surfboard art
The Pelican on a five foot ten inch Pelicano bat tail

It’s fitting to include in the 15 Boards 15 Shapers surfboard art project a surfboard made in Puerto Rico. That is where I dedicated so much time to photography and surfing, the two underlying passions this project is based on. A number of very talented shapers reside on the island, but my desire was to work with Nestor Ramirez of Pelicano Surfboards. Nestor’s reputation for quality workmanship was undeniable and, fortunately for me, he became a willing collaborator on the eighth board in the project.

Logistically, a distant hurdle needed to be jumped for the first phase of creating the board. Nestor, after all, is on an island 2000 miles away. Each of the previous boards had been shaped within 200 miles of where I live. This allowed me to photograph the board as it was being shaped, and after it was finished. I would then use the photo of the finished shape to create a selection of photographic designs that fit the dimensions and complimented the style of the board. Collaborating with the shaper one would be chosen and printed in my studio. To follow this procedure would add a much higher financial investment on the board, one that I didn’t want to risk.

Nestor Ramirez
pelican bird
The original pelican
The factory in Isabela, Puerto Rico

I asked Nestor to email me photographs of several completed surfboards that he’d want to be a part of the 15/15 project and that would distinguish themselves from the shapes already in the collection. I was captivated by one in particular, a single wing, bat tail, which he called the L-G model named for two top Puerto Rican surfers, Alberto Licha and Guaili Ramirez (Nestor’s son). Nestor sent the dimensions for this board and even though our board would not be exactly the same (each of his boards are individually hand shaped), it was close enough for me to make the print.

surfboard tail
bat tail

My idea with board #8 was to deviate from using a single, full length image as was done with the first seven. I wanted to create an image comprised of two or more photographs. Several collages came about that in some cases were simple and clean while in others they were complex and graphic. Then when I was satisfied with the choices I wanted to present to Nestor a thought occurred, albeit a humorous one, and not to be taken seriously…or so I thought.

one of the collage designs that did not make the cut

Amongst the collage designs I emailed Nestor, I included one of a single pelican image. “Pelicano”, meaning “pelican” in Spanish, was the inspiration for the whimsical notion. I had no serious thoughts on using the image until Nestor enthusiastically responded with how he loved the pelican! I wasn’t prepared for that and had a month to think about it while traveling through Ireland. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, not because of the name, but because the image was very strong! Also, I am mesmerized when seeing pelicans expertly surf the air currents of waves. So, why shouldn’t one grace another medium of surfing waves?

With the decision made to use the pelican image and printed I flew to Puerto Rico. In five days the board was shaped and finished. Nestor and his son Guaili, who inlayed the print and glassed, hot coated and sanded the board, were a pleasure to work with. They took great pride in their craftsmanship and put forth a quality product. The three of us are very proud of “The Pelican”.

I’m now past the mid-point of the 15/15 project, though it still seems like a long way to the finish line. A debate whether to take the project over to California and maybe even Hawaii has crept up as well. Working with Nestor proved that I can work with a non-local shaper and still keep production costs at a reasonable level. There is no shortage of top East Coast shapers; however, the project might take on a broader appeal by incorporating shapers from a far greater reach. It’s another decision I need to make. Maybe a second trip to Ireland or somewhere else might just inspire me with the right answer.