The Shaper

3 min read by rick davy. Published in Essays, Stories.

Tim Stafford is a surfboard shaper. He designs and builds hand-made decks out of his studio in Widemouth Bay.

Located on the north Atlantic coast of Cornwall, the beach and the village are known to offer some of the best waves in the UK and Europe. Within that surfer’s paradise, Tim makes his living by crafting the highly-regarded asymmetrical decks, designed to provide better control in the water by taking advantage of human physiology and liquid dynamics.

I’ve known Tim for a number of years, through which I watched him produce countless masterpieces, delighting his clients with the looks, the feel, and the performance that his creations deliver each time.

Laying down the deigns. Location: Widemouth Bay. Camera: Leica M6. Film: Kodak Portra 400.

Often he’d start by sketching out designs to match the specifications and preferences of the surfer. In some cases, however, Tim would get straight to work as his experience would make a perfect picture of the board in his head without touching the paper.

Sanding the shape. Camera: Hasselblad 500. Film: Kodak Ektar 100 (expired in 2012).

The first step of a shaping process involves sanding the polyurethane foam, which creates the core of a deck. It could take hours, days in some cases, before the form finally satisfies Tim. Patience and attention to detail is paramount at this stage as the core would ultimately determine how well the deck can glide through the ocean.

The entire process, which is completed by laying fibreglass sheets on top of the core, painting and laying down the finishing resin, and finally, adding the fins takes days, weeks, even.

Repairing a ding. Camera: Leica M6. Film: Kodak Portra 400.
Laying down the resin. Camera: Hasselblad 500. Film: Kodak Ektar 100 (expired in 2012).
Checking the final finish. Camera: Hasselblad 500. Film: Kodak Ektar 100 (expired in 2012).

Each surfer has their own unique preferences. Tim appreciates that by building one-off boards with tailored performance specifications and custom, vivid colour finishes, delighting those who use them and the awe-struck onlookers at the beach.

Surfing, shaping, being a father, and a friend at the foot of the Cornwall’s wave central. Tim is one of the lucky people who get to live and work through their passion, which is only possible due to his talent and love for surf.