Josh Hall is a surfer/shaper from San Diego, California. His innovative shapes are a direct result of the many hours spent with his mentor, Skip Frye. His boundless energy and stoke is evident in the way he lives his life. We caught up with Josh to find out more.
Tell us about growing up in California.
I was born raised in the San Diego area and spent my time in Pacific Beach, the Crystal Pier area. I got into the sport pretty late but it was a natural progression from riding the soup when I was young. Starting off boogie boarding, I made the transition to surfing around my second year in high school. It’s late by today’s standards—where if you are not a pro by 14, you might as well give it up! (Laughs)
Describe your first board.
My first surfboard was a used Donald Takayama/Hawaiian Pro Designs surfboard. I think it was a 9’2”.
Who did you look up to as a young man?
Joel Tudor was a huge influence on me and still is. And the local guys like Skip Frye, Bird Huffman, and Joe Roper. I grew up very lucky. My baseball coach was Bob Boeche, the owner of Diamond Glassing. I wouldn’t be anybody if it weren’t for the people I have known or met. They make me who I am today.
My grandfather was a big influence on me also. The best piece of advice I got from him was to never shun anyone away for what they say. Always listen to what they say because you never know—you might learn something that can help you in the future. He taught me to be more sociable and to always listen to what someone has to say.
I have been extremely blessed with all the people I have been associated with so far in my life. And I’ve been to places I’ve never thought I would go to, and to be able to work and surf is mind-blowing.
How did you get started shaping?
It stemmed with me just wanting to surf. My dad is a carpenter and my grandfather is an engineer, so I have always been around building things. It originally started with ding repair and when I turned 18, I just bought a blank and totally went at it with the wrong tools. Shortly thereafter, I ordered a board from Skip my second year of college and I watched him shape it. And that was just the most … I can’t describe the experience of watching him handcraft this board. From that point on, I told myself this is something I just have to do.
Why do you surf?
Because I have to. If I don’t, I freak out! Surfing for me is release. When you’re out surfing, you aren’t thinking about other things, problems or stress. Sometimes it feels like a real selfish sport because you’re out there doing it by yourself, but for me it’s like another form of church. I feel connected—there’s the spiritual side of it. The physical side of it? It keeps you in shape being in the water. Like I didn’t surf in the last three weeks and when I got back from my trip, that’s all I did for the next four days. It’s an addiction and it’s a connection to Mother Nature. It fulfills me in many ways.
Who are some of your heroes?
Skip is my number one hero of all time. The local guys—Larry Crow, Joe Roper, Bird Huffman, Joel Tudor. I could give you a laundry list, but those are the main influences for me.
Tell us more about your relationship with Skip.
What I admire most about Skip is how he has been able to maintain his sanity after the last 50 years of surfing with the ever-growing crowds. He is as stoked now as he has ever been. To have been literally “The Guy” from the beginning, and to be still so stoked to reinvent and test and experiment with stuff. He is absolutely amazing because he can continually rekindle the stoke without being bitter or sour.
One day, Skip suggested we do a board swap. He said, “I’ll build you a noserider if you make me one of those quad fishes.” I was like, “Whoa! Okay.” I was thinking a 10 footer and he was like, “No, make it a mid-length.” So I shaped him this 7’11”. We went out and it was a really good day, and Skip was paddling out with Richard Kenvin (another hero) and he was ripping on the board I built. He told me it paddled well, it trimmed, it went down the line. This thing went good. It was such a special day.
I feel like it is my responsibility to carry on the tradition that Skip started. Because once he stops shaping them, there won’t be anything like the boards he makes. I am trying to keep it pretty close to what I grew up riding my whole life and what I’ve learned from him.
What’s next for Josh Hall?
Opening new markets. Going back to Europe and developing some more markets in the British Isles and others. Just to continue what I am doing. I’ve got a team going and this past Windansea contest, I had five boards in the finals. It was so cool. It’s cool that people are riding my boards and liking them.
Find out more about Josh Hall surfboards here. Follow his Hole in The Hall blog here. Top three photos courtesy of Ryan Tatar. Fourth photo courtesy of Doug Agillard. All photos are used by permission and are the property of their respective owners.