Joe DeMarco of Demarco Surf, north shore Oahu surfboard builder, shares his background on where he got started, his current developments in the shaping room, and his shaping philosophy.
Aloha Update: How many years have you been shaping?
Demarco: 16 years. I started right after high school and never looked back.
How did you get started?
A couple of guys in my neighborhood (Aaron Malone and Roland Roessler) were shaping their own boards and it looked really fun. I was inspired and wanted to try and shape my own board. I got a planer and a blank, and shaped, glassed and sanded it on saw horses in my parents garage. That fact that I could actually surf the thing was such a great feeling that I was hooked right away and couldn’t stop thinking about shaping my next board.
What experience do you have in the shaping room? Can you talk about hand shapes vs. machine shapes?
I was lucky enough to have started shaping when machines shapes were still very rare. Hand shaping was the only way. Powering out with the planer, and using templates to guide the curves is how I learned. I still hand shape many boards, but now I have the luxury of using state of the art shaping software to recreate my designs in CAD. The machine then planes the blank for me by a laser guided cutter. The design data is saved and then I can cut the same design again or fine tune it even further.
It really takes the relationship between the shaper and the rider to the next level. I am always trying to hone my shaping skills with the planer while staying up to date with the latest shaping software. The experience I’ve gained with the planer hand shaping boards can never be replaced by any software or machine.
Who are some shapers you have learned from?
After I shaped a couple boards at my parent’s house I went to work for Juan Rodriguez a long board shaping specialist. I was the shop grunt doing anything I could just to get a couple of hours in the shaping bay or some pointers on how to turn a rail. There I met Eric Nalpas and then Tommy Daniels who gave me work glassing his boards and further helped me refine my skills. In 2003 I moved to Oahu and started my shaping business. So many of the world’s best shapers are concentrated into the dense mecca of the North Shore and I have had the pleasure of working with many of them.
What shapers have inspired you?
I get Inspired by so many shapers all the time. Even the guys who come up to me after shaping their first board and are just grinning from ear to ear with stoke from their work. That passion is what inspires me. Guys like Tim Carroll, Eric Arakawa, Chris Gallagher, just to name a few, take surfboards to the next level and that’s what I aspire to do every time I’m in the shaping room.
How is your business going?
The Demarco brand is growing and board sales have been booming. This summer we are excited to be shaping plenty of long boards and fishes for the South Shore as well as sending boards to the mainland and Japan. While the winter is all about the North Shore and big waves, the summer is a nice change of pace with smaller waves and longer days. We all surf everyday so we all need the right equipment for that day.
Describe your average week of work.
I am currently building around five to ten boards a week. I shape, paint, glass, and sand every board. I focus on working directly with the rider to create a truly custom surfboard. This has given me experience in shaping a very wide variety of boards. Everything from a 4’8″ menehune board to a 12’6″ SUP. I try and keep an open mind and keep it fresh.
Do you have any specific designs you are working on?
Lately, I have been working with team rider Love Hodel on a model that he can ride in knee high to overhead waves and it still drives. A perfect summer short board. The result was a magic board that Love claimed to be “his best short board in ten years.” I call it the Clone Model, and it has a wider outline with the wide point moved forward. This allows you to ride it shorter without losing volume. Another model we have been working on together is a version on the Machine Model. We are calling it the “Love Machine,” Love’s short board for juicy North Shore barrels.
What do you enjoy about shaping boards?
Shaping surfboards as a job is a dream come true. I really enjoy the challenge of shaping a board and then riding it. I get so into the fine details of the design and when one works insane it really feels good. I also enjoy it even more when someone I shaped a board for paddles back out with a huge smile or shoots me a “magic board” text. Stoking people out through surfing on my boards is what it’s all about.
What is your shaping philosophy?
My philosophy is to make the highest quality custom surfboards on the planet. Countless hours of research and development are spent on fine tuning and perfecting the art that is shaping surfboards. I strive to build a relationship with the rider, so we can work together to create a custom board for every level of surfing. I learn so much from feedback and it is an essential part of my business. Keep surfing and go to www.demarcosurf.com!