The significance of females in surfing history is something that is often lost in today’s male-dominated scene.
While we have progressed toward greater recognition of females within the sport in recent years, there are still aspects that remain largely run by the boys. Shaping the very things under our feet is one of them. Try and list five female shapers right now and you’ll probably be hard-pressed to finish the list which begs us to question just how much progress we have made when it comes to equality within surfing. Statistically though, out of all of the male surfboard shapers, surely some of them have kids, and some of those kids want to be like dad, and some of kids are girls. Saioa Lorentz is one. You might recognise her last name as the daughter of Axel Lorentz of Pukas surfboards. While it’s hard to knock her dad’s influence and shaping genes in getting her started, Saioa is a shaper in her own right, knocking out boards in the Basque Country, France while juggling design school and surfing. We got in touch with Saioa who impressively sent us all her responses back in English despite French being her first language (some edits have been made to reflect this).
Hey Saioa, give us an introduction to who you are to anyone who might not be familiar with you.
Hi, I’m Saioa. I’m a 26-year-old surfer and shaper from Basque Country, France.
Your dad is Axel Lorentz so I can see where the board shaping genes may have come into play, and how that probably influenced you to get into shaping in the first place, when did you realise you were interested in making surfboards?
My father took me to work when I was a kiddo, and also when he got his shaping room at home. I have always been around him while he was working on boards so I can say his influence has been part of my growing years.
But I only realised that I could also shape myself while I was travelling in Australia and staying at Chris Garrett’s place. I was back into surfing and spending a lot of time in his shaping room. One day he just put it to me “Why don’t you have a go, you spend most of your time with me anyway?” I called my father, he was surprised but also super happy and that was it. At the time I was looking for something to do with design and art, and shaping was a good in-between.
What boards are you currently working on?
I work on all kinds of boards. I’ve been working at the shaper house for almost two years, so it’s mostly working on what a customer is looking for. I prefer to shape the chiller-style boards like mid-lengths and longboards. I’m still very messy because takes time to understand all the details and parameters to make a good board.
Other than shaping boards or surfing, what else do you do with your time?
Just getting creative. I started a graphic design degree a few months ago too. I love learning new things and skills. I spend a lot of time outside and with friends, family, and animals. It really depends on the day and my mood, but I need to do different things, otherwise, I get bored quickly. I need stimulation constantly.
You went and studied at a prestigious art school, what did you study? Do you think that helps with your shaping?
I’ve been studying fine arts in Biarritz called Les Beaux-arts. So I learn a bit about a lot of different mediums. My favourite course was on volumes and sculptures. Those courses helped give me a different eye on surfboards, the products I use, the colours and the handcrafted part.
Why do you think there aren’t as many girls shaping as boys these days given how far women’s surfing has come in recent years?
Not just for females but for both genders, it’s pretty hard to find someone who has the time and is willing to invest in teaching you. Most of the good shapers are very busy doing their craft. I’m really lucky to have my father backing me and all the shapers that I’ve met that were super nice to me, like Thierry from Terry Surfboards, Adrien alias Delmar From Delmar Surfboards and Renaud Pons from Panther Surfboards. It’s a hard job because there are a lot of chemical products that come into contact with your skin and lungs. There is a lot of knowledge needed and not much money so you need to really enjoy it. There are more and more girls shaping though like Catherine Girard, Cher Pendarvis, Ashley Lloyd, and Surfsista.
I feel like whenever women break into a male-dominated industry there’s this whole other level of having to prove themselves, what’s your take on this and how do you handle it?
I don’t really manage it, haha, I think people put much more focus on the gender than the product itself. It is annoying for females to be categorised more on the fact that they are women in a “men’s world” instead of the quality of their work. Being my father’s daughter adds extra pressure too.
What’s the feedback been like for your boards?
I receive good feedback now but I’ve made a lot of sausages before hahaha!
Do you shape boards differently for women than men?
It’s more about weight, size and surf level than gender, but clearly, the difference in morphology means there are some adjustments needed. Things like adding a narrower tail with a bit more kick in it to help in turning with may less power and a bit more volume to help with paddling.
What is the future looking like for Saioa? Your own surfboard company? Working with dad?
I don’t really know about owning my company, but I would love to work with my dad and do some collabs. I’m progressing every day there’s always something new to learn. Just getting better on every process of making good surfboards from start to finish. For now, I’m enjoying my time as a glasser but would love to start thinking more about specific models for the future. We will see!
One last thing, I’m about to go to France, any tips on where to go surfing?
We are surrounded by so many good spots in Basque Country, but during summer you should go to Les Landes. Come say hey too! Merci.