I have a hope for the future that one day surfers will be able to go into a board shop and there’ll be a good assortment of wooden boards on offer, that don’t sacrifice on performance, and come in at a good price point for the consumer. There’s others that share my vision of the future, and one of them is a Finnish shaper Elvis, who owns Romu Shapes (boards which are solely made from sustainable and natural materials). I caught up with him to discuss how he got started making wooden boards and recycled fins and his views on the future of surfboard building.
Dom: So it’s been a while since we last spoke, let’s start off by talking about what you’ve been up to in the last 3 years….
Elivs: Yes, I think it’s been about that. Well, shortly after you left Zarautz, I headed back to Helsinki, Finland to continue working on my designs, and to work full-time as a carpenter so I can save money to move to Portugal. Ida and I have bought a house there and are planning to renovate, open up a workshop and bring Romu shapes over. We are going to reduce our impact on the environment, by using solar polar for electricity and recycle the rain water. And I’m still shaping, fulfilling orders and constantly researching and trying new things trying to find the ‘secret recipe’.
Dom: That sounds awesome. Can’t wait to come and visit you guys when it’s all ready. I was wondering when you first started shaping, what were your main influences and sources of knowledge.
Elvis: An internet forum called Swaylock. It’s a board building forum and there were plenty of more experienced shapers on there willing to give advice and pointers. Everything you wanted to know about board building could be answered here. Moreover, I found the community to be very helpful and supportive. I would post questions, and someone would get pack to me pretty quickly. I then tested different types of surfboard designs from the information I learned and looked for feedback form the community.
Dom: Do you still go on the forum?
Elvis: These days certainly less questions, but once in a while I’ll go back…see if I can help others. These days you can learn pretty much learn anything you want to from the Internet, from YouTube videos etc. So, Swaylock definitely facilitated a lot of my learning in the early stages.
Dom: Do you think mainstream shapers will ever move away from toxic chemicals. If so what will take for this shift to happen?
Elvis: It seems as though people are really interested in eco stuff, but nobody is really doing a lot. Most people would choose the greener option if it didn’t compromise performance. At the moment, people aren’t ready to sacrifice the high performance that PU and epoxy boards give. The market doesn’t give you anything for free, it has to be a good price and good quality. Otherwise the change won’t came.
There’s certainly a bigger effort now to improve space grade materials and make new developments. You have to process the plant to get the high-quality space material, but before there was no interest. Things are changing slowly and in ten years I think there will be new materials available, but we’ll have to wait until then.
Dom: How has your home country and environment influence the kinds of boards you’re making?
Elvis: Wood is a very traditional medium in Finland, it dates back centuries. Since a kid, I’ve had an understanding of the grain and our nautical history. Say, a 100 years ago in Finland if you were building a house and you messed up, you were going to freeze to death. So, it’s really important to do things with 100% focus, care and attention.
The Japanese style of craftsmanship has influenced me a lot, so I always try and have this in mind when I’m shaping. ‘Romu’ actually comes from the Finnish word meaning wreck and I guess you could say I was never satisfied with the first few boards I began making.
Dom: Any advice for people looking to start making sustainable boards or just shaping in general?
Elvis: Always look forward and just do it. Eco surf board building is a new thing, and it’s hard to predict the future. Even if you fail many times, it’s your own thing and will give you endless enjoyment. I love it and can’t see myself doing anything else. It’s like taking a steep drop, you know if you make it, you’ll feel stoked.
Dom: Lastly, how would someone go about ordering a board from you
Elvis: Visit romushapes.com and contact me via the site.