Thursday, August 16, 2007
You can't have them... easily.
Nobody is making stand up boards like Stu Kenson.
I've done my homework on this and no one else is wrapping full custom, EPS handshapes with carbon fiber and epoxy resin. This is not only decadent, given the square footage we're talking about, it's crazy. Which is perfectly fine because according to Stu, its the only way to do it right. And to Stu Kenson, getting it right is important.
We all deserve boards made this way. Strong, light and resonant, carbon fiber is magical stuff. Boards made with it don't break down like conventional fiberglass boards, they retain their "memory"- they stay "alive". Come to my beach and you'll see proof of these qualities, we've been prone surfing Stu's carbon boards for years- they're unreal.
But now we have a real problem; Stu's been stand up surfing and he's hatching some boards that look pretty damn good. It's just that you can't have them... easily. And, believe me, if you crave perfection, you'll want one of these boards. Here's a couple of the bumps in the road to satisfaction:
1. A Material Problem: Take a look at the roll of carbon fiber that Stu's holding in the photo above, the price tag on that roll is six thousand dollars. Setting aside the prohibitive cost of the stuff, it's extremely difficult to locate cloth of the dimensions required for laminating stand up boards. Our boards are wide, strangely wide. Strangely wide means "special order". Special order means cross all fingers and toes and maybe you'll have the carbon next week. Or the week after.... (repeat).
Second Material Problem: The paint job. Stu tells me that not only does the spray look good, it plays a structural role. The paint is baked on automotive paint, the stuff is tough and the idea is that it forms a second protective layer on the board. The guys that do this are hot rod paint artists. Artists require time; see where this is going?
2. Workmanship: In Stu's words "These boards have to be perfect". Each set of hands that moves the board to completion has to be on-board with this ideal or the board building process comes to a halt, which in the world of a perfectionist- isn't necessarily a bad thing.
3. Stu Kenson: The man is self-limiting. Stu is one third master shaper (forty years behind the planer), one third materials mad scientist (if you think EPS wrapped in carbon fiber is the terminus of his ideas- wait 'til you see what's coming next) and one third just plain surfboard design weirdo. Want a beak nosed, single wing, swallow tail, five fin wrapped in tin foil? No problem, and if Stu makes it, you'll surf better because of it (For the record: wait 'til you see the "Beaver's return"... you'll want one, I do.). Stu's also the shaper behind the Kane Garden tag, designing and producing the label's highly refined fish. Eclectic San Diegans love his boards, to the point where an extra set of arms just might bring him to dead even with the demands of his day job. Tough to mow throw a full day's stack of orders and then start on a ten foot paddle board even if it is what you'd rather be cutting.
Where does that leave us?
Can you have one of Stu's creations? Undoubtedly. But like all good things it will require patience and a well developed appreciation for delayed gratification. After all, this is a board for those of us who appreciate an idea perfectly executed. A board done right.
Contact: Stu Kenson at www.stukensonsurfboards.com