I bought a blank and everything I’d need from Homeblown, took it all up into the attic at home and made a 6’4” x 23” x 3” fish. I think I enjoyed the process of making a board as much as I did surfing one! From that point on I’ve always had a surfboard on the go and I knew that I wanted to shape boards professionally after the first commissioned board I had.
Early influences were Royal Surfboards, I loved Rob’s resin tints, and Empire Surfboards. I was also influenced by some of the surf films I watched like ‘Litmus’ and ‘Glass Love’. More recently I love the glass work of the ‘Lucky Bastards’, Dead Kooks, Bing Surfboards, and Album Surfboards.”
Like any independent shaper, Glenn has to constantly prove his brand can stand up to scrutiny against imported boards. While they consistently seek to stifle independent shapers and stores, most would agree that they can’t match the locals for quality or value:
I think that, in the North East in particular, buying boards ‘off the shelf’ had become kind of automatic
“I think that, in the North East in particular, buying boards ‘off the shelf’ had become kind of automatic, people didn’t really think about other options, probably due to a lack of shapers in the area. Don’t get me wrong, there are and have been other shapers in the North East but not many and I don’t think we’ve been visible enough. As a small independent shaper you’re up against massive budgets, big names and marketing campaigns from the top brands with photo shoots of flying boards in exotic locations everywhere you look. For me those boards are ridiculously expensive for what you get, you’re looking at £600 for a plain white thruster that’s been produced in a factory. The customer doesn’t think about the number of people that need to be paid for the production of those boards or the import costs, etc. I’m sure that people believe Al Merrick has hand shaped their board for them!
At the other end of the market you’ve got the made in china mini-mal’s, often built by people that have never seen the ocean, never mind surfed in it! I simply can’t compete with their prices and won’t even try to. It’s often the case that beginners don’t have enough knowledge about the board they’re buying so cheap wins out!”
While I’ve ridden tens of boards, I only have a basic understanding of how a board is born – Since surfing in the north is such a different experience to warmer climates, I asked Glenn whether he experienced this same difference as a shaper:
“Yea, I generally have several layers of thermals and long johns on unless I’m glassing! I’m constantly striving to make improvements to my boards and the way they’re made, from the materials used to the finer details of the shapes and getting the finish just right whether it be a standard matte finish or polished gloss finish.
The biggest challenge has always been the winter. A few years ago I started to use Photoinitiators or UV cure resin to help but that’s no good for resin tints and they’ve become a big part of what I specialise in. I’ve now built a room within a room for glassing that I keep at a constant temperature. The only thing that’s affected by the cold now is the heating bill”
Based in Saltburn since the opened, Visionary has seen the evolution of the town as a surfing hot-spot in the North East, and takes great pride in its cold water location
Based in Saltburn since the opened, Visionary has seen the evolution of the town as a surfing hot-spot in the North East, and takes great pride in its cold water location. I’ve surfed the spot many times, and also took my surf instructor exam at the local surf school. To the right of the pier is a classic beach break that can hit anything up to head high, and is usually slightly larger than the equally popular breaks at Scarborough. Blessed with a vibrant surf community, the town is a hub of water activity for the area. Children from the local school are even taught to surf as part of their regular classes, ensuring the town has no end of keen grom’s.