Words / Images: Rose Darling
When illustrator / designer Rose Darling Boex found pregnancy was keeping her out of the water, she decided it was the perfect time to shape a board. It was a statement of intent as a surfer, an act of reclamation… Here she talks us through the idea, the process and the results.
Being slightly obsessed with water growing up I think I prematurely aged my parents – they would often find me lying at the bottom of our pool. We moved to Cornwall when I was younger, and have been surfing for 12 years. Love any excuse to get in, and am just as happy on a handplane, to a kayak or a shortboard… and trying new things like Sam’s alaia, just find it such a huge relief getting into water and perfect for clearing the head.
I picked up a handmade mal a few summers ago (someone just put it at the end of their road with a sign saying free – love that person!) which I use in the summer, it inspired me to learn about how the board was made and gave me confidence to try myself, even if it turned out like a weirdo! Plus I’ve never tried out a Mini-Simmons so I’m looking forward to learning a new style of surfing.
I managed to surf till 4 months but then felt like a weeble and couldn’t get into my wetsuit! It was an amazing distraction from the sickness…the amount of parties/drinking happening and plus I’m crap at knitting! We timed it so it would be ready by the time I might be able to surf again – this influenced the shape as I’m aware my stomach muscles won’t be the same for a while.
We’d been given blanks by a friend who had emigrated to Aus, my husband Sam (Boex) already shaped a few boards so he and his brother Jake used roughly cut blanks and I used a blank that had been shaped into huge fish meant for a large man. It was too big for me and I wanted to refine it into a new shape. Inspired by looking at other Mini-Simmons online, I made my own shape which I drew up on Illustrator and printed out full size as a guide. It also had way too much volume/shape in the deck that I was after and we had to take quite a bit off to make it less like a humpback whale.
We used Jake’s pottery shed, with everything covered in blankets. Foam gets everywhere, I’d be keen to wear overalls next time too. For the glassing we went over to our local shaper because it’s not something I was keen on trying whilst pregnant – can barely stand the smell of furniture polish at the minute.
Sam shaped a Bonzer style surfboard with 5 fins. I opted for making 2 ply fins that were glassed in. We used trestles with pipe insulation and blankets to pad them, bought a cheap electric plainer, small hand plain for the stringer, surform and gauze sandpaper and made our own paper calipers to measure the depth (not sure how accurate they were!) Oh, and face masks…I also had goggles! My contacts were driving me insane with all the dust.
You have to have the confidence in each fluid movement but not be overconfident and take off too much foam. It felt really unnatural sawing the bulk off the tail but the whole shaping experience made me really aware of the contours of a board. Sam helped loads and was quick to correct me if I was doing anything awkwardly and we made sure we did short sessions on them each time so we didn’t get over excited and take it too far.
Sam’s a bit jealous, I think he likes my board more. I wish I’d put a pattern on my fins, it would have been nice to get a signature bit of my own work onto the board. My first surf will be hysterical, I think I’ll be using it more as a bodyboard for a bit!
Shape with someone who has done it before and has patience! (If not You tube had lots of good pointers) Sam had loads of time because he’d taken a beating at the reef and was out of the water for a bit so was as mobile as me. We all took turns shaping the different stages of our boards so I was able to watch and learn before I got onto mine.
I definitely learnt that it was good to step away from the board and come back to it another day if you feel you’ve made a mistake or you’ve overdone anything. It’s amazing how you can see what to do with fresh eyes.