Notable Shapers, Band and Waves Add to Shapefest Revelry at South End Surf N’ Paddle

Stoked Locals and Fired-Up Floridians Enjoy Third Annual Festival
By JON COEN | Jun 28, 2017
Photo by: Coen Florida shaper Ricky Carroll in the shaping room at South End Surf N’ Paddle, making surfboards as part of the shop’s 2017 Shapefest event.

The keyboard and drum kit were set up. Sound check was done. The guitars were in their stands, ready to rock. The beer was cold and the burgers were going on the grill. There was a good little crowd assembled at South End Surf N’ Paddle in Beach Haven Saturday for Shapefest, a celebration of music and surfboard building.

Just one thing was missing.

“We’re going to start in just a bit,” announced South End owner and ambassador of fun Ken Gallant. “The band is still surfing.”

At any other event, this would have been a problem. But surfers are used to timelines changing on account of the swell and wind, so no one was too concerned. In fact, the 3- to 5-foot surf was just an addition to an already great event.

“I’ll take that any day,” laughed Gallant. “A day of real surf when you have an event in June is unheard of. It didn’t matter that the band went on late. They played until 12:30. I had trouble actually getting everyone out of here at the end of the night.”

This is the third consecutive year that Gallant and his wife, Sheryl Painter, have hosted Shapefest at the shop, which has a good-sized retail space out front and a sprawling garage area where Gallant built a surfboard shaping shack two years ago, complete with windows for viewing. They invite anyone to come check out the shaping, the music and enjoy the BBQ for free. And for the third year in row, the Ellameno Beat, an original reggae band from Jacksonville, Fla., came up for a Saturday night show.

The event started on Saturday morning with both local and noted traveling shapers “mowing foam” (a surf term for shaping surfboards). Gallant isn’t sure how many people came through the shop in the course of the event, but his best metric is the 120 hamburgers that went on the grill.

“The whole reason I do this is my love of surfboards,” said Gallant, who grew up in Long Beach Township, became an accomplished surfer and canoe racer, then opened his business with an emphasis on stand-up paddleboards in 2011. Since then, he has expanded the offerings in his shop to a full line of surfboards.

“I don’t want to carry every board line. I want boards that are shaped by humans and glassed in the U.S.,” he explained. The last few years, he has worked to become an outpost for local shapers to shape boards while showing the public how boards are made and possibly coaching some young shapers. It’s something of a movement away from surfboards popped out of factories in Asia.

“We want to expose more people to that. It’s the essence of surfing. The original guys had to shape their own boards, and we never want to lose that heritage,” Gallant added.

If there could be something of a guest of honor at such an informal affair, it was shaper Ricky Carroll, from Satellite Beach, Fla., who shaped his first board in 1973 at 13 years old.

“I really like his energy and the vibe of the shop. It’s a hardcore surf shop,” said Carroll. “And I got to surf. It was fun. I hadn’t been in the water for a couple of months. I had a hip thing going on, but today was worth getting in.”

Carroll, who shapes his own Ricky Carroll Surfboards, has also shaped for Local Motion, Hawaiian Style, Velzy, Surfboards Hawaii and Donald Takayama. He likes trips like these because he gets a feel for the waves where surfers are riding his boards.

“I’ve surfed Long Beach Island before. I used to sell boards to Farias. You have to shape boards differently here than for Florida because the wave is steeper,” Carroll said.

He had never seen the Ellameno Beat before although they are fellow Floridians and was excited to catch their set.

Joining Carroll in the glassing room was Randy Budd of Pine Knot Surfboards and Mike Karol of Stoke Surfboards, who also shapes Queen City Surfboards, South End’s shop label. Local shaper Vince Balas of Planet Blue was also on hand, but spent the day surfing (“which I support 100 percent,” said Gallant).

Stokefest included a contest where the names of five customers who ordered custom surfboards last weekend were put into a hat and drawn at random. The winner got to help shape the board under the guidance of Carroll himself.

“That guy was so stoked,” reported Gallant. “It was his 36th birthday present. The whole family came in when they were shaping it.”

Gallant knows his shop won’t ever be the go-to Island retailer for performance surfboards.

“I don’t have the expertise of a shop like Farias to sell the latest shortboards. But I’m not carrying shapes that are going to go out of style. What I have is timeless,” he explains.

By the time burgers were coming off the grill and cans of beer were flowing, the Ellameno Beat was jamming through their set of progressive roots reggae.

Before they went on, as his bandmates were drying off from the surf by their tour van piled with surfboards, songwriter/keyboardist Walker Brantingham boasted about how they’ve gotten better waves on this tour than any before it. The Ellameno Beat is originally from Jensen Beach, Fla., but a year ago, they all relocated to Jacksonville Beach, a city with more music venues.

“There aren’t a lot of original bands there right now. We’re kind of the only ones playing real, original reggae. It’s a lot of fun,” he explained.

The four band members (Brantingham, Reggie Froom, James Rosenbilt and Dylon Hixon) have been on the road touring from Florida to upstate New York for a month, including Bless the Woods Festival in Fairplay, Md., and Nalu Surf Shop on the Great Lakes in Cleveland, Ohio. They recently released the single “Muse” from the record Surface, their first full length, set to come out in August.

“Ken’s a trip. We always love coming up here. He makes you feel at home. He’s always got the right vibe,” added Brantingham. “He greets us with open arms, gives us a place to stay and opens the shop to everyone. And knowing that we have Ricky Carroll and Mike Karol shaping boards here, it’s an honor to be the background music to that.”


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