Haven AiR is an intense collaboration with artists as passionate about the sea as we are. In this project we will be exhibiting their art and an introduce you to the person behind it. The artist in residence selects some of their finest work to be presented in our store for a limited time, used on postcards and on limited edition merchandise. Scrolling down you can get a peek into their lives, reading their answers to our questions.
For the last years, we’ve been working with Fiber Shape for our repairs. You could smash your surfboard, bring it to us and we would pass it on to Fre, the man behind the brand. Not only is Fre able to get your beloved gear fixed, he also shapes boards to your wishes, surf and skate alike.
Hello Fre, we are no strangers. You have been the one behind the surfboard repairs service in our store in Antwerp. We would love to hear more about you and how you found your way to shaping and repairing. Did you start shaping trough repairing boards or did it go the other way around?
It went the other way around. I made my first surfboard in 2010 from a building kit I bought online. I was totally hooked after the first board and didn’t stop shaping. Repairs just came with it.
A building kit sounds like a good, accessible way to find your way into shaping. Why did you buy one, did you want to teach yourself or did you get inspired by other shapers?
When I started in 2010 there wasn’t a whole lot of information about shaping boards and you couldn’t find materials close by. But I didn’t really mind that. I have always been a ‘first do, then think’ kind of person and I think that’s how I learned. Especially when I switched to EPS/epoxy boards I had to find out what works the best for me with materials I can find as local as possible.
The surfboard scene is developing so fast and I see more room for hand shaped boards than 10 years ago. The shapers that really inspire me are people who have set their own path and put their own vision in their boards. People like Ryan Lovelace, Ryan Burch, Tyler Warren, Tristan Mausse from Fantastic Acid and Belgian finest Ange from Flow and Soul are a big inspiration.
Did you have some technical skills already for hand/machine shaping and which one of the two do you apply mostly?
Not really. Like I said I just started with some tools I had at home and this developed to where I am now. I mostly shape by hand. It makes you feel the board better. I only take the depth off the board and a bit of the rocker with my planer.
In our collaboration you’re presenting a board of your choice that represents you and your shaping in some way. Tell us more about this choice and when you first shaped this (kind of) board.
The model is called the Magic Carpet. The first Magic Carpet was my second EPS board, somewhere in 2014. I took it to Spain where I worked as a surf coach. One of the other coaches used the board and when he came out the water he told me it surfed like a magic carpet, hence the name.
This shape is made for mellow, small waves and is perfect to move over flat sections. And so it is perfect for Belgian waves. This is something I always have in the back of my head when I am creating a new shape. That’s why my standard shapes always work in Belgian conditions and I adjust every board to the wishes and surfing skills of the surfer.
Magic Carpet is a triple stringer that has a bit of a tucked-in nose, but has the width of a standard MC. The nose rocker is lifted a bit more than usual and tail rocker is standard and low. Bottom shape is a single, to double to Vee. Makes you feel like you're flying!
We loved reading your focus in shaping and repairing is quality and ecology. Surfers kind of know surfboards are not really good for the planet, how do you incorporate ecology in your processes?
This is a really difficult topic. In my opinion everyone has to search their own balance in ecology and sustainability. I try this trough making a board that lasts a long time and is made with as much local products possible. All my surfboards are made out of a EPS core and I use an eco-epoxy as resin. I make my own blanks and shape, glass and sand my boards myself, so I can control the process from A to Z.
My skateboards are made out of bamboo (it’s a grass, no wood) and the same eco epoxy witch I use for my surfboards. They are made to last longer and have a certain flex that are perfect for a surf skate.
What is the most satisfying part of the shaping process?
Being lost in the moment and having nothing to disturb me. Its sounds a bit spacy, but these are the moments everything blurs and it is just you and the board.
Are you thinking of starting a collection or do you prefer working custom-made?
For my surfboards I prefer custom made… I have test boards off my tested and approved shapes and before a surfer buys a board at Fiber Shape I always encourage them to try some boards out. This way both the surfer and shaper have a better idea which shape would work. But starting this summer I will be making stock boards, so people have the chance to get their Fiber Shape board faster in the water.
My skateboards you can get custom or stock. So you can choose for a custom where you can design your own board or buy a stock board so you can hit the bowl the same day.
More and more people find their way to shaping. What would your best advice be to someone new to the job?
Just start and experiment. Everyone had his own way of shaping boards and it takes practice to find your own way. The learning curve is why I love it so much, you can always learn new things.
You had a lot of projects planned out before a pandemic happened. Are you still planning or working on new things when things settle a little?
I worked on my first line of t shirts during the pandemic and the next one is coming out real soon. Also put a lot of time making the website and webshop because in these times you can’t go without.
In summer I will have a workshop where people can built their own skateboard in 3 days, so keep your eyes open on my social media!
And next to that I just want to create more boards and get in the water.
We assume you enjoy your time on the board as well as shaping them. Where did you first get in touch with surfing?
2004 BoardX, Zarautz
You’re located in Beringen, in Belgian terms quite far from the ocean. Is it easy to find a surfer community there? Surfers seem to find each other relatively easy in a small country like Belgium, but did you ever consider getting closer to the seaside for your service?
You don’t choose who you fall in love with, my wife is from the next village and I got my family and friends here. For sure I sometimes hate it that I am this far from the seaside, but the drive to the sea became a part off the experience and trough my network with BoardX I know surfers all around Belgium and for every single one of them, in the end, the stoke to get in the water is what counts and what unites us.
Where do you go surfing these days and what board do you prefer to take out?
Before the pandemic I mainly surfed in the Netherlands. Now I just try to hit different spots on the Belgian shore depending what the forecast is. You will mostly see me surfing a midlength these days. I have a 7’0 hull that is real fun to ride on clean waves and a 7’6 that I made but haven’t be able test much. On better days I use one off my Escargots, it’s an all-round shape that just works on different kinds of waves and is fun to ride as a twin.
What is your absolute favourite surf spot? Are there surf spots you are dying to surf one day?
I don’t really have one favourite spot. I love riding mellow waves that give you the time to make big turns or just cruise. Spots like the bay of Imsouane, Cote basque, Biarritz and some nice places in the Vendee are perfect for this kind of surf.
I would love to explore Britany, Portugal and Italy. The farthest dream is to surf Californian waves someday.
When people happen to visit far-from-the-seaside Hasselt or Beringen, how should they spend their day? Where do they get the best coffee or food for body and brain?
If you want a nice day in Beringen, you should start out of the city with a nice walk on the Terril. These hills are residue from the coal industry that was very present in the wide area around Beringen during the 20th century. You get an awesome view when you reach the top!
Down in the multicultural city of Beringen, there is a lot happening to continue the day. If you want good coffee, I would personally recommend HEN HEN located on the Lutgart site. It doesn’t end with coffee here. The Lutgart site is an old school building, now hosting a lot of entrepreneurs. This also happens to be where my atelier is, so don’t forget to come and say hi!
Ending the day after a stroll in the city you can get the best Italian food in Ristorante Italia.
Homebreak: Domburg/ Oostende
Shaping: Everything from shortboard to longboard
Material used for shaping: EPS/ Eco epoxy
Gear used, shaping technique: Skil 100 / Bosch
Connection to surfing: Started in 2004 with BoardX, didn’t stop after
Board preference: Midlengths
Favourite spot: Not really one favourite. Mellow bigger surf like on a good day on the bay of Imsouane
Favourite surfer(s): My teamriders
Favourite other occupations: Restoring VW T3 vans
Come and visit the expo in our Antwerp flagship store until the 10th of August. Expo opening in Knokke 12th of August.