this monumental industry gathering, made perfect sense.
EasternSurf.com chatted with Bass during his recent scouting trip to Central Florida about The Boardroom’s philosophy, this year’s Shape-Off honoree Rich Price, and the only two things that surfers truly care about. Read all about it below the slideshow.
ESM: Give us a little background on how you decided to start Sacred Craft, which eventually morphed into The Boardroom.
Scott Bass: Back in 2006, it became apparent to me while surfing with a lot of the shapers that I share lineups with in San Diego that they were struggling to find space for their boards on retail shelves. There was no real footprint for them, either as a price-point board or as a local shaper. These were guys who may have been doing well in the past as production or price-point guys who were struggling to compete with the Big Four — Channel Islands, Rusty, Surftech, and Firewire — and with Asian imports. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things. But seeing local shapers pushed aside got me to thinking: “Wouldn’t it be neat if we had an event where local shapers’ boards were on display? And local surfers could co-mingle with and get to know them again?” It seemed like a no-brainer, which is what led me to come up with the Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo.
ESM: How did that transition into your current partnership with Surf Expo? Was Sacred Craft ever co-located with a bigger trade show?
SB: Scared Craft was co-located alongside ASR as a consumer-facing show, and quite frankly, it was a huge hit. I felt that gave buyers and retailers from the industry side of the equation the opportunity to walk the consumer show, see how consumers were reacting to boards, and then meet the shapers, manufacturers, and hardgoods guys that are the foundation of the surf industry.
ESM: Did you pitch this idea to Surf Expo, or did they recruit you?
SB: Surf Expo recruited me. [Show Director] Roy Turner, who owned a retail store in North Carolina for years, approached me and said, “We love want you’re doing and we want to do something similar — we need a place to bring surfboard manufacturers and give them an opportunity to exhibit their products.” We had a great experience doing that with Sacred Craft, and I’m looking forward to doing it again in Orlando with The Boardroom.
ESM: How important is the personal interaction level that comes along with shows like this?
SB: As a kid, I remember going into Tony Staples’ surf shop in Solana Beach, CA, and meeting Tony Staples, who was behind the register and shaping boards. That level of personal interaction was super important to me — that was the experience I remember from day one. And now, if you go into most “mall”-type surf shops, nobody really knows how to shape a surfboard. The employees are all 18-year-olds there to sell clothes. And again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But what is missing is that personal interaction between the guy who makes a surfboard and the guy who rides it. That’s the most important part of the equation. So it’s important to marry them together — crucial even. Anytime the maker of a handcrafted product meets the person buying and using that product, there’s a little bit of magic there.
ESM: On to this year’s show. How did you decide to select Rich Price as the shaper to be honored via the Icons Of Foam Tribute To The Masters Shape-Off?
SB: Quite frankly, I’m kind of a kook when it comes to the East Coast. I’m the first guy to raise my hand and say I know the west coast but not the East. So when it came time to choose a shaper to honor, I reached out to the guys I know here and asked for their advice. Roy Turner of Surf Expo also did the same thing, and we narrowed it down to four or five solid candidates. We really wanted to honor somebody who is an exceptional, world-class shaper but also a positive influence on the sport, lifestyle, and culture. Of course, Rich embodies all of that. He’s the perfect guy — sort of like the Skip Frye of the East Coast. He’s not as old as Skip, but he’s a great human being, a great father, and a world-class shaper who’s above reproach. Nobody can really say, “Oh, why’d you pick him?” about Rich Price. He’s incredible.
ESM: What board of Rich’s have you selected as the featured model that Shape-Off participants Pat Rawson, Stu Kenson, Taz Yassin, Timmy Patterson, Bruce Ragan, and CT Taylor have to replicate?
SB: [Laughs] I think it’d be fun to have the big unveil there, right? Take the drape off the board at the site if you will. In the past, I’ve told people in advance what board was being reproduced, which I think gave some people a jump on things. So this time, I think it might be more fun for everyone involved if we do the big unveil at the show.
ESM: You’ve also got something called the Chunk Of Foam Challenge on the docket. Explain what that’s all about.
SB: That started as a fun idea in the back of my brain. Back in the day — say, in 1580 in Polynesia — if you needed a surfboard, you went to the guy who made them, and he’d say, “OK, I have go get a chunk of tree.” We can’t do that here, but we can do a chunk of foam and see if somebody can find a surfboard within that chunk of foam without any pre-fabricated rocker, center-line stringer, or close-tolerance blank. Just a block of foam for the four guys participating — Juan Rodriguez, Stu Sharpe, Ricky Carroll, and Bill Johnston — to make a board out of. Just like they’re back in Polynesia. We’re gonna give ‘em four hours, one power tool, and whatever hand tools they want. The idea is to make it by hand. No modern measuring devices, just two penny tails with a string in between… It should be interesting.
ESM: The Boardroom is offering a host of other sideshow events. Care to break ‘em down for us?
SB: Sure. It is a consumer show, which means it’s our responsibility to entertain people. And although from my point of view as a surfboard lover looking at surfboards is great, that’s not just what the show is about. We’re going to have live glassing and laminating demonstrations; an Art Grotto where local artists can exhibit their wares; live music from The Supervillians and other bands to be determined; an ESM Slideshow, which we’re really excited about; a DIY skateboard workshop for kids; a pro skate demo; a Surf Film Lounge; an East Coast Hall Of Fame exhibit; and even some other surprises.
ESM: And an Antiques Roadshow-style appraisal area, right?
SB: Yes. I’m a big fan of Antiques Roadshow, so we’ll have experts on hand that understand how to appraise valuable collectibles. You come in with your board, magazine, or old poster, and the experts will guide you through the provenance of the piece and estimate a ballpark figure. That should be fun — there are a lot of people with buried treasures in their garages. This is a chance to show it off and learn its value.
ESM: You were traveling around Florida last month talking to shapers about The Boardroom. What’s the response been like so far?
SB: To date, it’s been really good. One thing that’s evergreen is that surfers love surfboards — and surfboard manufacturers need to sell their surfboards to people who love them. There’s something really special about a surfboard — it’s sort of a philosophical icon of enduring youth. Put a board in the arms of a 60-year-old man and he'll feel like a kid — just like a 10-year-old kid holding a board does. There’s something powerful and magical about surfboards. To get more direct about answering your question, the response has been great, and shaping manufacturers on the East Coast have welcomed The Boardroom with open arms. They’ve heard about Sacred Craft and The Boardroom and know it’s something that’s needed. So they’re excited about getting their chance to be involved.
ESM: Other than Ricky Carroll, have you had many East Coasters at west coast versions of your show in the past?
SB: The guys from Grain Surfboards in Maine have been coming out since Day One. But we know it’s quite a haul. And that’s really why we’ve come here. There’s a whole market of manufacturers and shapers on the East Coast that need to serve a whole market of surfers, all of whom would love to co-mingle with the guys who shape their boards and meet ‘em to talk design, color, and all of the mojo that surrounds the surfboard. Really, all of this is a celebration of those things. I’ve always felt that surfers only care about two things: waves and the equipment to ride them with. We can’t provide waves at The Boardroom, but we can certainly provide the equipment.