Opened two years ago near Biarritz airport, the Shaper House is a relaxing and unusual place in the world of surfing. Local surfers, or those passing through who get the address via word of mouth, don't come here to repair their kit or buy a longboard.
The Shaper House is neither a board shaper, a surf shop, or a surf school. Nor is it a barber shop, which you might think seeing there's a barber in the entrance!
“We're into the DIY culture, explains Franck Perez, one of the Shaper House managers. We want to make the shaping experience accessible to as many people as possible, without going into competition with the professionals who are targeted to a different customer base than ours.”
To this end the “house” has four totally equipped rooms with all the tools that can be rented for example for a whole month depending on your needs (60 euros).
“Our customers have access to everything they need to repair or make a surfboard from A to Z, from the foam base to the fins, via fibre glass, resin, paint and all the accessories. It's a bit like the B&Q of shaping!” Franck interrupts the conversation to take a look at what Nicolas is in the process of doing as he sculpts a piece of foam. He could have used a computer programme to design his board in 3D then cut it using a special machine (KKL) that we have on the premises, but he prefers to do everything himself by hand, “à l'ancienne”. Franck corrects his mistakes and gives him advice to avoid him overdoing the planer.
Over in the lamination room, two customers are already onto the next step. The first one pulls the fiberglass over the foam base before soaking it with resin. The second is putting the finishing paint touches to his board. Unlike Nicolas, they don't need anyone to help. Here, everyone's free to choose the formula that suits them best: private lesson and personalised support for some, total autonomy for others... Count €540 for a shortboard.
“What counts above all is to have fun, adds Sylvain who will soon be joining the Shaper House team. Even if it's not perfect, the first board you make yourself remains unique. It's custom-made with its own decoration and it makes you feel proud to have done it all by yourself. It's a magical board!"
🏄 Shaper House
61, avenue du Maréchal Juin, Biarritz. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9.00am to 7.00pm. Tel. +33(0)5 59 47 65 33
The history of board shaping in the Basque country has its legends:
Michel Berland (Bayonne), Jean-Pierre Stark (Anglet) and Alain Minvielle (Anglet). Barland was one of the first to discover surfing in France and to shape too. In 1981, he invented the first shaping machine in the world. Today his kids are at the controls. Stark is the king of custom-made. He made his first board in 1968 in Tahiti. Finally Minvielle is the carpenter who fell into shaping as a child. For young shapers he will always be the ‘Padre’!
The Master joiner
Once upon a time longboards were made in solid Koa or Balsa wood. Romain Chapron, joiner specialised in boat building for the past 20 years, had the idea of relaunching this construction technique called "hollowing". Made like an airplane propeller, covered in red or white Cedar wood lathing, each of his boards (including bodyboards!) is a work of art. The weight is roughly the same as a foam board and life expectancy is around 10 years.
The Eco warrior
Let's be honest: a traditional surfboard in polyurethane foam, fiberglass and polyester resin is anything but eco-friendly. It's about 6kg of non-recyclable waste. Notox, a small French company in Anglet, intends to revolutionise the market by producing boards that respect the environment more. These will be made from natural linen fibres, recyclable polystyrene and mainly plant-based resin.