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Essence Surf Shaping Students Sky and Josh share their thoughts about their experience at Essence Surf.

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Josh Allen:

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"Your Bottom Turn Looks SO Sick!" (or, How I Shaped My First Surfboard.)

After years of dreaming and talking about it, I finally shaped my first surfboardthanks to Gene at Essence Surf, and by no feat of luck, it worked!In fact it worked so well on my first session, a stranger paddled out to tell me how good my bottom turn looked on the board and asked to check it out - total validation!

This was a surprise to hear, and to be honest, I was a little uncertain.After all, I've never shaped a board before.I had a lot of preconceived notions of how my first hand shape would be before I met Gene.Of course, all those notions were of me "totally ripping on a flawless board, in awe of the whole lineup! I mean, how else would I do it?I knew the blank I wanted to use.I knew the rocker I was aiming for at tip and tail. I knew how I wanted the rails to feel based on other boards I'd owned and the type of surf I was shaping for (east coast summer mushburgers).I'd seen a million videos of other shapers ripping out finished shapes in under an hour.So, ok, I'm a beginner, maybe it'll take me two hours instead, right?Whoops, maybe not!We got the blank laid it out the measurements for my self-designed template, and then I quickly burned up those first two hours learning how to make a spin template work for my particular set of curves. (It was so much faster in all those videos!)Gene laughed, and knew when to step in to keep me from getting lost - "You need a break! You're getting snow blind, I can see it!"

Next up - the planer.The planer looks so easy when you see other people doing it.Some guys like Ben Aipa look so comfortable cutting foam back and forth with that thing it's like a paint brush instead of the board eating beast it wants to be when in my hands.However, with each new shaping procedure, Gene would step in and give me a demonstration on the board to get it started, and then allow me continue on with the rest of that shape.Soon enough (admittedly,after a couple meaty gouges of my own) I was much more comfortable with the planer and the way it felt underhand, making some smoother passes of my own.

I had the template cut perfectly, foiled the board to what I was looking for and blended in all the planer marks with a surform, various sanding blocks, pads, and screens. On to the rails - kind of the coolest part of making the board. It's where your chunk of foam really starts to look like a surfboard.Gene took the time to make sure he understood what I wanted from my rails, and showed me a couple of passes with the dragon skin, and how to avoid digging the edge into the rail, and when it was my turn….. it worked!I managed to finish with the top turned down in the back edge, bladed out rails in the middle, and the front third turned up - my first "S" deck!Just what I imagined.

The opportunity to glass the board was why I really came to Gene in the first place.I haven't yet found a shop that will show you how to shape your board as well as glass it.There are a couple places out there that claim to teach you how to shape the board in a 4 or 5 hour class (that is laughable at best!Your first board?It's gonna take some time), and then they glass they board for you.Why would I only want to learn half of the process?Glassing is where the real shape of your board and all of it's nuance dialed in, some would argue the most important step.For my board I was able to mix my own deep opaque blue tint - though you can airbrush if you chose instead -and cut lap the bottom and top of the board, which came out really well.I even learned how to rout out the fin boxes and glass them in.Total board construction from blank to finished surfboard, and I learned and performed every step.You aren't getting that anywhere else.Just try and ask around, it's not happening.

The only problem I have now is I can't stop thinking about my next shape!Fortunately, since I've taken his class, I'm welcome to come down to Essence Surf and use his tools and shaping bay for free as long as I buy the supplies from him.You won't find that anywhere else either.Gene is a true gem for anyone sincerely interested in shaping their own board, and no one on the east coast is doing what he offers.As much as I'd rather he be my own personal secret, I really think anyone who surfs should be calling him now, figuring out how to make their next surfboard!

Sky Shepard:

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I am an inexperienced surfer with a lot of desire to get better. After finishing shaping my first board with Essence Surf I am now an inexperienced surfer with a passion to get better on a board I made. The shaping class inducted me into what is truly an art. Gene Wahl conveys not only his passion for shaping and surfing, but also shares so many technical subtleties that help you understand how water interacts with the shape you are choosing to make. I entered into the class thinking I would make my first board and that would be it. I now know that I will be making every board I surf from here on out. After seeing the final product some of my buddies will be surfing my boards in the future as well. Thank you Essence Surf for giving me an unforgettable experience and an invaluable skill.



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