Shaping with Purpose
First purpose: My own happiness.
Why the heck am I doing this? I am a very average surfer who is totally happy with a one-board quiver. Why do I need to shape surfboards? I am still asking myself this question. A need to express some kind of craft or creativity? A need for challenges? A need for an escape from everyday life? It’s probably a mix of all the above but for the most part, it has something to do with creating something unique for someone else.
And that is why I only do custom surfboards. I happened to shape a board or two for no specific owner in mind. Aimlessly. I didn’t enjoy it. I need to shape for someone; maybe to feel that I might have a little impact on someone’s life?? And that leads to my second purpose.
Second purpose: my customers’ happiness.
I hate this word actually. Yes, they pay for their boards but since I have a full-time job as a scientist to pay the bills, I consider their money like a donation to a local artist. Except that the art can be used to ride waves and that’s what makes me enjoy this so much. I am creating objects, which will provide the ultimate feeling of Stoke!
Any surfer will tell you that surfing is not a sport or an activity; it is part of their lives. Therefore, a surfboard is a very special object with which they connect to very deeply. Being the person that they are trusting to make their personal wave-riding tool is a very big deal and a huge responsibility. No pressure! They all want the “Magic Board.” Even though I am petrified by the idea of failing them, my fear fuels my desire to do well. I can’t guarantee 100% success (who does anyway?) but I am putting all my heart and energy into delivering the best board that I can for them.
By having this mindset, I believe my boards have soul. Performance comes from my dedication to getting better at shaping. My adventures in the shaping world would not have happened without the support of the legendary craftsmen who have helped me along my path. David Charbonnel, Axel Lorentz, Matt Kinoshita, Eric Arakawa, to quote a few, all invested their precious time and were willing to share their experiences with me.
Each of them has a different approach, philosophy and technique but all share the same goal: a restless quest for Perfection. And it is because they believe they haven’t yet reached it - at least in their eyes - is why I admire these Masters so much. No matter how many boards they have shaped, they still have that little spark in the corner of their eye when talking about their craft. I learned a lot from their personal techniques, but I am not trying to copy them. Instead I strive to create my own style by picking what I think will work best for me. But what I will certainly never blend is their words of wisdom, which will resonate in my head and inspire my shaping for years to come.
I am forever grateful they believe in me. A woman. Not everyone played it nice. Some laughed, raised their eyebrows, sent anonymous threats or publicly looked down on my work. What they don’t realize is that they made me even more determined to pursue my goal of becoming one of the few female shapers in the world. In the beginning, I played the card of the “girl” to get exposure and it helped open up shaping room doors. But now I am not labeled as a female shaper. Seven years after I shaped my first board, I am now referred to as being the shaper of Mere-Made Surfboards.
That makes me happy, which brings me back to my first purpose…
- Valerie Duprat
Valerie Duprat is a French expat who lives in California with her two children and husband. When not surfing, you can find her in her purple shaping room in Encinitas, CA where she has been shaping surfboards for more than 5 years under her label, Mere-Made Surfboards. Learn more at www.meremadesurfboards.com