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Craftsman Talks Creativity, Surfboard Design

Steve Pendarvis, shaper of San Diego's Pendoflex, talks about his unique approach to the art of custom surfboards.

Anyone who surfs the reefs and beaches of central San Diego has come across the original shapes of Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex line of surfboards.

The irreverent and innovative Sunset Cliffs surfer is part of a long line of unique San Diego shapers and designers that includes Skip Frye and especially Steve Lis.

Steve has worked with Canyon Surfboards, Classic Glass, Superior Glass, and Diamond Glassing. Some of the surfers who have ridden Steve's boards include Buttons, Dave Rastovish, Dan Malloy and Gavin Beschen.

Serge Dedina: When did you first start shaping surfboards?

Steve Pendarvis: In the 1960s when I was in my early teens, I started shaping and building surfboards. I was always tinkering with projects: boards, model airplanes, boats, bikes, all finely tuned.

Dedina: How did your interest in shaping begin? Did you wake up one day and say, "I want to be a shaper."

Pendarvis: Having projects naturally led to building surfboards. Not to mention 2 dollars for resin, 40 cents per yard for cloth, skateboard marine plywood for fins, blanks from Ridout plastics or G&S for about 8 bucks. Yeah baby! $20 dollars or less to make a new toy, now we're talk'n!

Dedina: With all the pop-out surfboards made in China and computer-shaped boards, is the role of the underground shaper still even relevant?

Pendarvis: Yeah, I still have my planers and sanding blocks humming, hands on is key for me. A lot of the innovation comes from underground shapers. If a design becomes trendy, it is often picked up by corporations and mass-produced and may eventually be popped-out overseas.

Dedina: Given the market forces that are forcing the consolidation of the surfboard industry into a more corporate structure, why are you still handcrafting surfboards?

Pendarvis: To each their own. I prefer the work ethic of making a carefully hand-crafted surfboard.

Dedina: What is the value of a handcrafted surfboard?

Pendarvis: Absolutely custom for the client is what it's all about!! Hand-crafted surfboards are built for the customer, thus the word custom!!

Dedina: Your shaping and surfboards have been associated with central San Diego and especially the Sunset Cliffs. Why have the Cliffs been such a hotbed of surfboard innovation and design?

Pendarvis: Can't really say, except for beaches and reefs a plenty!

Dedina: Many of your Pendoxflex designs have used alternative surfboard technology and building techniques. Can you describe some of the alternative ways you are designing and building boards and what materials you are using?

Pendarvis: The Pendoflex has a high torque, high speed tail design built into the tails; it's a stand-up derivative of a Greenough shell, which I then back-fill with foam to bring the deck flush with the rest of the board. A Pendoflex taps more of the available energy, sort of like a Fiberflex skateboard, weighting and unweighting, building speed on speed. It’s really cool. Subtle flex characteristics fuel powerful rail turns, while the board conforms to the wave face.

Generally my boards have a foam core, for instance US Blanks (PU), and WNC or Marko foam (EPS), and here and there, balsa, agave, cork and veneers.

Dedina: Who are the surfers and shapers who are inspiring you to think differently and continue to progress in your shaping?

Pendarvis: Some are Skipper (Skip Frye), Stevie (Steve Lis), Greenough, Paul Gross, Dan Hess, the Campbells, the Thompsons, Brian Conley, legless.tv and others. And everyone and thing that comes across your senses helps define your relativity.

Dedina: You and your wife Cher are known as super positive and a stoked couple who continually look on the bright side of life. Since the members of Sunset Cliffs surfing crew have not always been known for their laughter and good cheer (at least with outsiders), why do you think it is important for surfers to be positive and create connections outside their local surf spots?

Pendarvis: As you know every dog's gotta leave his mark on the fire hydrant. Hey, that's my hydrant! And you can use it too mate! I dunno, share and share alike. I still get my poker face going from time to time when the bait ball shows up, loading up the zone, Yikes!

We look for the positives, and appreciate friendship and kindness among people.

*****

You can find more information on Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex surfboards here.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

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