Get to know more about this country’s most revered stewards of the shaping bay by reading part 1 of our Q&A article on the best surfboard shapers in Portugal today.
For a nation of just over 10 million people, Portugal definitely punches above its weight when it comes to great waves, delicious pastries and of course, soccer. But this ruggedly beautiful little country on the Iberian Peninsula has another lesser known ace up its sleeve.
It’s rife with outstanding surfboard shapers.
For those who’ve never had the pleasure of collaborating with a surfboard shaper, it can be an interesting experience. They have a reputation for being fanatical about their craft and are known to obsess over the minutest details.
These characteristics can drive even the most patient human to the edge when waiting for a custom shooter to be finished, but they’re also necessary traits in a trade where the smallest adjustments make a massive difference.
The following list features just a select few of the most revered surfboard shapers in Portugal. Shapers who’ve helped put local surfers on the map and who churn out countless sleds every year so punters like you and me can enjoy those brief moments of ecstasy when wave, board and human become one.
Or, at the very least… so we can look like a total shredlords when we’re strutting down the beach.
Factory/Showroom: Urbanização Vale da Telha, Armazém ao lado de D96, CP 213, 8670-156 Aljezur, Portugal
Shaper: João Vieira
Located in Aljezur in the wonderful southwest of Portugal, Barbudas Surfboards and it’s head shaper João Vieira focus purely on custom boards; tailormade and designed for each client from start to finish using the best and most sustainable materials available. Ever the craftsman, João’s unique approach is defined by his belief that you should always take the time do the things you’re proud of.
The final result is a reflection of his long obsession with getting the visual appearance and functionality of every product he creates exactly right for each different surfer.
Read on to learn more about João and his honest take on life and business.
Do you remember the first board you ever shaped?
Sure I do! I still have in my head all the steps I took to create it; how I saw things at the time; how I faced my challenges to make it happen and my feelings when it was finished. I don’t remember the second one, but the first isn’t easy to forget. I still like to see it from time to time to remember how much things have changed (or not changed) since then.
What’s something you believe differentiates you from other shapers?
I’m a person trying to survive like anyone else. I have my unbendable ideologies and my countless flaws, but I like to believe it is my good characteristics that have allowed me to be in this situation where people come to me for something I like doing. Really, I’m like all other shapers, regardless of how differently we see the world or not.
Where’s your favourite place to surf in Portugal?
I left Porto about 10 years ago for a country life in Aljezur. Thinking about it now, I have to say that the reasons that brought me to my favourite place to surf in Portugal at that time are the same ones that make me miss surfing Porto (or any other surf spot I’ve surfed for that matter). Portugal is an incredible place where you’ll always have a memorable experience, no matter whether the surf is bad or good.
I cannot separate the session I have in the water with the experience of getting there and leaving again. From the conversations I have to the food I am certain to enjoy as soon as I leave the water. All of it is related to the place where I am at that moment and if one thing isn’t perfect, another one is. So, I can’t say I have a favourite place to surf.
If you could shape a board for any pro surfer, who would it be?
That is without a doubt a question I can’t answer without looking silly! I don’t follow a single competition and I don’t really know any of the names’ of pro surfers.
Of course, I see some surf movies and appreciate world-class legends gliding gracefully in scenic locations, but I’m not sure which pro surfer I would like to ride my boards.
I’m truly happy doing things the way I am. Right now, a person comes to me with a wish and I interpret that the best way I can to fulfill their needs. The feedback I get helps me improve. If it happens to be a pro, it’ll treat them like any other another person.
Is there anything unique about your approach to life and business that you’d like to share?
Controlled obsessions in a strictly categorised chaos are the circus act in my life that I have somehow been able to bring out into a business. And this business is something incredibly unique; made possible by the countless exceptional people that I meet and who are a part of my life.
Factory/Showroom: Rua Belo Horizonte, armazém A, Ribamar 2655 Ericeira, Portugal
Shaper: Nick Uricchio
Created by Nick Uricchio and Miguel Katzenstein back in 1982, Semente Surfboards is one of Portugal’s most successful and well-known shapers.
Since its establishment, Semente has played a major role in the progression of Portugal’s rich surfing history and has defined itself a business committed to constant evolution regarding both surfboard design and the materials used in the construction process.
This has enabled Semente to become a timeless fixture on Portugal’s surf scene; with ethos firmly rooted in a simple love for surfing and passion to keep things on a personal level between shaper and surfer. The name Semente (meaning seed in English) was also chosen with the belief that Nick and Miguel’s idea would grow and flourish in the future. And with both men still working together 37 years down the track, it’s clear their roots run deep from the original seed.
We caught up with Nick to ask him a few questions about Semente and his personal shaping philosophies.
How important is it for you to receive detailed feedback from a customer about your boards?
Super important! All my growth as a shaper has been based on feedback from my team and all of our clients. The trial and error of the design process are important for any professional shaper and for that the opinion of surfers is fundamental. Keeping track of what works for each surfer is also necessary to ensure you have a solid base for his or her next board.
What is your main philosophy when it comes to surfboard design?
To keep your mind and eyes open to the constant changes in surfboard design. To never be afraid to look at the work of other shapers, as we can all learn a lot from each other. And to believe that you can grow from proven theories (both old and new) and build on things that are already working for you. But most of all our philosophy is to stay curious and be motivated in our art.
If you could shape a board for any surfer in the world, who would it be?
Years ago I would have said Kelly Slater. But I have been fortunate to shape boards for many pros through the years from all over the planet and have always had an amazing team that’s been a huge factor in my growth. I actually would’ve loved to shape one for Andy and Archie… but yes, Kelly still lingers in the back of my mind.
Where do you see the future of surfboard shaping technology headed?
Machines are pretty amazing right now and the precision in some of them is unbelievable. It’s hard for me to imagine a more refined advancement regarding that element of technology or that we will be out of a job as shapers. I see the biggest area for improvement taking place in the finishing of shaped surfboards, the techniques of a shaper and the use of new, environmentally friendly materials.
Is there anything unique about your business, yourself or your life that you’d like to share with others?
I am grateful to have made a living out of what I love and to have had a business that’s been running for 37 years now. My partner Miguel Katzenstein and I have surrounded ourselves with good people and have always kept things positive and fun. Follow your dreams is the only thing I would like to share.
They may not always work out as planned, but if you don’t try it will haunt you forever.
Factory/Showroom: Estrada Nacional 114, No 22, 2525-553 Atouguia da Baleia/Porto Lobos, Portugal
Shaper: Gero Tragatschnig
Fatum Surfboards is led by head shaper Gero Tragatschnig; a German mainlander who carved out a name for himself on the North Sea island of Sylt as an innovative shaper with a talent for creating boards that allowed users to get the most out of the challenging local waves. It wasn’t until 1996, however, when Gero moved to Peniche that he established Fatum Surfboards. A brand he founded based on the simple principle to give every surfer the best possible surfboard by drawing from his unique skill set.
Now, with more than 30 years’ experience and over 14,000 shaped boards, Fatum has evolved into one of the most respected surfboard manufactures in Europe. Gero still insists on keeping the business small and personal though, shaping every board in-house with the help of a tightknit crew.
If you’d like to glean a little bit of Gero’s wisdom for yourself, read on below.
Where do you see the future of performance surfboards headed?
I believe there is still nothing that really compares to a board with a durable, functional and affordable PU/polyester construction. People compare new technologies to PU/polyester and say they’re ‘as good’ or ‘almost as good’, but I have experimented with other techniques over the past 35 years and keep coming back to the same thing.
Sometimes the old way is the best. It’s reliable, honest and if done correctly, it will still offer the ‘best surfboard’ for you.
What aspect of surfboard design excites you most at the moment?
We are all about getting the surfboard correct for the individual surfer by customising it to suit the surfer’s unique requirements. Fatum has been in business since 1996 and has a long history of happy customers.
What excites us the most is seeing the stoke on our clients’ faces when they come back for their next board. We love welcoming people into the Fatum family and to us, it’s all about quality, functional equipment, durability and getting that magic board for the individual surfer.
Where’s your favourite place to surf and why?
I have had so many perfect waves throughout different continents in the world it’s hard to count. These days it’s about the local spots; surfing around the Peniche area with a few friends in the water having a laugh and trading waves. The best sessions are always the ones you just ‘happen across’!
If you could pick any surfer to shape a board for who would it be?
No hesitation, it would be Tom Curren. There was one magic session that inspired me to devote my life fully to surfing and making surfboards, which was the moment I watched Tom Curren surf his first wave at J-bay. That is an amazingly difficult wave to surf and the way he linked all the sections with effortless grace and style really had an effect on a lot of people.
I am not sure there has been or will be another surfer like him.
Like what ya see? Well… do ya, Punk! Then stay tuned for part 2 of our Q&A article on the best surfboard shapers in Portugal where we’ll be featuring fellow foam wizards Matta Shapes, Ferox and Lisbon Crooks.
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