Shaper Marcio Zouvi grew up in Rio de Janeiro but moved to San Diego in the late 1980s to study computer engineering. Initially finding side jobs as a sander, glasser, and ding repair guy, his love of surfing and surfboard shaping proved far stronger than his passion for programming.
In 1992 he formed Sharp Eye Surfboards and in the last 25 years has turned it into a global business, overseeing production teams on four continents from the HQ in San Diego. Zouvi's most notable surfer/shaper relationship has been with Filipe Toledo, but his surfboards are ridden by Silvana Lima, Tatiana Weston-Webb, Sally Fitzgibbons and Kanoa Igarashi. The WSL recently caught up with Zouvi to chat Hawaiian quivers, the rise of retro designs and how he keeps the stoke alive.
WSL: How different are the surfboards for your different CT team riders, apart from the obvious weight and height changes?
Zouvi: Well it's about 20 percent difference for each surfer's board. The core of the design, the rocker, the foil, thickness, and distribution of the outline are similar, but then we change the board to the individual riders. They aren't different models per se, but just subtle changes that reflect their surfing.
Is there much crossover between the CT riders' boards?
Sometimes I'll design something for say Filipe, and if I see positive results, I'll incorporate the change into another surfer and ask them to give it a try. As an example recently I was working with Kanoa on the #77 model. During the break from competition, he went to Tahiti and we tested a stack of boards made for slab waves.
From those testing sessions we came out with something positive and so when it came to building the Pipe boards this year I used that new design for basically everyone. We have recently been working with Barron Mamiya and he tried those and we had some great feedback so there's cross-pollination for sure.
On the subject of Hawaii, how different is it shaping boards for Hawaii?
The boards for Hawaii are a real challenge. I think I have some great designs that work, but I haven't spent enough time there to really explore my designs for those waves. So I look at the main Hawaiian shapers and what they are doing and tweak my own boards to get good results. I try and go every year to test the boards and gain more experience, but I think Baron will be crucial -- we'll have faster and better feedback from someone who lives there.
Did last year without competition change the way you shaped for your team? Were there any benefits or disadvantages?
2020 was a different year and the surfers took different approaches. Filipe went back to Brazil and spent a lot of time with his family and gained some weight. Kanoa went to Portugal and surfed a lot. Tatiana too was really active. So for the boards we had to see how serious each surfer was and make the quivers accordingly. But as the competition looked to be ramping up everyone got their game face on. Of course we have stopped again, so we'll just see what happens.
How much do the pros boards designs feed into the boards you sell to average surfers?
Back in the 1980s and 1990s it felt like the level of surfing of the general public was higher than now. That meant the interest in what the pros were riding was higher as a result. The public wanted something very similar to what the pros were riding at the time.
As the alternative designs came back and people wanted to have more fun, or ride more appropriate boards as they got older, it's become more relaxed and we have a huge variety of designs available. So that means the focus moves away a little from the pro boards as to sell boards in the shops you have to provide those designs.
Was that a challenge for you?
For sure. I've only ever ridden shortboards because that was the only surfing I wanted to do. So my shaping became specialized, but eventually, I had to dive in to these alternative designs. I had to rewind and make twins and single fins. Over time I've come up with boards that work, but now I let my specialized staff handle those designs.
That's because I don't want to lose my touch when the team riders are back in competition. It's hard to switch between all those designs. If you do you lose focus and I really want to focus on the high-performance craft ridden by the world's best surfers.
Lastly, what is exciting you most right now in your shaping?
Shaping is a science and I'm always excited to try new materials or different methods of construction. I've been working with the Dark Arts guys recently, and they have a pretty good thing going on with new construction.
But the CT is still exciting on its own. I love to see boards performing well and I like to dissect why the boards are working, or not working. There's so much trial and error and no theory is set in stone. There's a lot of observation required as boards look so similar even between different shapers.
However with a trained eye you can see they are not and the tiny, subtle changes can make a huge difference given the level of surfing these guys are operating at. That's what keeps me excited and up at night thinking. That's what keeps the stoke alive.