In the back of a beach bungalow a few miles off of the beach, two people are quietly making an impact on the surf culture around the world while simultaneously doing their part to help save the environment.
Shannon and Jered are the masterminds and artists behind Frankenhein Surfboards, a hand built and crafted surfboard company in Costa Mesa, California. All of their boards are designed and built using waste from old or broken surfboards, damaged skateboards, scraps from construction sites, waste from material companies, or in other words… trash. They use the materials that the majority of us would toss away without a second thought to build something new, functional and beautiful.
When teaching me about Frankenhein, Jered and Shannon spoke with such passion and intelligence that I continued to get inspired with each new sentence. Not only are they using waste from all over Southern California to create beautiful new surfboards, they are also fixing boards from the 1960s and ’70s, treasures in the surf community, to be functional and ridable boards that will last another 20-30 years. Just imagine if your mom was a surfer in the ’80s and her board was no longer ridable and you had a broken one sitting in the garage. Frankenhein can craft a board made of half your mom’s old one and half of your broken one into a new surfboard — how special and cool!
The two grew up in the surf community, running around the beach as babies, and now they are giving back. They are breathing artistic, authentic and soulful life back into the surf culture with each surfboard they save from the trash and make new again. It’s not everyday you meet people like Shannon and Jered and I am so thankful I got to spend a morning with them. Keep reading to hear them speak about Frankenhein Surfboards and check out the board below. It’s the first one Jered ever made, using wood from Shannon’s bookshelf as the “spine” of the board! (The long vertical line from the top of the board to the bottom.) You can also see the different parts of foam from broken boards, separated by glue, in the middle of the board.
Where are you both from? Did you grow up in the surf community?
We are both from Newport Beach, California — second generation surfers from the Newport Beach community. We were taught by our parents to swim in the ocean before we could walk which lead to surfing at a very young age. We were active with our junior and high school surf teams and have been soul surfing since… so about 27 years.
Where did you two meet?
Shannon: We first met when I was five years old and Jered was nine at Newport Heights Elementary. Jered’s younger brother and I were in the same kindergarden class together and our sisters were in Girl Scouts together. I grew up on 28th Street at the beach in Newport and Jered’s grandparents were on 27th & 24th. Our families have been friends for a long time so our paths have been crossing consistently since we were young.
The concept of Frankenhein is beautiful. How did it all begin?
It all began when Jered wanted a new board. Surfboards can be expensive and we did not have very much money. I noticed some of his brother’s boards were broken in half and I said, “can you make something out of that?” I left for work and when I got home he had taken my book shelf off the wall and was using it as a stringer (the spine of the board) and had these chunks of foam glued onto it to build a surfboard blank. Then the concept dawned on us. In almost every backyard we have been in, every alley next to people’s trash cans, and after every swell in Southern California, there are dead, broken, or discarded surfboards. We thought, rather than having these old, broken, forgotten about boards end up in the trash, let’s utilize this material, this trash, and give it a new life.
Where do you find the recyclable materials for new boards?
The foam comes from alleyways, trash cans on the beach, friend’s backyards, Craigslist, cut offs from other surfboard shapers, second blanks. The wood for stringers and fins come from fence boards, bookshelves, construction scrap, cabinetmaker scrap, skateboards. The lamination material is scrap or cast off fiberglass, woven recycled plastic bag fabric from an aerospace composites material company in Orange County. We collect the waste from the company before it goes into the trash.
How long have you been making boards?
Jered: I’ve been shaping Frankenhein Surfboards for about two years now. My dad is a surfer too. He started surfing in the late ’60s. Back in those days my dad and most of the early pioneers of surfing would shape boards, cut down old longboards and make shorter boards all in the garage with minimal resources. This has been a huge part of my inspiration for shaping — the old school way of using materials you have laying around in the garage to make something new. My background in sailing, working in my dad’s wood shop, fiberglass work in shipyards, finishing, and carving bows and arrows has also inspired me to make Frankenhein Surfboards.
What is the process behind making a new board? How long does it take?
The process starts by stripping the old fiberglass off of the foam of the old or broken surfboards. Then setting the old fiberglass aside to be made into the ‘new’ recycled surfboards or fiberglass jewelry. Configuring the pieces of foam and fitting the pieces together onto a wood stringer to build a big hunk of foam that is called a blank is next. Then, using hand tools, I shape a new surfboard design. Once the design is shaped, the foam is laminated with fiberglass. The fin is hand foiled out of scraps of wood and is mounted to the board in the final glassing stage. There’s lots of sanding to get the surfboards smooth and nicely finished. And then wax it up and it’s shred time! It takes about five days to build and finish a Frankenhein surfboard.
Surfing is an amazing cultural lifestyle — in your opinion, what’s the best part about surfing?
When the wave breaks and becomes hollow — getting inside of that hollow section is what we surfers call the green room, getting tubed, or barreled. This is an ultimate state of being present! Another beautiful part of the surfing lifestyle is being able to travel to other parts of the world and share this passion with others. The friends and people we have met because of surfing is amazing.
Frankenhein Surfboards is an inspiration to all of us who are trying to positively impact the environment. What inspires you?
Our inspiration comes from people in developing countries who really utilize resources around them. Through travels to other countries or being exposed to people from different countries we see a different way of living and existing. People who don’t have a lot make do with what they have. They don’t throw things into the garbage that can be fixed, reused, or made into something new. We feel there is a certain kind of creativity that happens out of necessity.
In places like Brazil and Nicaragua you will see people surfing on old beat up surfboards or surfboards with the nose broken off. To them the surfboard still works and they can still catch waves and have fun! They have the surf stoke and will ride anything that can be used as a surfboard. We love this idea!
Shannon, how has Frankenhein allowed you to express your background in fashion?
I love fashion and design! My background is in clothing design and textiles. I am currently a part-time professor at a few universities and community colleges, teaching subjects around fashion, textiles, and merchandising. I love sharing creativity with others. When Jered strips off the fiberglass from the old surfboards to use the foam to build a Frankenhein Surfboard, I use the fiberglass to make jewelry. The old fiberglass has color from the old laminations so there is a variety of colors and textures in the earrings and soon-to-be bracelets and necklaces. We try to minimize the waste in what we are creating, so to be able to use the old fiberglass and make it into an accessory for wearing purposes, goes right along with what we are doing with Frankenhein.
Do you have any favorite albums or artists playing while making boards?
We listen to our transistor radio a lot, KOCI & KCRW… we also love Fugazi, Shovels and Rope, Dinosaur Jr., The Cramps, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash.
Best spot to surf?
So many good spots to surf! Trestles, Newport, Baja.
Being free means…
There is a part of the song “Birmingham” by Shovels and Rope that sums it up for us…
“Made a little money playing in the bars
With two beat up drums and two old guitars
From the Crescent City to the Great Salt Lake
It ain’t what you got, it’s what you make
When the road got rough and the wheels all broke
Couldn’t take more then we could tow
Making something out of nothing with a scratch and a hope
With two old guitars like a shovel and a rope”
Thank you Shannon and Jered, we love your vision!
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