Grain’s people work in a cooperative workplace where the line between work and fun is often hard to distinguish. This may be the main reason that we’ve found so many great friends to join us, with impressively varied skills. They are all such an important part of what Grain is growing into, that we can do no less than to express our gratitude across the board for their ongoing enthusiasm for what we do. One and all, they are united behind shared values and contribute ideas every day to making things work better, and work greener. Here is some background on us:
Mike is the founder and principle owner of Grain Surfboards. As the chief thinker and tinkerer, he daily pulls the whole crew together in a spirit of experimentation and cooperative decision that – at bottom – is probably the main reason we look forward to coming to work every day.
Mike grew up building and skateboarding on quarter pipes made from scrap wood cobbled together with his friends. Soon he got heavily into snowboarding and began riding wooden snowboards before the sport became an “extreme” phenomenon.
Mike eventually moved to Vermont to work for industry-leader Burton Snowboards. After 12 years working in the industry, doing everything from building boards to managing a team of the most respected professional riders in the industry, Mike shifted gears and began to follow his other passion. He sat for his U.S. Coast Guard Captains License, and began operating a commercial sailing vessel on Lake Champlain. This new lifestyle allowed Mike the time to explore much of the East Coast by water from the Caribbean to Maine.
In 2001, with his knowledge of vessel operations, and experience working on many wooden boats over the years, Mike jumped at the opportunity to manage the construction of an 88′ wooden schooner being built by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. While most of his time was spent overseeing the staff of builders and educators, purchasing materials etc, Mike did have the opportunity to work side by side with some of the best craftspeople in the country on this historic project.
Recently, Mike again followed his instincts and moved to York, Maine, where the surf is just across the street. With the ability to surf nearly everyday, Mike has combined his knowledge of the board sports industry with traditional boatbuilding techniques and a passion for surfing to produce beautiful, functional wooden surfboards under the Grain Surfboards name.
Brad’s contribution in making Grain go reaches across most aspects of what we do; besides one of the owners and managers, he’s also a seasoned builder, a designer of methods, boards, and systems, and the most violent board-tester we could ever hope to have.
Few who know Brad Anderson would be surprised at an obsession with surfboards that blossomed after a lifetime spent working on and with watercraft and wood. Brad has been drawn to the sea since the age of sixteen when he started his working life building fiberglass boats in a New Jersey industrial park. Since his escape from the suburbs as a teen, Brad has lived and worked in New England as a gas-dock jockey, boat builder, cabinet maker, staircase builder and ship’s officer for over twenty years. He’s also made several side-trips into business and non-profit sectors where he worked as a teacher, computer consultant, process analyst and founder/manager of land conservation and community development non-profits. In his spare time, he’s a winter caretaker on a deserted island, a motorcycle tinkerer, and teller of stories about his weird years at sea, and of all the weird and wonderful people he’s met.
The Grain dedication to quality and an environmental ethic is a closely shared value for Brad. He says, “Insisting on quality in the things we make and use is the consumer’s most direct avenue to environmental activism, ’cause those things that last longest end up in the planet’s waste-stream less often, if at all. Besides their durability, Grain Surfboards are too beautiful to ever discard, so they’re an environmentally responsible alternative to more toxic, less durable, foam-and-plastic boards. I like that a lot.”
John joined us as a board builder in 2007. Though his host of skills help in the ongoing improvement of the shop, his greatest contributions are his generosity to everyone around him and his dedication to making every board he builds better and more interesting than the last.
Originally from the northeast, John followed his passion for the mountains and the outdoors to Crested Butte, CO, in 1990. Taking advantage of every snow device from telemark skiing to snowboarding as well as endurance racing, John spent 12 years playing in the mountains. John also found time to work as a carpenter while building houses and doing interior finish work.
After the birth of his first son Willy, John and his wife Barb made the decision to leave the mountains to return to family and roots in Maine. Since moving back east John has been fine-tuning his woodworking skills. Whether he builds a custom wine cellar for a client, a custom lemonade stand for his two boys or a jewelry box for a loved one, John strives on detail and perfection.
Making the move east also ignited a deep love of the sport of surfing. “I love being humbled by a good nor’easter storm, but my favorite time is being in the water at first light and watching the sunrise break over the horizon and through the crest a good wave.”
Working at Grain Surfboards is a dream come true for John. For him, living close to the surf is a natural surrogate for the mountain lifestyle.
Grown in Hawaii, now living in LA, Allen is our man in the west. As a Grain principal and lifetime surfer, Allen is a key part of our commitment to keeping close ties with the west coast and with the deepest roots of surfing. With all that, Allen also brings business and IT experience in spades.
Allen Anderson grew up on the East end of Oahu, descended from one of the old families of Hawaii that’ve been a presence in the islands since the mid-1800′s. Though he was a regular at all the great North Shore and West-side breaks, he remembers Ala Moana as a favorite spot. More? His great uncle was Duke Kahanamoku’s Olympic swim coach and his grandfather the author of classic haole Hawaiian songs like ‘Lovely Hula Hands’ and ‘Mele Kalikimaka’.
From his earliest days Allen couldn’t stay out of the water. Even at four years old, when living next to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel he often climbed a fence and a seawall to jump straight into the Waikiki surf. He learned to swim slung face down in a canvas belly strap hung from a rope on a bamboo pole held by his great uncle. As if that’s not cool enough, it also means that Allen had the same swim coach as the Duke.
As you would expect, Allen’s been in love with surfboards for fifty years. He re-glassed his first board, a Velzy, in his bedroom in Manoa Valley, stripping the glass, then using his Mom’s copper bottom pot for a hot coat. About the episode, he says only that “I named the board ‘Brand X’. It was itchy in that room after that.” Nothing from his mom on the subject.
Though Allen’s now pushing sixty, he had his first tow-in session just a couple of years ago at big Hammerheads. That says a lot about Allen, and reflects just a small part of why we’re so happy that he’s a key part of our little clan. He’s got gobs of experience, a truckload of great stories, full-on stoke for wood boards, an adventurous and spontaneous spirit, and a kid’s enthusiasm for life. Plus his quiver is totally nuts.
“Ultimately, I found Grain while I was searching for a way to make a wooden surfboard as a memorial to my Grandfather. My idea was to build a board and have it laser cut with a picture of a Hula Girl and the title of his song, ‘Lovely Hula Hands’. I will do that before too long.”
While a summer helper, Nolan built himself an 8′ Steamer as a senior project. He’s been in and out of the shop helping us with just about everything ever since. Quietly reliable, he’s a good natured, good guy to have with us.
Nolan grew up in southern Maine, raised in a family who spent winters on the mountains and summers on the beach. Once brought to the coast, he would disappear to spend all day on his skimboard or boogie board. This fixation with the ocean and board riding eventually extended to surfing.
Hearing about the local business and intrigued by Grain’s environmentally conscious agenda, Nolan was eager to become involved. For the past couple summers he worked part time as the shop boy, doing anything from milling wood to working on the pug. Now recently graduated from college, he turned down several prestigious job offers* to be a Grain apprentice. By the time everyone else is ready to retire, Nolan should be perfectly positioned to take over the enterprise.
Living a mere 1.3 miles (as a bird flies) from Grain headquarters, Nolan boasts the shortest commute. Taking the direct route involves trekking through dense woods, fighting off black bears and the occasional moose*. Frequent hunting and mating seasons, though, force him to instead take the long way by bicycle. Either way, he strives to emit only the carbon dioxide he exhales.
Nolan enjoys long walks on the beach (unless there’s swell), building fires, flannel shirts, discussing physics with Brad, reading, cliff-jumping, and traveling in Central America.
Alison Bell came to us with years of experience working with children and numbers. That’s all we needed to hear: numbers we got, and as children we are. But coupled with the blinding kindness-rays that beam from her, the spontaneous laughing, and her ready smile and smarts – well, there’s nothing more to say.
Possessing few other surf related qualifications than having grown up on the New Hampshire Seacoast and having logged countless hours walking Kittery, Maine’s best dog beach, Alison is nevertheless prepared to bring Grain’s business office to even higher planes of awesomeness. She may not surf well (yet) or know the difference between (insert two kinds of woodworking tools here – again, yet), but what she lacks in this current knowledge she makes up for in enthusiasm and admiration for the Grain practices and principles.
Alison’s professional life has thus far been focused on education, particularly Montessori. After eleven years teaching preschool, she made a natural shift into school administration. As the Assistant Director of a Montessori school in York, Alison is honored to have been part of the school’s growth over the last seven years. Working with young families has many rewards, but the most treasured gift is the friendships that have grown from this work, including the one that led her to Grain Surfboards. She is grateful to be able to keep one foot in the Montessori door as the part time Business Office Administrator as she steps forward with the other into Grain’s business office.
Although not everyone can appreciate some of the more tedious aspects of bookkeeping, Alison relishes the ticking and tying – as long as it’s balanced with plenty of personal interactions and opportunities to be creative. Or at least to have a good laugh during the workday!
Outside the shop, Alison swears that Ashtanga yoga keeps her grounded, that sunshine is her most essential vitamin, and that a not-so-closeted love for hip hop and Roxy sneakers perpetuates her delusion that she’s younger than she really is.
Gemini Kestral Meeh
Grain’s been lucky again to have just the right guy walk through the door at just the right time. Gemini Meeh keeps the mill-shop humming, the tools sharp, and with his absurdly varied skills, takes care of pretty much all the things around the shop that need taking care of.
Gemini was named after the stars, but is far from being one or reaching celebrity status…Ever the optimist, he considers that a work in progress so – when not working away at Grain, tinkering on an old clunker Benz, or riding a wave – Gemini is plunking on his old banjo with his bluegrass band “Pressure’s On”… perhaps his best chance for gaining acclaim and accolade!
Gemini (Gem for short) grew up in Canterbury New Hampshire on an organic and energy independent family farm which he’s still known to frequent. On that little farm up north, Gem (being the renewable nut that he is) brews biodiesel with his father to satisfy the thrust of the many diesels that power the farm and Gem’s collection of disheveled diesels.
To get a change of scenery after graduating college, Gemini landed in a small apartment in Buenos Aires with two close friends, from where a plan was hatched to embark on a major adventure through South America, focused mostly in Patagonia. From there he moved to briefly to Tucson where he soon discovered that the nearest wave was far, far away, so he made the move to Maui to help build a bamboo house.
When Gemini decided to move back in 2009, he had no idea that nearly a year later he would be working for Grain Surfboards which, he says “is nothing short of a dream come true”.
Alex de Steiguer
Alex has pretty much been press-
ganged into service at Grain – she’s already busy enough with loftier pursuits. But as a favor to us, she shows up when we’re swamped and takes some of the pressure off. She’s far more goofy and fun to have around than she’d have you think…
Amazingly, it was at the tender young age of fifteen that Alex already knew her life would change. Though being raised in the inland ‘burbs of New Jersey, the sea pulled at her irresistibly. At eighteen she shipped out on an old Barkentine (where she met Brad Anderson), and for the next decade continued crewing as deckhand or bosun on various tall ships for long coast-wise and international voyages. As a way of capturing the beauty of what she was experiencing, she started making black and white photographs, a pursuit which became her life’s work, and which she continues as her principle occupation to this day.
For many years now she has been the caretaker on the Isles of Shoals and lives on these deserted islands through the winter where she photographs pretty much everything. After long hours observing the behavior of the wild inhabitants among the islands, and comparing it to the manic destructiveness of humanity, she’s concluded that homo sapiens is not the best species to belong to. Sensing her lack of options, she presses on being one nonetheless.
Alex comes to Grain as a part-time kit packer but is also sought after for any small or strange project that needs doing. When she’s not living on the island or in her darkroom printing up a show for a gallery, she’s tearing around on her mountainbike.
While she’s found more often in her own shop than in ours, Courtney’s working so closely with us to make Grain Skateboards a reality, that we consider her an honorary member of the team.
Not many people have a background that includes US Ski Team racer, ocean-going first mate and independent woodworker. But Courtney Strait’s not an ordinary person. While a ski-racer before and during college ten years ago, she set out to design and build her own skateboards. Rewarded by the idea that she could actually help her fellow students to cut down their transportation costs and local carbon emissions, Courtney started thinking about the maple trees that grew all around her New England home, and whether a sustainable skateboard could be made from their strong, dense wood.
In the years that she traveled as a ski racer all over the US, down to Chile and all through Europe, she left at least one of her skateboards in each place for the day she knew she would return there. She even left a pile in Hawaii where she worked with youth building mini-boards. Those years would turn out to be her product research phase as the friends who lived in those places used them and gave her valuable feedback that helped her hone her craft.
Now, with Grain Surfboard’s help and encouragement, she makes her boards from local SFI-certified maple wood laminated between cedar offcuts from Grain’s surfboard building process. Using Entropy bio-epoxies for laminating and finish coats and utilizing a unique method of laminating bamboo fabric onto the deck for a one of kind all natural griptape substitute has helped her step up a commitment to lessen impacts on the environment.