Nick Carroll On: Triumph Of The Rex

12 May 2017 0 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

The coveted perpetual trophy is touching down in Australia for the first time!

The coveted perpetual trophy is touching down in Australia for the first time!

COASTALWATCH | INTERVIEW

RM Shapes’ head designer is on top of the world

Interview by Nick Carroll

Last weekend Rex Marechal pulled off something no Australia-based shaper has managed. He won the Icons of Foam Shape-off at the Boardroom show in San Diego, California — an epic, public, on-the-spot challenge, during which selected board-builders try to match a famous designer’s keynote craft: in this case, Al Merrick’s Magic Slipper board, made for Kelly Slater back in 1991. Rex’s winning shape beat 10 others. It will be glassed to match the original and put on show at next year’s Boardroom.

Nick Carroll: This is something Australian readers may not know much about. Explain what you were getting involved in?

Rex Marechal: The Boardroom show is this massive event for board builders to show their craft. They have these shaping demos and discussions and glassing demos. It’s like a candy store with all these beautiful boards. They dedicate each year to a famous shaper and this year Al Merrick was the honouree. It was really cool. They had a big set-up there, glass shaping bays, two of them. They put two of us in at the same time, against each other sorta.

You grew up in California, what was your experience of Al’s designs before this?

I didn’t used to ride them, but I used to look at his boards all the time. Competing in surf contests in those days, always getting my ass handed to me by many of his team riders, I would always be having a look at their boards and admiring the shapes. In those days, the Magic Slipper board, the one we re-created, was just out there, you know. So narrow, skinny, thin, and lots of rocker for that time.

How do you tackle a board like that now?

Well first of all you’ve gotta put yourself back in that time frame. Think very thin, super foiled, lots of flip in the nose. Then check the blank to make sure it can accommodate that. Obviously they gave us blanks that were pre-checked — I think it was a contemporary blank, a 6’4” EA (Eric Arakawa) US blank with a Merrick rocker, beautiful blanks. You did have to do some foiling in the nose and tail. But they were pretty close.

You have five minutes to measure the board — which isn’t much when you’re trying to replicate it! I thought, wow I’ve gotta be really efficient here. Then you have an hour and a half to shape it. You just have to plan it all out, the normal way you’d get out a board. Everybody has a different way of getting to the end. I got mine done pretty quickly, I had 15 minutes left.

Do you do a lot of pure hand shaping now?

Yes! (laughs) No… It’s like riding a bike though. You know how to get there to the end product and you have your way of doing it. I wasn’t really taught by anyone, I was kinda self taught, but I have little time saving techniques and ways of getting my measurements down really good. I use power sanders and stuff, almost everybody else goes straight to a (sanding) block. Cordless sander-polishers, they’re awesome! I even use them on pre-shapes. Saves my shoulders!

How are you judged?

The judges were Al, and his son Britt, and another of the main shapers at CI, and their main production guy. They went around checking outline, checking thickness, checking rockers, and just kinda feeling the board. That was a big part of it, the feel and look of the board, so it had to look like one of his boards, not like one of mine made to his measure. It took about 45 minutes to look at the 11 boards. They took notes, maybe they were scoring points for different aspects of the board. I don’t know exactly their process, but there was a lotta talk. They all had beards, so it was kinda like the four wise men in there.

It must be a nerve racking situation, being under lights in a room with all these surfboard nerds staring at you.

(laughs) It’s kinda weird. But you’re not really looking out there. I was a little bit nervous at first but once I got into it…you know about your tools and what to do and it just ticks over.

Did making that board make you start thinking about doing one like that now, like a re-hash model of 1992? Is there any temptation to do those narrow super rockered little boards?

You know to be honest, the rocker itself is pretty similar to what we’re riding in high performance models now. It did have a little bit of flat through the guts, and I thought it would have more tail rocker than it did. But it was similar to what we do now. It had a flip in the nose, but if you cut two inches off that, you’d be down to a 5’11”. So the design is still relevant now. The one thing that was different was the width. 17 5/8”. I put the tape on it and went wait a second! When you put it under your arm you could really feel that. It’d probably have been 24 litres, 23 1/2 litres. Pretty low volume.

Well the kids then were pretty light weight and super flexible and wanting to do stuff that nobody had done, so they wanted to cut stuff out of the way I guess.

Yeah.

How did this happen? You don’t see many Australia based shapers there.

Scott (Bass) who runs the show, I used to surf with him all the time. He just said if you ever make it out let me know, we’d love to have you. So there we have it.

What else did you see at the show?

Oh yeah, just some beautiful boards. Unreal. A couple of the guys who exhibited had boards that were just next level craftsmanship. It’s a good platform for the boutique board builders to show their glassing work and stuff like that. That old school craftsmanship was displayed, it was really cool. They have a big auction that goes on of vintage boards. Cool.

Do you think there’s room for that in Australia?

Probably. Australians would love to go to a show like this. It’s not industry specific, there’s no buyers there, there’s not a whole lot of shitty stuff. It’s just surfboards. Not just the stuff you’d see at a surf shop either. There’s so many interesting board builders here, it’d be good to showcase their talents. It’s a family thing. All the shapers get together and talk shop and everyone’s really friendly, there’s no bitchiness to it, just a really friendly vibe. My environment, my factory, that’s how it is, everyone’s stoked on everyone else and they all get along. You gotta be happy!

Rex (right) stoked after his win in the US. Photo from Instagram @rmshapes

Rex (right) stoked after his win in the US. Photo from Instagram @rmshapes


Tags: video , (create Alert from these tags)

blog comments powered by Disqus
Features
What Are the Five Best Surf Comps of the Last Ten Years?

What Are the Five Best Surf Comps of the Last Ten Years?

Ronnie and Vaughan count them down

1 Jun 2020
Almost Perfect Point - Burleigh This Week

Almost Perfect Point - Burleigh This Week

Standout Sessions

2 30 May 2020
Recent
What Are the Five Best Surf Comps of the Last Ten Years?

What Are the Five Best Surf Comps of the Last Ten Years?

1 Jun 2020
Almost Perfect Point - Burleigh This Week

Almost Perfect Point - Burleigh This Week

2 30 May 2020
Nick Carroll: The Swell That Blew the COVID Cobwebs Right Off

Nick Carroll: The Swell That Blew the COVID Cobwebs Right Off

6 29 May 2020
What a Week of Waves! – More Perfect Pits

What a Week of Waves! – More Perfect Pits

28 May 2020
Go to Top