The Otter Surfboards “2017 Highlight Reel”

30 . 12 . 17

As one calendar year clicks over into the next, we like to take the opportunity to pause and reflect on the twelve months just passed so that we can celebrate our achievements, and carry lessons into the twelve to come.

In January we launched The Clipper, the latest model in our range and a surfboard designed for waves of consequence. The Clipper’s maiden voyage was at a left hand pointbreak away up the coast on a serious midwinter swell, with British big wave charger Jonny Leon taking on test pilot duties. What a way to announce a new surfboard!

In the spring, we received an e-mail from our friend Kerianne at Surf Simply in Costa Rica. We’d sent a pair of handplane blanks and accompanying shaping instructions out to her (whilst she was living in New York) to test the idea of selling kits, and were dazzled by the edit that she put together of the making process and of her subsequently bodysurfing in the tropical waves of Costa Rica.

Boards, Bangers & Beers is our annual open workshop evening, with this being the event’s third outing. This year we joined forces with our friend Alex, who runs the inspiring As One Talks series, to add an extra dimension to the evening. In the end, over 200 people joined us at our workshop at Mount Pleasant Eco Park to take a look at what we do here, enjoy a beer or two and hotdogs served up by the wonderful Ben from Woodfired Canteen, and listen to two incredible talks from surf adventurer and author Sam Bleakley and Chris Hines MBE (the founder of Surfers Against Sewage, former Eden Project Sustainability Director and former special advisor to the Secretary of State for the Environment who we interviewed earlier in the year). We’re not quite sure how we’re going to top that in 2018!

One of our major projects in 2017 didn’t involve surfboards; we built a mezzanine into our workshop so that James and Liz could move the office out of their spare room at home, and moving the kitchen up the new stairs to free up more space on the workshop floor. Constructed using traditional timber framing techniques, it required all hands on deck and we appreciated the help of many friends along the way.

The history of the fish surfboard design is rich and fascinating. In the summer Mat dug into this history to share on our journal, and he was put in touch with the first person to ever stand up surf on a fish (the design was developed by San Diego kneeboarder Steve Lis), Jeff Ching. Click here to check out The Fishtory.

Every year the list of invitees to our Annual Gathering of Makers grows a little longer, as our community of wooden surfboard makers gets a little bigger. In September the weekend of our 2017 AGM enjoyed fantastic waves, and on Saturday evening we convened at Dunkirk Farm to share stories, a few drinks, and a woodfired feast before being entertained by the excellent Jack Bessant and the fantastic Cheddar Experiment. Thanks to all of you who made it such a special weekend!

In the autumn, James was told that he was to be featured on San Miguel’s 2017 Rich List, a compilation of individuals who pursue lives rich in experience instead of financial wealth. It was a real honour to be recognised alongside some inspiring individuals for the life that we lead down here in Cornwall, blurring the lines between work and pleasure. As part of the process, YouTube vlogger Nicole Eddy visited the workshop to make this short film about what we do here.

The best moments of each year for us occur, without doubt, during the week-long “Make Your Own” wooden surfboard courses that we run. The people that we meet and the friendships that we make trump any events or exposure, and that’s why offering people the opportunity to make their own surfboard rather than buy one “off the rack” is such a huge focus for us. To all of you who joined us in 2017 thank you, and welcome to the club!

Father and son workshop weeks are always incredibly special and we enjoyed several this year, with one particularly poignant course taking place in December when James’ Dad spent a week with him in the workshop making a flat-water stand-up paddleboard as a “big birthday” present from his family. James made a wooden paddle to surprise him with at a family birthday celebration, and they spent the following week together on the tools. As a result, we’ve been exploring flat-water SUP shapes and refining the workshop week process with the aim being to offer dedicated Make Your Own SUP courses at some point in 2018.

Rounding out our year was the amazing news that 2016 workshopper (and best-selling author) Dan Kieran has written a book drawing on his wooden surfboard experience. The Surfboard draws parallels between Dan’s experience making a surfboard (even though he doesn’t surf) and the process of building the publishing business Unbound (even though he never set out to be an entrepreneur). Unbound is a publishing company that crowdfunds its books, and Dan is going through his own platform’s process for the first time with The Surfboard. You can find out more, read an excerpt, and pledge to support the project (by buying a copy in advance) by clicking here.

Edit: the book is now available to buy here.

2018 has got a lot to live up to! We can’t wait.

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