Felipe Siebert is a Brazilian surfboard maker who creates his shapes in wood. Choosing to be a part of the longboard community sets him apart from the rest of his fellow surfers. Felipe explains what it means to pursue his passion and create a different culture.
What was it like growing up in Brazil?
I had a good structure, both financially and with family, so it was easier for me to develop myself. I began practicing sports like football and only really started surfing at 19 years of age. In this period, I was doing a technical course which helped me a lot in the preparation for doing surfboard projects. After I graduated in biological sciences, I steered in the direction of wooden boards.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I made two or three experiments in foam. In 2004, inspired by Grain Surfboards and Tom Wegener, I decided to make a longboard (9’0″ and hollow) to see if it was possible. It worked. It was very thick—but I surfed a lot with it.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
When I was young, I was able to stand on bodyboards. But the big event for me was the first time I stood up on my first wooden board. It felt amazing to work for so long on a project and then to be able to enjoy it.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young boy?
In my youth, I only knew football. My idols were the players. Then I took a different path that took me to some interesting places. Originally I surfed shortboards because where I live everyone surfs shortboards. Longboards hardly existed and were only used by beginners and people with poor physical conditioning or those who couldn’t surf a shortboard. Later I began to surf with longboards and tried to market them in my area, but there was much consumer resistance. I ended up selling to all of the other areas of the country who appreciated the culture and other forms of surfing.
What inspired you to own your own shop?
After doing my first longboard, I made some for some other friends, and so it began. There is nothing better than working on something that brings joy to people and nothing better than working on what we like to do—making boards the way we think they should be done. I just can’t work sitting eight hours a day wearing a suit in an office.
What is your process for shaping a board?
The boards are made with different types of low density wood in different colors. The project starts on CAD software. All the boards measurements are defined: thickness, width, rocker, V-bottom, concave, etc. The molds are then printed on a 1:1 scale. These molds are then transferred to the wood which then is sawed. This stage requires the most in terms of time and hard work. After being sawed, the parts are positioned and glued on a pre-leveled table so it has the desired rocker. The board begins to present it’s look and has its sides glued, finally followed by the finishing.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I have not traveled much, but I have several trips planned for the coming years. I’ve been to the USA (Florida), Argentina and Mexico. Next year, if all goes well, I’m going to California to some events. It will be my dream to see a region that has had such a strong influence on my work. I also want to go to Portugal, Spain and Australia in the coming years. But nothing compares to a special place where I have a beach house. It is called “Farol de Santa Marta”.
Who/what inspires you?
I have admiration for many shapers that led me to do what I do today: Paul Jensen, Tom Wegener, the staff of Grain Surfboards, shapers of the 50’s and 60’s (Greg Noll, Bing Copeland, Rich Harbour, Hobie Alter, Dale Velzy, Hap Jacobs, Dewey Weber, Gordon & Smith) and some of the new generation (Robin Kegel, Dave Allee, Paul Jacinto and others).
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
The work I do has many moments of idleness of mind, so I have enough free time to reflect on many things. I have lived a very quiet and happy life and I try to pass this peace and joy to people. Life is too fast to waste time with bad things. I believe that each person should be able to find a balance for work and enjoy his time doing something he really enjoys—in my case, surfing.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
No. I believe that my life is excellent. I have chosen the right path and I have devoted much time to my boards, skateboards and alaias. I enjoy it because I like to see the results and I’m happy people are also enjoying it. I want to be able to grow my business and I expect to do this in the coming years.
What are you most proud of?
Producing something that makes people happy.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Being with people I like, in my beach house in Farol de Santa Marta, with good waves.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
There are many innovative surfers like Alex Knost, who, with his peculiar style, is admired by some and criticized by others. Joel Tudor has also done much in recent years.
Surfing is so much more than the WCT. It is art, feelings, creativity, experimentation with new sensations. There are always many people working in this direction—shapers, artists, photographers, writers. I think the common goal is to take our focus away the championships and the mass production of products for surf to a more personal side of the trade. There are many people, either famous or unknown, who share this goal. These are the people who do things for the love.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have a quiver with a wide variety of models: an alaia; a 5’6″ Siebert fish; some single fins (about 7’0″ from the 70’s); a 9’4″ longboard made by photographer Jair Bortoleto; a regular shortboard; and a 9’4″ Siebert longboard. Soon I’ll get my new Siebert 10 footer! It’s almost ready. I’m as excited as I used to be when I commissioned boards from my shaper.
What’s your favorite meal?
Basic Brazilian food—rice, beans, salad and farofa and a little meat (but not much). I also drink juice every day and, on special occasions, have some good beer and caipirinhas! All foreigners love caipirinhas!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
A lot. I love music—Mat McHugh, Tom Jobim, Mattson 2, Oliver Nelson, Ray Barbee, White Buffalo, Will Conner, Piers Faccini, Bedouin Soundclash, Mensajeros, Alexi Murdoch, Soft Pack, Japanese Motors and Zee Avi. These are some of groups on my iPod. I listen to all sorts of styles.
What’s next for Siebert Surfboards?
Now that I have reached a certain level of success with the boards and can develop my work at the level that I believe is good, I can market to people in various places around the world. I want to meet other shapers and explore other possibilities because I feel a little isolated here in my town. We (Brazilians) do not have our own surf culture. We haven’t developed anything. We just buy from and give profits to the large surf corporations.
Surfing began as a form of entertainment, but it took over my life and made me happier. I am often asked, “Why do you love surfing? Why do you spend five hours in the water?” I honestly do not know, but after a good day of surfing, it seems that life is perfect and that I took the best path possible.
More information about Felipe Siebert Surfboards can be found here.