You might be surprised but YES we have surfing in Lebanon. Better yet, the only surfboard shaper in the Arab world happens to be Lebanese. Paul Abbas, our surfboard doctor, shaper, surfer and dear friend poured his passion and love into shaping our dream boards into reality. All his boards are hand made into perfection. The best part is that you get to choose your own design and colors. In this interview we had the chance to hear the interesting story of Paul, his passion for surfboard shaping and how he’s making his dream come true. Enjoy!
What was your inspiration to start shaping surfboards? How did it all start?
I started body boarding for a while before getting introduced to the surf scene. By then I was hooked. My disappointment was when I found out that all boards were imported for around 1000$ each. I couldn’t afford it. This obstacle wouldn’t let me proceed into learning, until one day I stumbled upon a website that teaches surfboard shaping and the idea struck me. After a thorough research for the materials and after many trials and errors, I finally found some good suppliers in Lebanon and abroad, shaped my 2010 Christmas present, my first board. By that time, my shaping was for personal use only until I noticed that a friend of mine needed to change his old 90s board. I offered to shape a new one for free. All he had to do was to pay for the materials. And since he was rather an excellent surfer he managed to help emphasize the functionality of my boards. Demands started pumping in and the business was launched.
Are your boards custom made?
Yes they are, I give surfers the freedom to suggest what they want specifically to have on their board: a larger tail, more volume,etc… When it comes to graphic design, I normally take care of this part, as long as it requires simple spray paint, simple geometrical shapes. But when it becomes more complex, a very good friend of mine Alfred Bader takes care of it.
Would you consider making the manufacturing process automatic? Would you switch to machinery?
I personally love the manual process of shaping a surfboard, It’s my passion. Machines definitely help, especially in mass production. Some machines get 90% of the foam work done but the rest of the shaping process is kept manual. Shapers switch to machines to be able to respond to a very high demand. And if at some point this became my case, I would get a machine, sure, to help out increase the stock. But as I said, I will keep shaping and mastering the final touches that are related to detailing and that machines cannot execute.
The process of shaping remains the same, machines only increase the speed, but the thing that’s constantly evolving now is the board’s design. A 90’s board, for example, was longer and thinner and it had a bigger rocker. They soon came to realize that shorter boards with lower rocker and slightly thicker have the same performance in terms of curving and an even better one in terms of speed.
In brief , what are the required Steps to shape a surfboard?
1-Get the foam and shape it
2-Outline from both sides: my technique is to use sample wooden boards to create the outline. Some outlines are made of two samples combined. For example, the tail would be from one sample and the nose from another depending on the customer’s requirement.
3-Cut the initial shape and work on the foil by shaping the rocker, the nose and the tail. Then I specify the fin’s location before establishing the bottom contour.
4- Graphics and fiberglass: Simple graphics are completed before applying the fiberglass where as more complicated graphic designs are made later on either by painting over the fiberglass or by coloring the fiberglass itself.
5-Implement the fins
What are the elements that determine a surfboard’s performance? And what do boards need to surf Lebanese waves?
The volume, the rocker, the outline, all these elements are interconnected and are characteristics of the board’s performance and depend on the surfer’s level. For example, a beginner will need much more volume. Now, for Lebanese waves, surfboards require volume. This can be acquired either by increasing the thickness or the surface area. Personally, I prefer choosing a larger surface area, increasing the width of the nose and keeping a V-shaped bottom contour. These characteristics will allow you to catch any wave even the hard non-powerful ones.
How do you feel when you see someone using your boards?
Believe me, whenever I see someone riding the waves using one of my boards I get the same thrill as if I was there myself. I would even stop paddling and miss out on a good wave just to see my boards enjoying the waves. A good feedback or a picture is more than enough to turn any bad day into a good one. It makes me happy again!
We know that you are self-taught shaper and did all of this because you had a passion for something that was not easily reachable. So what would be your advice for people having any kind of passion or love for something and hesitate to explore it or just go for it?
It was my passion, yes. But I also took a lot of time to take the initiative and start doing something about it. I never told this to anyone but I had the thought back in 2005 and it took me almost 5 years to take the leap and start effectively working on my first board. You know that little voice in your head that always holds the benefits of the doubt?
“ Are you crazy how are you going to execute a surf board in Lebanon where surfing is barely known in the country?”
So I let it go. Nevertheless, I kept all the sketches and plans until I started researching again with the help of the newly discovered YOUTUBE, which helped a lot. The idea was successful and hopefully in the near future this will be my full time job. Actually not a job, I consider this to be my retirement plan since it’s my hobby, my passion. Now, my advice would be
“What do you have to loose?”
“ Don’t fall in the trap of regret, it’s much worse than trying and failing, it will haunt you for the rest of your life”
Up until now, I managed to keep the balance between my steady job and my passion to shape boards. I kept it just because I was never convinced that I would be able to live from it especially here in Lebanon. Well I can tell you that at this stage I am starting to change my mind. However, despite this doubt I never stopped pushing further and wanting to try harder to get there. I always had the drive to keep going and investing all my free time in my workshop.Trust me doing something you love and working your way to it is mind fulfilling and relaxing. Never ever let yourself fall into the trap of the “what if?” question. Regret is much worse than any difficulty or failure you would encounter along your journey. Think about living for what you love and work your way through it. You might have a million and one reason to be scared or doubtful but it will dissolve once you start seeing results.
FOR ANY PURCHASE OR INQUIRY THIS IS HOW YOU GET IN TOUCH WITH PAUL