City Surfers: Q&A with Brooklyn’s Union Surfboards
Tavarua Island, Fiji. Honolua Bay, Hawaii. Byron Bay, Australia.
Brooklyn, New York?
When you think of the world’s surf meccas, Brooklyn probably doesn’t come to mind. Well, that’s exactly where the gentlemen surfers of Union Surfboards have set up shop.
As it turns out, there’s actually a decent surf community in and around Brooklyn. And since NYC is such a huge market, you can open any kind of store in the city and still find a client base. Out of the 20 million people living in the greater metro area, you can bet there’s at least a hearty handful of surfers.
Still, surfing is hard. If you don’t have the right board, you’ll have a helluva time finding your groove. That’s why Union founders Chris Williams and Jeff Schroeder are bringing surfboard customization — a trade usually reserved for pros — to the general surfing public.
The Union surf shop opened its doors in Greenpoint last month, and they’re urging anyone who’s even remotely interested in surfing to come by and chat. We reached out to the founders of Union, and they were kind enough to answer a few questions about surfing in the Northeast, the Brooklyn surf community, and surfboard customization.
Most folks probably don’t associate Brooklyn with surfing. Where do your customers surf? What’s the NY surf community like?
There are plenty of spots — Montauk, Gilgo, Rockaway, a couple dozens spots in New Jersey, and a few spots we’re not at liberty to discuss (laughs). There’s definitely surf out there, you just need a little patience, the right gear, and you need to know where to look. The NY Surf community is rad, scrappy, and above all a dedicated bunch of surfers. If you want any evidence of this, try putting on a 5 mill suit and paddling out in 30 degree water with fickle surf conditions.
Related: Micro Guide: Montauk
In your opinion, why is it important to customize a surfboard to the individual surfer?
Every person is unique and so is the way they surf. Because there are so many variables in surfing, a fully customized surfboard specifically tailored to each surfer is extremely beneficial. We also offer stock models that are extremely versatile, which is absolutely necessary with inconsistent East Coast surf conditions.
What specific aspects of board design benefit the most from customization?
On the surface we have the capability to make aesthetically pleasing boards. From a design standpoint, customization of volume distribution, outline, and rocker are really beneficial when considering a surfer’s ability and how they want to board to perform.
What can a customer expect during a one-on-one collaboration?
We’re really passionate about one-on-one collaborations. This sort of collaboration is normally reserved for pro surfers that have an established relationship with their shaper. We pride ourselves in providing the same sort of relationship with the average surfer. We welcome anyone to work with us and bring his or her ideas to life, whether it be a custom resin job or a non-traditional outline. With this level of collaboration, the physical board can be a reflection of the person riding it. It’s rad to empower surfers at all levels.
Can you give us a rundown of the tailoring process?
If the customer isn’t totally sure want they want we start of by gathering basic information about the surfer, their ability, height, weight, and the type of surfing they’d like to do. Then we discuss where they’re going to be using the board. From that information, we can normally agree on a shape. If they want to do a custom art job we mock up the design and get it to a place we all agree on. At times a customer will come to us and know the exact shape and art job they want and we crank it out without much fuss at all. Either way, we pride ourselves on bringing whatever vision they have to life.
Union’s surf shop is located at 117 Dobin Street Studio 10 in Brooklyn. Visit their website to learn more, or better yet, stop by their shop.
Photos by Jameson Posey and Dana Jensen