It's busy time for any contest surfer in Europe. Lacanau is over, Zarautz is about to start with so little time to fine tuned the equipment and so little waves to test it. But guys are happy to be at home or at least not too far from it. They use those few days in between heats to visit their family, friends and relatives but also their shaper, to talk shop, rocker and width.
We met this morning in the Channel Islands shaperoom with Romain Cloitre and Gael Blouet, it is the classic surfer/shaper brainstorming. Romain is bringing a couple of boards back with comments and Gael is waiting for the feedback to shape some new ones. In the intimacy of the shaping bay, under proper light, they compare two shapes that appear identical to me. Romain likes the added lift on one and both are trying to understand why and where it is coming from? Bottom contour, density of the foam or of the glass job, width at the tail...They exchange on the subject for about 20 minutes. The base model is the MBM, originally developed by Al Merrick & Bobby Martinez, it is a popular shape amongst pro surfers. The MBM has also been twicked by Christiaan Bradley & Kelly Slater and Gael is using the more neutral stance of Kelly model (Bobby surfs a lot more on his back foot) for Romain's boards.
Romain goes through about 30 pieces a year and reckons he is satisfied with most of them.
Did they work on something new this year? « Not really » admits Gael, « we play around with the MBM model and try to adapt it to all kind of conditions. For super small contest waves to an hawaiian step up format for example. But honestly during the contest high season, we play it safe and only look at modifying the weight. The MBM is truly our reference, a good base, for energetic surfer in every day surf and we try to build from that and bring some modifications on the bottom contours for example according to the surfer's need.»
Meeting's over now. Gael brings a new blank in the room. Romain is concerned about the wave forecast for Zarautz and he loads his car with few extra sticks. « What's a magic board for you Romain? » I ask shaking hands, « it is one that make you win heats to start with... »