Michael Koskela makes a superb cup of tea, but that’s not the only reason to pay this Cornish surf/skate emporium a visit… I swung by to check out the origins of a surf shop that really can claim to grow its own…
What is Seed Surf Company??
Seed is a culmination of everything I love doing really. It was born out of my passion for quality and uniqueness, and it grew (excuse the pun) out of my hobby: making boards for me and my friends.
Each board is 100% hand-shaped then glassed and finished in-house; same goes for the skates and the organic, art-driven clothing. Everything is produced on the premises. When I got the chance to open the shop I wanted it to be a friendly place. Somewhere people could check out boards, order a custom, pick up a tee, check out the art. I wanted the shop front to represent what was going on out the back in the factory.
How did you get into shaping and who was/is your inspiration?
That’s a big question! I started making skates when I was 12 after seeing guys surfing on trips to Barbados and Florida. Because I was landlocked I decided I was gonna surf the streets. It sounds pretty corny now, but I think I called the first board I made a skurf board!
My first experience of surfboard shaping was watching Jools at Gulfstream – it focussed me on what I really wanted to do. Shortly after that I moved to Cornwall and got a workshop opposite shaper Matt Bevis, who was shaping for Revolver at the time. I did a bit of spray work and pinstriping for him and got to sit in and watch him shape and his glasser Rob do the tint work. So they were a big influence on me. From that I started mowing a bit of foam, playing round with different shapes and learning about different shapers.
I was 19 when I finished my first singlefin; I carried on making boards for myself and my friends, and I also started glassing my skates playing around with different lay ups.
My influences in shaping terms have definitely changed over the years, but the quality and craftsmanship I learnt when restoring cars with my pa has always been a constant. Nowadays the people I respect and who influence me are kinda split into two categories: the older guys like Skip Frye and Malcolm Campbell, and the younger guys like Dain Thomas of Sea Surfboards, Robbie Kegel of Gato Haroi, Josh Hall and Ryan Lovelace. Manny Caro of Mandala and Michael Miller are currently my biggest influences. Mandala for the beautifully finished boards and Michael Miller for going the whole nine yards – shaping, glassing, fins and finishing. The younger guys are bringing some fresh ideas, and they’re all extremely talented craftsmen, but I particularly admire the Campbell brothers for sticking to their guns: for 30 years they pioneered and championed the Bonzer, and it’s only in the last few years that they have received any credit for it.
Tell me about the skate decks…?
The skate decks are where it all started really; they’ve gone through so many different incarnations over the years. I was testing my first boards on the hills where I grew up, showing off how amazingly flexy they were and how you could just bounce on them… and snapped one clean in half! They’re a bit different nowadays!
We lay up, glue and press seven different shapes by hand – we can change the way they ride depending on what we use in the lay-up, which makes them pretty unique. Then we tint and polish them, so they really are one-offs.
The ply and fibreglass give them a real nice feel underfoot and a pop between carves. We’ve used different materials in the past, even building a superlight downhill gun for the Bude downhill classic in 2007. We used high-density foam that McLaren F1 use in their front wings for the core, covered it in carbon fibre and used up-mounted Holey trucks with 86mm wheels. Our team rider Tommo Clinton was up in first place on his first run at Bude before breaking his elbow on the second run! I think there’s still a clip up on YouTube of that one!
You have a pretty unique set-up, because all your boards are produced in-house – do you still find time to surf??
I do spend a lot of my time overseeing the print shop or in the shaping room, but I manage to sneak some waves in. When I’ve made a board I still get a thrill from getting it in the water, and if I’ve made boards for friends I really want to know how they go. There’s nothing quite like seeing something through from start to finish and being in control of every process. Running your own business does come with its advantages – I probably surf more good days now than I used to cos I can get a dawny and not worry about being late to work!
What’s in your quiver?
It’s kind of ever-changing, but at the moment:
9’6 rounded-pin singlefin log
9’6 singlefin log
9’1 rounded-pin big blue
7’6 rounded-pin egg
7’2 Jethro! 1970s singlefin
6’7 1970s Bilbo
6’4 mini log/egg
Can you imagine your life without surfing? What would you be doing instead??
Not really, no! I would have to be doing something hands-on, probably restoring old cars. I’ve always had a love for 1960s and pre-1960s cars. I bought my first car when I was 15 – it was a 1965 beetle, which my dad and I restored in time for my driving test. Then there’s the Seed van – it’s definitely been passed down from the old man! There’s something about the 60s – I love pretty much everything that came out of that era, be it surfing, cars or music.
What are you rocking in the Seed shop right now??
We’ve got a fair bit kicking about this little shop really… There are a few off-the-rack boards, some skates, all our own clothing for guys and girls and a few pieces from White and Nerdy.
We’re the first guys in the country to sell hats from Krochet Kids, a US company that’s fighting for change in Africa: all their hats are handmade out there and each is signed by its maker.
We’ve got handmade boardsocks from Odd Socks in Bude, which are made on a 1920s Singer sewing machine, fins from True Ames, a few dvds, and some bits from our friends at the Tea Appreciation Society.
Up on the walls there’s work from a couple of different artists and photographers. The shop has given us the opportunity to work with some real talented people and we hosted a couple of art shows over the summer for people like Keiron ‘Seamouse’ Lewis, Dan Crockett and Caroline Pedler.
How can people find you & get in touch??
They can come up to Wadebridge and check out the shop/factory (15 Dunveth BP, Wadebridge, Cornwall, PL27 7FE), have a cuppa and a chat. Or jump on the tinterweb and check the blog to find out what we’ve been up to recently, the Seed Surf Co official site or join us on the myface.
Looking to the future, what’s next?
I want to keep learning and progressing – experimentation and knowledge is the reason I make boards. I’m sure this is the same for a lot of shapers and I look forward to working with a few guys to further my skills.
We’ve got some things lined up for next summer at Seed – we’re gonna re-launch the shop with a couple of new surfboard models, some new skate shapes and fresh tee designs. Hopefully we’ll get some artwork/photos from Friend of Mine and have a bit of a party!
Apart from that we’re gonna have demo boards in the shop, collaborate with a couple of artists on a few board designs, and we’re working on a small snippet video. And, if I’ve got the time, we might create Seed boardies and hand-foiled hardwood and ply fins.
Any shout outs, props, name drops & last words?
?Best start with the most important: my lady Charlie for putting up with me, and my mum and dad for their support and guidance, especially when it comes to the business side of things!
Jimbo at Dream Sessions in Newquay for stocking some boards, Zaid, Ben and Woody of the People’s String Foundation for the music, El at White and Nerdy for his help over the years, Alysha for her fine paintings, Ben for helping build the shop, our kid JC and our lass Ali, Rich at Friend of Mine, Shayne at the TeaAppreciation Society for helping with promo, Seamouse and Crockett for helping with the shop opening…
The crew at Krochet Kids for supplying us with some quality hats/beanies and the guys and girls representing over in Oz: Tommo and Dougy, Millie my travel photographer and Steve, Mandi, Chris and the girls.
Seed hasn’t ever just been me: over the years it’s been all the people that have helped out or inspired me so I’d like to thank them and everyone who has been involved or supported us.