Shaper of the Month – June 2013 – Dan O’Hara of Solid Surfboards and South Coast Surfboards
Dan O’Hara is the shaper for Solid Surfboards and South Coast Surfboards here in San Diego. His boards are made for surfers who actually surf, and are built to last. He’s been at it for about 10 years and his work speaks for itself. Give him a call or head down to South Coast to have a look for yourself and pick one up.
1) We heard that you’ve been shaping boards for South Coast, how did that relationship begin?
A few years ago Jeremy, Heather’s husband, suggested me potentially shaping some boards for South Coast and I was all for it. I’ve had a pretty good and growing following on the East Coast. In a way I kind of gave up on San Diego or just kind of passed San Diego by because I was doing pretty well on the East Coast. I’m here because the weather is insane and the waves are a lot better than the East Coast and there’s a lot easier access to materials and labor and all that stuff.
When Jeremy had suggested that I go for the South Coast deal, I thought that it would be a good one and done thing in San Diego, you know, get affiliated with a great local shop and build my shaper brand, not necessarily my shaper brand which is totally fine because I’m not trying to sell my brand here. It’s more on the East Coast.
It was just a good thing and we’re continuing to make some of their older models and helping develop some new models. We kinda threw epoxy in half their racks as like a blind test and its been going insane. We see a lot of boards moving and I don’t even know if the consumers know, you know what I mean. But we basically took some boards I’ve been making, threw them in their racks and changed the model names kept them EPS and they’re moving. Without marketing or really much.
2) What shapers have helped you along your way and were influential to get you where you are today?
I grew up around the corner from Mike Shermeyer who was a pretty big shaper under the label Shred Styx Surfboards in the 80’s, at least he was a big shaper out East. I always looked up to him and when I started shaping. He showed me a few things here and there and was always an inspiration, everyone in the community always looked up to him. He’s a really cool nice guy and he then he turned me on to another local guy who was actually building boards at that time who helped me with the ins and outs of glassing, little tools and tricks here and there. After that I went and apprenticed for a shaper in Florida.
Charlie Williams, from Impact Surfboards. He really got me dialed in with the shaping there’s nobody that has helped me more with the tuning of shaping than he did. He’s a gnarly charger who’s pushing 60 and still does airs in 1 foot Florida slop. He’s the kinda guy I look up to more than the guys who put themselves on a pedestal He’s kinda in the trenches again and making boards for guys who surf and just delivering a good product for people who surf.
I grew up in New York working in a shop, Island Surf, in West Hampton and kind of got to see what happens on the retail floor surfboard wise, you know what happens in the trenches. I basically built a program for East Coast shops that we work with their shop guys, basically supporting team riders and employees and also giving the shops a price that they can make a good margin on and that will retail for a good competitive price and be a board that surfers, actual surfers, can afford. That’s been our whole program and its gone great. On my first sales trip a couple years ago, I went to 135 shops in a month. I went from Maine to Galveston, Texas and I figured if I went to enough shops I’d get one or two…and I got about a dozen. And that was 11 more than I’d had prior and it was a killer, eye opening experience for sure. At that point I’d kinda been only doing customs and if it didn’t go well, I was gonna say fuck it and quit shaping, but it went well…so I figured I’d keep shaping.
4) You’ve been on the green surfboard movement for a while now, anything new in that department?
In 2009, there was a Rob Machado Hurley Green Expo in Cardiff-By-The-Sea and so we built this board. I’d been dabbling in different construction and I’ve been doing epoxy for a while. For that show, we had a recycled blank that was built out of EPS foam scraps that were cut offs from other boards. So, we had a scrap blank that was glued together and I made bamboo fins for it. We used a Pine based resin, bamboo cloth, and a bio plastic leash plug. It was the Discus model, which is a round nose, pintail quad. It’s a funky board that a lot of people could relate to at that time; it was a little forward thinking at that point in time.
We won the Green Board Builder award at that thing and it was a cool credential I guess…if any credentials exist in this industry. Since then we’ve just been doing our virgin EPS, which is always recyclable…forever. Epoxy resin is 1/1000 the VOC levels of polyester resin, so it’s just our production standard board right now is pretty environmentally friendly. Versus a poly blank and poly resin, which is just horrendous for the environment. I’d say we do like 98% of our construction is EPS epoxy and we do about 20 boards a week. But we stil get onesie, twosie polys here and there.
5) Where do you like to surf?
I live in PB so I wind up surfing around there a lot. I love the shore and La Jolla reefs. That’s why I decided to live there, I didn’t want to pay to live in La Jolla but North PB is right there. Easy access…you’re inside the 5, and that’s’ pretty much where I surf.
6) Besides surfing and making boards, what other hobbies do you have?
I love waterfalls. I’ve been doing a lot of hiking and camping and I dig that shit. I don’t know what it is about water, but I freak out on waterfalls. We just went to Yosemite for Memorial Day weekend and that was killer. We went up to Vancouver about 3 weeks ago to look at a shaping machine and we went to Vancouver Island and Cypress falls and that was awesome too.
3) Where can your boards be found in local shops or what’s the best way to get a new custom from you?
There have been a couple shops, Rad action sports in Mission Beach, a guy Jeff, a good friend of mine, he let me put some boards in there on consignment. Wavelines Surf Shop up near Del Mar carried some boards a few years ago. But now that I’m with South Coast I’m kind of just focusing on building and helping to continue growing the brand and dialing in their shapes and getting their team guys good boards. It’d be cool to get them against Surf Ride or something in the Oakley Shop Challenge and win it, that’s kind of one of my goals; to get those kids killing it.
If you need anything form the East Coast check one of our retailers, we have one everywhere except for Florida right now., You can order one online at solidsurfco.com, or if you need anything locally, stop by your local South Coast Surf Shop and order one through Fabiano or one of the guys on the floor and I’d be happy to shape one for you through them.
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