“Ten Feet of Freedom”
What does ten feet of freedom mean? It describes the feeling you get while watching the ocean pass below your feet. No engine sounds, no lines tugging at you. Simply the wind weaving through your hair and the sensation you’ve lost twenty pounds as you drop into surging waves of energy, generated hundreds of miles away.
I got a new surfboard for my birthday; I haven’t had a new board in almost 10 years! And not just any old surfboard, a custom board shaped and designed Ricky Carroll Surfboards, aka R&D Surf Co. Over the past few weeks the guys at R&D were very accommodating and allowed me to shoot video during each step my board went through. I thought I knew what goes into making a surfboard, but there’s so much more to it.
The video I made shows the steps for having a custom longboard made. Customers are encouraged to go through their local surf shop when ordering a Ricky Carroll board, but they are 100% able to deal directly with R&D if they’d prefer. Each option has advantages and disadvantages. If you live far from Rockledge, FL the cost to ship a board will likely drive the cost higher than buying from your local shop (since they get large batches of boards delivered significantly cheaper). If, like me, you are in the area, it was an awesome opportunity to not only choose every little detail my board will have (like radi-cool “Wave Magnet” decals) but to also see where the board comes from. These days nearly all consumer goods come from a factory in a far-away place, built by a faceless person we’ll never meet. Not this time.
The first thing I had to do was learn the difference between a 50/50, low, mid, or full rail. The amount of rocker, concave or no concave, or maybe a double concave?? The list goes on and before you decide to give up and buy a board already made, give the folks at the shop a call (321) 636-4456. Being so close I just dropped by the shop and began my crash course, learning about all the options from Tom Willis, the guy you’ll likely talk to if you call. Tom took the time to ask what I’m used to riding, what I wanted in this new board, and to go over all the options available. While he did give me a questionable glance when I told him my ideas of magnets, lightning bolts, and cartoon wave decals strewn across the board, he nonetheless was happy to help the Wave Magnet come to life.
With money deposited and my customer order form filled out, my birthday board became one step closer to catching waves. The blank, a large hulking chunk of foam with three wood stringers, and measuring ten feet in length, still needed to be shaped. Jim Hannan speaks about the choice to do 100% hand shaping vs. using a machine in the video. After seeing the process I agree with Jim; while the machine did cut the bulk of the material from the foam blank, there was still plenty of craftsmanship which Jim had to do by hand. There’s no question that my board is the result of Jim’s attention to detail and keen eye. Be sure to watch the video to see his work.
After being shaped, the Wave Magnet headed over to the next building where Rob Opperman performed the “glassing”. As he mixed green pigment into the resin, it was amazing how vivid the color became. He was legit. Rob made the glassing look easy and knocked the board out within minutes.
A few days of later, the board was dry and “Z” Willis got busy sanding and polishing all ten feet of glory. It was incredible watching how much the polisher brought the board to life. Any rough edges, high or low spots were buffed away and the shine left me impressed.
The day I went to pick up Wave Magnet, I met another passionate surfer named Tony Arruza. Be sure to check out his amazing photography and the book he created, at www.Arruza.com. Like me, he’s been all around the world surfing but unlike me he has some beautiful photos to accompany his surf stories. He began printing large copies of his photos and crafting them in his surfboards. They’re really cool pieces of art, and definitely something I might try in the future after shooting photos around the world while we travel.
It was inspirational talking with all the guys that were a part of my board. Each one had a story about other jobs that weren’t fulfilling, and how they’d each found their niche at the surfboard factory. Having quit my job in the “real world”, I’ve questioned my choice at times. As I look for rewarding and fulfilling work while traveling, it’s good to know that it does happen, not only in the movies.
I can’t wait to shoot some video of the Wave Magnet beneath my feet in Baja, Mexico. Gliding upon waves of energy in generated hundreds of miles away, somewhere deep in the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to subscribe and follow our adventure!