Almond Surfboards, the business and brand, is a result of a series of projects that I did with my Dad from 2006 to 2008. (We have a room in their house pretty much dedicated to the unreleased projects we do together.) The first surfboard we ever built began as an idea in June of 2006 and was completed July 23, 2007. I truly believe in the value of being immensely curious in whatever it is your are attempting to do. In that 12-13 months from inception to completion, I read every piece of material I could get my hands on, sketched endlessly in my notebooks, and talked with whoever I could; in order to get a better idea of how to tackle this project. I wanted to invest the time to make my first surfboard something I would be proud of for many years. At that point, I was quite certain it might be the only surfboard I ever built, so I wanted to build it with that in mind. Insert new quote/motto here: “build it like it’s the only one you’re ever going to do.” With that in mind, I decided I wanted to build a solid balsa surfboard, and accent it with no less than five redwood stringers. (Ignorance is bliss, right?)
Fortunately, our friend Pete Tresselt was friends with Terry Martin, a shaper whom I respected immensely. Pete took me down to the Hobie factory to spend a few hours with Terry, who conveniently was working on a pair of balsa longboards himself. Terry was extremely gracious, kind and helpful. He gave me all sorts of tips and advice for working with balsa. (Pay especially close attention when you’re sanding the end-grain, it comes off faster than you’d like)
After Dad and I filled a 3-inch binder with notes, sketches and old photos, we were ready to start sourcing raw materials. We ordered balsa wood, and anxiously awaited its arrival. Having the right tools and materials makes all the difference in the world. We didn’t really have either, so that adds a certain level of creativity to the process. We learned an immeasurable amount as we went along. We laminated up our own surfboard blank from the Balsa lumber that we received. We cut the estimated rocker profile into each piece, on a band-saw, before we glued up the blank and stringers. This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but once the blank was all glued up and ready for shaping, we actually cut the outline of the board out on Pete Tresselt’s big band-saw. It seemed more reliable than a jig-saw, and more realistic than an old hand-saw. (Griffin wouldn’t be particularly impressed if I told him that detail.)
I remember being super cautious and hesitant throughout the shaping process. I would make a few passes, and then walk away, so I could come back at it with fresh eyes. At this point, we were so heavily invested in the project (time and emotion) that I didn’t want to butcher it. This spread the shaping process out over several weeks, instead of several hours. There was a constant temptation to say “it’s good enough, let’s call it quits before I ruin it.” But my Dad was really good about pushing me to keep going and continue refining. (Something I’m thankful for now, because who wants a half-finished finished product?) So, after some much-needed Fatherly wisdom, we finished shaping the 6’5 Singlefin sometime in the Spring of 2007. We made a redwood fin to match the five redwood stringers, from a template I printed out and pieced together off of the internet (we’ve all been there).
Waiting 8 weeks while the board was glassed was varying degrees of painful, because I was overcome with excitement, and because it had already been nearly a year since this project had started. (When customers get anxious for their boards nowadays, I know the feeling, believe me.) The waiting period gave me ample time to reflect on the journey this board had taken my Dad and I on. I still remember the excitement of sharing a new, helpful article that I found online, and talking through it with him; highlighting the important parts, and adding it to the ever-growing research binder. I also remember thinking “this surfboard is probably something I will keep for the rest of my life (God willing and the creek don’t rise). It was the result of so many hours, but also a reminder of getting to navigate uncharted territory with my Dad.
My Dad and I have always bonded over our love of doing projects together, but this one has extra-special significance, because it really sparked my interest in surfboards, and got me day-dreaming and sketching ideas that would (through unforeseeable events and friendships) later become my career. The heart behind Almond remains the same today as it did in its early formative years, I love the process of diving headlong into a project. To take something from a far-fetched idea into a tangible reality is a process that runs through the veins of everything we’re attempting to do here. There is a certain level of delayed satisfaction in doing the process right, that makes the finished product (the juice) worth the time and energy invested (the squeeze). I am very thankful for my Dad’s engineering mind, and wisdom, and the example he sets to be a student of whatever it is he is interested in. This Father’s Day, I really wanted to pause and share a bit of this story, because it is really the foundation of the man I hope to be, and the brand we’re striving to become.
I still never surfed that first balsa board, it hangs on the wall at my parent’s house. It’s a great reminder of our humble, curious beginnings, and to the commitment of sticking to the process. And it immediately sparked an interest in shaping a foam and fiberglass fish that I could actually surf and beat up, which became the next surfboard building project. As a Thank You for reading all the way through this article, here’s a 15% discount code to get a Father’s Day gift for your Dad: PROJECTSWITHDAD