From groms, old-timers, beginners, and pros, on every lake, river, and coast our country has to offer; Surfer’s Voice is an interview series where we get a pulse on the world of Canadian surfing by hearing directly from real surfers.
For our third installment we caught up with Vancouver surfer and shaper Alex Rosin, to get some more insight on his craft.
Where are you from? Where do you live?
I'm from Toronto raised in the Annex, now living in Vancouver.
Did you ever surf while living in Toronto?
I haven't surfed Toronto yet but I really want to. Some of the pictures I've seen are mind blowing, plus I've always wanted to surf in my hometown ever since I became aware of lake surfing.
Do you have a favourite local break?
It changes seasonally but this winter I really scored south Vancouver Island. When those breaks work it's the freaking best.
How did you first get into surfing?
I was always drawn to surf culture and the style. Even before I ever surfed I tried to replicate surfing on my skateboard and snowboard as a kid. But really it was the first time I really connected with a two foot ankle biter on a beat up 9' soft top in Oregon.
Can you tell us a little bit about the surf scene in Vancouver? Is there a strong local scene surfing the strait/inlet or do most of the surfers just end up on the island?
There is a fantastic surf community in Vancouver but we're a nomadic crew. There are a few who chase the wind swell out here but most of us chase the coastal swell. Though we're landlocked we have a variety of breaks to go to. It just shows the tenacity and strength of the community because to get there it's generally a 5 hour drive and involves some sort of ferry or border line up. But anytime you're out on a ferry or state highway, you'll always see some B.C plates and a few boards on the roof and you know there's always someone trekking on with you.
Can you tell us about your journey as a shaper?
For me it all started when I couldn't find a mid length board in the city. It was 2013 and I just got back from a year's travel in Australia and during my last leg of my trip, I was surfing a 7'10 that I connected with. I really wanted that feeling again. The closest replica I could find was in Oregon but just hours away in Washington was Fiberglass Supply, which sold all the materials I needed to make my own. This sparked my interest immediately. While I was traveling I popped into any shaping bay and glassing factory I could. I was obsessed with the process but of course no one would take on an inexperienced Canadian grom. This was also the height of youtube and tutorial videos, young guys from California were picking up the tools and making crazy radical wave machines. The information was out there and I took in everything, and after a few encouragement beers I had emerged out of the fires filled with pride covered in embers of foam wielding my first foraged blade.
It was pure garbage but it was a start.
After years in the garage I found an amazing collective by the name of Shaper Studios. This was a place where they taught people how to shape boards and brought together a wide variety of skilled surfers and craftsmen. In 2015 I had become repatable enough to teach there and eventually became a part owner. Now 500+ boards later I have my own brand and continue shaping lessons for anyone who wishes to learn.
Do you think your shaping affects your surfing? Vice-versa?
A hundred times yes! To be honest, when I started shaping in 2013 I wasn't any good. I could catch waves but my hacks and sprays were more like cat splashes (and yeah, any homie of mine will jest that they still are).
Over the years in the bay and on the waves I adjusted my surfing and my shapes as I progressed. It was easier to see where I could get more out of my turns and release points or the amount of hold I needed from a rail to successfully cross step after each session on my new boards. I was also lucky to have my core group of friends and community giving me feedback which gave confidence in and out of the water.
Do you have any surfing or shaping mentors and heroes?
I was kinda brought up by the internet. Platforms like instagram gave me inspiration and a connection to reach out to shapers all over the world. I've never had any formal training but shapers like Scott Rowley of north west surfboards have been nothing but encouraging and any of his boards from Tofino to south Oregon have been thoroughly fondled by me.
I have an infinite list of board builders from across the globe that I admire and I hope that throughout my career I can meet them and thank them for their inspiration.
How do you feel about the current state of surfboard design? Are there some trends that you love? Things that you could do without?
I think everything works and I encourage more people to step out of the norm from their normal quiver. The more you surf the more new possibilities excite you. It could be an 11' glider on a 1' wave that lasts forever or a backhand turn off an asym board that snaps better than anything else you've ever attempted before.
How do you feel about the soft top revolution?
I think it's a great thing. Boards that last longer are key and if you live near a beach break that dumps on the shore, might as well have one so you're not breaking your favourite board all the time. Also companies like album surf and almond designing more performance concepts are a stellar idea. That being said, nothing is better than a hand shaped board.
What is your current quiver like?
I've been testing all sorts of boards these past years but my staples are
- 8' v- bowls replica I shaped in 2016 that works amazing in overhead south island reef breaks.
- 5'4 glass on keel fish I made with my homie Andy Jones (@discojones) last year. That's my go to on any tofino day from 4' to head and a half high.
- 6'6 eps performance single fin for glassy sunset sessions when I just want to trim and take high lines on the waves
- My newest longboard moddle a 9'3 nose rider with a sassy leopard inlay my partner and I made together.
FCS? Futures? Glass On? Do you have a preference?
I'm all about the glass ons but it's all good to me. Pick your poison is what I always tell my customers.
Have you ever ridden a magic board?
Too many hahahaha.
I fall in love with all kinds but there are some that click under my feet more than others. My current quiver and a few I've lost along the way are definitely magic to me.
Does your life as a surfer have any impact on your life out of the water?
Yes, it's giving me this wonderful opportunity to engage with a community all across the world. It helped me build a brand and taught me to be flexible and creative with my work and identity.
When you are not surfing or shaping what else do you like to do with your time?
I geek out on kung fu, d&d and a good book.
I love to write and watch countless hours of anime, hike, adventure and explore. Share a good meal and some drinks with excellent company and listen to a wide variety of music.
What do you think makes Canadian surfing unique?
For me its two things... well three if you count the amount of neoprene we wear in the water. The 1st is the fact that we are now entering the age of the second generation of surfers. We are finally breeding the little tikes, and families are passing on their joy of this amazing sport and culture. I obviously know there are many already but it's growing more and more. 2nd is the amount of females we have in the water. There are bad ass queens surfing all over the world but here with such a young surf scene females don't have an "old boys club" looming around like other countries. Charging cold waters and giving a chance to create their own identity rather than what's stereotypical, I see a huge surge of female talent and professionals in the years to come!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to shape their own board but doesn’t know where to begin?
Start with an easy profile, something you've surfed before! Have the whole board shaped out in your mind, plan your steps and throw away expectations. Whether it sucks or it rips, it's your baby and you're gonna love it.
Or come take a lesson with me (shameless plug).
Do you have any additional words you’d like to share with the wider surf community?
I just hope to meet as many of you as possible and that we can one day nerd out over these crazy hydroplaning machines together.
Whether you surf lakes, rivers, or oceans thanks for your support and efforts in keeping this community rad! Xoxoxo to all.
You can check out some of Alex’s work on Hidden Village Surf Craft's website or reach out to him on Instagram.
Interview by Elie Landesberg. Photographs by Ben Cox.
We're all roomies on this ball of water and dirt.. Find him on Instagram.