Kickstarter Case Study: A California Class

March 14th, 2013, by Nolan

With just two days to go in our Kickstarter Project, we thought we’d take a look back at the class we recently held at the famed Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente, California. If anything makes us sure that we need to be able to share what we do with more people out West, this class was it.

We left the Maine winter behind in February, and headed to Southern California to bring the experience of “building your own” to another group of surfers. The SHF was a totally unique place to hold a class… with the history of surfing surrounding us – Tom Blake kookboxes to modern guns and everything in between – a walk through the museum is a journey through the evolution of surfboard design.

Grain Surfboards Kickstarter
Much of the history of surfboards is wooden.

With all the legendary wooden boards lining the walls around them, six Californian students crafted an assortment of paipos, fishes, retro single fins, and longboards. Pretty soon, we had covered the floor with cedar shavings!
Grain Surfboards Kickstarter
Our students, hard at work making piles of shavings.

Right beside our shaping stands was a replica of Dale Velzy’s original shaping shack at Malibu. On display in a glass case, were the tools he used to shape wooden boards back in the day. It was funny to all of us that our students were using the very same tools that were made to look so antiquated behind glass. Bet Dale knew how to sharpen a spokeshave…

Grain Surfboards Kickstarter
Spokeshaves, blockplanes, drawknives…our tool bench looked strikingly similar.

Nathan G., our good friend and San Clemente local, built the 6’5″ Seed this time around (his third Grain build). And though the four-day blitz schedule didn’t leave much free time, a few of us managed a quick morning surf at San-O where Nathan was lucky enough to paddle out on our 6’5″ Seed demo and test out the same design he was building! We noticed an extra skip in his step for the rest of the class.

Another of our students was Jen Smith, who has won more than a couple of world longboard titles. She’s been shaping for a while now and wanted to try her hand at a hollow wooden board. She built our beloved 4’5″ Leaf, a classic Hawaiian paipo shape.

Grain Surfboards Jen Smith
Pro surfer Jen Smith and her handcrafted paipo.

Scott F. had been dreaming of taking a class for years. Funny that he grew up just an hour from our shop in Maine, but it took us coming all the way to California to make it possible for him to attend the class where he built a beautiful classic Root. With classic New England hospitality, he saved me from having to sleep outside on a picnic table with his offer to share his tent one night.

We also had some Hollywood fame in the class. Casey, a stuntman and aspiring actor, had to miss some of the action to run off and audition for comedy shows. Tim and his son Aidan are the third and fourth generation in their family to be stuntmen, and though they signed up right before the class started, they quickly became two of our most stoked students. One of the best quotes of the week from Aidan: “This is the most craftsman-like I’ve ever felt.” .

Grain Surfboards Kickstarter
When he wasn’t auditioning for “New Girl”, Casey was building a 9′ Root.

Grain Surfboards Kickstarter
3rd and 4th Generation Stuntmen Tim & Aidan built the 6’4″ Wherry and 5’8″ Biscuit.

Tim sent us a message after the class, sharing how psyched he still felt: “What a great experience. There is nothing more connective to a surfer than that experience you all gave us, that of building your own board…Thanks again to you, Mike, Allen, Andy and Vince and of course all the student board builders. What a bunch of good dudes. You are a hell of a craftsman and you helped us all to be that, to build the best product we possibly could”.

At the end of 4 days, six beautiful student-built wooden surfboards were born, soon to make their way into the Pacific…


Class photo: new wooden boards amongst the old.

Big thanks:
To Barry at The Surfing Heritage Foundation for having us (and hopefully for having us back)
To Allen for trusting us to use his vehicles to schlep the class stuff around,
To Tracy for letting us take over her courtyard to prepare all the boards,
To Caleb at Paragon Cabinet West for use of his woodshop,
To Andy Purmont and Vince Kemp for helping out with the class,


Help us get our own West Coast truck and trailer and maybe this will be the last class that we have pull up to in a borrowed truck towing a Uhaul trailer. Visit our Kickstarter project here and give a little love so we can keep passing it on to great people like these students.

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One Response to “Kickstarter Case Study: A California Class”

  1. Grain Surfboards » Blog Archive » *NEW*- 4-Day Board Building Class at Surfing Heritage Foundation Says:

    [...] our previous class there, each student can choose from any shape that we offer as a HomeGrown Kit. Tuition includes [...]

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