JS Industries is a board shaper that requires no introduction. Jason Stevenson has been pumping out blades for world champions and some of the biggest names in surfing for a long time.
We caught up with Jason to discuss shaping boards for Andy Irons, tips on buying new boards, STAB’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test, and current surfboard trends.
How did you get into shaping?
After growing up on North Stradbroke Island, I moved to Coolangatta when I was 23. I, somehow, talked my way into a job at the Pipedreams factory and began an apprenticeship with Murray Bourton. There were plenty of amazing craftsmen around so I watched and started to learn the basics of the trade—how to use a planer, how to turn a rail, how to cut an outline.
After about a year of working on everything to do with board building, I was tired of watching and wanted to try shaping for myself. So one day I grabbed a blank, snuck into one of Murray’s shaping bays and started experimenting. After that Muz let me use seconds blanks at $20 a pop. Bargain!
Are there any trends in what people are riding at the moment? What’s popular and what’s not?
Everything that’s user-friendly is in, even in the more performance oriented boards. We’ve started building a lot of our most popular models in what we call ‘Easy Rider’ dimensions for heavier surfers or anyone who just needs more volume. They paddle easier and have foam hidden in all the right places, but they’re still nice, foiled out surfboards with lower rails – they turn. They include all the benefits of extra foam without it looking like you’re riding an 8-foot mal.
How can a good surfboard help a surfer?
I can see right away when someone has the right board under their feet. I watch some guys that might only be average surfers, but they’ve chosen the right volume board, and so they’re going fast and doing good turns for their ability.
Someone who might be struggling on a high performance shortboard might go to a flatter rocker board that’ll hold heaps of speed, say our Black Baron twin, and they’ll be flying around surfing to the best of their ability, and more importantly, having the most fun possible. That’s what I love to see. Then some days I’ll be watching 200 guys surf D-Bah and only 10% of them will be riding the right equipment.
What are some tips you can give people looking to order a custom board, or buy one off the rack?
There’s a whole combination of things that go into finding the right board, but you’ve got to be honest about your ability. If you’re going to spend the money, be as honest as you can because you’re going to get the right board. We have a volume calculator on our website that factors in your ability, height, weight, age, etc. We played around with the formula for a couple of years getting the math right, and I reckon it’s spot on. I’ve had a lot of guys ask me what volume their boards should be and I get them to use the volume calculator before they choose their board. They come back and tell me, “This is the best board I’ve ever had.”
What are some common errors people make when buying boards?
A lot of bigger humans don’t want to admit that they’re bigger humans. I had a knee injury and was out for maybe three months. During that time I went from 83kgs to 88kgs. Before the injury, I was riding 28-litre boards, and when I came back I rode the same. I was thinking, “This board sucks!”. I then made another board and went up to 30 litres but I was still having a horrible time. I moved up to 33 litres and then I was instantly like, “I’m back!”. I’m the shaper and even I got it wrong.
You participated in the most recent STAB Electric Acid Surfboard Test. Can you tell us about that experience?
It was perfect timing really, as we were just finishing off R&D for our new twin fin, the Big Baron. Harrison Roach had mostly been riding 6’4” to 7’6”, so we scaled them down to 5’10” and 6’0” for Coco and Mason. Thankfully both of them loved it too, so we added those dimensions just in time for the Big Baron release. That was a great outcome for our first mid length!
Can you share what it was like to work with Andy Irons?
Andy was amazing in every way, but a nightmare to shape for! Hah. He was so vague, and always thought Joel’s boards, or mine, were way better. But it was the three of us trading boards back-and-forth that helped create a lot of magic.
What does the future hold for JS?
There are always little tweaks going on, but it’ll be the exoskeleton of the surfboards where the biggest movement will be. With our models made in HYFI construction, we’ve gone from surfboards with stringers to removing that stringer and finding new ways to build strength and flex into that outer shell. The other main room for improvement is with materials that are genuinely renewable, recyclable, and environmentally friendly, yet able to perform at the highest level. That’s when the best surfers in the world will want to ride them, and eventually everyone else, so we’re hard at work on that too.
All photos by JS Industries.