2016: Otter Surfboards A Year In Review

31 . 12 . 16

​It’s easy as a small business to always be looking forwards; to plan for the future and keep on pushing ahead. It’s all too common to overlook the positive impact of reflection as a tool that can be used to both inform future decisions and also to provide a bit of affirmation that actually, we’re doing alright. A lot can happen in a year. Here’re some of the best bits of our last one:

New Zealand

2016 started for Otter Surfboards with James and Liz being on honeymoon in New Zealand. They had an action-packed itinerary but James did persuade his wife to let him take a surfboard with them, and he scored some fun surf on the 7’2” Coaster on the east coast of the South Island.

The Riser

The latest wooden surfboard model to take it’s place in the Otter Surfboards rack was our 6’8” semi-gun, named The Riser. Designed to perform in the best waves, it’s already got our Chris into and out of some truly memorable situations.

The Art of Making Film

Our friend Al visited us for a week at the start of the summer, and brought along with him bags and boxes of filming gear. We shot anything and everything, from workshop courses through to dolphins jumping through waves whilst we bodysurfed. The first edit to be released, earlier this year, was The Art of Making. And, there’ll be more to come in 2017.

Shaping at Surf Snowdonia

In the spring James ran a very special week-long workshop course at Surf Snowdonia. Building and shaping a wooden surfboard mere metres from the lagoon, they were able to wash the sawdust off at the end of each day with an hour of regular, predictable waves before bedding down in the wooden camping cabins that line the side of the lagoon. It was great knowing that at the end of each day, the waves would be there waiting for them.


At Easter, James and our friend Tony jumped in the van and made their way to the west coast of Ireland for a few weeks. They toured the wild Atlantic Way, surfing and sleeping in the van in classic

surf-trip style, and scored some incredible waves. They rounded their trip out with a visit to Matt Smith, Fergal Smith, and the Moyhill Farm crew to check out the great work that they’re doing and help plant a few trees.


Our latest foray into finless fun saw us running a new workshop course at the start of the summer for Dougie, who wanted to shape an alaia with us. After some head scratching and a bit of ingenuity, we came up with a method of shaping a perfect graduated concave into the bottom of the board and the results, both our first board and Dougie’s, were brilliant. They aren’t half difficult to catch waves on, though!

In Print – A Surf Odyssey and With Love Project

We are always incredibly grateful to see ourselves in print, and this year we were fortunate enough to be featured in two beautiful coffee table books: Gestalten’s A Surf Odyssey and the With Love Project. Thank you, to all of those involved.

Summer Festivals

With festival season in full swing here in the UK, we loaded up the van and headed off “on tour”. We were lucky enough to be invited to exhibit and demonstrate our craft at the last ever Art in Action festival in Oxfordshire, an event that James used to visit when he was younger, and following that it was back to Cornwall for the wonderful Port Eliot festival where we ran some handplane workshops in the Hole & Corner tent. We’re hoping to visit some more festivals in 2017, so hopefully we’ll see some of you out there!

Nature Trumps Walls

As the run-up to the U.S. presidential election held the attention of the world we shared the news that republican candidate Donald Trump, famous for his plans to build a wall along the Mexican border, was also trying to build a wall across a beautiful beach in Ireland to protect one of his golf courses. Thanks to the campaigning of a coalition led by our friends at Save the Waves, his shortsighted and elitist plan was rejected by the local authorities (the final stage, his application having been turned down by the national authorities) and Doughmore Beach was saved!

Finisterre Talks and Workshops

James was invited to present his story as part of the series of regular Thursday night talks at the Finisterre store in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, back in April. For the first time in the history of the series, his talk sold out and they put on a second night, which we couldn’t quite believe! On the day following the second talk, we ran two “Make-Your-Own” bodysurfing handplane workshops in-store, and there are now plans in the pipeline for us to offer these again in both Finisterre’s London and Bristol stores in 2017.

Workshops and the AGM

As ever, we couldn’t list our high points of a year without celebrating the best thing (collectively), which are the wonderful friends that we make through running our workshop courses. Alongside new friends from 2016’s series of wooden surfboard courses, a real highlight of our year is welcoming back previous year’s workshoppers to our “Annual Gathering of Makers” AGM, for a communal surf and evening of food and sharing stories at the farm where it all began for us. We look forward to growing this community further next year, and to another wonderful celebration at our 2017 AGM.

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