Meet The Crew

Fletcher Chouinard

FLETCHER CHOUINARD
I’ve always thought that one of the coolest things about surfing is that there are so many different ways to do it. No two waves are the same and, until recently, no two boards were the same. You can surf the same spot everyday and have a completely different experience every time. Switch boards and it feels like a totally different sport.

With handmade surfboards you never get the same thing twice. They’re impossible to duplicate. There’s a risk you could get a lemon, but there’s also a chance you could get one that’s pure magic. That magic is the feeling when you pick up a board and it just feels right. You plant your feet in the right spot without thinking about it and the board goes where you want it to on the wave – like an extension of your body.

With mass-produced boards there’s little chance for magic. Boards shaped or molded overseas are originally based on a shaper’s best effort, but much can be lost in translation. The boards are finished cheap and quick by people who may be decent craftsman, but don’t surf. There’s a guy in China or Thailand working on your board for less than minimum wage. He just sands the router lines off a computer-shaped blank until it looks clean to his inexperienced eye. There can be an okay pop-out or a bad pop-out, but the chances of a great pop-out are poor.

Handmade, high-quality surfboards are a completely different matter. At every stage of production is an individual that lives and breathes surfing. The shaper has made and tested board after board over the years, learning what works and what doesn’t. He’s read and studied every bit of information he could find about surfboard design. He’s talked to the masters about what they do, and why, every chance he’s gotten. He knows to make the little tweaks here and there that make such big differences. He knows to tuck the rails just right so your board doesn’t get sucked up the face in the tube or constantly catch an edge in the wrong place: The tweaks that give it life and personality. The shaper, the laminator and the sander know, and use, hydrodynamic principles to your benefit. They can, because they surf.

If you love surfing, your surfboard is the most important piece of equipment you own. Technically you could surf with no wetsuit, no leash – you don’t even need a bathing suit – but you need a board. You should have an intimate relationship with something that you depend on for your lifestyle. If your surfboard is your friend, wouldn’t you rather have a friend you can depend on? A friend with individual personality and the ability to stimulate your experience and your mind?

– Fletcher Chouinard

Sammy Cammack

SAMMY CAMMACK

How did you get into building surfboards?
I’ve been building surfboards for more than 32 years now and I love it. I was going into woodworking until the first time I cut into foam and liked how easily it shaped compared to wood: faster and with less room for error. Your cuts have to be deliberate and precise. And I enjoy making something I can use every day.

What does quality mean to you?
I run the glass shop at FCD. Glassing is sculpting on a minute scale. Using fiberglass and resin you put a relatively thin skin on the shaped blank. It’s strong enough so the board will last, yet thin enough so the board is light and performs just how you want.

Our motto in the glass shop is “Build each board as if it were your own.” Everybody in our factory rips at surfing and understands the importance of every nuance in the glass job. It’s critical to have that passion. Here at FCD we’re not like other high-production factories around the globe; we’re paid to take the time to build the best we can. We still build them old school – by hand, one at a time.

How can you recognize quality in a board you have built?
For me, the true beauty of a good glass job goes beyond looking good, being symmetrical, having a nice hard edge in the tail; it’s knowing the board was built properly, each step of the way. But the ultimate measure of quality in a board is how long it lasts. A high-quality board should last many years with proper care and the good fortune of not taking too many 20-footers on the head.

What’s the difference between a pop-out board and a handmade board?
It’s unfortunate so many people have been turned off of epoxy after trying a foreign-made molded epoxy surfboard. They’re nice and strong, but some people don’t like how they ride. Epoxy is just the resin component in the glass job, and not all epoxies are created equal. Our combination of closed cell foam and quality epoxy yields a ride more like what people are accustomed to with polyurethane blanks, yet allows us to apply more fiberglass and epoxy to create a more durable surfboard.

Ben Lemke

BEN LEMKE

Years surfing?
30+

What is your part in the process of making an FCD board?
I pretty much get the ball rolling. I’m the blank-smith. So every board we build, I have to build the blank first. I also do lots of not-so-glamourous jobs. And I get to work on design development with Fletch (read: I get to ride a lot of sweet boards).

How long have you been making boards and how did you get into it?
About 5 years here at FCD. Fletch and I been friends for some time and I’d hang at the shop from time to time. I was riding for someone, but one day I rode this 6’3” Mako and I was hooked. It was one of the best boards ever; that thing was magic! It’s now making someone down in Chile very happy right now.

From your experience as a board-building craftsman, what sets our boards apart? (performance and construction)
The materials set us apart; no one else uses our foam and not a lot of people make their own blanks. Every board is made here in Ventura on the same city block. So we have control of the quality boards we put out everyday, getting you the best board ever.

Explain in your own words how our materials are different from everyone else?
We use close-celled foam. Most every one else is using p/u foam and resin or EPS and some form of epoxy resin. Our foam has higher compression strength than both, meaning less pressure dings. We also use the best in epoxy resins; no short cuts. FCD board owners are getting what they pay for: a stronger, lighter, long-lasting board.

Explain in your own words how our construction process requires greater attention to detail and a different method of application to get a higher-quality product.
Just doing all the work here requires great attention. The boys at the glass shop have it bad; they need to know their stuff. It’s no p\u factory, where folks just pour resin on boards and let them dry. Lots of skill goes into glassing our epoxy builds right.

In your opinion how much more labor goes into one of our boards?
A couple days.

What are some of the boards you remember building most? (color, customs, whatever you remember)
It’s got to be this stand-up Fletch and I built. A nightmare 12’ x 30”x 5” where we had to glue foam to both sides of the blank. Then poor Fletch had to shape that thing one side at time; break down and shape the other side. The boys at the glass shop still hate us for that one. The first and last SUP we’ll do. Thing came out sick though!

Favorite board(s) in the line?
DM3 6’3” x 19”1/4 x2”1/4 foil down rails, 5’10 quark 4-fin, 9’1” H.P. Fletch shape. For me, that thing works insane.

Heaviest hold down.
I don’t wear a leash a lot so the hold downs are not that long. But one last November with Dave-O trying to kill me on the North Shore was classic.

Best swell you remember.
’83, ‘86-’87, ’91, X-mas a couple years back, and the one this weekend.

Describe the best wave of your life.
Too many.

What’s the best thing about working at FCD?
Being able to make water tools.

Favorite post sesh grinds?
Pepe’s. I’m from the ‘Nard

Favorite band?
Backsliders

Eric Streufert

ERIC STREUFERT

Years surfing?
27 years

What is your part in the process of making an FCD board?
Sanding the glass and re-shaping the board to the original foam shape that came in here. Then I hot-coat the board with specially formulated epoxy resin. Then I sand the hot-coat to the finished product you see in the show room.

How long have you been making boards and how did you get into it?
I’ve been making my own boards called S-turn since 1997. My older brother Pete, who is an insane underground shaper, got me into surfing and shaping. He rips.

From your experience as a board building craftsman, what sets our boards apart? (performance and construction)
FCD shapes are top-of-the-line high performance shapes in all categories; short, long, fish and fun shapes. We construct our boards differently than any other shop I have worked at. They are stronger, lighter and way more true to the shape than anywhere else.

Explain in your own words how our materials are different from everyone else.
It comes from a different planet, and are constructed of kryptonite. We use closed-cell EPS foam which is super-dense, light-weight foam. We use 3 layers of glass on the deck vs. 2 and 2 layers on the bottom vs. 1. So they are strong!

Explain in your own words how our construction process requires greater attention to detail and a different method of application to get a higher quality product.
We are actually sanding the raw glass, hence the extra layers we put on in the beginning. It allows us to get the board true to shape before we even hot-coat it. Then the hot-coat comes out just like a gloss that we can sand to a polish. We save time, materials and money, not to mention creating less waste.

In your opinion how much more labor goes into one of our boards?
Not too much more time. For me, it is more work because I sand every board twice. The glass stage and the hot-coat are sanded.

What are some of the boards you remember building most? (color, customs, whatever you remember)
I have made a few flex-tailed boards that work really well. They actually bend to fit the wave and release off the top with extra speed. It’s a George Greenough thing: “variable rocker.”

Around here I have created a flatter rocker fish that goes super fast at the local points; one I call the Stand-Up Knee Board and the other is the F-250 that has 2 lead fins and a smaller half fin as a trailer. I ride them short 5’6 and 5’7. I’m 6 foot 165lbs.

Favorite board(s) in the line?
FCD, all of them are great shapes for all different type of waves for every type of person.

Heaviest hold down.
West Oz at a place called Guillotines.

Best swell you remember.
Too many to count. 1998 and 2005 – sweet memories.

Describe the best wave of your life.
Too many. Every wave I catch is the best wave of my life, and then I want another one!

What’s the best thing about working at FCD?
Everyone surfs, lots of respect. Living and breathing surfboards it’s my simple life. I love it.

Favorite post-sesh grinds?
Mexican with a very cold corona.

Favorite band?
Old Oingo Boingo, from the 80’s

Robin Ryder

ROBIN RYDER

Years surfing?
27

What is your part in the process of making an FCD board?
Finning Technician

How long have you been making boards and how did you get into it?
My dad has been shaping boards since he was 16 and has for the most part taught me all I know about making boards. As a kid, I started with ding repair to make some cash, though it wasn’t ‘til I was in my mid 20s that my dad heard of a sanding position and that’s when I ultimately got into the business.

From your experience as a board-building craftsman, what sets our boards apart? (performance and construction)
Most places pay by the piece. Here, we get paid by the hour, which really gives you the freedom to focus or Zen-out on the boards and making the best quality possible.

Explain in your own words how our materials are different from everyone else.
I think straight from the get go. You can’t touch our strength and durability.

Explain in your own words how our construction process requires greater attention to detail and a different method of application to get a higher-quality product.
We care about the boards we are making.

In your opinion how much more labor goes into one of our boards?
Epoxy is a slower-kicking resin. That being said, it takes usually 2 days and 3 nights just to get through the lamination process. That’s before the sander even gets to touch the board…

What are some of the boards you remember building most? (color, customs, whatever you remember)
I always love color lay-ups, and swirls with pins.

Favorite board(s) in the line?
DM3.

Heaviest hold down.
Majors Bay in Kauai.

Best swell you remember.
North west swell at Majors Bay, Kauai in 1996.

Describe the best wave of your life.
No such thing as the best wave for me, they are all different and that’s what I love most about surfing.

What’s the best thing about working at FCD?
The people I get to work with are all super cool cats!

Favorite post sesh grinds?
Snickers.

Favorite band?
Motely Crüe!