Donghe is one of the three major surfing spots in Taiwan, especially in autumn and winter, it is a good time for surfing. On the mountainside of this ocean, there is a base for professional board shaping, wrapping and grinding, and it is also a place for exchanging information and technology. Last but not least, here was made by Anthony, who is a local surfboard shaper! When asking Anthony when he started surfing, he replied “I’ve been playing in the sea with my uncle since I was a kid! Back then, I didn’t know anything about surfing. Instead, I just played with waves with a board.”
The fun games of childhood have gradually become an indispensable part of life. It was not until he went to Japan for a working holiday that Anthony officially came into contact with the profession of the surfboard shaper. At the time, he also visited local studios and saw surfboards with a variety of features, which was different from the ones he remembered. “It was eye-opening!” he said. Therefore, after returning to Taitung, Anthony rented a space and began to study and explore on the Internet. Then, about a year ago, Anthony met a French friend who had four-years experience of surfboard shaper. Through the professional assistance of this new friend, Anthony built up the current spatial structure bit by bit, and also learned a lot of knowledge about surfboard shaping.
The production process of surfboards is something that many people are quite curious about! Anthony answered in detail, “To make a surfboard, you must first choose different types of styrofoam, and then choose the keel, which is the wood material in the center. Once the main materials have been decided, shaping begins. Because styrofoam is very fragile, we will wrap it with a layer of resin and fiberglass as soon as possible after the shaping is completed, for providing strength and toughness. When the fiberglass is covered, it is also colored, so this is also an important procedure for style definition. Finally, we do the final grinding for the surfboard. Then, a beautiful surfboard is done!”
In this process, what are the key points to pay attention to? Anthony thought for a few seconds and replied, “Actually, it's a matter of paying attention every second.” Taking shaping for example, the shaper needs to use the yellow lights on both sides to clearly observe the texture of the styrofoam, and then judge how to start, and the whole process of shaping is like a spiritual journey of physical and mental devotion. In addition to not keeping long nails, the operating force must be very careful. Otherwise, a slight misalignment will destroy the smooth lines. Then, the following steps are also crucial, and every step has to be done just right to make a perfect surfboard!
Anthony Surfboard Studio has been around for about a year now. Asking what was the hardest part, Anthony recalled, “In Taiwan, there is little information about surfboards, and no one in Taitung could teach me, so I watched the videos of foreign shapers in the beginning.” On the other hand, less information also means less resources. Even though Anthony has acquired professional knowledge of surfboard shaping from his friends, equipment and raw materials are still a big problem! Anthony said, “Taking styrofoam for surfboards as an example. There are many factories in the United States and Japan, but Taiwan not only has no manufacturers, but also no importers. Therefore, if you want to obtain Styrofoam, you must find friends to import a whole container together, and there is no way to buy a small amount. In addition, almost all the equipment on the shelf has to be imported from abroad.”
In addition to the fact that the raw materials are not easy to obtain, Anthony said, “in fact, the surfboard shaper itself is a profession that is harmful to the body.” When wrapping the board, toxic vapors such as acetone and styrene will be generated. When grinding the board, there will be a lot of resin dust, mechanical noise and strong chemical odor. Thus, when Anthony works, he always wears a gas mask to prevent harm to his body. Despite all the difficulties, Anthony still loves surfing and surfboard shaping, and with this enthusiasm, he has created his own path.
Asking Anthony if there was a memorable moment, he didn't answer a single event, instead he said, "Nothing particularly memorable, but every day was a joy." Then, he described his daily life, “When I get up in the morning, I will check the wave condition first, surf first if there is a wave, and go to the studio if not. After working for three or four hours, I will take a break, maybe have a meal, and continue working in the afternoon. If the work of the day comes to an end, I will go surfing again. Work and life are closely intertwined. This state is really free, and requires self-discipline at the same time, but I consider myself lucky to have such a lifestyle.” When it comes to the life he built for himself, Anthony can’t hide his smile.
Nowadays, Anthony Surfboard Studio is not just a studio, but a platform for surfboards. You could work here, study here, also could do skills or professions exchange, which is a space with a high degree of freedom. Anthony said, “There were few surfboard-shaping resources in Taitung before, but from now on, we could start accumulating. I also hope to help people do what they want to do, or let surfers find a way of life that suits them.” And how about the future plan for the studio? Anthony replied, “I'm the operator here, but I'm not everyone's boss. I hope that everyone who comes here will provide different nutrients freely, and bring more people here to make this place more stable and strong. When surfers come together, they create their own style, which turns into a culture that can be passed on. This is the most important thing for me!”