Pepe Gil (Birdband Surfboards)
Do you remember the first board you shaped?
Of course I do! I shaped that board with an old friend in a light-less warehouse and obviously it didn’t work at all. It had sharp edges… it was a mess. I did it just because I was very handy. I really don’t know where it could be.
Considering the exponential growing of surf culture over last years in our country, can you name the pros and cons of this growth?
Look, the growth is regular and equal around the world. That is because there is a well-informed market. Nowadays, surfers are really connected with the internet and smartphones to know if a good swell is coming, and what winds they have etc. The result is that when you have good conditions, the points are overcrowded. If you want to be alone, you have to go out and look for a new spot (there still are a few here in Mar del Plata) but considering that Mar del Plata is the surf capital in our country, when you have good conditions there are people from all around the country surfing here. This is because not only the consistency of the waves, but also because the variety. There is a wave for each style.
On the shaping room, machine or by hand? pro and cons?
Machine and i’ll give you my reasons.
Pros: I’m able to shape faster and once you have the machine calibrated with the design and measurements, there is no error. Perhaps you have to waist four foams until the calibration is done but once you have it, it’s a piece of cake!
Cons: When the machine breaks down to fix it is really expensive and you lose time and money. Right now i’m doing pre-shapes for other countries (Chile and Uruguay) as a way to establish my brand.
Do you notice any trends in the current shapes? Is there any particular style which is more requested than others?
Surfers request all models but I can see a pattern in relation with the seasons of the year: In summer the most requested shapes are fun-boards and retro boards. Once high season its over, they request only customised boards.
Please describe a typical day in the shape room?
I design and measure the shapes. I load the information onto the machine and we do some pre-shapes as samples. I really like to be in touch with my three shapers giving suggestions. I will never be far from the hand-shaping process.
Since the situation in our country is not the best, how do you manage the lack of material to shape?
If there is any material available, I get it. Right now I’m shaping four boards per day, everyday. When all the importation issues appears, we start to use cloth made in our country. It’s a good product but demands more attention, you have to be more careful than with the imported cloth. Regarding the foam, we use national brands and they work better than the imported stuff. The only difference is that the imported are whiter than ours, but that issue is solved easily. When the high-season comes we tend to have more boards and material in stock than money. Considering our current economy, I think that is the best choice.
Epoxy VS glass: Which do you choose and why?
Glass, for sure! Epoxy is really difficult to work with and to repair. You need a centrifuge machine, the repairs are a total pain in the ass, not all the shapers know how to fix a ding on an epoxy board. About the performance, epoxy boards are more rigid than the traditional boards. That is why all the pro-surfers use glass-boards.
What are your favourite shapes to work with and why do you like them?
I love to shape shortboards and customised boards.
How do the pop-out boards being made in Asia effect you commercially? How do you see the fact that some big names are also behind these productions?
I saw a couple of pop-outs around here but since the boards are made in epoxy and are really expensive, this kind of market does not affect me at all. But I was in France a couple of years ago and these boards are everywhere. French shapers are really worried.
Please name three shapers and three surfers that inspire you?
Wade Tokoro (I really like his work), Eric Arakawa and Glenn Minami. I gave you a Hawaiian triad!!! Haha!
What are your five favourite surf spots in the world?
There are a lot of spots but I really love Indonesia. Mentawai with perfect midsize waves. I’m not a fan of bigger waves like Teahupo’o or Mavericks, I think you must be crazy to surf that size. I really think that the surfers who ride these waves are insane. There must be something, a not solved pathology related with the ego. Lot of riders give me their personal cards and the first thing you see in these little piece of paper is the size of the biggest wave they rode… it’s crazy!
Last one: Why do you surf?
It’s simple: I surf because it is my lifestyle. Give me two hours of surf and I will feel like I have had a one week holiday. It’s a complete, healthy sport. You are in touch with nature, if you go anywhere around the world and surf you’ll probably make new friends. It’s to be part of something special, but at the same time it’s an isolated sport. Surfers enjoy loneliness. In many surfers I see a shortage pattern to connect with other people.
I believe surfing allows me to behave with values, which are the natural laws not related to us and which modifies our behaviour. I mean: I am what I do, not what I think. Surfing gives me these values.