Southern California Surfboard Shaper Jose Barahona of Barahona Surfboards

Posted on: November 21st, 2017 by admin No Comments

The South Bay has produced more legendary shapers than any other region. Rick Stoner, Dewey Weber, Greg Noll, Hap Jacob, Bing Copeland, Dale Velzy, and Phil Becker are just a few that come to mind. Like most skilled artists, many of these legends have passed their craft along to today’s most talented shapers and soon-to-be legends. We have already covered some of these guys in our SM shaper profile pages. What all of these guys have in common is the ability to build their clients a totally customized surfboard that will out perform and out last expensive overseas epoxy boards. Jose Barahona is a rather unique shaper as he also does far more than just mow foam. He does everything from A-Z, including professional ding repair, digitizing my company logo on to rice paper, and full blown restoration work on vintage boards. This guy may be the best kept secret in the SouthBay. I often stop by the factory on the way home from El Porto and never know who I’m going to run into in Jose’s shaping bay. If you’ve ever bought a Becker surfboard in the last 15 years, you may already own a Jose Barahona shaped board and not even realize it. I sat down with Jose and team rider Morgan Sliff over a couple of beers…


Jose, hard at work crafting another custom board – shot courtesy of Brendan Simmons

Joel:
How did you first get into the surfboard industry?

Jose:
I started working at the Becker factory part time in the early 80s. Back then, I was initially there helping my brother who was a sander. I went from cleaning the floors, to helping my brother sand, to doing hot coats, and anything else needed. Shortly after, I began helping Dave Hollander, one of the Becker founders, with air brushing. I ended up taking over the air brushing operations from Dave, and later opened a ding repair shop across the street.

Morgan:
Jose told me this cool story which I thought was amazing. His shaping career officially started at that ding repair shop when a customer gave him a board that he had broken in two. Jose stripped down the glass off the bigger piece and hand shaped his first board from it which he still has. He then bought a blank from Becker and shaped it himself.

Jose:
Jeff Stoner, son of Rick Stoner (founder of Rick Surfboards) looked at that first finished shaped blank and asked me if I had showed it to Becker yet. When I told him no, he grabbed the board before I could say anything and took it over to Becker’s room. Phil looked it over and then told me to meet him in his shaping bay the following morning at 9 am to shape one together.

I got there early the next day. I was excited, I didn’t sleep the night before. He gave me a few tips, handed me his planer, and said “go ahead”. After I was done, he put a Becker logo on it and had it prepared to send to the shop to be sold.


Attention to details makes him one of the best – shot courtesy of BumpSetSurf

Joel:
Wow Jose, that is pretty impressive. Your first board gets the Phil Becker seal of approval. How did you get from then to where you are today?

Jose:
Phil Becker shaped 11 boards a day for four days of the week and was credited with hand shaping more boards than anyone. After that first Becker board, he had me shaping five a week, and the it took off from there. After he retired, I moved into his room and I am there every day shaping and doing ding repair.

Joel:
Aside from Becker did any other local shapers influence you?

Jose:
Hap Jacobs was a mentor for me from the very beginning. Jeff Stoner, Matt Calvani, and Don Kadowaki also come to mind.

Joel:
Between shaping for Phil Becker for all those years and others that prefer you to be anonymous, as well as your own Barahona Hand shapes, how many boards do you think you have shaped?

Jose:
I lost count somewhere around 20,000+ and stopped counting, and that was a very long time ago.

Joel:
Do you have a preference as far as making retro or modern high performance boards?

Team Rider Christian Stutzmen – shot courtesy of Morgan Sliff

Jose:
To me it makes no difference. My goal is to make the best riding boards possible for my client’s style of surfing. I shape solely based on what my clients want and need and listen as best I can. How many days a week do they surf, where do they surf, their surfing ability, front foot or back foot weighting, high performance or old school – these are all important factors. It’s extremely helpful when a client brings in their current “Magic” board to our shaping appointment.

Joel:
What is your home break and favorite model board to ride there?

Jose:
Generally, I like to surf the Hermosa Beach Pier, Topaz, or the Redondo Avenues. As far as boards, I personally prefer riding high performance longboards with 2 + 1 fin set up.

Joel:
If you could hop on a plane for a surf trip tomorrow, where are we going?

Jose:
Playa Cardon in Mexico, and El Salvador.

Joel:
Hmmm! I’m sure Jeff Phillips will be very happy to hear that. I know he has a couple of Jose big wave board shapes he loves and has let me try. Who are some of your team riders and what models do they prefer?

Jose:
Morgan Sliff- The ”M” model. A customized single fin old school noserider that performs well in all types of surf.

Christian Stutzman- He’s riding a funky traditional custom retro noserider with added kick in the nose.

Dave Schaefer- Dave rides everything well. As far as longboards, he prefers high performance models that he can tail ride, nose ride, and spin.

Team Rider Morgan Sliff – shot courtesy of BumpSetSurf

Joel:
Epoxy or Poly? If you were making a board for yourself, which do you prefer?

Jose:
Poly. Better consistency, strength and performance than epoxy. Many people think epoxy boards are stronger. I think it’s the opposite and poly is more durable in most cases and certainly a better value. However, some people like how light epoxy board can be.

Joel:
Any special add-ons, tweaks, or upgrades you recommend. Do I want to add carbon fiber, S-Glass, a paint job, or any of the other up-sells?

Jose:
S-glass is a great way to strengthen high performance long boards or short boards. It’s stronger and lighter. Carbon fiber works great for tail support. I think you are much better off spending the money to get better fins and replacing the cheap stock fins. Most people keep a good fin setup for longer than their board and end up using them on multiple boards so it’s worth it.

Joel:
That leads perfectly into my next question, fins. What fin system do you prefer and why? I’ve been using Futures as they only have one screw and seem to not need tightening as much as my FCS boards. I don’t lose as many fins, which would happen if I didn’t constantly tighten the screws on the FCS after every other surf.

Jose:
Futures are my personal preference. I love the look and aesthetic of glassed-on fins, but Future and FCS can give you the ability to ride what feels like a completely different board. It’s nice to be able to change the characteristics of a board by using different fin setups.

Joel:
It seems that many people are not aware that you are also a master at copying boards of any type, quick ding repairs, and classic surfboard restoration. You regularly do all three for me. What is the most expensive board you have ever shaped or collaborated on?

Morgan:
I think I can answer that one. Jose shaped a beautiful 3 stringer classic board with a gorgeous wooden fin for the 2016 Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational benefiting the Moores Cancer Foundation at UCSD Health. The purchase price was about $10k but the woman who bought it volunteered to donate an extra $500 for each professional surfer who signed it. After 26 signatures the total donation for that board was about $23k.

Jose:
Aside from that one, my Balsa boards start at $4,500. We also just did another board for this year’s 2017 Luau which sold for $5,000.

Joel:
With boards coming from China, Thailand and who knows where for a fraction of the cost, why is it a better idea to get a hand shaped in the USA model?

Jose:
Quality. You get what you pay for.

Joel:

Has the Costco/Wavestorm craze hurt or helped surfing in general? As a surfer, I have my own opinion. As a shaper, what are your thoughts?

Jose:

It takes away the entry level surfers from the local shops and shapers, as well as the tradition of first buying a good used board to learn on and then rapidly progressing. These boards you are talking about are cheaper, but the problem is they do not perform well beyond flotation and can slow progression. You get a quality product when buying a real US made board and 100% better materials. Having the Mangiagli glass shop in house is one of the biggest differentiators I have versus the competition, poly, epoxy, or foamy. I’m able to supervise the entire manufacturing process from start to finish.

It’s really like anything else. Quality costs a little more. If you can feel the difference and improve your skills quicker, and most importantly, have more fun, it’s makes it all worth it. Also, people realize that their resale value on a custom factory hand shape is much higher, making it easy to trade-in, when the time comes.

Joel:
I’ve been living here since 1980. For the first couple of years, I used to buy name brand boards off the rack in the local shops like I had in Florida. Then, I stumbled on the Becker Factory. I discovered it was possible to get exactly what I wanted hand shaped to my personal specification. I also noticed that my factory boards last longer because of better quality glass jobs.

If someone wants to schedule an appointment to have you hand shape a board, or fix a ding, or anything else, how do they get a hold of you?

Jose:
They can call me on my direct line, 310-880-9782 and make an appointment to meet me at the factory. They can also send me an e-mail at [email protected] My website has most of our popular models featured, www.barahonasurf.com

By Joel Saltzman and Morgan Sliff


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