MATT PARKER: Curves and Lines with Album Surfboards
“Every time I surf I get inspired to tweak an existing design or create something new altogether. I think surfing is so addicting because you always feel like you can improve. Surfing my own shapes is super important to me. It’s one thing to visualize what a board will do, but it really gets me going to feel it and experience it.” -Matt Parker
Matt Parker is a surfer and shaper based in San Clemente, CA. He began Album surfboards in 2001 with a focus on clean lines, curves, and contours that lend themselves to maximum fun and speed. Parker is an eclectic craftsman, offering a multifaceted range in board design. From high performance shortboards, to single fins, bonzers, mini simmons’, fishes, mid-lengths, longboards, and just about everything and anything in between; it’s safe to say Parker offers something for just about everyone who enjoys wave riding.
As we move into an age in surfing where surfers are pulling from a variety of eras for inspiration in design and approach, Matt Parker’s method and open mindedness to the creation of surfboards is a valuable asset; as well as a much needed service to our more diversifying modern surf culture.
Read on to hear more of Matt’s thoughts on shaping, surfing, and life.
When did you start surfing?
I sponged and body surfed as a kid and didn’t get a real surfboard until I was about 13 years old.
Do you remember the first time you rode a wave or any early experiences riding waves that stand out for you?
I remember the first real green face I caught. I was surfing the north side of Huntington Beach Pier, the summer between seventh and eighth grades. It was a super glassy morning and the surf was waist high. The wave was a little right that just wedged up. I was kind of freaking out!
Coming up where did you surf and what was the local surf scene like? How has it changed and evolved?
I grew up inland, about 20 minutes from the beach. I learned how to surf in Newport Beach around the jetties and Huntington Pier mostly. I’d take the bus to the beach whenever I could or my mom would drop us off for the day. As soon as my older brother got his driver’s license we’d go adventure a little farther to Trestles or Oceanside or something. These were the good ol’ days where we never checked forecasts or anything. We’d never have any idea what the waves were going to be doing. Just wax your board the night before, get your wetsuit on at home – haha – my kook roots run deep… We’d be so psyched just to get in the water and good waves would just be a total bonus.
So growing up where we did, I always felt like an outsider to the local surf scene. I hated the surf team kids, I’m sure I was mostly jealous but I thought they were entitled brats. So I guess I’ve always identified a bit with that outsider, make it happen for yourself, the DIY perspective.
What initially inspired you to start shaping and when did you start?
I was always so fascinated with surfboards, even as a grom. I couldn’t get enough of the curves and lines. Those big bright 80’s logos, all that stuff. I seriously loved it! Same with other interests too, I always geeked out on snowboard and skate stuff. I just always felt like I had an eye and interest for things like that. I was artistic growing up, I liked to paint and draw. I eventually went down the art and design path when I went to college. I’d been riding a lot of custom boards through the 90’s and got burned out on bad experiences with some flakey shapers. I basically got too impatient waiting for boards to get done. So I went out and got a blank, got some basic tools and hacked my first board out. This was back in 2000 or 2001. I paid a glass shop to glass the board and it actually went pretty good, it was fast at least. As soon as I got it back from the glasser, I saw all these things I wanted to improve on, so I got another blank and the cycle started from there.
What’s keeping you inspired now, what are your current favorite elements in design, and what are some of your personal stand out shapes?
Every time I surf I get inspired to tweak an existing design or create something new altogether. I think surfing is so addicting because you always feel like you can improve. Surfing my own shapes is super important to me. It’s one thing to visualize what a board will do, but it really gets me going to feel it and experience it. It’s the same with board design and theory. How can I make this go faster, how can I create more feel through turns, make it more nimble, get into waves better, etc. So I’m always taking that into the shaping bay – adjusting rockers, drawing up new outlines, curves, approaches.
I’m always riding something different too – Polyphonics to Riots, to little Stubs to performance shortboards. I really like to experiment with different outlines and lengths, all sorts of stuff.
Do you feel surfing is simply a fun pastime, do you feel it has a more profound meaning, or do you think it’s a little of both? Essentially, how do you define surfing for yourself?
I think surfing is a bit of everything. It’s so intertwined in my life that it really is everything. Sometimes it’s a cruisey pastime on a lazy day, sometimes it’s an excuse to get exercise, sometimes it’s a couple hours of pushing my kids into waves and sometimes when you have those magical sessions when everything comes together just right – it’s something deeper. But really, it kind of runs the daily schedule. Surfing inspires creativity with designing boards, it’s so intertwined with the day to day that it’s hard to separate it out as its own thing. I think it changes with time too. I’m more grateful for good sessions and opportunities these days, probably not as greedy out in the water either.
Aside from shaping and surfing you are also a father. How do you feel surfing changes for us as we go further into adult life and gain more responsibilities?
Like I was saying, I think for me I’m more easily stoked or satisfied than I was when I was in my teens or twenties. If I only get five waves and one of them is good I’m content and happy. Hopefully I can pass along some positivity like that to my kids so they have the right perspective. They’re growing up differently than I did, with more access to boards and time in the water. I don’t ever want them to be spoiled or jaded about surfing. I always want them feeling the stoke and spread that feeling.
Describe your last great session?
Probably Puerto Rico a couple months ago. My friend Nate and I were out at Dogmen’s, midday session, 8-10’ and amazingly, no one else was really out where we were. I think we were a bit to the south of the main peak, but these lines just came in for a few hours and Nate and I traded back and forth, overhead lined up turquoise rights for days. We had a pretty dismal fall and winter at home, so it was nice to luck out into a couple really fun sessions in PR. It was my first trip there, super fun! I surfed a little 6’0” Def quad, I was a little under gunned but that made it a fun challenge.
What other things besides surfing and shaping do you enjoy? What else brings meaning and joy to your life?
Family for sure. My life outside of work really revolves around my kids and spending time with them. Going to little league games and all that good stuff. It’s a fun time where they’re all still little and think I’m cool . . .haha. I love art and design outside of surfing too. I’ve run a branding/design agency along with doing surfboards for the past decade and I enjoy that a lot. I also love to snowboard and bodysurf.
What do you feel are the best aspects of surfing? What do are some things about surfing that get on your nerves?
Surf trips. I love going to new places, surfing new waves, etc. I also love the fact that there are so many options for the types of boards you can ride, the types of surfing you can experiment with. It’s endless. I’ll never get bored with that. There’s always something new to try or a new place to go.
Some things about surfing make me laugh, angry dudes, grumpy surfers, things like that. But it’s all good. It’s all a blessing… getting to live where I live and to be out in the water as much as I’m able to. No complaints!
Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
Surf to have fun. Don’t take it too seriously. Be honest about your abilities and what you’re really looking to do on the wave. Don’t be a lemming. Get a board that’s going to help you have the most fun, not necessarily what everyone else is riding. Yew!
Check out more of Matt Parker’s work here: www.albumsurf.com
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