Bodhi’s Story Board: Wooden Surfboard Workshop Experience

13 . 03 . 20

Bodhi joined us in deepest, darkest December last year to make a custom 6’2 hybrid shape over five days hunkering down in the workshop as wind and rain raged past the big blue doors and the wood burner was put through its paces to keep us all warm.

As with most of our one-on-one workshop weeks, the conversations, and often the connections made, can get a little deeper than usual. That just seems to be what happens when we spend time with like-minded folk in the workshop environment for five days in a row, working on a shared vision of the surfboard we are creating. 

We felt grateful and excited by the connection we made with Bodhi, which we think may continue to grow in some upcoming unique collaborative projects but it was the original story uncovered through our week together that was more unusual, how they first heard about us and our surfboards and the length of time they had been connected to us without us even knowing.

Rewind nine years.

After a few years of figuring out his preferred process, timbers, and making techniques, James had just started making and selling wooden surfboards.  At the same time, a good friend was studying to become a design teacher at a local school, and when a colleague revealed that he had a GCSE student who wanted to make a surfboard out of wood for his final project, he immediately suggested a visit to James’ workshop. That teacher colleague was Mat.

So the spring of 2011 was when Mat and James first met. Mat as an enthusiastic photographer and writer and James as an enthusiastic wooden surfboard maker. During that first meeting, they struck upon the idea of a collaborative project.

“Could you make a surfboard from only one tree?” Mat asked.

From there, they hatched plans to work together, not only to make a board completely from one tree but to document it and tell its story as well. It was going to be The Storyboard.

Mat wanted to capture the whole process on camera and both felt that it would also make sense to tell the story somehow inside the board.  Mat set about creating a poem that James would engrave in the internal ribs so that when the surfboard was finished, its story would be locked inside.

During the project, they both felt it would be best to capture the journey with a series of photographs that would be published in a small book, but that maybe the best chance for impact would be to display the board at events before it was finished; so the poem engraved on the ribs could be read and interacted with.

This is where Bodhi comes back into the story. Mat and James launched The Storyboard at the Tubestation in Polzeath and then secured a display for it at the Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth, where Bodhi was surfing and staying. After repeatedly going back to read and gaze at the twelve framed images of the process and the Storyboard, in Bodhi’s own words, they thought at the time,

“That is the most beautiful object I’ve ever seen.” Then on recalling their experience,

“I remember I was not drawn to buy it at the time but felt a deeper pull towards it, I loved it and just wanted to appreciate it.”

After a few months overlooking the sea, the next display space that Mat and James had secured for the board was at the Patagonia store in Covent Garden. At around the same time, through some strange twists of fate Bodhi had started working from a creative members club on the next street. One meandering lunch walk around the cobbled streets, Bodhi’s day was stopped again by the strange familiarity of something hanging on the store wall…the Storyboard. It was as though the Storyboard was nudging them to reach out and contact us.

Alas, the story fell quiet for eight years, but at the end of last summer, Bodhi reached out. They later revealed that a crumpled piece of paper had dropped out of an old book with a scrawled promise to self ‘shape the wooden surfboard.’ It was time.

That was October, and by December Bodhi was in the workshop.

As we spent more time together, we felt like long lost friends and wondered whether that was a result of how long Bodhi had known about us. It was really touching to see how Bodhi decided to capture their own narrative, by writing inside the board, so that their story too, was locked inside.

It was on day five that we shared our paths and it was then that James showed Bodhi the original Storyboard they had been following, or been followed by, all those years ago. It was hidden amongst the other boards, sitting just a few meters away from where they were standing, and had been all week.

Bodhi’s nine-year journey into the Otter workshop felt so unique and we were able to track and acknowledge it, but maybe the length of our connection is not as rare as we think. Maybe we are all connected to each other through some sort of deep synchronicity and all our paths are this entwined.

It really hit home how personal each one of our surfboards truly is and how deeply we connect to all of you who join us in the workshop. We now wonder where our next shapers are coming from, and the journey they will be on to get here…

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