SHAPERS CORNER: AlAIN MINVIELLE
The longtime French longboard builder on some Californian and European surfing discrepancies.
What gives you the biggest kicks to shape today?
I’m into revisiting retro boards at the moment. I love their curves, their elegance and their natural flow... no need to pump and get all aggro. The challenge is to obtain a performing board without the handicaps of their ancestors, so you work on the rockers, the bottoms.
With over 30 years of shaping do you dig the way the industry is going? Or have bitter lemons?
Not at all! I am having as much fun as if it was my first day in the bay...even if I am surfing way less nowadays due to my age. I work closely working with my young team riders, they help me compensate, they help me to keep shaping at my best. Guys like Damien Castera, the Delpero bros, Timothée Creignou know their stuff shaping-wise, so I get precise and detailed feedbacks from them...just little differences in the tuning of their boards that make big differences in what they do, contest or freesurf. They are also capable of surfing all sorts of boards, longboard, single, retro, shortboard... and that relation is key for me to perform in all those areas.
You’ve spent a lot of time in California, how has that influenced your career?
I was lucky, I met some incredible characters in CA, got to learn the trade with some shaping legends who have become close friends. Especially Steve Boehne (Infinity Surfboards at Dana Point) who shared 40 years of shaping with me, from the retro to the shortboard. He taught me the art, hosted me over there with the full red carpet treatment.
So what’s so particular about that school of teaching?
It is firstly and most importantly a family affair for these shapers/surfers. You see it today, their kids surf all kinds of boards and surf them well in any conditions. There is a true generational link and filiation that still doesn’t exist in France. Guys like Steve or Takayama are really open minded. They open all doors for me and put me on the right track. I had courses in vee, rail etc... Californian shaping is a science, a trade of precision and that’s what I am trying to be the ambassador of here. There is a love of flow, glide, and it shows in the way they surf and in the way they shape boards.
Are French shapers today good enough?
The Americans are good marketers, they live in a highly competitive market where shapes are fast consumed and fast out of trend, they have the best team riders, the best communication tools etc... but I think that today French shapers are technically good enough. They know how to hand shape from a blank.The issue we have in Europe comes more from the consumer. They tend to prefer a US or Australian brand, for image reasons I guess...
Sacrilegious question: do you use a shaping machine?
I just scanned my first models for the machine, those which work best, so I can reproduce them easily. It’s my very first dabble in that domain haha...
So you’ve joined the dark side?
No, I am still gonna spend most of my time in the shaping bay. I’ll never create something through a computer screen... That would feel like miming rather than singing.
There’s a love of flow, and glide (in California). It shows in the way they surf and shape