Cole Simler has been shaping surfboards for longer than most of us have been alive. His shaped boards for the likes of Nathan Fletcher, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons and Matt Archbold to name just a few. We caught up with Cole and asked him a mixed bag of questions about shaping, music and preempting collaborations.
Photos: Shawn Hanna
When and how did you get into shaping? What are the best and worst things about the business?
As a kid I was always interested in surfboards and surfboard design, so I sort of gravitated towards the different factories and shaping rooms, so I was always hanging out bugging the guys and asking all kinds of questions and watching them build the boards.
Back in the 80s I was working at the Hobie stores as a hard goods buyer and I would work down at the surfboard factory fixing dings, and polishing boards. That’s where I really got into shaping. There were always a bunch of really good Shapers floating in and out of that factory, Terry Martin, Timmy Patterson, Phil Edwards Midget Smith, Bill Stewart, Velzy and a bunch of other legends would hang out there, so it was a great place to learn about different boards and theories on shaping and design. I would also surf alot with Midget Smith and Chris McElroy. We were friends back in the day so they showed me a lot. Midget Smith helped me out a lot, and I actually shaped my first board in his garage.
To the best things about making boards is seeing people get stoked and seeing the smile on little kids face when you hand them a fresh board. Just making something that people have a good time on, and play on in the ocean. It’s great to see someone get barreled or punt a big air on a board you made, that’s pretty rewarding.
As for the worst things about the business? I try not to focus on that. I just try to focus on the better things about it. I definitely don’t do it for the money. I do it for the love of making surfboards. I feel blessed I get to do that everyday.
How did the quad models come about? What were your first impressions when you and Nathan Fletcher started working on them?
Well Nathan and I have been close friends for a long time now. Back then he was riding all my boards so we worked on a lot of different ideas for boards. In retrospect it was really a kind of stagnant time for board design. People were just so stuck on the 60 x 181/4x 2 1/4 tri fins. I started working with Nathan on some wider more disky boards and we were looking for a board that was little bit quicker off the starting line and that accelerated really fast. So we tried a few twin fins, but ran into the same problems that are inherent to the design, it’s really quick but it’s a little bit slippery and a little slidey. I remembered having some great quads back in the early 80s. So we threw some glass on quads on a couple of his little disky boards, along with some rail channels to keep them from breaking and a bat tail to keep the tails wide and still have the bite. We had some really good results and one thing led to another. Pretty soon we were running quads in everything, even his bigger pipe and Tahiti boards and he hasn’t looked back since.
How do you think shaping/glassing boards will change in the next decade?
As far as shaping and glassing in the next decade. I’m really interested in different flex patterns on different parts of the board, different fin placement, different fin flex, I’ve also been working on some asymmetrical stuff and varying the fin set ups on each side of the board.
Does shaping affect surfing more than surfing affects shaping? In what ways?
I know that the shaping and surfing feed off one another for sure. I think it’s essential that you get in the water and surf and try different designs or different fins. I have two young boys so they always get me amped to paddle out. Even if it’s shitty we always have fun. I think you can always learn some thing even if you are just cruising, or even riding a log. I think its super important to try different boards and various fin setups in different waves, you can always learn something new by going for a surf.
What’s the nuttiest board you’ve ever had to make?
Shit, I don’t know, I’ve made some pretty trippy things for people, you know various combinations of channels and wings, weird tails, concave decks. I’ve made a couple crazy ones for Japan because they like experimenting a bit so I am fortunate to get to make some prototype models and some concept boards, They are always looking for something new and different.
What kind of music do you have blaring in the shop when you’re working?
I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, I like a lot of different stuff, and it depends on the mood I’m in. Maybe some Motorhead, Danzig or some Devo, maybe some old-school Hoodoo Gurus, or something funky, old punk.
I like girl singers a lot too, so I might listen to some of that as well.
It’s pretty nice to be able to listen to something different all day while you work, I love it.
If Armageddon was scheduled to come tomorrow. Where would you go surfing and with whom?
If Armageddon was scheduled to come tomorrow, I would go surfing with my two boys, my wife and I hope my dad would come to the beach. Just hang with my family. I might just go do that anyways tomorrow just in case.
When Jonathan Paskowitz of Lightning Bolt approached you about a collaboration, did you think you were in trouble? What for?
The logo, that’s a funny story, It must’ve been some sort of destiny thing or something. I had printed some shirts for fun; I was just going to hand out for promo stuff. I took the old bolt logo and put Cole instead and put the bolt through it. It couldn’t have been more than a week later that I was talking with Jonathan he’s an old friend of mine and I love that whole family and we were talking about boards and he said he wanted to do a collaboration with the Lightning Bolt boards. I teased him and showed him that logo. Then I said, “Yeah I already got my logo ready”. I guess It was a weird twist of fate. When I was a kid in the 70’s Lightning Bolt was the shit! When I was growing up we would draw Lightning Bolts all day long in school. Everybody was enamored with Pipeline and Gerry Lopez…You cant get a much cooler logo than a Lightning Bolt.
Check out the range of Lightning Bolt x Cole boards here