Lance Carson in Malibu

by John Durant on February 11, 2013 · 3 comments

The outline of a hand-shaped surfboard is drawn directly on the foam using a rigid template as a guide so the left and right rail curves match. Templates – like an enormous set of French curves – lean nearby, out of the way and they all have names. Often it’s a surfboard model or the name of another shaper – once in a while a template will have the ultimate distinction: the name of the surfer for whom the board was designed.

The outline curve of the surfboard is drawn all at once – five or six feet at at time and the sound the pencil makes on the rough, skinned blank has a kind of resonance. It’s not like drawing on paper – the sound travels through the foam with a shearing hiss – like ten feet of silk being torn, or maybe a breaking wave. That sound is unusual and specific: if you can hear it, you’re having a board made. If you hear that sound in Lance Carson’s shaping room, you’re in the sacristy of the high church of surfing where experience, art and dexterity all come together.

Lance Carson not only shaped boards for the the best surfers in the world – he was one of them. Skip Frye told me once: Lance owned the nose. For generations of surfers, the name Lance Carson was synonymous with Malibu and his boards – particularly the big pintails – are at home in long point waves, but there’s more to it than that: the big pintails are goddamned beautiful. Achingly beautiful. Pure art.

Caption: Lance Carson in the shaping room – January 21st, 2013. 

Author John Durant is an assignment and fine art photographer based in San Diego, CA. Find out more about John and his work, here and here.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Strauch Jr. February 11, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Lance has always been one of my surfing heroes with his incredible deft footwork especially on the tip of the board. His surfing always made extremely difficult maneuvers look so incidental and casual like a walk in the park… A sign of great style and adept talent in any sport requiring special skills.


Barry Haun February 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm

A coke-bottle green one hangs in my office and was the template for a board I rode religiously for 4 years before feeling the need to retire it before I rode it to pieces. You look at the Carson board and just know it’s going to ride amazingly. One of those boards that will make you a better surfer.


Tom August 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hey Lance I am part of the Beginning families in the Palisades ,Malibu area.
I met you once at Venice Glass jobs.
I want to say thanks again for signing my board and its looking like I am going to tryi movin to SB for a while to hopefully find a better job then by a van and start surfing some really good waves here and there.
Tom Cassidy Beach club surf team


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