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The Shape of Things to Come

Surfboard maker Shawn Vecchione

Vecchioine sands each and every custom board to produce the desired symmetry, flow, and thickness for his clients. Photo by Luke Simpson

Though he works with high-level surfing pros, Vecchione says he still enjoys watching grommets grow their skills on his boards. “To watch a 12-year-old kid on my board smoke me out of the water is one of the most rewarding things, you know?” he says. In addition, Vecchione has worked as a “ghost” shaper for some of the surf industry’s biggest companies, furnishing boards to their specifications without attaching his name to them.

The custom shaping process usually begins with a “blank,” an anonymous piece of polyurethane foam. After figuring out the surfer’s needs, Vecchione uses a wood planer to form the shape of the board and swipes a series of sand screens along every inch to achieve the desired thickness, flow, and symmetry. When he’s done, Vecchione writes his signature and the board’s dimensions on the tail. Then he ships the board off to Keith Natti at Twin Lights Surfboards in Gloucester, who laminates each board with a protective fiberglass layer and sands it to a fine finish—an art in itself.

Surfboard maker Shawn Vecchione

A young surfer gets some air off a wave. Photo by Luke Simpson

In the Vec Surfboards retail shop, located on Route 6A in Orleans, visitors can custom-order boards from Vecchione and watch the shaping process as it happens. Along with a supply of Vec boards and gear, he plans to host visits from world-class shapers like Hamilton. And, if there’s time in the off-season, he’s thinking about holding a few shaping seminars. Then again, his last off-season wasn’t exactly restful: He was commissioned by MAC Cosmetics to produce 175 surfboards for display in all of the company’s North American retail locations.

Shaping a surfboard is predominantly a numbers game, Vecchione says. Sometimes making the perfect board simply means plugging numbers into a formula. But shaping is an art form, too, evidenced in the clean lines and elegant transitions. And there’s at least a little bit of sentiment involved, too. Vecchione still has that first six-foot-long, 19-inch wide, two-and-a-quarter inch deep board he shaped back in 1999. There might be certain things he would tweak, but he still loves the board. No doubt he’d still write his name on it.

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