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Cold water surfing has become a recent fascination for most. With warm water spots becoming increasingly crowded, the frigid and relatively empty north is now hailed by some as a semi – nirvana, a place of isolation and stacked sets. Bobbing wintery icebergs float alongside neoprene clad silhouettes, while a pale sun peaks through dense cloud to illuminate a flawless barrelling right-hander. Bearded men in flannel survey a deserted line up amidst a stunning vista of mountains and snow, and the only signs of life are their own tracks leading to the shore.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been subject to this imagery. While there is magic to be found in the north, all advertising is subject to some ‘artistic license’. Having surfed cold water almost exclusively, I can say with some weight that there is very little glamour to be had for most. Freezing temperatures allow only a short time in the water, and the weather is an unpredictable phenomenon at the best of times.

Despite this, cold water surf communities and towns thrive. I sat down with a leading example of this, the highly talented local shaper to the North Glenn Nary of Visionary Surfboards, and found out the difficulties and successes of independent shaping on the frozen Yorkshire shore.

Visionary surfboards

Glenn Nary is first and foremost a cold water surfer. I’ve known Glenn for a while, and even surfed one of his boards long before this was in the making. Put simply, Glenn makes boards of exquisite quality, crafted with care and impeccable attention to detail. His talent has earned a worldwide following, and through his brand Visionary Surfboards, the small workshop nestled into Saltburn’s hillside receives custom requests from all over the British Isles, France and even Holland. Launched in 2008, Visionary has been hand shaping boards to custom specifications, as well as launching their own line and working on several collaborations. The brand has earned such a reputation, that the outfit was recently asked to produce boards specifically for the Guinness factory in Dublin, creating a one of a kind display showcasing their best work.  I asked Glenn how he had gotten started in the industry:

maybe I could just make myself a board, it couldn’t be that hard and it was going to be a lot cheaper than buying one off the shelf

“I hadn’t been surfing long, maybe three years so it must have been around 2008, I’d never even owned a ‘new’ surfboard.  I stumbled upon Tsunami Surfboards whilst scouring the internet for a board, they offered a custom board shaping service (I didn’t even know this was possible!), I contacted them but they were in the middle of moving so couldn’t help. This made me think that maybe I could just make myself a board, it couldn’t be that hard and it was going to be a lot cheaper than buying one off the shelf.  I’d studied 3 Dimensional Design along with various other design courses at Art College before doing my Psychology degree so I wasn’t completely new to designing and building things.  I’ve always been good at researching things I’m interested in so I started reading and reading and reading. I also watched ‘Shaping 101’ by Jon Carper of JC surfboards; that was a big help!

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