The Shape of Things to Come
After learning to shape surfboards in the Hawaiian motherland, Cape Cod native Shawn Vecchione brought his world-class skills back home.
Shaping a surfboard is a filthy, nocturnal, meditative undertaking. And it’s one that Shawn Vecchione has repeated more than 6,000 times.
Inside a 14-by-eight-foot room that’s part wood shop, part garage, Vecchione—clad in a T-shirt and board shorts, with bronze skin and a few grey hairs—hovers over a faceless board and flares a sand screen across its face. There’s nothing gentle about the movement—a grating whiisshhh fills the eardrums, and dust kicks up and collects in anthill-sized piles on the floor. He turns the board on its side and sculpts its rails, tapering hard edges into smooth curves. A pair of fluorescent light bulbs mounted at waist height amplifies the shadows cast by nicks and bumps, imperfections that Vecchione buffs from existence.
In the 12 years since Vecchione first learned to shape a surfboard on the island of Kauai, his handiwork has found its way into oceans around the world. Some of his boards have been under the feet of the best surfers in the sport. Some of them are stacked inside his new Vec Surfboards headquarters on Route 6A in Orleans. The 39-year-old Vecchione is a New England surfboard shaper with a Hawaiian’s acumen. And, he says, it’s good to have brought his abilities back where he was born.
A native of Barnstable, Vecchione split his childhood living here and in Hawaii—his mom’s home. He started surfing when he was 14: Friends and family drove him to the beach and he surfed on the fickle Outer Cape coast, chasing waves sculpted by the tides and the shifting sandbars underneath. Vecchione’s aptitude for board sports spawned a three-year career as a pro snowboarder that lasted until he was 21. But when he suffered a back injury on the mountains, he bid farewell to the cold and arrived in the surf mecca of Hawaii. He honed his surf skills and brought them back east, surfing rigorously and earning a top-ten ranking from the Eastern Surfing Association while in his early 20s. In 1993, he opened the Boarding House surf shop in Hyannis. Six years later, he sold the business and returned to Kauai.