Shaper Spotlight: Marc Andreini
Interview by Glenn Sakamoto
Marc Andreini is an accomplished surfboard builder and master craftsman. In this Shaper Spotlight, we learn more about Marc’s influences in both his surfing and board design from George Greenough to Phil Edwards, and discover what over 45 years of shaping experience can bring to his customer and the next generation of shapers.
Tell us about George Greenough and his influence on you and your shaping
It was 1966 and I was 15 years old. My best friend at the time was Margo Godfrey (Oberg). She was already a surf star darling and unbelievably talented. We would surf everyday after school and on the weekends. She knew all the guys in La Jolla because that’s where she was from. One day, Tom Ortner and a couple of his contemporaries who were top surfers, were coming up the coast with their brand new Boston Whaler. They wanted Margo to help them get into The Ranch. Margo was only 12 years old and asks me about it. I said in my squeaky 15-year old voice, “Of course I can get us in. I can show ya. I know everything about The Ranch!”
We rode our bicycles with our surfboards to meet them and they picked us up. They placed me at the bow and I proceeded to guide them to all the spots at The Ranch. Of course, I only knew about them from reading my Surfing Guide to Southern California by Bill Cleary. I had memorized every single word in that book so I knew where everything was! I got us to Rights and Lefts and we surfed everything until it closed out at the low tide. There were no other surfers besides us at The Ranch that day.
I said “It’s low tide so it’s time to go to Governments.” We headed north and somehow we got around the kelp beds at Cojo Reef and pulled into Governments’ on the best day I have ever surfed there in my entire life. It was just perfection – 4 to 6 feet and no one out. We park the boat on a big sandy cove and we proceed to surf our brains out. About an hour into it, here comes a little Renault driving up the beach with my friend Danny Hazard driving, with Greenough in the passenger seat along with his red Velo spoon atop the roof.
Greenough proceeds to paddle out at the top of the point where it is 6–8 feet. Nobody surfs out there because it is nasty and rocky with hollow waves. With my own eyes, I watch George and he is firing and rocketing off the bottom, pulling up under the lip, into the barrel, and with a full figure eight cutback, rebounds into the soup seemingly without any loss in speed. He would actually gain speed in his turns – the total opposite of a longboard. I actually saw him do two complete barrel rides all on the same wave.
When you witness the surfing of Greenough, there are just no words to describe what you’ve just seen and I was fortunate to be a witness of it. Like the Australians, I wanted to figure out how I could surf like Greenough but standing up. It became my goal to build those stubbie type of boards that were short and compact yet still performed. I was only 16 when I made my first Greenough-style board. I made it from a tar paper template that Greenough had given my good friend Robbie Robinson. It was a 7’2 arc tail stubbie. I cut down my brother’s White Owl longboard while he was away at school, I borrowed it, wrecked it, and took all the glass off.
Who else was an influence?
Kirk Putnam. I met him in 1970 when he moved up to Santa Barbara. He was younger and he had just gotten out of high school. Kirk was a Greg Liddle Surfboards guy. He rode Liddles around Malibu and is a fabulous surfer. He worked at both the Yater shop and at Channel Islands where I worked also. I would work 6 days a week making my own boards in the middle of the week and did piece work on the extra days for the other guys. I met Kirk there in the showroom and we became very good friends.
Kirk was the one who got me back riding the stubbie boards. Back in ‘71, everyone was into pintails because of what Gerry Lopez was riding at Pipeline. Although my first love was the hulls, I was a board builder so I made what people were buying and riding. Even the Australians were riding pintails by then. But Kirk loved his Liddles and he would have me shape him these bitchin’ single fin hulls. Every time I would make him one, I would make myself one.
We both had a love for the same kind of boards. We would recreate all the boards we would see in the films when we were kids, like Innermost Limits of Pure Fun, Evolution, and Sea of Joy. We were building all of these boards for ourselves – from the full double-ender type boards Wayne Lynch rode in Evolution to the vee bottoms to the short stubbies Michael Peterson rode. Nobody wanted those style of boards at the time but we couldn’t get enough of them! We are still making the same boards today. To this day, Kirk’s been a big influence on me in keeping my interest in those types of boards.
What is a displacement hull?
Displacement is a nautical term and has to do with a solid object or craft which travels through water and displaces water from the front and reconnects it to the back. You have to design a boat in such a way to get the right amount of lift, the right amount of resistance without slowing it down too much, and the right amount of control. It’s a fine balance. The faster you want the boat to go, the flatter it needs to get – but you start losing control because it starts to get too high out of the water.
When making boards, the wider it is, you need a flatter rocker because it will skip all over the place and won’t settle down in the water. It’s why you have to roll the bottom. Conversely, if you have a narrow board with rocker, you’ll need to make it flat because there is not enough planing area to bring it to the surface. All surfboards are displacement hulls and the word “hull” has become kind of a misnomer. We call these type of boards “hulls” today because it’s just the name that stuck.
What can a customer expect in riding a hull-style board versus a conventional board?
The difference is simple. The more parallel the board and the more flatter the rocker, the more it is going to track. It means it will be smoother and more reactive. Conversely, a board with more rocker with a flatter bottom will respond more quickly. It has the nose and tail pulled away so the board is just pivoting around in the center of the template so it will react quicker. But you now have a board a little bit more disconnected and it doesn’t want to just go and pick a nice long track.
Conventional boards have more freedom. You can turn them more or less when you feel like it. You get short bursts of speed where you don’t travel as much distance, however you need to make a number of turns to keep the board moving. All of this disconnects you from the experience of being properly positioned in the sweetest spot of the wave where the power is. In contrast, a hull or stubbie, requires the kind of surfing where there is the elements of trim and being in the right part of the wave at the right time to get the most out of it. With a hull, you need to work with the wave in order to get the most speed out of it.
The original roots of surfing was a plank and it was a trim-based sport where it was about gliding and trimming in the steepest part of the wave and high in the pocket. The art of old school surfing is well documented and understood because when you ride a board it is all about positioning and timing. It creates a style of surfing that has a beauty and a flow to it. In my opinion, riding a hull is like classical dancing versus being on a thruster which is like breakdancing.
Who are your surfing influences?
It has to be Phil Edwards. Most people of my generation think that Phil Edwards is number one. Duke Kahanamoku will remain the godfather of all modern surfing. Phil Edwards is the performance version of The Duke. Grace, beauty, agility, finesse, and stateliness. Phil was a master of trim and positioning and surfing with speed. He was purely a trim-based surfer. In their respective books, Nat Young and Bob McTavish both cite that their primary influence in surfing was Phil Edwards. Skip Frye says that he and Mike Hynson, both two of the finest surfers, wore on their trunks a little inscription reading P.O.P.E. It stood for Protegés of Phil Edwards. Phil was the Holy Grail – he was the master. If you are a student of trim and power and flow – it all goes back to Phil Edwards.
And the guy that really broke the mold was George Greenough. He invented speed and power out of turn and it all came from the design of his fin. Greenough put us into the next generation of high performance. You can take Phil Edwards and George Greenough as the primary influences and architects of surfing itself. My personal ideal is to have the beauty, style and grace of Phil Edwards and the speed and the moves of George Greenough. This is what I want to get out of my boards and out of my own personal surfing.
Marc, tell us a little about some of the boards in your lineup starting with the smallest to the largest:
The Bullet + The Leenough
Bob Leonelli is a longtime friend who I met in the Bay Area in the ‘60s. A fabulous surfer, he likes to ride really short boards. I have always made him Greenough inspired boards between 6 and 6’8 during the ‘70s. In 2002, he wanted me to make him a 6 foot stubbie with a contemporary bottom. So I made him a single concave bottom going into a double barrel vee with a 2+1 fin setup. I didn’t see him for a while and I always wondered how the board worked. In the meantime, one guy after another kept calling me and telling me how they’ve ridden this 6-foot stubby and they wanted one. I told them I never even made a 6 foot stubbie – what were they talking about? I go down to Mollusk SFto look at it and it was the same board I made for Bob! He never rode it, so he sold it and some guy bought it, rode it once, fell in love with it and had it reglassed and tinted green. I started making these boards for people (I even made one for Manny Caro) and everybody LOVED them!
Just two summers ago, I walk into the shop with one of the stubbies while Danny Hess was walking out to his car. He takes a look at it and says “You know what? You gotta make one and put 4 fins on it.” I said, “Really? Do I need to change anything?” “No don’t change a thing. Just add 4 fins.” he replied. He told me where to put the fins. I made one for my brother and he loved it. With the quad setup it now had a bigger range and could ride in more powerful waves without slipping around. I can thank Danny Hess for making The Bullet better.
When Bob came back and wanted a more Greenough template with an arc tail and a wider template, it became the 5’10 Leenough. This board worked well, too. It’s the closest thing I’ve made to a stand up Greenough kneeboard. With a wider tail, I could never solve the problem of them sliding around. The Leenough solves that as it has roll in the bottom and a double barrel vee out the back. It’s wide enough and yet it picks up waves pretty well.
The Vaquero came about in ‘87. Kirk had called me and we hadn’t done too much work together in the ‘80s as I had moved back up north. I wasn’t making boards full time as I used to and Kirk had moved back south where he was from. We kept in touch over the years, and one day he calls me and says, “You know what? One of the boards we saw in Innermost Limits – I’ve always wanted one. An 8’3 with kind of a square tail. Let’s make that.” I said “Sure, I’ll meet you in Santa Barbara down at Yater’s shaping room.”
We met and he had brought this really crappy longboard blank. From it, we managed to squeak together an 8’3 displacement hull. It was a variation of what we used to make and it came out pretty well. With a felt tip pen in hand, he writes the words “Vaquero de Los Olas.” He takes the board and just surfs the shit out of it. He calls me and is raving about it. I borrow the board for six months and I have the same experience – it was MAGIC! Roger Nances at Beach House said, “Why don’t you guys create a logo for it and I’ll put some boards in the shop.” And it just took off from there. I make these singlefin, displacement hull boards in the 6’6 to 9 foot range. It’s the one board which does it all for about 90% of the time. It’s the embodiment of both Phil Edwards and George Greenough in one board.
What is the difference between a Vaquero hull design and a Greg Liddle hull design?
It’s really a variation on a theme. Greg’s boards have a more parallel outline and more pinched rails. These two attributes make the board more positive and gives it the ability to pull into a definite track. In contrast, I make my Vaquero with a little more curve in the outline and make it a bit more relaxed. My boards are more neutral while his boards are made for thinner, crisper, more locked in kinds of waves where it is okay to be committed. Up here in Northern California, the waves are completely irregular and unpredictable, so my board needs to be neutral. There are more lefts up here so I also need a board that can go either way and backside surfing requires a fin to be further back. So I put a little extra rocker in the back with a little more basier fin to give it a nice backside drive.
I’ve been on a lifelong quest for a good pintail hull. I remember when Midget Farrelly in the Puerto Rico contest of ‘68 surfed a 7’10 with an orange bottom and a yellow deck – basically a hippy pintail hull. He won second place in that contest. And if you’ve ever have seen the film, he surfs it so beautifully. I’ve always loved pintails and I’ve always loved hulls. But the two really don’t go together by most people’s thinking. I wanted to make it happen.
I have been making pintails every decade since the ‘70s, trying to build one which worked well. I didn’t succeed until 2002 when I made an 8’8. For some reason I was able to do a roundhouse cutback on a chest high wave – how the hell did that happen? This one actually worked! I rode it a couple of years and then sold it. I had forgotten it until about 4 or 5 years ago, I get a call from the artist and former Mollusk employee Serena Mitnik-Miller. She said, “I’ve got to have one of your boards.” She described the board, and I told her “I never made a board like that.” The original board ended up in Ventura with a friend of hers and it was at her house and all of her friends rode it. They said it was magic. I made her one and I can’t tell you how many I have made since. They ride everything, but they prefer overhead surf. I took one to Tavarua and it worked insane at Cloudbreak! We named it the Serena Model because of her. She was the one responsible for bringing it all back. I make this board in the same way as the standard Vaquero in the 8 to 12 feet range. They are all hippy pintails with a full nose, but otherwise identical to the Vaquero. The shorter ones work great as guns in the 8 to 10 foot range and the longer ones work fabulous as gliders in smaller, cleaner waves.
The Double Enda
The Double Enda is inspired by the surfing of Wayne Lynch in the transition years. The wide point is behind center and there is tail rocker and some vee for more pivotal turns and vertical surfing. This board is best for summer longboard type conditions. It is a great way to use a hull style in small and less than perfect conditions. They turn on a dime!
The Pig / Magic Sam / Noserider Longboards
I was a real longboard kid back in the day. I used to ride noseriders in all the contests so I am tuned into what they should feel like. I’ve tried to consolidate my longboards so that the rocker is fairly close to the same on all of them so they only vary by outline and fin. Retro longboards are really difficult to get right. They are either too heavy or too clumsy, too soft or too hard – it’s always something. I’ve been working for years and years on them and it has to be one of the hardest shapes to perfect. I think I’ve got it down to a science now. I combine a Vaquero style low rocker and bottom and a softened rail through the tail, kept low. I’m satisfied with my longboards at this point.
The Pig has a narrow nose with a wide tail. You can put a D-fin on it or a wide raked fin to get a real old school smooth and rounded out turn. The Noserider has a more parallel outline, much like the Weber Performer with a wide nose and wide tail. These are good for noseriding and whip turns. The Magic Sam has a narrower nose and a wide point center. It is a more neutral board and can surf from anywhere from the front to the tail. They’re fast and responsive. It was the transitional board from traditional to performance surfing before the vee bottoms. Nat Young won the World Contest on one and if you ever see the film of him riding it, it just makes you want one.
How similar is your Magic Sam to the original?
I have been guessing all of these years from books and from photos on how it should be foiled and the thickness. In the stories I’ve read , Nat Young’s board was 2 and a half inches. I never believed this because you can see him surfing and knee paddling it and it never acted like it was that thin. A collector friend of Kirk’s owned a Bennett Magic Sam from Australia. It was 9’4 and was made in 66–67 and it was at his house a month ago. And I’ll be darned, the thickness was 3 and an eighth! This old board was almost identical to what we are shaping and I was amazed how close they are!
The best Magic Sam I have seen or ridden was shaped by Paul Gross. Paul is a real historian and is not a volume guy and makes only a few boards. Around 12 years ago, he made one for Kirk and it was thin in the nose and tail. I modeled my Sam after it. My version, the Brian Hilbers, and the Paul Gross Sams are all very similar. We simply have slight variations. I have to credit Paul. He made one and it was a good one.
Who are some are the next generation shapers you feel are doing a great job?
I love Manny Caro and he is very talented. Nick Palandrani is highly talented, innovative, and shapes beautiful boards. Travis Reynolds is one of the young guys who makes awesome looking boards. These guys make the kinds of boards that I want to go out and ride. I love helping the younger guys with design attributes and how to put ingredients together. My generation includes 45 years of trial and error. That simply can’t be replicated. We’ve already done every stupid thing which doesn’t work. Whatever I’ve learned in shaping is from those years of trial and error. This is experience and knowledge I can pass along which might help shave about 10 years off of their learning curve.
What’s next for Marc Andreini and Andreini Surfboards?
I have a passion for making boards for guys who are getting older. When your hips and back are going out and your body shifts in its weight, it makes it harder to get what you want out of surfing. This is something that is certainly close to home for me. I’ve been able to help older guys transition from having ridden short to mid-size boards all their lives to get them on a board which delivers the feeling they are looking for. I love being able to do this.
I am also interested in doing a book on some basic principles for shapers. It would probably only have value to the experienced shaper. I am working on it and it’s something I would like to finish. And of course, I’m still working on improving my surfing. I want to better my timing and to be able to make later takeoffs. I want to be able to ride the best waves of the year and surf them at the highest level of confidence. It’s what motivates me. I’m going to be surfing until I drop.
Principal photography by Glenn Sakamoto. Product photography courtesy of Mollusk Surf Shop.