“Crafted Americans” is our chance to showcase creative brands that are not only pushing the envelope of function and style, but are doing so right here in the USA. Our inaugural post for Crafted Americans features Almond Surfboards. Photos courtesy of Almond Surfboards.
Brand Name: Almond Surfboards, or Almond Fine Surfing Boards
Year Established: Started making surfboards in 2007… and then opened the retail store in March 2009, which is when it really took on a new life. All of a sudden we had a venue to invite people into the vision of the brand we were trying to create.
Products Offered: We strive to make the nicest surfboards we can, which is the foundation of our business. The intent, from the beginning, was to make and sell anything that we deemed to be truly essential to the lifestyle that we subscribe to. That has been everything from surf trunks to wetsuits to surfboard fins, and more recently an LA-manufactured line of clothes. Everything we do, we want to be timeless essentials. We don’t do a whole lot of redefining ourselves each season. We’re always trying to get better at what we do, and make better products, but more or less we know our DNA and we stick to the essentials. Having a store has also allowed us to collaborate with some talented friends over the years, so we’ll do some limited product runs with different friends from time to time. One of the greatest parts of having our own brand is getting to work with people we enjoy. Right now we’re doing a collaborative skateboard with our friend Yuta, who does a line of skateboards called Shakastics.
Location: Our shop is on Pacific Coast Hwy in Newport Beach, that’s our retail space, showroom, office, etc… Everything but surfboard building takes place there. The surfboard building takes place about 15 minutes up the freeway in Santa Ana. If you want to pay us a visit, we’re at 2429 W. Coast Hwy #101 Newport Beach, CA 92663
Mission: Here at Almond, we are striving to be the premier lifestyle brand of the ‘Surfer+Craftsman’… a collaborative effort of friends making timeless, quality, essentials for surfers. To us, the idea kof the Surfer+Craftsman is that we are all surfers, and our friends and customers are surfers, but more often than not, that’s not the most interesting defining quality about them, or us, for that matter. While most of our products are based around the activity of surfing, there’s a depth to what we want to create that extends far beyond the lineup. We’re aligning ourselves with talented craftsmen of all sorts, and we want to tell those stories. We want to show people the process of building a surfboard, so they are exposed to a process that otherwise might be somewhat of a mystery. We want to celebrate and tell the stories of the people who make our clothes, or Mr. Sayama, who personally makes each of our wetsuits. We really want to champion telling the story of who makes our stuff, and how it’s made, and put some emphasis into the hard work that goes into a finished product. I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s, where there was very little thought about where stuff was made, or how stuff was made. And I don’t mean that from an ethical sense of how stuff was made, I mean from a very practical level. I had no concept of where “stuff” came from. Being 27 now, I have a deep fascination with the process and steps that go into even the most simple products that we see every day. I think it’s valuable to understand the work that goes into the things we buy and use. Hopefully it helps us shift away from the disposable mindset that has been so prevelant. It’s putting stories and faces to the products that we are selling.
What is the foundation of your brand? Building surfboards is certainly the foundation. Everything we do starts with the surfboard… it’s why we exist in the first place. We want everything we make to be in line with the values that we have put into our surfboard design and building.
What makes your products unique? For one thing, we’re committed to hand-shaping our surfboards, start to finish. It’s not the most production-friendly method of making surfboards. It would be far easier for us to cut them on a machine and make batches of them at a time. That’s not really what we want to do. We don’t want to create surfboards that are a dime-a-dozen. We really want to make surfboards that are rare and unique and custom. It’s not for everyone, which is totally okay. We’re by no means knocking the people who cut surfboards on a machine, that’s just now our thing, with Almond. In 30 years, I want people to drool when they see an Allmond Surfboard, not say “Oh yeah, I’ve got 3 of those collecting dust in the corner of my garage” It might be overly-idealistic, but that’s what being young is about… being optimistic. So far, people have seemed to respond really well to what we make, and what we stand for.
Where does your inspiration come from? In a lot of ways, we’re looking back to the 50’s and 60’s and seeing what they were doing back then, and then taking a close look at where the industry went in the 70’s and 80’s… we’re trying to go back and take it a different direction than it went. Basically, we’re looking at the brands that are more established than us, and saying “we’re not trying to be that, let’s see where else we can take it” Not that it’s a judgment thing, I just don’t get on board with the mindset of trying to recreate some else’s success. If a particular strategy has worked for a dozen other people, that’s great… but we don’t want to be the 13th guy trying to win at the same game. So we have inspirations both for qualities we want to emulate, and qualities that we want to stay away from. From a shaping and work-ethic standpoint, the late Terry Martin is a huge inspiration. We’re inspired by lots of our friends who are doing great things in various fields. It’s fun to root on other brands, even if they’re in the same industry as us. It only helps our cause when everyone does better. I’m always rooting for guys like Thalia St., Aloha Sunday, Yokishop, Plate Lunch, Arctic Surf, TCSS, Canvas, TW to be successful.. it makes it better for all of us.
What is most satisfying about your work? On a personal level, I get stoked when people are excited about what we’re doing and the surfboards we’re making. What’s better than having people excited about the work that you’re doing? The satisfying bi-product of a retail store is that we get to meet all sorts of great people. You’re kind of a sitting duck in a retail store, so you inevitably meet all sorts of interesting people. You get both extremes of the word “interesting” for sure… but many of them become friends and many of them are people we look up to and admire.
Tell us about your process: We’re pretty team-oreinted. Albeit a small team. There are 4 of us at the shop/office and a shaper in Santa Ana. Usually Cameron Oden and I are the ones designing surfboards, with lots of feedback from friends and our team. We mock up colors and layers and artwork. Griffin hand-shapes boards 6 days a week. My cousin, Gully, makes the wood fins that go on many of the boards. Then we trust the guys at the Waterman’s Guild to bring the boards to life once they’re shaped.
What is your reason for making goods in the USA? It’s accessable, and we can drive 40 minutes to LA and check in. We like that we can actually develop a relationship and rapport with everyone from the cutter to the sewers to the dye-house. We are at the glass shop like 3 days a week, checking in with those guys, and being involved as much as necessary in the surfboard production process. Some of the things that we’ve asked Waterman’s to do are new or different, so we work together to find the line between surfboards-imagined and realistic surfboard building techniques. We’ve learned a ton by being there… and we’ve stretched them outside their comfort zones on more than a few occasions. It makes all of us better at what we do to have that working relationship. And at the end of the day, business is about people. We want face-to-face interaction, we want conversation, even idle chatter… all of it contributes.