Jason Koons talks about Superbrand's 'collective' shaping practice
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 2 January, 2015 - What happens when you bring three shapers from different parts of the world together for a weeklong pow wow in southern California? Well, besides a pile of empty beer cans (they’re shapers, not altar boys), foam dust, and off color jokes, you get a heaping serving of design talk and carved up blanks. And that’s just what happened at SUPERbrand headquarters in Carlsbad, CA. as they welcomed shapers Nuno Matta (Portugal), Adam “Sparrow” Fletcher (Australia), and Jason Koons (Hawaii/SoCal) for an annual meeting of the minds.
Unlike other surfboard builders, SUPERbrand relies on a team of three to direct its design and shaping development, with each shaper contributing in his own way to the process. Moments before ducking into the shaping bay, we caught up with Jason Koons for insight into the unique setup…
What was the genesis of the Shapers’ Collective?
We developed the idea out of necessity. Our team travels a lot and they need boards in different places at different times. We didn’t want to share them with other brands, so we had to think of something. It also didn't feel like it was a good idea to limit ourselves to manufacturing in only one region. We had demand all over the world and needed a way to fill it, in addition to supporting our team on the road. From these needs the idea to bring together like-minded shapers was born.
Nuno Matta © SUPERbrand
Why a collective and not just one head shaper?
“Collective” is sort of a misleading term, for some it sounds like a communist plot to subvert the individual. But it’s not. We are a group of individuals. We do share ideas and provide feedback to each other to help refine concepts but most of the ideas are born from one of us individually or in conjunction with a team rider. We just choose to share the credit because our particular situation is mutually beneficial for all of us. This wouldn’t be the case for any group of randomly selected shapers, but we’re lucky enough that the right people came together at the right time. We each have strengths that are different from the others. We build on these and together our varying individual strengths make a complete whole. This is something that’s not offered with any other brand to date. We think people are intrigued by the Shaper’s Collective because it’s actually very intriguing to us.
What surfboard model(s) in particular had the most collective input and why?
That’s hard to say because we all put a little bit of something into every model. Probably the most collaborative models are the high performance shortboards—the Answer, Head Shifter, Toy, etc. They get passed around and critiqued the most. They are the most fickle and require the highest performance so we really have to work with each other to come up with and refine truly universal and functional designs.
Adam "Sparrow" Fletcher © SUPERbrand
How does each shaper’s region/background affect his shaping and design?
The waves on offer in our respective regions are probably the biggest factor. We utilize a few different necessary elements in design for waves in California than Sparrow would use in Australia. Vee off the tail is probably the most notable. In California, the waves are a little fatter on average so we add vee to smooth out the slower rail-to-rail transitions. On the Gold Coast of Australia, the waves are a bit faster and steeper on average so we prefer a flat tail to a vee to assist with more rapid rail-to-rail transitions. There are little nuances all over the globe as it relates to design elements.
Together we have all this collective knowledge about the wide variety of waves in the world and how different elements enhance the surfing experience in each place. The great thing about that is that we know more about our own regions now because of our comprehensive exposure to the information gathered by each region than we would have ever known as purely individual, localized shapers. That is, seeing the world as it is in all its variety and expression gives you new and profound understandings of what previously seemed standard, conventional knowledge. Seeing design and function from multiple perspectives will always yield the most effective revisions and most universal performance.
Tad McCardell riding the SUPERbrand Toy model © Roger Jeffrey