Rex Marechal

How the ex­pat shaper be­came an icon of foam.

Tracks - - Arrow - Com­piled by Luke Kennedy.

Ear­lier this year Rex Marec hal lined up along­side nine other shapers for Cal­i­for­nia’ s an­nual‘ Icons of Foam’ shape­off com­pe­ti­tion. Marec hal, who moved to Aus­tralia from the US int he early 90s, was part of a field of mod­ern mas­ters that in­cluded JonPyzel( John John’ s shaper) GaryMc­neil( Ra st a’ s go-to guy) and Johnny Cab ian ca( Gabriel Me din a’ sman). The rules of the com­pe­ti­tion are very clear. The ob­jec­tive is to replica tea board made by an iconic shaper; in this case it was an Al Mer­rick de­sign. Shapers have five min­utes to mea­sure up the iconic board and then 1.5 hours to get busy with a blank. Just to make things a lit­tle in­ter­est­ing Al de­cided to take the field back to a time when the world’ s best rode boards that were long and thin with plenty of bend. The S later 1991 model proved quite the chal­lenge to replica te, but af­ter all the rails were fond led and the curves closely checked, it was Rex who was judged by Al, and his son Britt, to have de­liv­ered the most ac­cu­rate re­cre­ation.

What were the di­men­sions of the board you had to recre­ate in the com­pe­ti­tion?

It was kind of long and skinny, 6’1” x 18 1/4” x 2 1/4”.

Did you go down that road of su­per­rock­ered, nar­row boards with your own shapes in that era? Can the av­er­age guy ride boards with pro­nounced rocker?

It was the trend of the time though I didn’t par­tic­u­larly agree with the de­sign phi­los­o­phy at the time, but of course there was amaz­ing surf­ing go­ing down on these boards. I shaped what peo­ple were ask­ing for at the time but urged them not to go too crazy with the di­men­sions. Try to be com­fort­able with what would work for them. My opin­ion is that the av­er­age surfer is go­ing to strug­gle on the hy­per-rock­ered boards. The most im­por­tant el­e­ments in find­ing the magic board is to have the right com­bi­na­tion of length, rocker, width, bot­tom con­tour and vol­ume that match your abil­ity. Too many av­er­age surfers go down the path of the lat­est “mod­els” by the big brands with­out ac­tu­ally con­sult­ing a shaper, where the surfer’s re­quire­ments and pa­ram­e­ters are ad­dressed in more de­tail.

Do you think Kelly was surf­ing bet­ter on those boards back then? Do you pay close at­ten­tion to what the top 34 are rid­ing?

Kelly was def­i­nitely rip­ping on those boards back then but high per­for­mance surf­ing has evolved so much since then. Sure, power surf­ing, tube rid­ing and style are still para­mount, but now you’ve got above the lip crazy shit that wasn’t re­ally hap­pen­ing on the level that it is now when Kelly was rid­ing these par­tic­u­lar boards. Per­son­ally, I think Kelly was surf­ing his best and his boards looked like they were work­ing best when he won his last world ti­tle. He was so sharp on those boards.

Is it im­por­tant for a shaper to re­ally in­ter­pret what some­one wants when they place a cus­tom or­der?

I be­lieve it is of great im­por­tance for the shaper to in­ter­pret the surfer’s plan for a

cus­tom board. Surf­ing and shap­ing re­ally has no wrong or right. It’s a feel­ing that one gets while on a wave and the shaper needs to be as open-minded as the surfer and vice versa. In the com­pe­ti­tion you had to hand shape the blank. Do you think as­pir­ing young shapers should know how to do this? The young shapers re­ally should know the ba­sics. It’s like surf­ing; you don’t go straight to airs with­out know­ing how to do a proper bot­tom turn. There’s a lot of sat­is­fac­tion that comes from com­plet­ing a hand shape that is beau­ti­ful and per­forms well. And I think to un­der­stand it all from a de­sign per­spec­tive is valu­able to any shaper start­ing out. It is worth putting the time in to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing. I’m a pro­po­nent of CAD de­sign and CNC shap­ing tech­nol­ogy but my ad­vice would be to not cut cor­ners when learn­ing how to shape. There has been a big fo­cus on vol­ume in re­cent years and get­ting litreage ex­actly right? Do surfers some­times for­get to fac­tor in other vari­ables like bot­tom curve and rail shape as a re­sult of the litreage ob­ses­sion? There are too many vari­ables to have any one con­crete phi­los­o­phy in surf­boards. Rocker, width, length, rail vol­ume, bot­tom con­tour, all can play a ma­jor part. And yes many do put too much em­pha­sis on vol­ume/litreage. But as a gen­eral con­sen­sus re­gard­ing per­for­mance surf­boards, it is good to know the vol­ume that you like in your board as a ref­er­ence point. Then you can work from there with all the other el­e­ments. What is dif­fer­ent about the board cul­tures in Aus­tralia and the USA? I moved to Aus­tralia in late 1993. I was given the op­por­tu­nity to work at a very en­er­getic fac­tory in Mona Vale, The Lam­i­na­tor, and was stoked to be in that en­vi­ron­ment. Much of it rubbed off on me and I hoped that my en­thu­si­asm and ex­pe­ri­ence in­flu­enced oth­ers in that fac­tory as well. Our board cul­tures were much the same I have to say. Although the ri­valry was alive and well... Is the cus­tom-shap­ing cul­ture still alive and well for the in­de­pen­dent shaper in Aus? I’d like to think the cus­tom cul­ture is still thriv­ing here. I’m bank­ing on it. It’s the only thing that is keep­ing our in­dus­try alive here. If not, the whole thing just moves to Asia for peo­ple seek­ing larger mar­gins and every­one is rid­ing generic boards. It bums me out to see the in­dus­try go­ing that way and dy­ing out in places that have cul­tural roots to not only the sport, but the craft of surf­board mak­ing. You have been shap­ing since the 70s. Is this the Golden era of de­sign, given that there are so many dif­fer­ent styles of boards that surfers have li­cense to ride? I love where surf­boards and surf­ing is at right now. You’ve got a whole gamut of dif­fer­ent styles of boards that suit the surf­ing that’s hap­pen­ing. I dig it all, short­boards, long­boards, retro; it’s all-good as long as you’re rip­ping.

Left to Right: Rex work­ing on his win­ning re­cre­ation of an Al Mer­rick de­sign. Rex Marechal (on the right) with Al Mer­rick at the ‘Icons of Foam’ shape­off, which Rex took out. Rex test-driv­ing one of his own craft on an over­head pearler.

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