Close your eyes and try to imagine for just a minute a world without surfboards.
Right — you either can't, or you refuse to, which definitively makes my case for just how important shapers are to us. Simply put, nobody else is even close.
Take the time to reflect on that as we present, one at a time and in no particular order with no rhyme or reason, a series of portraits taken from Maine to Florida by myself and Tom Dugan, which visually showcases some of the East Coast craftsmen who make magic out of the white blocks of foam that put the life-changing stoke and indescribable joy into the act of riding waves.
The Faces And Foam Dust Project is sponsored by The Boardroom at Surf Expo, which takes place September 7th-8th in Orlando, FL. For more information, visit www.TheBoardroomShow.com
Photo 1: Photographer: Dick Meseroll. Shaper Subject: Kelly Richards. Location: Kelly's driveway in Garden City Beach, SC. Date: August 8th, 2013. “After more than three weeks on the road, traveling from Florida to Maine and back, I was down to my final grains of sand in the hourglass for this project,” Mez said. “But I made time for one last shoot with one of the most classic boardbuilders around: Perfection Surfboards’ Kelly Richards, who also owns Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City Beach. You may know him better as the father of Cam and Cole Richards, two extremely talented young Carolinian surfers, but Kelly has been a mainstay far longer than his boys. Kelly said the two things he loves more than anything are his sons and his vintage, mint-condition Triumph motorcycles. We nailed a couple of great images of Kelly and his boys with the beautiful metal machines, but this is Kelly's time to shine, so I ultimately chose a photo of just him. He certainly deserves all the accolades that come his way for both building boards and raising two great surfers.”
Photo 2: Photographer: Tom Dugan. Shaper Subject: Greg Geiselman. Location: Orion Surfboards factory, Edgewater, FL. Date: August 6th, 2013. “Greg Geiselman, of Orion Surfboards, mainly does custom shortboards, and he has two of the best test pilots a shaper could ask for: his sons Eric and Evan,” Tom said. “Both boys started on their dad's boards, but as of now, they only get to ride his shapes occasionally, since they had both been living in California. But Evan has moved back to New Smyrna Beach, so in the near future, he’ll be doing a lot more R&D on Dad's boards, and that kind of feedback from such a high-caliber surfer is invaluable. Greg also gets to travel the world with both sons from time to time, and that exposure to new shapes and board designs helps keep his own creations fresh back at home. Greg's was very easy to photograph, and this shot was taken right at the end of our shoot, when we moved out in front of the garage door to get a bit of a breeze and cool off.”
Photo 3: Photographer: Dick Meseroll. Shaper Subject: Clay Reynolds. Location: His mom's garage, Millville, DE. Date: May, 1st, 2013. “Out in the farmlands of coastal Delaware, I found a shy, cherub-faced 15-year-old kid with a big dream to one day build surfboards for a livelihood,” said Mez. “In a super competitive business where many will cast a suspicious, disapproving eye toward Johnny-come-lately's, Clay Reynolds, of the fledgling Backdoor Surfboards label, was by far the youngest person I photographed for this series. Clay has his whole life a head of him to accomplish his goals, with a super-stoked mom backing his play and contributing her artwork to some of his hand-shaped blanks. His boards may have been a tad off here and there, but they were surprisingly good for a neophyte, with glass jobs to match. The kid is stoked on shaping and surfing, and I think he could hardly believe ESM came a knocking to talk shop. He was getting ready to glass his latest creation when I arrived, so I fired away as he toiled in his Mom's 100-degree garage in complete obscurity. I couldn't help wondering if I might just be witnessing the birth of the next Rich Price, Scott Busby, Rick Carroll, or any number of other talented, veteran shapers who now mow foam from Maine to Miami. A long time ago, I was once a bright-eyed 18-year-old kid with aching dream to become a surf photographer. I really hope this kid's dream comes true, too.”
Photo 4: Photographer: Dick Meseroll. Shaper Subject: Eugene "Gene/Surreal-G" Wahl. Location: Essence Surf, Totowa, NJ. Date: August 29th, 2013. “In my home state of New Jersey, my first photo shoot was at Essence Surfboards, a practical wilderness outpost located in, of all places, inland Totowa, close to an hour from the nearest surf spots on Long Island or the Jersey Shore,” said Mez. “Go ahead and check your atlas, because owner/shaper/instructor/surf supply salesman Gene Wahl is as far removed from the Atlantic Ocean as anybody in the business. Which made him just the kind of shaper I really wanted to meet and photograph in order to get a better understanding of the diverse cast of characters who inhabit our East Coast board-building industry. Totowa, NJ, is a long way from waves, but, if you’re a surfer from land-locked North Jersey, A.K.A. Tony Soprano-ville, the Essence factory is the sort of oasis of surfing fantasy that we can all appreciate.”
Photo 5: Photographer: Tom Dugan. Shaper Subject: Stu Sharpe. Location: Pro-Design Glassing, Rockledge, FL. Date: June 14, 2013. “Stu Sharpe has got to be one of the hardest-working shapers out there,” Tom Dugan said. “He does multiple labels plus SUPs from his state-of-the-art shaping room. In this photo, you’ll see a red line running across the blank and up along Stu’s face and body. He explained that, when shaping stringer-less blanks, he shoots a laser beam across the foam to create a perfect line that he uses as a stringer of sorts for more exact measurements. To see Stu set up the blank, turn on his laser beam, put his templates up to the red line, and trace an outline was a perfect example of thinking outside the box, as far as surfboard shaping is concerned. That’s what puts him ahead of the field. After more than three decades in the shaping bay, Stu is proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.”
Photo 6: Photographer: Tom Dugan. Shaper Subject: Charlie Bunger, Sr. Location: Bunger Surf Shop annex, Babylon, NY. Date: July 22, 2013. “I’ve known Charlie since the mid ‘60s, when I started surfing,” Tom Dugan said. “He’s been a staple of the Long Island surf scene for over 50 years and has been shaping high-end longboards for as long. I arrived at his shop in the morning,and he took me into a huge warehouse overloaded with hundreds of vintage surfboards and memorabilia, where he also had his shaping room. There was this very small beam of light coming through one window, and it was just enough to light up his face and show some of the surfboard collection. So if you look closely at this photo, you’ll see boards that changed the way we surf over the years, and Charlie Bunger himself has been a huge part of that evolution.”
Photo 7: Photographer: Dick "Mez" Meseroll. Shaper Subject: Marty Keesecker. Location: The Virginia Beach Boardwalk, Virginia Beach, VA. Date: August 8, 2013. “The idea behind capturing longtime WRV shaper Marty Keesecker was primarily to showcase his beautiful longboards, but I was also trying to capture the kinetic craziness of being a surfer in the unique, tourist-propelled city by the sea where he lives,” Mez said. “It's like no other East Coast town I have visited, and it was pretty easy to come up with this early-evening speed-blur photo concept. Poor Marty had rotator cuff surgery earlier in the year but stood stock still for over 20 minutes without complaint while I fired away over 100 shots using very slow shutter speeds and a tripod-mounted Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L zoom lens to come up with about five usable shots for the Faces And Foam Dust photo project, of which this is one was an outtake. Marty, you're my hero!”
Photo 8: Photographer: Dick "Mez" Meseroll. Shaper Subject: Ricky Carroll. Location: Abandoned Citrus Fruit Stand; Route 1 South, Rockledge, FL. Date: May 16, 2013. “I've been passing this derelict structure for years, and I kept telling myself that, one day, it would come in handy as a photo shoot location,” Mez said. “So when the Faces And Foam Dust shaper portrait project was first commissioned by The Boardroom at Surf Expo, my immediate thought was of getting three-time Icons Of Foam shape-off winner Ricky Carroll, of R&D Surf, in front of this funky gem for his photo. Ricky's extensive board-building operation is about a five-minute drive from this old Harvey's Groves fruit stand, so it was convenient. Plus I liked the brilliant, double-sided mural. It simply says 'this is Florida,' and Ricky, if anything, is a good 'ol surf-stoked Florida Boy in the very best sense. He's also one of the most versatile and accomplished shapers anywhere in the world, which makes him a fitting beginning to ESM's one-of-a-kind East Coast shapers portrait series.”