Show Us Your Quiver – Brandon Shipley
Brandon Shipley is a soft-spoken surfer who lets his surfing, and his boards, do most of the talking. Shipley grew up surfing point breaks in Orange County, and then moved to San Francisco and fell in love with the waves at Ocean Beach. For the past few years he has been a team rider for Las Olas Surfboards, made by James Mitchell, and Shipley helped Mitchell set up the shop Sunset Shapers on Noriega Street. With the shaping bay in the back of the shop, Brandon has taken to experimenting with some innovative surfboard designs under his own label, Ghost Ship Surfboards.
Shipley says he has always loved buying used boards and tweaking their shapes or aesthetics, and over the past year Ghost Ship was sort of like his apprenticeship — all in preparation for the goal of making unique custom boards.
“Surfboard shaping is just sculpting … there’s no right or wrong way. But you learn pretty quick what does and does not work,” Shipley said.
To date he has shaped 32 boards, ranging from nose-riding longboards to super-wide fishes to step-up semi-guns. The most unifying characteristic of his boards is that you probably haven’t seen anything like them anywhere else.
Brandon works at Sunset Shapers on Sundays and Mondays, and shapes when things in the shop are slow. He demos his boards out of the store as well, so if you’re interested in learning more or talking with Brandon about his boards, he’s easy to find. We spoke in greatest detail about only four of his boards, a mere fraction of the more than 30 boards he shuffles through in his quiver. Here’s what he had to say, in his own words:
I got this a couple years ago through internet from Catch Surf Company. It’s 4 feet 6 inches, by 21 inches wide, with afterburner bodyboarder rails. It’s bodyboard foam with a hard plastic bottom and carbon fiber stringer, and a vinyl deck. It floats me sort of like a high-performance shortboard would and catches waves really well because it’s so flat, but it’s so flat that it’s really squirrelly. And while it does 360s, and will surf anything from ankle high, I’ve taken it in double overhead — but then it gets too fast, and the faster you go, the faster you wipe out. It’s really good for crowded places, where you can hang out a bit underneath the crowd and use it as a shield or run it right up onto the sand, it’s so durable.
I surf this thing a lot. Probably more than any board in my quiver right now. It’s definitely influenced some of my boards, like the Candy Bar, which has a similar hip. This thing duck dives straight to the bottom, but it doesn’t paddle really at all. The take-offs are so critical with no rocker, but it’s such a thrill when you make a wave. It’s really addictive because it’s so fast.
8’6″ Miss Piggy by Ghost Ship Surfboards
This is an 8-foot-six by 22 and one-third inch pig shape, nice thick cedar stringer, with glass and polish done by James. Doug Haut put the fin placement. I shaped the blank backwards so all the kick is in the tail and the nose is pretty flat. I did a blended spoon rather than an abrupt one so you can catch nice lift up in the front for nose riding, but it doesn’t have that kink in the rocker that will kill your trim.
What I like most about it is that it’s so shiny. I’ll come out of the fog riding on the nose, and people on the beach will start clapping. It makes people happy just looking at it. You can see it a mile away. I really like bright, warm-colored boards, especially when surfing leashless so you can find them after you lose it. As long as they’re not too bright. I’ve done fluorescent boards that burn your eyes when the sun comes out. After paddling out on it, everywhere you look, you see your board. But I definitely gravitate towards the warm colors.
5’11″ Deringer by Ghost Ship Surfboards
This is a template that I took off a Kelly Slater step-up board, and I’ve made a bunch of different sized boards with it. This one is 5-foot-11, and 19 and three-quarters inches, kind of like a Slater board, or like the Lost Mini Driver where you have a gun tail and then just snub the nose. You give yourself just enough rocker. It’s really fast, the tail rocker is a lot lower, so it takes really long turns, and it’s got really thin, down rails that are really grabby. The double concave runs right up to the edge, so you can really push it.
I really love this board, it feels perfect. It catches tons of waves, right in the barrel. I’ve only had this one a month, and I’ve surfed it almost every day. You can’t really chase down bigger waves with this, but you can still catch them under the lip. But paddling back out after a long ride takes forever.
5’3″ Candy Bar by Ghost Ship Surfboards
I wanted to put all the trendy options that everyone’s hyping about into one board. I had a really weird blank that I ordered for the hell of it, stringerless triple glue-up, with no wood. I had some guidelines to help shape it, and thought that the glue lines might help it with a bit of stiffness.
I took a Mini Simmons outline and took the fin placement off the 4-foot-6 Beater Board, as well as the reverse rail in the tail. I’ve never been too big on hulls, so I did a slight double concave, and took some of the design off longboard theory, where you have a chine up here so you can hide a lot of volume through the nose but really plane up on the water really easy. On slow speeds it kind of drags, but it gets really fast. It works well in fat, fast waves, or when it’s mushy on the outside and not really connecting to the inside, you can fly with the wave almost not breaking. It’s pretty loose and wild feeling.
The step deck adds more rigidity to the center. It runs out in the nose, so the nose will flex and absorb some of the chop, and it runs out in the tail, so the tail will flex a little bit and give you a little bit of snap, but then the center is rigid. It gives you volume and a flat deck, which feels pretty fun under your feet. And then it keeps your rail thin enough to bury it and roll up on the rail pretty easily. And it’s also got a little bit of a spoon. It’s kind of got everything.
I’m definitely going to make some more because it’s so fun to be on such short boards. This one is only 5 feet 3 inches.
These experimental fins feel like less drag to me. The wings are supposed to break where the water is grabbing, sort of like the edges of the wings on an airplane, and it puts the fin deeper out into the wave. They’re crazy, but sometimes I like taking out smaller fins with it. I’m always trying out new fins with all my boards. There’s so many options, it’s a bit maddening.
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