MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 26th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: custom surfboards.
WORLD Correspondent Caleb Bailey dropped by a local surfboard factory recently while in his home state of California. Inside that factory, he found an owner with a passion for people.
CALEB BAILEY, REPORTER: If you surf the waves of Ventura County, California, chances are you’ll see a board or two stamped with an unusual logo: a silhouetted man with a briefcase. That’s a Proctor surfboard, crafted carefully by Todd Proctor. The silhouette is his dad, Vance, a former police officer with the LAPD.
PROCTOR: Well, how about, “what’s every surfer’s nightmare is like having to go to work in a cubicle and a suit.”
Proctor fell in love with surfing when he was 12 years old.
PROCTOR: You know a lot of self esteem can come out of life from being able to do something well with you know your peers and your friends.
He became fascinated by the different models of the surfboards he would ride. Heading down to his local library, Proctor picked up a simple “how to shape surfboards” book and got to work in his grandpa’s San Fernando Valley backyard shed.
As he refined his craft during his teenage years, most of Proctor’s family disapproved of his unique passion—including his dad.
PROCTOR: Why do you want to make boards? Like that’s what the drug smugglers like, they smuggle drugs in boards, I busted these guys. Why do you want to do that?
Eventually, Todd brought his amateur handmade boards to an experienced shaper. The shaper liked what he saw and took him under his wing as an apprentice. With professional guidance and some boards to show for it, Todd began to win his dad’s approval.
PROCTOR: And he looked at me and he goes, so you're self sufficient doing this, and I remember sitting down with him and going “Well, I think the future is going to be custom designed boards, designed on computers.”
Vance loaned Todd the money to open his own factory in 2000. But he didn’t get to see much of the fruits of his son’s labor.
PROCTOR: Unfortunately passed away about two years into opening the factory here. And it actually took me about 16 years to pay off the business loan that I have. But I’ll tell you what felt good when I did.
Proctor still uses that factory. His showroom is decorated with longboards, shortboards, fun boards, foamies, all hand crafted and stamped with the man and his briefcase.
A blank door next to the front desk leads back to the factory— which has two individual shaping rooms, the walls painted a deep ocean blue. Proctor says the color contrast helps bring out the contours of the white foam blanks as he carves and molds them. That’s also why he has side lights instead of overhead lights.
Another door opens up to a larger room, where Proctor applies fiberglass to the boards. It’s hard to miss the sharp smell of resin, coming from barrels that sit in the corner. After a board has been wrapped with fiberglass weave, it’s soaked with the resin, giving a shiny finish to the board, and keeping it strong while still buoyant.
And at the center of the factory, Proctor’s secret ingredient.
PROCTOR: A CNC machine that you can go and duplicate your best hand shaped boards, but then also take them and scale them size them bigger, smaller, wider, thicker, thinner, according to the person’s body weight, their type and their surfing ability and the waves they surf, and you work with them one on one.
With the help of a few other shapers, Proctor built a CNC machine that was one of the first of its kind. He wanted to keep the custom, personal touch while fast tracking a process that can be taxing on the body.
PROCTOR: You’re walking around back and forth with this planer in your hand, imagine holding it out from your body. And it’s a great workout, but repetitive motion after you know 40-50 years. At the end of your life, you’re going to be like a cripple. And so I’m like plus, not only that, but being able to duplicate your best work in a like, quick and efficient manner.
Proctor noticed how the board-shaping industry often favored professional team surfers—paying less attention to amateur surfers. Meaning low quality boards filled the market, boards that would fall apart or end up in the dump—all for a quick buck.
PROCTOR: And even before I got saved, and was a believer in my mid 20s, I still there's something resonated with my spirit that was like, that actually is not success. Success is being able to bless people individually and personally. And I’m coming to find out that that’s who God actually is… he’s intimate, and he’s personal, and he’s infinite, as well. And so we can’t be infinite here at my little surfboard factory, but we can be personal.
That personal touch made the man with the briefcase a recognized symbol around the world—in South Africa, Norway, even New York City. And the pandemic didn’t slow down demand.
PROCTOR: But there was people calling us during during COVID like tripping out and suicidal and going, Okay, I just need to talk to somebody can I order a board…the only thing that will keep me hold hanging on is I want to get a couple more boards because I want to plan a trip for in two years, if I do, if, if stuff does go back to normal, and I want to I want to go here and I want to board for it.
And with each board, Todd Proctor hopes a greater eternal reality is stamped onto the hearts of his customers.
PROCTOR: Sometimes it even paves the way for people to go, Why in the world. Did you take the time with me? I’m not a pro surfer. And yet this board has blessed my life so much, and why do you use better materials? And why do you sacrifice to make something better when you could do it this way, or you could outsource, make way more and not have done this for me like why? And they don’t, they don’t get it. And then you have opportunity to explain to them, Well, here’s why. Because that’s how God rolls. And that’s how he does for us. And it leads people to their own creator and have a relationship with him themselves.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Caleb Bailey in Ventura, California.
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