|Dave Parmenter, Central California, August 2014. Photo: Jeff Chamberlain.|
MICHAEL KEW: What’s the state of Aleutian Juice Surfboards, and why the San Luis Obispo resettlement?
DAVE PARMENTER: Up until recently, the Aleutian Juice label was more or less restricted to friends and family, since up until 2008 the bulk of my living was made as a writer; after that, I was involved with C4 Waterman Inc. until early last year. After parting ways with C4, I was no longer able to afford the high cost of living in Hawaii and so returned to my hometown of San Luis Obispo and to the little rural farmhouse and garage shaping room I have kept since 1989. I am fortunate that my friend Andrew Kidman has, with his films and articles, created considerable demand for a number of board designs that I have worked on for decades. The timing couldn’t be better for a shaper/designer like me, since so many surfers are exploring vintage or exotic surfboard design.
|Photo: Andrew Kidman.|
What is your assessment of today’s surfboard world?
I am very content with the present state of the domestic surfboard industry. Things are much better than they were over the past two decades. It seems as if the hardcore surfing population has circled their wagons against nondescript el cheapo surfboards and have a far greater appreciation than, say, 10 or 15 years ago for hand-built, locally designed surfboards. In particular, the trend towards fully finished, beautifully resin-tinted glasswork by a growing number of glass shops has made the surfboard both a work of art again, as well as (finally) worthy of a price tag that lets our domestic craftsman earn a living. The hipster trend, while pretentious and smarmy at times, has nonetheless helped in a big way to restore our cottage industry to its former glory. Bottom line: people really seem to appreciate quality now—and if some of the boards are slabs, at least they are works of art.
What distinguishes your boards?
There are literally hundreds of highly skilled shapers working out there. The level of craftsmanship is very high, and with the CNC machines, very accurate. There are probably far fewer really good designers, but that might not matter since so there are so many verifiably successful board designs that are low-hanging fruit for anyone smart enough to recognize them for what they are and copy them. I ride every sort of surf craft so perhaps I might possess a wider understanding of design than the guy who scrubs out ten 6’1” squash-tail tris every day. I see myself as a designer first and a shaper second. Each surfboard I design and shape is done completely by hand from start to finish—no one else touches the blank until the laminator. And speaking of glassing, a skill I feel is highly underrated is being able to work with glassers in a full partnership and not a push-me/pull-you antagonistic relationship. The surfboard trade is all about crisis management: from the second a customer writes up an order card, their hoped-for surfboard begins deviating from their mental image of the ‘magic board.’ So damage control skills are vital to anyone who can hope to weather the slings and arrows of the trade. I am very lucky to have a stable of a half-dozen or so really first-rate glass shops on tap. That is where the true craftsmanship resides in this trade—the artistry and skill a really terrific glasser brings to a foam sculpture imparts just as much of its value as the shaped-by label.
Thoughts on the current status quo?
Two things come to mind: First, the people I get to build boards for each day have all been a lot of fun to work with and are hardcore surfers who place their surfboards at or near the center of their lives. That’s very satisfying for me. Whatever I build for them has to work; it can’t just be trendy or pretty. Second, I see soooooo many boards or pictures of boards inappropriately and overly finned—biggest offender being quad fins. A hint: Fins are drag until they aren’t….
People can order a board/boards from you by doing what?
Most people contact me through my website (nowtro.com) and/or writing to email@example.com. The order process is designed to be personal and collaborative, with a lot of back-and-forth, working down towards the finest detail.
|Photos: Jeff Chamberlain.|