Josh Oldenburg is a talented San Diego surfer/shaper. His skill and talent lies in producing exceptional surfboards of uncompromising quality from traditional longboards to progressive shortboards. We spoke with Josh to learn more.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was pretty eclectic. Having a dad that was a big outdoorsman and athlete allowed me to experience a whole slew of activities that most kids don’t encounter. Hunting and fishing played a big role in my childhood as well as playing all the conventional sports. I spent a majority of my adolescence in San Diego with exception to a three-year span of time in which my family moved to the central valley to farm. At that time it was a huge change of pace for my family and more specifically for my dad. He went from experiencing the stress of owning and operating a scaffold company to waiting for crops to grow. Obviously both careers carried the same stress of providing for yourself and your family, however it taught me from a young age that controlling the way you make your living could provide you with more benefits than just financial success.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I didn’t receive my first surfboard until I was in junior high. It was a 7’2 round nose egg with a thruster fin set up. It also came with what I thought at the time where all the bells and whistles. I remember it had red airbrushed rails with a Hawaiian fabric nose inlay that was all pinlined. At the time I thought it was a great idea, but in retrospect I would hate to have been the guy to make that board.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I can’t say that I really recall the first time I stood up on a surfboard. I guess it wasn’t that great seeing as how it wasn’t memorable. I do remember the first time I was able to put a board on rail and go down the line as one of the most rewarding feelings of success.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
I don’t really remember having admiration for anyone person in particular. However, I do remember being aware of the fact that I didn’t want to be lazy.
Who/What inspired you to begin shaping?
I didn’t have anyone to inspire my shaping. For me it grew from my own curiosity in my equipment, and my general interest in craftsmanship. From that point on, I started to get into the how and why my boards worked the way they did. After building a few boards in my garage I got my first industry job at Pacific Glassing working for King Mac Foam gluing up blanks. It was undoubtedly the least appealing and most underappreciated job one person could find in surfboard manufacturing. But it put me in an environment where surfboards of every shape while being produced on a production level. For me a great deal of what I want to achieve is in relation to a level of production (glassing and shaping). For instance it’s a lot easier to make one board a week look immaculate and claim that you know how to do it all, but to do ten or fifteen boards at a time and nail everyone, proves your true skill set. That’s what drives me today.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Yuma, AZ. It’s like one giant retirement center. It’s the craziest thing I have ever seen. Old people are driving around everywhere. It’s really quite hazardous.
Who/what inspires you?
From a surfboard building perspective, I, like most people am inspired by perfection. When I look at a board and can’t find a flaw in it I am inspired by the laminators, the sander/polisher and the wet work guys to want to be better, join, or surpass the level that they are on.
From a shaping perspective, every type of surf craft inspires me. It could be an old template that I unbarred, a restoration that someone is working on or of late my new affliction/appreciations is with modern short boards.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Don’t be lazy. Idle hands render no results.
One of the hardest things to do is be original.
“Don’t fake the funk” words from Jeff Mccallum
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I am very happy with where my life/career are today. Largely my mistakes and experiences are what have taken me to this point. I guess my only regret would be making the same mistake twice.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my skills, the boards they produce and the traditional path I took to acquire them. Which is not to say that I think they are best or that I have taken them as far as they will go. Just that I am very pleased with how they have progressed and the potential I believe they hold.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I see surfing as a form of entertainment or escape. It allows me to turn off all distractions and focus on the simplistic joy of riding a wave. More than the act of surfing the sport has provided me an avenue to build a career around something that I love.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing or say that one thing makes me happier than another. I can however narrow it down to a top 10 things that make me happy:
Good results with new designs.
Progressing my skills.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I think there is small group of people out there who are creating specific/unique designs and brand traits/looks that are unlike anyone before. The one person who I think is at the top of that list is Jeff “Ffej” Mccallum. The brand look he has created is unlike anyone else’s and many times it has served as what I’ll call “inspiration” for others. His alternative board designs are original and unique. Jeff has also been very influential in my career both as a quasi-mentor, friend and employer. Rusty, Hoy Runnel, and Rick Hamon are three shapers that I think have pushed the shortboard design envelope. Together they have created an amazing board line that is second to none in the short board world.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
My favorite board is the one that is going to give me the best result for the current conditions. For me that board varies everyday. One day it could be a 9’9 nose rider, to an evolution style egg or even a classic keel fin. My favorite spot is probably the best spot in all of San Diego, Unspeakables.
What’s your favorite meal?
Any type of red meat preferably on the rare side.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
I am all over the place. The last three albums I purchased were from Skrillex, Dr. Dre, and Van Halen. The rest of my iPod reflects the same kind of musical continuity or lack there of.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful the opportunities I have had, and to work with and around good people. Without those opportunities my skills would have never progressed. From Jeff and the rest of our crew to my shortboard mentor Roy Sanchez, to all of the shops/employees that have showed their support along the way, and Garrett Highhouse, who has been taking photos, doing web and graphic design from the very beginning.
What’s next for Josh Oldenburg?
A whole bunch of stuff, as of late I have been working with a group of talented surfers: Kahana Kalama, Nate Chesnut and Anna Ehrgott to name a few. They are helping me test designs and push them farther. Anna is going to be a part of the film Gastrologging that may be out as soon as this year. While Kahana is readying his shop, Aloha Sunday for the spring/summer months. This month I will also be a part of Slide Magazine’s feature article “The Evolution of Revolution” written by Shawn Tracht. The article showcases some experimental board design that could lead to the next big jump in the evolution of surfboards. I am also going to be a part of SLVDR’s Craftsman Guild which may include a couple of limited collaborative boards. As always, I am looking forward to sharing my boards and designs with as many people as possible.
To learn more about Josh Oldenburg, click here. Principal photography by Garrett Highhouse. Noseriding photo by Bryce Johnson