Summer Surf Report

The Boardroom International Surfboard Show

From La Jolla and Del Mar’s shout-out in the Beach Boys’ Surfing USA to the cultivation of world-class surfers such as Brad Gerlach and Skip Frye, North County has long had a spot on the surf culture map. So it’s no surprise that the only consumer-facing surfboard manufacturing trade show in the world—the Boardroom International Surfboard Show—was founded here.

“We’re kicking off the summer of 2017. All the surfboard makers and shapers will have the latest and greatest on display, and available for purchase,” says Scott Bass, founder and executive director of the Boardroom show, which is celebrating its 10th year.

Around 2005, the surfboard industry faced a major setback: its main foam supplier—Clark Foam—closed its doors. Because the company had a monopoly on foam, surfboard retailers, manufacturers, and designers suddenly had limited access to the material. The surfing industry eventually recovered with the emergence of US Blanks. After that scare, Bass recognized a need for people in the surf industry to come together. That’s when he established the Boardroom show (formally Sacred Craft). It kicked off in 2007 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Around 5,000-6,000 attendees now walk the show’s floor each year. So far, the Boardroom has been held 16 times in various locations, including Santa Cruz, Ventura, and Orlando, FL. This year’s event will be held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The Boardroom is an inclusive event—a place where even the novice is encouraged to come engage with and learn from experts in the surf industry. “The surfboard is the philosophical icon of enduring youth,” says Bass, who grew up in Del Mar and has surfed since 1977. “It just makes you feel like a kid when you have one under your arms—you’re eternally stoked. And that’s really the power of the show—it makes you happy because it brings you back to the beach and those magical times.”

The Boardroom showcases the essential hard goods of the surf industry: surfboards, fins, wetsuits, art and gear. “The one thing about surfing in surf culture is that there are only two things that matter: waves, and the equipment to ride those waves with,” says Bass. Approximately 110 vendors from around the world, comprising shapers, surfers, manufacturers, and designers participate this year.

Board shaping is a huge part of this event. Manufacturers give live demonstrations for anyone interested in laminating their own surfboards. “That’s the beauty of the show,” says Bass. “We put the shapers right in front of the consumer.” There’s even a ‘Young Groms of Shaping’ exhibit, where 13-year-old shaper novices will put their boards on display.

Attendees at the family-friendly event enjoy food and drinks, live music, outdoor skateboard ramps, and the California Gold Surfboard auction with rare and unique surfboards. There will also be a ‘Best in Show’ exhibit, where each surfboard manufacturer enters one board for passers-by to gawk at and a judging panel picks the best boards. Attendees can also expect great deals on state-of-the-art surfboards crafted by the world’s top surfboard manufacturers.

One of the main exhibits each year is the Icons of Foam Tribute to the Masters Shape-Off competition presented by US Blanks, where shapers are invited to replicate a classic design of that year’s honored iconic surfboard manufacturer or shaper. This year’s honoree is North County native Al Merrick, a famous surfboard manufacturer and the creator of Channel Islands Surfboards. World-champion surfers have won many competitions with Merrick’s boards under their feet – Kelly Slater earned 11 world titles on a Channel Island board.

Surfer Magazine’s editorial staff will host public panel discussions with experts in the field, covering cutting-edge materials and technology, legacies in the surf world, and even surfing officially becoming an Olympic sport in 2020. On Sunday morning, there will be a surfboard demo, where attendees can ride surfboards that the exhibitors have on display.

As for his love for surfing, Bass says, “No matter what, 10 times on 10, when I get out of the water, I feel better.” It’s a common sentiment among surfers. “There are a lot of different reasons why, but it has quite an enduring and alluring effect on us. Once you’re hooked, you’re in trouble!”