Surfboard Art #10 – Mutant
A board worth traveling for.
And travel I did! 2400 miles of sleep inducing, white knuckle steering, city-side, country-side, bridges and tunnels byways, junk food munching, day and night, rain and heat, music and talk shows of all kind, or not, driving. All this for a 5’6″ custom made Spirare Surfboard. Spirare what!?
Spirare, the Latin word meaning ‘to breathe’, is the creation of Kevin Cunningham. A graduate from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Kevin resides in Providence, Rhode Island and shapes out of a brick-stone building in the heart of one of the oldest cities in the country. Most surfboard shapers live on or near a surfing beachside town, but in the middle of a revolutionary New England city? Intrigued I set off on a quest for an answer. (In hindsight the quest might have been better served by flying the 2400 miles.)
As with so many New England craftsmen, past and present, Kevin is innovative, articulate and painstakingly detailed. He incorporates a seldom used method of sandwiching EPS foam in-between a thin skin of poplar veneer for the deck and bottom, paulownia wood on the rails and nose, a poplar ply for the wood pin lines and red cedar for the tail block. Once the foam is shaped it’s vacuum packed with the poplar veneer. The rails, nose and tail woods are then secured in a manner that I was not allowed to photograph or reveal and shaped to match the underlying foam. The result is a stringer-less board with maximum flex and spring back effect that is light and stronger than conventional polyurethane foam surfboards.
Technical details aside, the project, as with the previous nine that have been completed, morphed into a collaboration of unifying art with a functional hand-shaped surfboard. The style and dimensions agreed on during our initial conversations, it became a matter of finding an appropriate image that would compliment and accent Kevin’s work.
It was not without much deliberation that an image with deep blues and textured lines was selected. The print, entitled “Mutant”, a photograph of a wave at Teahupoo, Tahiti, is simple but bold and helps enrich and bring awareness to the wood characteristics of the board. It is also strong enough to attract attention on itself.
Glassing the board involved more traveling and a visit to a town made famous by the tragic movie Perfect Storm. As did the now well-known “Andrea Gail”, the glasser, Keith Natti, resides in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Keith is a multi-talented individual with a vast array of experiences to his credentials. A once hopeful Olympic track star, turned competitive weightlifter after an injury ended his track career, Keith spent time restoring automotive bodies and lobster fishing off the New England coast. A near death accident while lobster fishing convinced him of the merits for the long hours and low pay of glass work. This career change led to him opening Twin Light Glassing Company.
Keith proved to be highly competent at glassing surfboards. His energy made quick time of the work on Mutant but his pride in the New Englander reputation for quality craftsmanship and perfectionism delivered a finished product that is second to none. The seamless blending from gold to amber of the 1/16″ hand-taped pin line near the tail and the mirrored finish of the gloss coat that fools some into believing that it’s an automotive spray and not a resin finish is prove of Keith’s workmanship. When the board was done Kevin, Keith and I sat and marveled at how beautiful a surfboard we had created. It was not in self-adulation of our own work but of the other’s.
After a brief pause for admiration it was time to move on. Kevin needed to make reparation with his girlfriend for the numerous late nights, Keith had the unglamorous chore of three SUPs needing immediate ding repair and I was faced with the dreaded long drive home. I am pleased to have the New England region represented in the 15X15 project. The area receives little press in the surf world but is choked with a population of hardy surfers that brave frigid waters and Jaws. Here a handful of individuals march to the beat of their own drum (no pun intended) and deliver a product that is artful, original and highly functional.
I’ve now reached the 2/3 mark with Mutant. I’m not sure where the final 1/3 will take me though I have some ideas. I do know that wherever it is the bar continues to be raised and I look forward to the challenge of raising it further.