Show Us Your Quiver – Wells Campbell
Wells Campbell is a professional photographer and longtime surfer at Ocean Beach. Chances are good that if the waves are cooperating, he’s in the water somewhere in the middle of the beach, surfing in front of his home on the Great Highway where he lives with his wife, Pam Morse.
Like many surfers at the beach, Wells has broken a considerable number of surfboards. So many, in fact, that seven years ago he finally decided it was time to start making his own, which seems right for a guy who is a natural handyman. He shaped his first surfboard, a high-volume fish, out of traditional foam and fiberglass. He still keeps that board in his backyard as decoration. But over the past few years, he has turned toward making surfboards out of balsa wood, largely inspired by the work of Bert Berger at Sunova Surfboards, one of the pioneers of making balsa boards.
Since his first board made from balsa, a material that adds strength and durability to surfboards, Wells has shaped about a dozen boards, including three he donated for charity auctions. He shapes under the label Full Moon Surfboards, a name derived from an old nickname that described how Wells would disappear when the waves got good, like a werewolf under a full moon. Most of his Full Moon Surfboards are designed for medium-sized waves, but he is actively experimenting with creating bigger boards for when the waves at Ocean Beach are big. Wells does all of his shaping in his garage, which serves as his improvised shaping room, and he is constantly experimenting with new board designs, when his work and surf schedule allow it.
For now, Wells mostly just shapes for himself, his wife, Pam, and friends. Since his operation is so small-scale, he estimates that each board takes him about 25 hours to make. And although Full Moon Surfboards is mostly just a fun side project for himself, he aspires to make boards for others to purchase, even if only so that he can keep his twin hobbies of surfing and surfboard-shaping alive. If you are interested in contacting Wells to learn more about his boards, you can reach him through his photography website.
The Ocean Beach Bulletin met with Wells and Pam in their beautifully decorated backyard to get a glimpse of Wells’ shaping setup, and to talk about a few of his favorite boards he has shaped. Here’s what Wells had to say, in his own words:
This is a bat-tail quad that I shaped about three years ago. It’s meant to surf a lot like a shortboard, but a little bit looser and a little faster. It’s mostly meant for smaller waves. It’s a little too low-volume for me on most days, but if the waves are really good that day then I can ride it. I have a couple friends who are smaller than me who have ridden it and love it. It has a quad fin setup with LoxBox fins, which are adjustable, and I like that you can play with the fin placement. If you set the fins far apart, it makes the board drivier, and if you set them closer together, it makes it looser. I still ride this board a bit, but not too much. It really shines on days that are hollow and clean, up to about head-high in size.
This guy is the same range of size as the bat-tail, but it works better in mushier waves. You can see that the rails are thicker, and the concave on the deck is more spread out so that the volume comes out to the rail a bit more. It works in steep head-high surf, and all the way down to thigh-high mush. It’s a real wave-catcher, and while it can still hold into a wall, it can track across mushy expanses of water pretty well, too.
I did this one for a Save The Waves fundraiser, their annual Life Is A Wave party. But for this board, I had quietly kept a minimum bid for Save The Waves, and in the silent auction they got to the amount, but didn’t exceed it, so I actually just bought the board myself and donated the bid to Save The Waves, and now I ride it all the time.
6’8″ Experimental Step-Up Board
This board is meant to be a step-up board, and to go out in waves that are solid chest-high to double overhead. The theory behind this one is that it has the outline on the back two-thirds of the board of a longer board, roughly about a 7’4” or a 7’6”. But the nose is gently truncated, sort of like what Kelly Slater has been doing with his boards. He’ll keep the outline the same, until he gets to the nose and then accelerates it in a little bit, so that it ends up being much shorter.
The idea is that I can get a shorter board to behave like a longer one. This board is actually 6’8”, and a longer board has what’s called swing weight. When you turn, if you’ve got weight out by the nose that’s three feet from your feet, then it’s harder to swing that around. But if you have less weight, and it’s closer to your foot, you can turn more. So this is supposed to catch waves and make drops like a bigger board, but once you’re up and riding, it’s supposed to turn and feel like a smaller board.
I’ve actually only ridden his once, on a recent practice session, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. I made the rails pretty sharp and down, and I was afraid that they might be too sensitive and dig on pieces of chop, but it behaved really well. I was able to make drops really easily, pretty late, and I could even drop a bit sideways and hang well in the face. But then once I went to turn it, it was still pretty loose, and I could get down on a bottom turn and then come straight up the face and really whack it, as opposed to a 7’6”, where you can’t really bring it all the way around. For a first outing, I was completely stoked about it.
And I gotta say, it’s also kind of nice because these rounded noses are a little less dangerous. I’ve been doing a little bit rounded noses, but this is even more rounded than usual.
This is the latest installation of a regular feature in the Ocean Beach Bulletin, something we’re calling “Show Us Your Quiver.” We’ll be talking with Ocean Beach surfers about some of their favorite surfboards. We are always on the hunt for interesting people who love interesting boards, so if you know of someone who might be a good fit for this, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com