Build Your Own Surf Board in Amagansett
At Grain Surfboards, customers are totally stoked—and totally hands-on.
Surfing wasn’t a way of life for Brian Schopfer when he started Amagansett’s Grain Surfboards, a boutique workroom where he hosts build-your-own-board classes, in addition to crafting made-to-order and ready-made boards for purchase. “I came to the operation much more from the perspective of a woodworker than a surfer,” explains Schopfer, who opened the space with his brother-in-law, Patrick Fleury, in 2016. “Building something with your hands is an amazing feeling, regardless of whether you’ve been doing it for years or it’s your first time.”
Schopfer and Fleury were inspired to go into business together after they took a class at Grain Surfboards’ original outpost in York, Maine. “On the drive home, we couldn’t stop talking about how much we enjoyed it, especially using hand tools instead of machinery,” recalls Schopfer, who acts as shop manager, while Fleury manages the business side. “We knew we wanted to share that experience with other people. It felt really meaningful to us.” The pair acted swiftly, working with rain Surfboards’ founder, Mike LaVecchia, to open a satellite location in Amagansett. Schopfer and his family relocated to the East End from Rhode Island, where he had worked as a vineyard property manager and built furniture in his spare time.
As in past summers, Schopfer and his team hope they will soon resume running three- or four-day workshops for experts and novices alike. Class participants select their boards’ decorative elements in advance, and Schopfer has the raw material—northern white cedar sourced in Maine—prepped and ready upon their arrival. For an eight-foot-long board, approximately 12 pieces of book-matched lumber are arranged at individual workstations, destined to form the top and bottom of each surfboard. Participants glue the planks together; line the bottom half with thin strips of wood, called rails, along the perimeter; and outfit the board with an interior framework. Next, the top and bottom halves are glued together, making the inside of the board no longer visible, and clamped overnight. The following day, boards are shaped with a variety of hand tools, such as chisels, planes, and spoke shaves. The board is then covered with a sheet of fiberglass and a layer of epoxy squeegeed on top, which creates a waterproof seal and adds to its durability. Finally, the fin is drilled into the surface, and the whole board is given another coat of epoxy before being polished to a glossy finish. Not surprisingly, the sport of surfing, and not just board making, has since “become a large part of my life,” says Schopfer. “When a client completes a surfboard, one of my favorite things to do is go surfing and test out the board. I love watching what happens when someone catches the first wave.”
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Riding the Wave.