Southern California Surfboard Shaper Dan Cobley of Danc Designs
How did you get into shaping?
I met a guy named Dave Daum who made me a board that worked so well I just had to learn how to do it. I’m a hands on kinda guy, always taking things apart to see how they work, constantly learning and trying to improve on everything I touch. Usually I just break things but now and then I get lucky and make magic. (haha)
Were the first boards you made surf-able?
Only because Dave Daum or Matt Calvani fixed them for me – they were pretty gross! It takes so long to figure out how to use a planer.
Who are your shaping mentors?
Dave Daum mainly… Matt Calvani taught me more then he will ever know. Phil Becker, Hap Jacobs, Mike Gieb, Andy Johnson, the list goes on. I’ve had so many influences on me from just discussions of design and actual hands on work. The sad part is that the only way to truly learn to shape is to get in there and screw up – learn by failure.
I hear you’re shaping for Becker now – congratulations! How is that going?
It’s definitely an experience. It’s not as hard for me as it would be for most since I was taught by production shapers from day one but it’s still a lot of work. I just hope I can make a dent, improve on the line, or at least influence Becker Surfboards in a positive manner.
What boards are you personally riding now?
I ride everything from a crazy egg shaped 4’11" to 11-foot monsters. I usually ride a 9 footer though, my old comp model – what I used to ride when I was trying to be a cool competition surfer.
What type of board is your favorite to make?
High performance anything. The more production I do the more I tend to dig shortboards because they’re easy, but nothing beats a beautiful tint job on a board that’s too big to carry. Oh, hell I just like making surfboards!! When you finish a board, step back, and just know someone is going to have the time of his life on something I created… That’s what it’s all about.
What seems to be a popular shape for south bay surf?
This place is so varied I couldn’t even say. We get every walk of life through the south bay from full beginner week-end hackers, novices, groms, full riper pros, underground guys that blow up, and the rare guy who has surfed all his life and seems to never get better. (You know who you are – it’s cool though). I think I sell more short boards then anything but that’s my market.
Do you see Becker joining the bandwagon of using computers to make boards?
Becker is an old school shaper/surfer. He believes like I do that every board, and I mean EVERY board, should be different. Every person is different in sooo many ways from physical stature to stance (the list goes on). As a shaper I’ve copied so many boards with mixed results – trying to duplicate magic is next to impossible even with a machine so I’ve spent my time trying to learn how to improve on magic (that poor toaster oven can bare witness) – I can copy pretty close but would rather try and improve. So, the discussion still goes around the factory now and then but I don’t see a computer coming in the picture anytime soon. Computers are boring!!
How many boards do you normally shape a week?
Before working for Becker I was at about ten a week, sometimes more sometimes less. Now I do 22 a week for Becker and still have orders from my loyal customers coming in. You do the math.. it gets hectic especially if your are like me… LAZY!!
Who’s riding your boards?
Most of team Becker has got boards from me all ready. Local talent that I’m especially proud of include, Matt Chernega, Spencer Parker, Blake Spinak, Adam Jones, Tommy G, Jared Lang, yada, yada, yada… The list goes on and on.
What are your thoughts on the up-and-coming south bay grom talent?
Some of the kids at EP are really blowing up. Matty Mohagen and Eddie Lester are really killing it these days but I don’t see them going pro or anything like that. Matty could maybe become a photo slut like Jared [Lang]. Alex Gray could go far… There are a lot of really good groms on the local scene but south bay doesn’t seem to breed contest surfers.
What seem to be the biggest mistakes people make when ordering boards?
I try and walk people through what they order and talk most people into more volume but the biggest mistake people make is in expectations of just when the board will be ready. I shape boards pretty fast and don’t usually let my orders get more then a week old but then they go to the glass shop where they can sit for weeks with out being touched… Blank availability, fins… Urgh!! So much can go wrong. Sometimes I will get an order and have it finished and ready to pick up in a matter of days, other times it can take a month.
What else do you like to do besides shape?
Eat!! (haha) Surf, paddle, cook, ride my bike, work out, read, sleep. I really love running but never could run on the street (the pounding of my foot steps bug me) and running on the sand has proved too stressful on my muscles so I ride my bike more now.
Now all these corn cobs I see on boards – what do they stand for?
It’s how my name is pronounced. Cobley – like corn on the cob. Growing up all the kids called me corn on the Cobley and it stuck. Marketing genius perhaps?
Any shout-outs or thank-you’s?
Dave Daum for being so patient with me, Mom and dad for suporting me in everything I do, brother and sis for constant love, my friends that want nothing more than a deal from me, all the nay Sayers that make me try harder. Thanks to every one who ever got a board from me that wasn’t afraid to tell me what they really thought. Oh, thank you too.
Any last words of wisdom?
I just want every body out there that still owes me money to know I will find you and kick your ass (you know who you are). Better watch your back! click here to contact Dan
Interview by Katherine Kaplan