Meet Female Surfboard Shaper Valerie Duprat!

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Meet Female Surfboard Shaper Valerie Duprat!

  1. How did surfing come into your life? When and where?

I tried surfing a long time ago when I was young and wanted to play cool with my then boyfriend, but it was a total failure.  However, I married him, so that part was a success!  Then, I crossed paths with the waves by flying above them while being lifted in the air by a tandem surfer! Quite an experience which brought me to few years of competition, including the first tandem surfing world championships in Waikiki (Hawaii). Then I started surfing solo.

  1. How did you find your passion for shaping?

    Photo Credit: Laurent Chantegros

I didn’t find shaping, shaping found me, as I randomly met with David Charbonnel, a french professional shaper (Swop Surfboards) who stayed at our house while vacationing in California. He challenged me to try shaping since I was playing around with “applying” paint on old beat-up boards. What he didn’t know is that I would actually take him seriously. Next Christmas, I had my first blank and a few of my husband’s tools under the tree. I shaped my first boards in the full light of my backyard with limited equipment and, of course, limited skills. But with my usual persistence and many hours of watching tutorials online, I managed to get more familiar with this craft, and I instantly fell in love.

  1. Who taught you how, do you have a mentor today?

Since he started it, David Charbonnel took the time to give me my first professional training in his workshop in France. He taught me the pillars of shaping. I will always be grateful for him taking his precious time and having faith in me. Then, with some hard earned recognition as one of the few women who ventured in the very male dominated world of shaping, I was lucky to be invited into prestigious shaping rooms of master shapers including Axel Lorentz, Eric Arakawa and more recently, Matt Kinoshita. Matt, legend shaper of Kazuma Surfboards, welcomed me to Maui for a 5 day training last year. I came back with new and improved skills and a boosted confidence which definitely took me to a next level in my learning curve.  I have been shaping for 7 years now!

  1. What is your set up like? Where do you shape?

My husband built a “shed” in our backyard that he transformed into a purple shaping room. It’s very convenient since I can just go work whenever I have some free time . It is my “woman cave”. I love it!

  1. How do you get most of your business?

Word of mouth still works best: friends, friends of friends, etc… But I have to admit that social media, especially Instagram brought me customers and recognition

Photo Credit: Laurent Chantegros

worldwide. However, the down side is that I don’t ship surfboards and therefore it limits my customer radius to a driving distance from Encinitas. This totally works for me since I don’t really have bandwidth to produce many more boards anyway. I am maxing out my production.

Some people think that custom boards are for advanced competitors or way too expensive and out of reach for them.  I don’t believe that either of hose are true, what are your thoughts?

Yes and yes! I totally agree with you. Ordering a custom surfboards is not related to your surf level at all. I have made many beginners boards. By ordering a custom you are also engaging in a discussion with the shaper who is tailoring the board around your needs, whatever they may be. Of course you could also get that service in a shop with a good sale representative who will point to a (machine-made) board on the rack.  For the same price, my customers get a surfboard crafted by hand specially for them! There might be a misconception of the cost of a custom surfboards due to big brands who charge a lot for those. Your local shaper will provide a competitive price, one-on-one customer experience and the priceless feeling of having a unique object of stoke.

  1. Is there anything different being a female shaper?  I imagine it’s mostly men!

The surfboard shaping industry is 99% dominated by men. Not because woman can’t do it. There is nothing that requires special strength in surfboard shaping. It is just that shaing is already a very closed universe in general and therefore changing the dogma by showing that anybody can at least have a try at it is very new. I am super excited to see that the workshop concepts like Shaper Studios (US and Canada) or Shaperhouse (in France) open up this craft to a larger audience by offering shaping bay time, tools and professional support. Like any craft, some people are super gifted and make a living out of it, but you can just have the most fun making your own surf board. This and social media also promote the fact that female shapers exist and it gives ideas to other girls to try it, who may have never otherwise considered it.  I receive a lot of emails from girls inspired by my path in the shaping world. Of course I am super proud to be one of the female shapers guiding the way but my greatest satisfaction is to see that many more are coming!!!

  1. What advice do you have for people who are looking at starting a new passion later in life, whether it be surfing, shaping or anything?

It is all about mind set regardless of the age.  If you really want something, nothing should stop you. That’s not to say that it’s easy. There are struggles on the way, but they are part of the journey which make little victories even more satisfying.

  1. What advice do you have for women who are starting to surf later in life?

Surfing is challenging, both physically and mentally. Unlike snowboarding, where you can start on a bunny slop, the Ocean can be both a Beauty and a Beast. That is why I always recommend surfing with a “surf buddy” in the beginning, preferably someone around the same level of surfing and a similar schedule. Don’t go with someone too advanced since she/he might take you to places that are not for beginners!  The best thing to do is to find a lady surf club or facebook group in your area.  Then you’ll be immersed in a cheerful group of women of different ages and levels. Another piece of advice is to consistently go to the same break for a while for two main reasons: 1) you get used the same wave and quickly feel more comfortable going out in a familiar environment 2) you get to meet the locals so you never feel alone when you go by yourself since there is always someone you know in the line-up.  Finally, a common mistake I see is people getting on a shortboard too quickly!!! Yes, shortboards loos sexier and are easier to carry under your arm but it will not be very fun as it’ll be very difficult to get into waves. Beginners should use big boards such as funboards or longboards which provide the ability to ride waves instantly. Don’t overlook the wetsuit: you may start surfing on a beat-up Craigslist surfboard but, to me, a good wetsuit is critical investment when starting surfing.  It is no fun to be cold. The warmer you are, the longer you stay in the water, the more progress you make in your surfing!!!

I guess all of my advice is not age specific, because age doesn’t matter after all 🙂

  1. Do you still surf?  What’s your home break?

Surfing is a priority over shaping. I surf at least 2x a week all year long. My sweet home break is Beacons.

  1. What inspires you and gives you joy?

my family.

 

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