The Shaper

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As an investigator for the San Luis Obispo County Public Defender’s Office, Shea Somma often confronts people in stressful situations. So, when he has spare time, he likes to lose himself in his passion: shaping surfboards. He is part of a growing number of young people embracing the D.I.Y. or do-it-yourself ethos, where self sufficiency trumps convenience. In Somma's case it wasn't just a desire to learn the craft of making surfboards but his drive to expand his surfing experience. "I just wanted to try different stuff, and I didn't have money to buy new boards, so I finally bit the bullet and decided that if I was going to surf different boards, then I was going to build them, and I'd better figure out how." He has recently been able to parlay his experience into a small side business.
The outline of the board is cut out first, then Shea Somma uses tools to shape the thickness of the board, the curve of the rails and contours of the top and bottom.
The electric hand planer leaves jagged lines as Shea Somma cuts down the edge of his foam blank.
The hands of Shea Somma are constantly moving across the board feeling out its contours and slowly bringing the envisioned shape to life.
Shea Somma pauses for a moment during a night of shaping in his San Luis Obispo garage.
Shea Somma uses an electric planer to cut down the foam, which he shapes into the form of a surfboard.
Shea Somma works in his San Luis Obispo garage shaping what will become a 5-foot, 7-inch long surfboard with a five fin box system for maximum experimentation.
The tools of the trade are covered in a light foam dust in the garage of surfboard shaper Shea Somma.
This is the finished version of the 5-foot, 7-inch surfboard shaped by Shea Somma
This is the finished version of the 5-foot, 7-inch surfboard shaped by Shea Somma.
For some of his surfboards, Shea Somma also shapes his own fins from plywood.
The shaper after a winter session on one of his custom wave crafts.
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