Enjoy this video and hear a little bit about Grain Surfboards out in Maine from co-owner Brad Anderson. If you haven’t checked out what they’re up to over there in the North East, have a look around their website. They take the old school approach of making their own crafts with wood from trees in their area and also sell DIY at-home kits…doesn’t get much more soul than that! For more info visit: www.grainsurfboards.com
Travel in a third world country can easily put you on edge. Roads without signs, 6’ wide potholes, and ever-lingering policia are all contributing factors. Having 12 surfboards stacked on the roof doesn’t exactly lend a low profile either.
We found ourselves on day one heading from Panama City to a lava rock right-hand point break in Santa Catalina about 6 hours away. On the main highway they had police set up every 5 kilometers or so keeping an eye on things. A few hours passed with no worries until one of the badges decides to flag us over. Fortunately, he had great English and told us we were going 95k in and 80k zone. It’s funny how he could pinpoint our exact rate of travel with no radar gun. Nonetheless, “lo siento, amigo”, was our response.
He took his time and with some theatrics explained that driving the speed limit is important to him because there are many people walking on the side of the road and it was his job to keep them safe. After threatening us with a $100 fine, we came to an agreement. He spends all day in a full uniform watching cars passing by standing in the hot sun in one of the most humid places in the world; it’s a tough gig. What a better way to relax and cool off than one of Panamas national beers, the Balboa?
Reaching into our freshly stocked up ice chest, we passed him the coldest beer ever and threw in a Gatorade for good measure. Off we went; no harm, no fine, and a new friend made.
Michah Shanahan of Addict Surfboards has become a fixture in the San Diego shaping scene. His boards are all over and can’t be missed with their distinct designs and oftentimes rad colored airbrushes. His central hub is an easy jaunt to some of San Diego’s best surf spots from Alan Beels Surfboard Services tucked in just off the I-5 and I-805 in San Diego. Read below to get the details from when we checked out the operation and met up with Micah for a quick interview on a sweltering summer day.
Tell me about the last board you shaped.
I shaped it this morning. It was an 8’10” California gun. It looks just a little bit wider, but like a gun, for bigger, mushier days. The guy just wants a big wave board but he’s not going to be surfing Todos or Mavericks or anything like that. It’s just gonna be for the Cove, the Cliffs, the Sloughs, or maybe Blacks; it just depends. That was cool and fun because I don’t really get to shape boards like that on regular basis. People don’t really order guns in San Diego, so it’s fun to shape stuff like that because it’s not like your always shaping the same thing over and over. It’s like doing something that’s unique.
Where did you grow up and what shapers are from around there?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, a little south of the city proper in San Mateo. When I was a kid probably Pearson Arrow were the boards that I had the most of in Santa Cruz cause I surfed everywhere from like the City to Santa Cruz. Most of the major board companies were in Santa Cruz, so we had like Doug Haut and Bob Pearson. You know those are the boards that I can really remember that I liked. Once I moved down here, and that was fourteen years ago, I just was riding all of boards that people made down here, picking up used boards off the rack and all that kinda stuff.
How did you come up with the name Addict Surfboards?
It was just from my wanting to make another one and another one and another one. When I got done with my first one, which I have hanging up in the shaping room right there, I showed it to my buddy he was like “that’s awesome can you make me one”? Then it just kind of snowballed from there. Every time I was making one, I was always thinking about the next one I wanted to make, and the next one, and the next one and then before I knew it, I was getting money from doing it. People were paying me to do it, so it became a hobby that made me money and then a job.
Addict surfboards is literally like just from being addicted to wanting to make another one and being addicted to shaping. It’s funny, because it has a negative connotation, right? Addict Surfboards. But I’ll tell you the only people that I get that from, are people that I know are either alcoholics or are users. The ones that it pisses off are the ones that are guilty of the negative vice, you know. Everybody else is like, “That’s such a great name, how’d you come up with it?”.
I didn’t want to use Micah Shanahan Surfboards like a lot of shapers that use their own name. I feel like that’s kind of overdone and I like the idea of a surfboard company like Lost and Mayhem or something where they have actually come up with something unique and they want to stand apart from something like “Hey look at me, I’m Micah Shanahan” and have it plastered all over the board, but yeah, it is on there.
Who are some of the shapers you have worked with and learned from?
I’ve met a lot of shapers because we build a lot of boards for a lot shapers which is pretty neat, you know. But it’s not like anybody really influenced me. Ned McMahon shaped that board in my room right now and he shaped another one the other day. Keola Repoza has shaped boards in my room too. I’ve had guys come in here and use my room and I’ll watch ‘em. But there’s nothing that they’re doing I don’t already like feel like I’m doing. But that’s just now.
A long time ago when I was first building boards I worked for Plus One and George Gall. That guy should not be building surfboards. He’s a genius and should be doing other stuff. I guess he was doing other stuff and always building surfboards and obviously, he loves his work more than anyone else. It almost seems wasted because he should be building NASA rockets or something, not surfboards.
He’s a really cool guy because he was really open to being like, “Okay, so this is what you are doing. It’s good. This is how you could be doing it better. Let me show you how.” He wasn’t one of the guys that was like “Oh, now your building surfboards and you’re my competition?” He was like, “Dude, that’s awesome! Let me help you become better.” That was nice to have someone, especially him. If I look up to anyone, it would definitely be George because I’ve heard horror stories of other guys getting pissed at each other.
Any shout outs?
To all of the people have ordered a board. If it weren’t for all them, I’d be doing some fuckin’ other job that I probably wouldn’t like. So that’s the number one, to all the people that have brought me their income, to make my income. That’s pretty cool. And then other people like Alan Beels, the guy who put together this place and George Gall. There’s another guy that probably doesn’t get that much credit, Jim Flynn. He’s the owner of Windansea Surf Shop over there in Mission Beach. He was the guy that I originally bought blanks from and I’ll never forget that and that guy.
Anything new coming up towards the end of 2012?
Keep on paying bills, dude. Keep making money and paying bills.
Some of the boards you made that I remember seeing had some pretty rad airbrush designs. Who’s behind that?
One of the things that’s unique about doing what I do when I’m building my boards is I do them from start to finish. Honestly, about 90% of the boards that I make, I’ve made from the shaping room to the water. I shape ‘em, fin ‘em, paint ‘em, glass ‘em, and sand ‘em. Everything; literally from the beginning to the end.
Two things that I don’t do are the gloss and polish and some of the tints. To get the resin perfectly uniform, Alan will help out. I’ll get my hands in it, but I don’t do a lot of it on my own. If it’s opaque, I’ll do it because it doesn’t have to be perfect. But to get a tint like really, really clean it takes a master. Not to say that I couldn’t do it, but I know it will come out better if I had somebody else do it. Like the gloss and polish, Justin our sander, is really good at polishing. It’s like “dude, you just do it and make sure that it comes out good.”
A lot of boards you see that are painted, I paint. We have an air brusher and occasionally I have him paint something and sand a board every once in a while if the other guy is gonna leave town or something. Anywhere from to 90-95% percent of the boards that I build, I build from beginning to end. So that’s a little bit unique I think, not a lot of guys are doing it. I like it, so it’s just what I do.
San Diego Surf Trips
Living in a place like San Diego we are constantly reminded of how blessed we are to be able to enjoy this environment of great weather and ample surf. When the South Swell pumps in the summer we like to drive South of the big Bay and find empty tee-pees scattered across a long beach strand. The line up and rip current were more than manageable and there was more than enough surf on tap!
This is a very special place, mainly because it is one of the most South facing beaches in South San Diego County and also because it is the last main town in California before you hit the Mexican border. It is filled with vibrant Latino culture and Surf history. If you venture down be respectful. Like you do when you travel anywhere and you’re not a local.
Here are a few pictures from out latest trip South: