As our featured shaper for the summer, we wanted to pick the brain of Dave Allee at Almond. All of Dave's boards are so classic in design and shape, and for a 23 year old, it seemed appropriate to ask the following...
Q: As a younger shaper- why have you chosen to do more traditional shapes and designs?"…
A: The reason I probably didn't go down the typical 6'2 thruster path is mostly due to the advice of my Navy SEAL cousin, Reed, who used to own property in Hawaii and Costa Rica, he's surfed his whole life, and he was telling me about these boards he surfed in Costa Rica that would blow my mind. He kept telling me how much drive and speed they had and how you could get way out in front of the wave and wrap these huge smooth cutbacks. He told me to keep an eye out for a twin fin fish with a swallow tail that was at least as big as a shaka from point to point.
Within about 4 months I picked one up and quickly discoveredthat he wasn't kidding about these things. I was so sold on the twin fin fish. I started seeing Alex Knost and Scotty Stopnik on them that same winter at Blackies. (2004 I think) They were surfing tiny ones and absolutely killing it out there. I had been longboarding on a kooky high performance board as a kid (like most kids) but once I figured out how cool these fishes were, my interest in different shapes started to grow. That inevitable led to flatter heavier logs and the interest exploded from there.
As I surfed fishes and logs more and more - I began to realize how much thrusters were limiting the surfing of so many people. There was so much more potential in some of these "outdated" designs. I also started to gain more of an interest in these types of boards because it encompassed a whole new element to surfing. Shortboarding is all about where you are on the wave, but with longboard and even some of the fishes it was about where you were on the wave AND where you were on the board. At that point I was convinced I would never own a thruster.
I got my start shaping in 2006, with a 6'5 solid balsa singlefin with five redwood stringers. (pretty much just a replica of the Channel Islands Machado Singlefin). After doing 2 wooden boards, my interest in shaping foam blanks just seemed like a natural progression. Starting by doing a 5'10 sandia fish (still surf it) and I hacked up a 6'11 shortboard blank that someone gave me to create the very first kookumber.
It was almost a year before I got around to making myself a longboard because I was suddenly selling every board I tried to make for myself. The feedback wasn't always perfect at first, but I was trying to shape a patiently and methodically as possible, and I was getting better.
By Fall of 2008 I was so far behind on orders, and still getting them, that I brought in Griffin Neumann-Kyle to start helping me catch up. He's been the only reason I've been able to open the shop and dedicate time to so many other aspect of running a business. He loves shaping longboards and fishes and stingers and guns and anything weird or unique, but he's always surfed thrusters. (which oddly enough he doesn't really like to shape) so we've finally got him riding a 9'8 log and a 5'9 fish exclusively now... and he's got a new excitement about surfing like you wouldn't believe.
My favorite thing that customers say is "I've been surfing a Merrick Flyer my whole life, and I'm just kind of realizing that maybe a shortboard isn't the board for me..." That's when I get really excited about helping people find a design that is going to allow them to access waves better and more often. Not that I'm looking to fill up my own lineup with a bunch of shortboard converts, but I get stoked to see people thinking outside the masses and outside the mags.
There is so much fun to be had in the ocean, and we'll keep doing our best to help people find that fun.
Almond Surfing Boards