In case you haven’t heard, something amazing happened Monday. A young East Coaster put on a truly epic performance at the Volcom Pipe Pro, which, in itself, would have been a pretty big deal. But this particular Rightsider was none other than our very own World Tour hope Evan Geiselman, a much-hyped former grom phenom who’s now grinding it out on the ‘QS trying to shake a small-wave stereotype. So, for Evan, performing well at Pipe while the world watched wasn’t just a big deal. It was a validation and a silencing of the doubters. But it gets even better than that. Because not only did Evan perform well, he won his heat, and not just any heat, but a heat against imminent World-Title threat/Pipeline demigod John John Florence. And, just for good measure, Evan posted the highest wave score and heat total of the day while he was at it. Damn. Now that’s a breakthrough moment.
Though Evan ended up losing out today in Round 4, missing a Quarterfinals berth, it’s safe to say that Monday’s events mean the world has officially been forced to recognize Evan Geiselman’s real potential. And, if all goes well, maybe 10 years from now he’ll look back on that moment as a pivotal point in his career. If he does, no doubt he’ll fondly remember that the trusty board under his feet that day was shaped by his own father, renowned East Coast shaper Greg Geiselman of Orion Surfboards. How’s that for an East Coast victory? In an age where just about every serious pro throws board sponsor obligations out the window to order the hottest new Hawaiian-made sticks upon arriving in the islands, a rising East Coast star crushes one of the more important heats of his career thus far on a board made by a Rightside craftsman. But it’s not exactly shocking that Evan trusted his dad’s shapes at such a key moment. Greg Geiselman does, in fact, know what he’s doing. So ESM caught up with Greg to ask him about the magic boards behind Evan’s breakthrough North Shore season (and what the rest of us stand to learn from them). Here’s what he had to say…
ESM: First of all, Greg, in the past we’ve seen Evan on several other labels besides yours, but lately it seems like he’s been really committed to Orion. What brought that about?
Greg Geiselman: Well, he’s been riding my boards on and off all along, but a lot of last year and part of this year, he’s really been on my boards, as many as I can make for him. I know how he surfs because I’ve seen him surf more than anybody else, I guess [laughs], and it’s just about, when we get him some good boards, being able to keep getting him the same good boards. I think that’s the trouble with a lot of the bigger companies is that you’re not always getting your board shaped by the same guy every time. Sometimes there’s a variation between the boards. He rode for Channel Islands before, and Matt Biolos has always made him one or two boards here and there from Mayhem, but it’s just about getting consistency.
ESM: So, what can you tell us about the quiver you made him for Hawaii this year?
GG: This year, we did pretty much all five-fins that could ride thruster or quad and set them up as quads. I think he likes that projection of speed that he gets out of the quad for Pipe. He would never ride them before, but this year he decided to try them, and I think he couldn’t believe how fast they projected. And most of them were all swallow tails too this year, which is the first time he’s done that. Pretty much in his quiver I think he’s got 6’1”, 6’4”, 6’7”, and I know he’s got a 7’0” too, and that was probably the biggest he took over there.
ESM: Which of those boards was he riding during Monday's Volcom Pipe Pro heat?
GG: That was the 6’7”. His older brother, Eric, had tried one of those designs the year before, and we had really good luck with it, so Evan said he wanted to try one, and we did it, and he got a few waves on it and called and said it worked. All I did was change the fins since we changed him up to riding four fins. So it’s just a 6’7” with a decent amount of rocker, single concave in it, a decent amount of curve in the outline, and a small swallow on it. I also usually run him a little bit more foam [at the front of the board], just because he likes to sit in and catch the waves that kind of back off of second reef and unload on first reef there, so he wants to be able to take off underneath that lip. When he presses down and puts his head down and paddles, there’s more foam up underneath that front, so it sort of helps him get up, and then also when he does that first turn off the bottom to kind of correct, there’s a lot of foam under his front foot. So I do that on his boards, and then I started doing that a little bit on Eric’s boards too, and it seems to work for them.
ESM: How did it feel to see him perform so well on a board you had shaped?
GG: It’s always exciting to watch him. It was just a good feeling of having that accomplishment of building him some boards that he liked and did well on. Obviously, it looked like they worked well for him. I just try to tell him to trust in what I did, and he just needs to do what he does. So hopefully, with that relationship there, he can get through a few more heats.
ESM: Being based in Florida, how were you able to learn to shape good boards for Hawaii?
GG: Well, I think I’ve been taking Eric over to Hawaii since he was 10 or 11, so I’ve built boards for both of them every season, and I think I’ve been there 22 times now. So I’ve built boards, both good and bad ones, for them over all those seasons, and we’ve just kind of formulated it at this point. Plus I’ve worked with Jeff Bushman out of Hawaii a good amount shaping surfboards, and I learned a lot from him about different rockers and entries into the rockers, and he helped me with developing pretty good boards for Sunset and Pipe and learning the differences between shaping for the breaks.
ESM: In your experience, what are the most important things East Coasters should be looking for in their boards for Hawaii?
GG: With the Pipe Boards, I think they’ve really got to hold. You have to be able to knife it. That rail has got to hold, and you don’t want that tail to slide out. We had one year where I made these concave tails, and the boards weren’t holding. The tails were sliding out toward the beach every time they tried to bottom turn. So I think just getting a board that projects and holds is important. You’re not really doing a whole lot of turns at Pipe. So on those boards, that’s what we look for, something that will hold. And then Sunset is a different wave. You’ve got heavy barrels out there, your board’s got to turn, but it’s also got to float and catch a wave. There’s definitely rocker in them, and also just good outlines.
ESM: And if people want to ride a quiver shaped by you next winter, how would they go about doing that?
GG: They could e-mail me or go to one of our dealers. Usually, I like to know people’s experience level, height and weight, and what they’ve been riding as their performance shortboard, because I try to build so that all the boards relate to each other. I come up with a formula for width and size all the way up, that way, if you have a 6’4” and then you hop onto a 6’6”, they kind of still relate to each other, but one just rides a little bit bigger wave than the other. I try to keep the same feel throughout most of the quiver.