Lucy Small is a journalist, academic and surfer from the deep south of Western Australia who has over the the past few years split her time between Sydney, Byron Bay and Southern Africa while competing on the WSL Longboard Tour.
Back in the day, the surfers who dominated at the top level also led the way as shapers. People like Wayne Lynch, Mark Richards and Simon Anderson drove the evolution of both surfing and surfboards in their heydays. But the sport has evolved to the point that Championship Tour surfers don't have time to perform at an elite level and simultaneously devote themselves to surfboard design. They work closely with shapers, rather than shaping themselves.
That's not to say there aren't amazing surfers who also shape (people like Ryan Burch spring to mind) -- just that, at the elite level of competitive surfing, the surfer-shaper is pretty rare.
That is, unless you're on the Longboard Tour, where many of the top athletes also shape some of the most sought-after boards, which their fellow competitors ride as well. Here's a few examples:
Hailing from Waikiki, Kai Sallas is putting boards under the feet of some of the world's most exciting young longboarders. His stable of surfers includes Kaniela Stewart and Kelis Kaleopaa -- two surfers widely considered to form part of the next generation of top-level loggers.
Kai Sallas himself is a household name of the sport, having finished inside the top 10 for the last five consecutive years.
"Shaping boards was always something I wanted to do," Kai said.
"I remember 12 years ago, shaping my own boards out of my broken longboards after surfing Pipe. I'd strip the glass and shape boards and then I got into shaping a few boards in the shaping room here and there, but never really followed through.
"When I started designing my own boards and shaping them myself I found that way worked better than any relationship I had with any shaper, because instead of trying to explain to a shaper what I'm feeling on the board when I am testing them or riding them, I don't have to go through the middle man.
"I can just go straight from my brain to my hands, into the board. I am relaying everything I felt while surfing to the board while I'm making it. I found that was the best way and I was able to do exactly what I thought."
With new models developed in collaboration with Kelis and Kaniella set to drop in 2021, we're about to see a whole lot more from Kai Sallas.
Dane Perlee brings an interesting dimension to this conversation. A more recent addition to the World Tour, Perlee has been a boards craftsman for more than 25 years and is known for his innovative designs. Based in San Diego, Perlee's boards are reflective of his need to experience new sensations in surfing:
"The traditional noseriders that I've been riding are far from traditional, some would say." Perlee said.
"I've been drawn to that 60s style most of my surfing career. However, the surfboards from my perspective have maybe had some drawbacks, mainly in the way they feel from the tail - kind of slow, a little bit dead feeling when you try to get them to come around a corner and turn. I'm more interested in a more powerful, accelerating style of a turn but different from a performance-style turn.
"There's the noseride ability of a traditional board but there's more trim, power and acceleration - a board that maintains its own speed and momentum no matter where you are on the board.
"Because of the minimised outline of the tail, when you put it on rail, despite the noserider oriented rocker the straight line of the outline allows you to really to tap into a lot of power and strength through your turn." Perlee said.
Out of Cornwall, long time Longboard World Tour competitor Ben Skinner has become one of the most prolific longboard shapers in the UK. In partnership with Jason Gray, Ben Skinner designs and shapes boards for Skindog Surfboards -- also boasting a team of some of Britain's top competitive longboarders. Australia's Jack Entwistle has also recently been sighted on some lofty hang 10's around Byron on one of Skindog's boards.
With outlines ranging from wide-tailed logs, to more pulled in performance-oriented models, Skindog's boards incorporate a wide range of design influences. Skindog himself is known for drawing a caramel line - known for some come-from-behind glory moments, such as taking out current Longboard World Champion Justin Quintal in New York last year.
From arguably the World's Longest left, Peru's Piccolo Clemente was the 2015 WSL longboard World Tour champion and is the founder of Piccolo Clemente Surfboards. Clemente's competitive dominance has cemented him as one of South America's most prolific modern day longboarders and longboard designers.
Traveling to compete on the World Tour, regularly flanked by a team including young Japanese fire cracker Taka Inoue riding his boards, Piccolo Clemente is a driver in South American Longboarding. Leaning more toward progressive longboard designs, Clemente's board move quick.
This list would be incomplete without Joel Tudor One of the most influential longboarders of our time (if not all time), Joel Tudor studied under the late Donald Takayama - one of the great names of longboard craftsmanship.
Tudor's influence when it comes to boards is undisputed, and his commitment to traditional designs is a hallmark of his craft. Joel Tudor keeps alive the elite surfer shaper combo.