Shaper Profile – Michel Junod
Renowned surfboard shaper Michel Junod explores his roots over the past 40 years from surfing the Pacific Ocean to the professionals who taught him the intricate art and skill of surfboard design, making him one of the most sought-out shapers in California.
NCS: Please tell us a little about your surfboard label?
MJ: Michel Junod Surfboards is in the business of client service. I understand the importance of taking the time to talk to people, to gauge their wants and needs. It’s a key ingredient to my business, especially since the bulk of my boards are custom jobs. I find that a lot of my customers are surprised that a shaper will actually talk to them about the design of their board. Everybody wants to surf better and get more out of their new board, but frequently they don’t reach their potential because they aren’t on the best design for the type of waves they ride. This is where my experience and my input produces a board they can take to new levels of performance and enjoyment. I have been shaping since 1966. I also co-founded West Cliff Surfboards in 1970 in Santa Cruz with Chuck Strelitz. But several years later, Hawaii beckoned on me and I made my way to the North Shore. While producing boards under my own label, I shaped for the Lightning Bolt, Dick Brewer, and Surfline Hawaii retail shops in Honolulu. In 1978, I left for Kauai. After a two-and-a-half year stint in Chile in the late 1980′s I returned to Santa Cruz in 1990 and have been building boards under my label ever since.
NCS: What are your most popular surfboard models?
MJ: I can shape it, but my specialty is working hand-in-hand with my clients to address their immediate needs. My customers ride everything from longboard logs, to 5’10″ single-fins, to tri-fins or quads, to big wave guns for Mavericks.
NCS: What makes Michel Junod Surboards unique?
MJ: I think that what makes my brand so unique is that the great majority of the boards I’ve shaped in the last 40 years have been customs. I’ve been blessed to live near the beach and have tested my designs in everything from 2-foot Malibu to 20-foot Waimea. I can’t take credit for any design innovations, but I’ve always built my reputation on customer service and satisfaction. In this day of large factories and shaping machines, I think I am somewhat unique. I also draw inspiration from creative individuals and, at times, incorporate it into the brand. An example would be a beautiful Thomas Campbell designed logo on all the new models.
NCS: In your opinion what is the most valuable quality that goes into a surfboard??
MJ: Confidence is the most important quality. Here’s why: A surfboard that doesn’t paddle well, or doesn’t respond well in a variety of wave conditions, can easily intimidate the rider and substantially decrease one’s wave count. Confidence is built upon consistent performance.
NCS: Do you think there is an increasing or decreasing appreciation for a custom surfboard?
MJ: I think there is an increasing appreciation because people are becoming more educated on what a custom board is. It is not just picking out a color or a “new design” but it is working with a shaper to get a right design style for the waves they will be surfing on. More people are learning that you can contact a shaper rather than buying something off the rack. Even though nothing is wrong with buying a board off the racks, most surf shops do not offer shapes for people who are looking for a special/custom design.
NCS: How important is customer feedback to you?
MJ: Customer feedback is very important to me. I not only get feedback from my teamriders but because the majority of my shapes are custom, I get feedback from all my customers. I always value their feedback because I always have the desire to improve my shapes in order to satisfy the needs of my customers.
NCS: If you could have just 3 boards in your quiver, what would they be?
MJ: An ideal quiver for me would be a 9’6″ log longboard for the glide on those small days in between swells, built with high-density foam and a strong glass job. A 7’0″ single-fin for big surf—my refined ’70s design with modern tail curves and bottom contours. And finally, a 6’2″ tri-fin fish wing-swallow for carving around on 4- to 6-foot waves at my favorite spots.
NCS: What type of music do you like listening to when you shape?
MJ: I listen to everything from rock and the blues to jazz and gospel. I usually play rocking stuff when I am machining the blank, and subtle music when I am finishing the blank (hand-sanding). I have a huge CD collection so I do not get bored (opens a cabinet about five feet tall and it’s packed back to the end with CD’s).
NCS: How much time do you spend shaping a single board?
MJ: My time shaping a board all depends on the length of the surfboard. Shortboards usually take me about an hour and a half to shape. Longboards depending on the stringers, can take me about three hours plus.
NCS: What kind of boards do you enjoy shaping the most?
MJ: This is a very hard question. There are so many different styles of boards in the market right now and I enjoy the challenge of fine tuning everything from single fins to quads. I guess I would have to say I really enjoy shaping semi guns and guns the most. I really enjoy the clean lines on racy surfboards.
NCS: How often do you get to surf and where do you test out your designs?
MJ: I try to surf as much as I can, even though it does not always work out for me. I live and work a few blocks from the beach so I try to get out at least a couple of times a week. If the surf is really on, I try to go surf at the optimum times. Surfing everything from loggin’ waves at Cowells to big Steamer Lane keeps me tuned into the surf and the designs of the boards that I ride.
NCS: Who are your teamriders?
MJ: My teamriders are Tim Allen, Rene Ouellette, Ahmad Ng, and Harris Roach who is out of Australia.
NCS: Is there anybody you would like to thank?
MJ: I would like to thank the guy who taught me how to shape. His name is Carl “Tinker” West, he started Surfboards by Challenger out of San Diego. He also was Bruce Springsteen’s manager in Springsteen’s early days. Tinker put me on his team when I was 16 years old, and taught me, in detail about shaping boards. I am grateful for everything he has done for me.