The Surfboard Shapers

There are only a handful of people left who are shaping surf boards by hand. After the onset of mass board production by machines in large-scale factories, these photographs share the hidden stories of the last remaining people who are practicing the lost art of hand-shaping original boards. This is an ongoing project that began in North California with the one-of-a-kind shaper Ed Barbera and will develop by telling other stories from Hawaii and Cornwall UK.

ED BARBERA, Bodega, North California

I was just about to leave the small town of Bodega on a road trip up North California’s coast road Highway 1 when a barefoot man with a white ponytail and paint spattered overalls walked by. I stopped and asked: “Are you an artist?” and that was the beginning of discovering the hidden workshop of Ed Barbera, an old master in making individual surf boards by hand.

Ed spent a large chunk of his life in Hawaii surfing and learning his craft before returning to California where he shapes boards from a simple wooden studio. The boards are then sold in an adjacent shop with welcoming doors and windows full of stickers, thick blood red roses weaving around a wooden porch and bright painted letters on a pitched roof: Northern Light Surfshop. He said of his work: “Everything I am doing is dying”.