SHAPERS CORNER: GERO TRAGATSCHNIG
The financial crisis has hammered surf companies and economies like Portugal. So you may wonder how the surfboard market holding up? Fatum founder Gero Tragatschnig has the answers for you.
You started in Sylt, some of the worst beachbreaks in Europe, and now shape in Peniche With Supertubos one of the best. But what fundamentals of shaping hold true?
Since the beginning of my shaping in 1986 my aim was always to make the best board possible for every rider in every condition. In my early years I spent the summer months in Sylt. During the winter, clearly a period where you don’t want to be there, I mainly travelled and worked for various shapers around the world. For Sylt and its small, mushy waves, I had to adapt the board designs. We needed boards which allow you to get on the wave very early and it had to turn fast in the small pockets the waves offered.
I ended up with shorter, wider, compact designs. They looked a bit weird back in the days but today they are a common design.
Portugal probably has the most diverse surf in Europe in terms of points, reefs, beaches, gnarly waves, big waves, beginner waves. Who are the bulk of the boards you build for?
Our main focus is the day to day average surfer. Most of my designs are based on their needs in most conditions, be it at their local beach break, reefbreaks or locations like Bali and elsewhere overseas. After around 10 000 boards, I believe that the personal interaction with the customer is still the most valuable component for the magic board. Personally I’m a passionate longboarder and I love shaping them as well, I really like the versatility of them. We have customers who surf on longboards all around the world. I like that aspect and keep playing with new designs.
Germans tend to buy Ferman cars, fly Lufthansa, etc. Do they want boards from german ex-Pats too?
Germany is one of our biggest markets. I do believe that Germans value good craftsmanship, precision and simplicity of design. But I’ve lived and worked in Portugal since '96. Most of our German customers don’t even know that I am German.
The financial crisis has hammered the surf companies, and economies like Portugal. But what about surfboards? On a participant level, is surfing recession proof?
So far we didn’t feel the recession in board orders in a negative way. We keep it simple and honest and our customers seem to appreciate that. Surfing is an escape from reality, washes away your worries for a certain period of time and makes you feel better. So in some ways hard times only go to increase the demand. Perhaps the surf clothing companies have taken a hit, but in terms of surfboards, it seems to be stronger than ever.
Germans value good craftsmanship, precision, and simplicity of design.