Profiles: Josh Martin // Martin Shapes
in partnership with
Photos by: Elliot Ross / @elliotstudio / www.elliotstudio.com
Words by: Josh Martin
Location: Capistrano Beach, CA
I’ve always been curious about how things are made. As a kid, I’d watch my dad do basic maintenance on his van. He’d sometimes wrench on his motorcycle too. I probably got a lot of that interest from him and found myself taking things apart and putting them back together again; often times with modifications.
My dad was already 18 years into his career as a surfboard shaper by the time I was born in 1970. Some of my earliest memories were of being with him in his shaping room. I think getting foam dust in my eye was my very first, after carving a shark out of a reject foam blank that he had handed me.
Most of the tools I work with today were either his or similar to the ones he used. He taught me to use them. The feel, the sound and the smell while using them make for daily reflections of the good times he and I had together.
In the Fall of 1988, I got an opportunity through my dad to shape 650 boards for a clothing display that JC Penny was building out for their stores. They didn’t want props; they wanted legit surfboards that they could raffle off once the sale was over. They had a really small budget for it, so my dad came to me and asked if I would be interested in doing it. I told him I didn’t want to, and with a slightly disappointed look, he told me to sleep on it and that we’d talk again in the morning.
The next day, my dad walked into the shaping room and asked, “So, what do you think?”
Once again, I told him, “No.” His look of disappointment was more obvious this time and so I followed with, “What do you think, Dad?”
He pointed to my Skil planer and said, “You think you really know how to use that thing now? If you take this order, that thing will become an extension of your arm by the time you’re done.”
I eventually agreed, and that deal took me all winter to complete. He was right though, and I’m so grateful for that moment. It was a changing point for me.
While I am a bit more artistic in shaping and creating, it was my dad's strong, systematic approach towards work that has had one of the most lasting effects on me. Without those organization skills, I think it would be more difficult to replicate things by hand. Much of what I do relies on that ability, and without his influence, I’d probably be making an awful lot of one-offs.
He was not only my dad; he was one of my best friends. We spent a lot of time together. Seems like there is a natural human tendency to emulate those we admire, and I’d say he rubbed off on me.
Before this photo shoot, I had never seen my shaping room from this perspective. Looking at it from this angle, it looks more like my mom’s work space.
My mom is a Muñoz. Mickey is her brother. Mickey introduced my dad to her while they were co-shapers at Hobie. The Muñoz side of the family are collectors, artists and dreamers. That influence has had a profound effect on me in that I keep lots of stuff in my workspace. I realize that can be a bad thing…and no, we don’t park our cars in the garage.
However, over time I have found that all that “stuff” often makes for inspiration. I’ll have a dream, wake up and then go create something. In many cases, it will turn out that I already possess the materials I need to turn that dream into reality. It gives me immense satisfaction creating things out of what otherwise might get thrown away. I believe we are unique, living beings here on this earth, and I believe that God gave us a bit of Himself to us in that we can create, fix and improve in pretty amazing ways.
My dad always swept the floor of his shaping room. He’d do it several times a day. I think it was kind of a reboot for him. He’d rough shape 10 boards, stop, sweep and start fresh into the finish stage. I can appreciate that and operate in that mode for a bit, but I am most comfortable with a floor full of Balsa Wood shavings. It’s soft under foot, smells great and makes me feel like I am immersed in the craft. I like the process as much or more than the product itself. It’s probably why I have no desire to put my surf craft on a CNC machine.
I’ve never owned a TV. I never used Myspace, and I don’t have a personal Facebook account. I was pretty late in the game in getting a cell phone. I’ve always preferred analog over solid state and would rather cook than be served.
That being said, I realized early on with the advent of Instagram that it would be - for a time - the dialect the surfing world spoke in. Print media as we knew it would take a break for the most part. It’s interesting to me that so many of the young people I work with seem to have ditched Instagram and moved on. I’ve asked them why and the overwhelming response has been that it’s fake.
People only put out what they want others to see. The good; not the bad. Instagram can cause people feel bad. They compare themselves to people that appear to have it better. I get it. I see how that can make people feel, but I don’t choose to view social media in that way.
I see Instagram as a way to capture the immediate. Portray things as they are. Share with many what before was something I could only share with one or two people. I see it as a way to inspire others, and a way for others to inspire me.
People ask if I am worried about others copying my ideas. Most of what I do is copying those who came before me. I think most people are either going to stick with something or not. If I’ve inspired someone to move in a creative or productive way, then great! If someone were to copy something I am doing, and turn out doing it better than me, then maybe I have something to learn from them? Or, maybe it’s time for me to jump into another creative pursuit.
Years ago, my dad told me his aim was to make people happy in the water. I love that. I’ve never forgotten it. It’s better to give than to receive, and I’m a gift guy. I like to receive things from people. It’s how I naturally perceive that they like or love me. It’s also how I express my love for others. Making things for others that makes them happy, makes me happy.
Going beyond that is an overall attempt to live in a way that focuses more on others than myself. I realize that my default mode is to be self-centered, which usually leads to unmet expectations and disappointment. I call that, the crappy place. Focusing on others allows me to activate my gifts and talents and operate as I believe intended. That’s the happy place.
This perspective has come from a lot of life lived, good and bad. Both have the ability to shape us, if we let them. It makes us who we are. I don’t think we’re ever done being shaped and like building a board, I’ve always loved the process of living life as much or more than the product itself.
People think I live this dream life. Dream job; dream life. But like everyone else, I’m subject to all of the same challenges. It’s easy to get hung up in life’s expectations and I’ve lived long enough to have some perspective. I don’t make a tremendous amount of money, but I find that if I focus on all the things I have to be grateful for life looks rich. Everything I do takes me back to where it all started. I’m just trying to enjoy what I’m doing. Enjoying life.