‘To be able to share what you do and what you know with people is just quite incredible’ – James Otter
I recently found myself in the quaint surfing town of Porthtowan in Cornwall, home of the ridiculously delicious & carb-o-licious Cornish Pasty (Cornwall that is, not Porthtowan specifically). We had arrived a couple of hours before sunset and were greeted by beautiful leafy narrow country lanes flowing up and over the green hills. As we drove down the narrow lane into Porthtowan, we got our first glimpse of the glassy ocean which was dotted with surfers getting the last of some decent conditions before Hurricane Ophelia was to rear her head the following day.
‘There’s surf! How cool is this guys?!’ I bellowed from the driver’s seat, my face up against the windscreen in an attempt to get a better look of the surf. We drove down the sandy road towards the beach and beautiful sea cliffs and watched as humans strolled barefoot past our car, surfers in suits running to and from the beach, either with a smile on their face from their recent session or in a hurry to get one last surf in before the sun sets. Damn son! Now, this is the type of England that I like!
As much as I would have loved to have been in Porthtowan for a week-long surf trip, we (myself, Jacob and my good friend, Cameron), were there to shoot a rather exciting campaign for San Miguel for something called the ‘2017 San Miguel Rich List‘ and I was there to learn more about local and sustainable surfboard shaper, James Otter of Otter Surfboards.
The video, which is linked below, gives a lot more detail about everything including James’s background into his work as well as a detailed visual process into how the boards are made. For myself, this was a big learning curve as I had actually committed my post-graduate thesis topic on looking in detail at how unsustainable the surf industry is, namely surf products and the effects of surf tourism so I was genuinely interested in seeing and learning first-hand the process and the work that goes into the creation of sustainable wooden surfboards as opposed to the general foam boards that most of us ride.
It was incredible to witness how a fully sustainable surfboard shaper operations differ from the generic blank boards as well as how much effort and energy is required into making these beautiful works of art.
So to give a brief explanation, Otter Surfboards was born out of James’s passion and love for creating furniture of out wood mixed with a frustration of the short life-span and environmentally destructive foam surfboards that he used to ride. Sourcing their wood, mainly Western Red Cedar & Poplar, from sustainably run forests in the South-West of England, it is then planked up and so the shaping process begins (see video for more details).
I spent a day with James in Cornwall learning about his skilled craft and the place that he calls home, and was lucky enough to try out one of his boards in a morning surf which happened to be the morning when Hurricane Ophelia showed herself onto UK shores, hurtling 40mph gusts of wind in our direction which stopped us dead in our tracks holding onto the boards with our lives in an attempt to scramble back up to the beach to our cars.
It was a great day learning from James and if you are ever find yourself in beautiful Porthtowan in Cornwall, I’d really encourage you to pop into his studio to see what they do there or even sign up for a just under a week-long course where you can make and shape your very own surfboard.