Shapefest 2018

Shapefest Provides Music, Food, Conversation and the Art of Surfboard Building

South-End Surf ’N Paddle’s Annual Event Brings Veteran Surf Shapers
Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Jon Coen Ken Savage live shaping for the crowd at Shapefest, hosted by South-End Surf ’N Paddle.

“For real surf shops to survive, they have to start doing things like this. If you’re a surf shop, you’re a specialty store. … You better damn have something special about your store,” said Tony Iannarone, leaning on a surfboard blank in a shaping room in the back garage of South-End Surf ’N Paddle on June 23.

Iannarone, shaper and owner of Clean Ocean Surfboards, was enjoying Shapefest, an annual celebration of surfboard building at Ken Gallant and Sheryl Paynter’s Beach Haven outfitter.

Iannarone is from Brick but has lived most of his life in Jacksonville, Fla. Clean Ocean is a moderate sized surfboard company. He’s well versed at everything from modern performance surfboards to classic longboards and updated retro shapes. This was his first time at Shapefest.

“I think having an event around the craft of building boards is smart. Obviously I have a vested interest in that. I think there’s a niche that the larger stores just don’t care about any more. It’s a good way to get a foothold in the market,” he explained.

This is the third year that Gallant and Paynter have hosted Shapefest. It has come to be a much-anticipated party. In addition to live shaping, there’s a barbecue as well as board sales and the annual return of Ellamano Beat, an original roots rock band from Florida.

This year, Shapefest included visits from Mike Karol of Stoke Surfboards, Kenny Briel of Savage Surfboards and Iannarone. It also featured two locals, Randy Budd of Pine Knot Surfboards and Vince Balas of Planet Blue. While Budd shapes as a hobby, Balas has been shaping consistently as his profession since the 1990s.

They each took turns planing down polyurethane foam blanks into crafts that will someday be racing down the line of an East Coast wave.

“You know what’s so cool,” said the ever-animated Gallant, “Kenny from Savage is just such an experienced shaper. He came up here from Wilmington, N.C. He went upstairs and picked out a blank. Then he asked one of my guys what kind of board he wants to ride. He drew out the template and cut it with a hand saw. And then he just went to work, shaped a blank and handed it to my guy. How great is that?”

The vibe was old school surf hangout. Paddle instructors Melissa Vivona-Saltarelli and Ric Anastasi manned the grill. Friends and customers of the shop caught up. There was music, food, a cooler of cold beer and good conversation. Everyone was hanging around well into the evening, and the Ellameno Beat went on around 9 p.m. The surf-inspired group, which is closely tied with Stoke Surfboards, was on its annual East Coast tour that always includes Shapefest and a fair amount of time in the water.

But mostly, the event was all about making surfboards.

“The thing about hand shaping is that you need to put in your time behind the planer. It takes a long time to master the craft,” said Iannarone. “When I was coming up, you couldn’t even call yourself a shaper until you’d shaped 2,000 boards. Now with social media, you get a lot of guys who are shaping stuff that looks good on Instagram, but it might not be what’s really best for the customer. You have to walk that line between making interesting things, but you still want the board to work. It can’t be so out of the box that it doesn’t work. There’s a fine line.”

He takes pride in Clean Ocean Surfboards’ consistency despite the current changes in the surf industry.

“We’ve been doing the same thing for the past almost 30 years. We stay on this path,” he said, holding his arm straight out. "Sometimes the surf world is with us, sometimes they’re not. I’ve been doing resin work on boards since the early ’90s because I want to perfect the craft. Now, if you put a resin tint (popular color technique of mixing paint with the fiberglass) on a board in the ’90s, people would be like ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But I was doing it then because I was honing my craft. I was honoring the people that came before me. When you do it right, you’re giving credit to everyone that came before you.”

He also found himself in great conversations with the other shapers.

“When shapers get in a room, there are certain things that only shapers would understand. It’s not like we get much of a chance to hang out. Most of us only see each other at trade shows or passing on the road, so it’s good to get a chance to sit down and talk.”

— Jon Coen

Tony Iannarone of Clean Ocean Surfboards talks the importance of hand-crafted surfboards. (Photo by: Jon Coen)
Shapefest cake, made by paddle instructor Melissa Vivona-Saltarelli. (Photo by: Jon Coen)
Owner Ken Gallant chats with employees and friends of the shop at Shapefest. (Photo by: Jon Coen)
Melissa Vivona-Saltarelli mans the grill. (Photo by: Jon Coen)
The Ellamano Beat of Florida rocks South-End Surf ’N Paddle on Saturday night. (Photo by: Jon Coen)
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