June 26, 2017 / Luxury Lifestyle

Bespoke Surfboards for Endless Summers

Surfboard shaper Guy Okazaki caught a wave when he began making shortboards—he tells Luxury Defined why a custom board can personalize the ride


Sometimes it really is a case of right time, right place. Those times began for surfboard-maker-turned-shaper Guy Okazaki in the 1950s, in Waikiki, Hawaii. He became the area’s best surfer but turned to shortboard-making when a friend was too busy to build him one. Today, Okazaki and his team make custom longboards and shortboards from their studio in Venice, Los Angeles.

Guy Okazaki grew up on the ocean, learning from the best surfers from an early age. Banner image: Okazaki’s studio in California. Photographs: Brian Ferry“My whole family surfed, and we were always at the beach. But I wasn’t a good swimmer and ended up on a surfboard more for survival than choice."

Okazaki and his team make longboards and shortboards from their studio in Venice, Los Angeles. Photograph: Brian Ferry“Up to the late '80s, it was all about shortboards, but fashions change. Now anything goes. The trend is to learn on a longboard, as I did, then move on to the short.”

Guy Okazaki moved from making boards to a more artistic board-shaping role nine years ago. Photograph: Brian Ferry“With a shortboard you can zip under the waves. There are more maneuvers; you can stretch yourself more. With a long board the length makes it floatier, so catching a wave is easier, but there’s a trade-off. When the wave breaks, you’re hanging on. It’s a metaphor for life!”

The length of a longboard makes paddling and catching a wave easier, but shortboards are more agile once the wave breaks, explains Guy Okazaki. Photograph: Brian Ferry“If I were to use a music analogy, I’d say longboards are like the blues—iconic but just three to four chords. Whereas shortboards are jazz.”

A custom board takes Guy Okazaki two to three weeks to make. A surfer’s experience, size, weight, and age all come into play. Photograph: Brian Ferry“I take inspiration from birds, the ocean, and the planet. My mantra is 'fast and loose.' I want to make the next best, fastest, and most maneuverable board around.”

Guy Okazaki and his team will change the length and width of a board, make it short or long nose, or widen the tail. Photograph: Brian Ferry“There was a time when a surfer had just one board and that was more important than any other relationship, but the sport’s evolved and most surfers I know have three to five.”

A vast range of tools is used to tailor boards. Guy Okazaki also considers the beaches a customer uses and whether they want to travel. Photograph: Brian Ferry“We surfers were such a small group back in the 1970s. We’d go on road trips with boards strapped to the car roof. If you saw another car like it, you’d honk, pull over, and get to know them. I still have the friends I made then. It was a magical time.”

Guy Okazaki keeps in touch with the people he met while traveling the world surfing after college. Photograph: Brian Ferry“I don’t want to become a grumpy old man. So I’m coaching local junior and high-school surf teams and I love it. It’s great knowing when I can no longer surf myself, I can still contribute."

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Stephanie Jones
is a regular contributor to Christie's International Real Estate magazine