Shaper Studios

by Glenn Sakamoto on November 27, 2013 · 2 comments

Chris Clark and Derrik Kapalla, are the founders of San Diego based Shaper Studios. With “Every surfer should be a shaper” as their motto, Shaper Studios offers the opportunity to learn and experience the craft of making their own board. We spoke with Chris to learn more.

What is Shaper Studios?
Shaper Studios is a tribute to the original California surf shop. It is a surfer’s clubhouse where you’ll find a community of surfers in our workshop designing new surfboards or sharing surf stories. We also have a full retail shop where you can purchase the best surf accessories and surf apparel.

What inspired you to create a space for others to make their own boards?
Derrik Kapalla and I had a very humble beginning learning how to shape surfboards in the back of his Dad’s surf shop, under the mentorship of master shaper Craig Poston. It wasn’t long after we started shaping together when the shop closed and we really had no place to go. After a few years of bouncing around from backyard shed to shared factory bays, we knew there was a serious gap that needed to be filled. My introduction to surfing was closely paralleled by an introduction to shaping. I shaped the third surfboard I ever owned, and I’m really proud to say I haven’t purchased a surfboard since. For both Derrik and I, surfboard shaping is just part of being a surfer. As surfers, we knew that shaping a surfboard was on every surfer’s checklist. We knew, from experience, that there were very few resources for surfboard shaping hobbyists. We knew we weren’t alone so we built Shaper Studios.

There are plenty of Thruster shapes out there, how do you guys do things differently?
Over the last couple of years, it has been my observation that an increasing number of surfers are feeling embarrassed about owning a thruster. This era will probably go down as the “anti-thruster revolution”. The thruster is still a very popular surfboard design, however, most of the shapes we see come out of Shaper Studios are more on the alternative side.

A lot of surfers come to Shaper Studios to make the boards that they don’t see on the rack at their local surf shops. Everything from reverse rocker logs with fabric inlays and volan cloth — to asymmetrical shortboards and fishes — and everything in between. We encourage surfers to experiment within their limits. The goal is to make boards that work and improve each surfers experience with surfing, ultimately tying that elevated experience back to the shaping bay and a white block of foam.

Tell us why San Diego is the perfect place to do this.
San Diego has a rich history of making significant contributions to surfboard design, and many of these contributions have played a key role in the evolution of the modern surfboard. The amount of inspiration and creativity between North County and South County San Diego is ridiculous. From Bob Simmons to Carl Ekstrom, from Steve Lis and Craig Poston to Skip Frye, from Steve Pendarvis to Rusty Preisendorfer. San Diego surfers know the history well and they are always seeking to learn more.

In the short amount of time we’ve been in business, Shaper Studios has given well over 400 surfers the opportunity to shape their first surfboard. This means we now have that many more educated surfers in the water who better understand and really appreciate the craft of board building.

What is the process and what is involved in the instruction?
The process to get started is simple. You schedule a shaping lesson with an instructor and the two of you build your first surfboard together. Once you feel comfortable, and you’re ready to start shaping on your own, we have a membership program that works exactly like a gym. One flat monthly membership rate gets you unlimited access to our professional facilities and equipment. The instruction is also simplified. We have a step-by-step process for teaching shaping that has been proven by hundreds of happy customers.

What does the customer take with them when they have completed their board?
Every surfer leaves Shaper Studios wanting to learn more. There is no way we can share everything we know about surfboards with someone in a single session. We encourage all of our customers to become students of surf craft… and to take lots of photos to share on social media.

What’s next for Shaper Studios?
We have a team of some of the best advisors on the planet working with us to develop the next few phases of growth and expansion. There are some very exciting projects in motion behind the scenes, however, right now all of our focus is on creating the best experience possible for our customers. We just launched our newest flagship location in North Park San Diego. North Park is our favorite San Diego neighborhood and an epicenter of creative businesses, not to mention all the best bars.

To learn more about Shaper Studios and how you can get into a shaping room to make your own board, click here. All photographs courtesy of Shaper Studios. 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Franky Blair November 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Oh how SD loves to claim Bob Simmons as their own…


Chris November 29, 2013 at 12:51 am

The whole anti-thruster movement – and pro-nouveau/”alternative ” stance is starting to sound a bit like an old, scratched LP. Tri-fins and thrusters are a very functional board choice for waves with some consequence and speed (J-Bay, Honolua Bay, Rincon, Blacks, Raglan, Fiji, etc.) If you have surfed these waves, or waves like this, you will understand. For southern California, all types of boards can potentially be fun on a certain given day – you just have to choose the right tool for the job. I’ve watched plenty of local surfers, and good friends, jump on “alternative” boards and I have watched their surfing capabilities digress. Just an observation. But, as long as we are all having fun, it’s cool, and really doesn’t matter – I guess. For the record, I am not embarrassed to own or ride my tri-finned friends.


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