Dave Allee is the owner of Almond Surfboards in Newport Beach. At 24 years old, he represents a new breed of surfer/shaper/shop owner who is taking full control of his creative output. We interview him as he juggles the responsibilities of running a business and just having fun.
What was it like growing up in Newport Beach?
It was great. I didn’t really realize it was somewhere to be coveted until high school, when they started making movies and shows about it. Newport is rad because you can bike everywhere when you’re young, or even now, during the summer. Being a short bike ride away from the beach is something I hope to never take for granted. And Newport is interesting because so much surf culture and so much of the surf industry is here. RVCA, Hurley, Volcom, Quiksilver… it’s all right here in Orange County.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I don’t think I got my own surfboard until 7th grade. It was a 7’8 tri-fin. I surfed it for a few years, but I’m happy to have moved on to bigger and better surfboards.
What was the feeling you had when you you first stood on a surfboard?
I was in elementary school. I was probably filled with excitement and a little bit of terror. I wasn’t “hooked” on the feeling until years later.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young boy?
My Dad, for sure. The reason I got into shaping was because I wanted to have some creative projects to work on with him. That’s what inspired the solid balsa singlefin we made a few years ago. That’s where it all began.
What inspired you to own your own shop at such an early age?
To be honest, I was a bit opposed to starting a surfboard/clothing company because it seemed overly cliché. But I was really enjoying the creative outlet that shaping and art was providing. And it was a fun project to get friends involved with… so I kinda couldn’t resist. The shop came about in January of this year, when things were starting to grow and progress a ton for us, and I was feeling ready to quit my job and devote my time solely to Almond. It just seemed like a natural progression for us, with the direction things were heading. The shop has been incredible. It’s been no small task, but I’m thrilled with how it’s gone thus far.
What is your process for shaping a board?
We do all of our shaping by hand. I’m kind of old fashioned in the sense that I put value in doing things “the right way.” There are so many talented people out there, and I think it’s important to honor the craftsmen and excel in your field. Rather than machining our stuff when things got busy, we brought Griffin Neumann-Kyle onto the team to help share the workload. One of the best decisions I ever made. It took a few boards for us to get on the same page, but now things are going super smoothly and we’ve got a great system going. He’s such a talented shaper, I’m so stoked to have him around.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Africa for sure. No matter how much you think you know what it’s going to be like, you will still be blown away. I don’t want to say too much, other than I would hope that most everyone could visit there at some point in their lives.
Who/what inspires you?
Wow, that’s tough… I draw inspiration from so many places. Obviously there are people in the surf industry who are incredibly talented who I draw inspiration from. Guys like Terry Martin, Andy Davis, Tyler Warren, Kyle Lightner, Cyrus Sutton, Nathan Oldfield, Thomas Campbell, Mitch Abshere, Tom Wegener, Nathan Adams, Alex Knost, Dan Forte, John Cherry, Levi Prairie, JJ Wessels, Mason Jennings. The list goes on and on.
There is inspiration everywhere though; so many aesthetics and attitudes to draw from. Many of the inspirations aren’t even visual. They’re musical or intangible. That’s the beauty of creativity, there are so many things to pull from and draw from and you get to take your own twist on it and make it your own.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
To recognize the important things in life, and to keep it all in perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, and to get worn down by life. But it’s so important to be able to see the bigger picture. I have so much to be thankful for. There are days that are tough, and there are tasks that seem overwhelming, but being reminded of the important things in life helps keep it all manageable. There have been many great lessons in my 24 years of living, but I think perspective is a good overlying theme.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
There are always things we wish we had done differently. Conversations, mistakes, frustrations. But at the end of the day all of our mistakes are learning experiences. And they help us grow up into responsible, reasonable adults. So I don’t think I would go back and change anything.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing is a really hard thing to describe. On a practical level, it’s just a great way to start the day. I like getting my day started early and getting in the water for a few hours. It’s a unique chance to be outdoors and active on a super regular basis. It’s fun alone, it’s even more fun with friends. It’s smooth and graceful. No wave is ever the same, so there is always opportunity for a new, unique experience and new challenges.
Surfing has been a huge creative and physical outlet and a means to meet a ton of really talented, really cool people. And there’s always that lingering desire to go back for more, no matter how frustrating or fulfilling it gets.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
At the expense of sounding like a 3rd grader, friends and family, and experiencing life with them. There are so many exciting places to see and things to do in life. And it’s so much more fun to do them with people you love.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Definitely all of the same people who I think inspire me, I would definitely say are inspiring the surfing would as well. It’s been great to see things shift away from the big corporation and the WCT and back onto some of the artists and craftsmen who most of the surfing community can identify with. There are a huge number of people doing some really great things in the surf world.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board?
Right now, I’m surfing a 9’6 Almond Log Rhythm. It’s narrow and thick, like the boards they were surfing back in the early 60’s. I’ve been really enjoying it. Because of the thickness, it gets into waves easy and early; but because of the narrow template, it feels lively. It side slips right where you want it in the wave. I’ve also been surfing a 5’10 Kookumber a bunch lately, and having a blast on that. I like the early entry and smooth lines for a board that small. I want to surf a 5’6 version.
What’s your favorite meal?
Seafood. I really like fish and shrimp and most everything that falls under that category.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Mason Jennings is at the top of my list right now. Ray Barbee too. The performance that Ray Barbee and the Mattson 2 put on for the premier of the Present was phenomenal.
What’s next for Dave Allee?
I’m not exactly sure. Plenty of exciting things I hope. We’ve still been continuing to grow and expand with all the different facets of Almond. It still feels like we haven’t even come close to reaching our potential. So, with that in mind, I just want to continue to have fun with all of the Almond stuff, and see where it takes us. I’m hoping to visit Australia at some point in the next year too. We’ll see, there are so many possibilities for the future.