There are many things we love about our friends at Grain Surfboards. Not only do they build beautiful, natural wood surfboards akin to a work of art, they do it sustainably. Rooted in traditional boat-building, Grain uses locally harvested cedar to carve out stunning modern boards built to last. And, as we learned, they’re not afraid to share their secrets.
This week, in the Thought Kitchen, our friends at Grain give us a little insight behind the business of building surfboards, how they came to be here, and why you should come to Portland (or their hometown in Maine) to build one of these handcrafted wonders yourself.
Grain Surfboards is a small hive of activity located on the coast of Maine. With our small, tight crew of eight, we handcraft, classic surfboards, out-of-the-ordinary wood belly-boards, hand-planes, and skate boards out of local timber. And in the process of creating beautiful, custom boards, we end up building an off-kilter community of independent thinkers around us.
To find yourself in the business of making stuff for people feels a bit odd, especially to those of us disinclined to accumulate things. But as Brando once said, “one must do something” and at Grain Surfboards, we’ve found that there are deep rewards and contributions to be made even in the world of making what – on the surface – appears to be mere consumer goods.
That may be because of the way we originally came to build surfboards; out of a desire to make our boards in a way that felt more real, more lasting, and of better quality than what we felt was being offered by the so-called “surf industry.” Those origins, combined with our experiences with traditional wood boats, brought us together some years ago. We all had the same idea: to craft surfboards in the same way that boats are built – as a hull around a frame, an essentially hollow vessel, built to last.
Along the way, we discovered that we could adhere to a pretty strict ethos of sustainability, even as we taught others that there were options to the short-lived, industrial surf-craft that has become the norm. Our teaching roles expanded as we realized the many rewards inherent in “rolling our own” surfboards. We figured out how to assemble wood parts, hardware, and knowledge into the most complete surfboard kit available and began to share the experience of building your own board with people from all over the world. Eventually, we invited people to build boards in our shop. And now thanks to the help of some like-minded companies like Nau, we are able take our classes on the road in cities like Portland, Oregon.
In the process of helping people build their own surfboards or custom build their dream board, we collected a community of people around us. This is one of the great rewards of doing what we do. People often find that what starts as a simple customer-vendor relationship ends in friendship and community. We believe this happens simply because, for us, the emphasis is on the experience and the inherent meaning of what we do rather than on the thing itself.
Ultimately, we found that we can be more than a mere purveyor of stuff. By offering products built with passion that will never see a landfill, we help give surfers a chance to join the collective voice of our customers and friends—a voice that celebrates great experiences, good friends, sustainability, quality and longevity.
In addition to building surfcraft and surfboard kits in Maine, Grain Surfboards holds classes in surfboard building all year long. A traveling class will be held in Portland, Oregon in an old shipwright’s shop in March. See details here.