City Surfers: Q&A with Brooklyn’s Union Surfboards

surfing in NY
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.

NY surfing

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.

custom surfboard

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

Food & Drink

What Is Baijiu: 4 Brands to Try Right Now

Baijiu is one of the most-consumed spirts in the world. It's time to learn why.
Fashion & Style

Cop these Men’s Peacoats and Stand Out from the Puffer Jacket Crowd

The coat became popularized for streetwear by the dapper Prince of Wales in 1869 and has been a mainstay of men’s style ever since.
Outdoors

6 Best U.S. National Parks to Visit in the Winter

Smaller crowds at some of the more popular parks are just one of the benefits.
Fashion & Style

The Best Men’s Parkas for Braving the Cold

The parka is the undisputed heavy hitter of any winter outerwear lineup.
Living

Find Perfect Harmony Between Architecture and Nature at Amangiri Resort

This secluded desert getaway is helping to reshape the idea of what Southwestern style can be.
Living

How to Clean Your House or Apartment in 30 Minutes or Less

This isn’t a deep clean. It’s an, “Oh shit, I really should have done something earlier and now it’s gonna take a miracle to do this” clean.
Living

Baby on the Way? Here’s How to Support Your Pregnant Wife

Pregnancy requires you to get proactive, pal. She’s driving the car, but you are the entire pit crew.
Living

Dive In (Literally) to This Minimalist Lakeside Retreat in the Netherlands

Once the walls open up, you can dive right into the water from the living room.
Living

An Old Garage Is Transformed Into an Artist’s Home and Studio in San Francisco

Yes, that's a red Fiat hanging from the ceiling.
Living

From Milan to Mars, Architect Stefano Boeri is Creating Vertical Forests

A combination of housing shortages and climate change led to the creation of Vertical Forests which blend housing and landscaping into one amazing building.
Living

What’s a Salt Cave and Why Are They So Damned Relaxing?

Experiencing Halotherapy in a salt cave can be pure relaxation or relaxing purification depending on how you look at it.
Food & Drink

Say No to Disposables with All the Best Reusable Lunch Gear for Guys

From straws to cutlery to sandwich bags, there's a reusable option for everything that comes with a traditional takeout lunch.
Living

Heat Up Your Digs with One of Our Picks for the Best Space Heaters

Admit it, you need a little extra warmth this winter.
Living

5 Seriously Stylish Dog Houses to Pamper Your Puppers

There will be no question about who’s a good boy when you get Fido one of these amazing dog houses.