“We’re as intense about surfing as we are about making surfboards,” says Tyler Jorgenson, co-founder along with Michael Farley of the Brooklyn-based custom surfboard brand Wax/Surf Co. Using that metric, you could say their focus on craft is near epic.
Architects and custom fabricators by trade, neither had stood on a surfboard let alone made one until just over a year ago. The two met while studying architecture at the University of Arizona and moved to New York to work for SHoP Architects, the firm behind blockbuster buildings like Barclays Center. Surfing popped up on their radar as a way to experience the East Coast and get outside – not to mention being a design challenge with movement added to form. They headed out to Rockaways beach last May with borrowed boards to test the waters (without wetsuits). Completely hooked, Tyler and Mike launched Wax/Surf Co. shortly after and have made a board a week ever since, in addition to becoming dedicated surfers.
Basing the brand out of a small workshop in South Williamsburg – where SHoP also has a satellite space – they started reading up on production practices and getting feedback from local surfers. As Tyler points out, surfboard making has stayed true to its roots, with many of the same methods still being used today as in the 1960s. “We made a deal with our friends: You pay for materials; we’ll put in the hours.”
The boards take around 20 hours to make. Each starts with a foam core embedded with a wood stringer along the spine. A caliper and plot points measure the desired board thickness. Then comes the sanding – lots of sanding – as the block is sculpted down by hand from roughly 25 to 20 inches. Unlike steel or wood, familiar materials for architects, foam is “much less forgiving” and requires a light touch and steady hand to carve the board. Once the shape is finalized, fiberglass gets laid along the underside and folded over the front. The whole piece is then painted with resin and buffed by hand.
Pulling down a board from the storage rack (the 100-square-feet work space is shared with, among others, custom bike brand Horse Cycles and a larger-than-life cat named Charles), Tyler and Mike point out the fiberglass overlap reveal – that faint seam running along the rails – as one of the many small precision details they pride themselves on, when just four hands are working on a board. Then there’s the distinctive waxing moon logo (a good omen for higher tides and bigger breaks).
“We’re not trying to rush the process, because we’re not relying on this to pay the bills. At least not yet…” Tyler says. Still, Wax/Surf Co. is more than a hobby: The two go to the shop after work most nights until 1 or 2 a.m. On days when the breaks are good, they’re back up at 3:45 a.m. to catch the 4:12 a.m. train to Rockaways – and in the water by sunrise. “We need to leave by 7:15 to get into the SHoP offices for 9,” Tyler says matter-of-factly. Intense? Or just diving in head on…