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Interview with Zen-Master Shaper Roy Stewart

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Roy Stewart Olo Surf FeatureSo you think you're a shaper?  Roy Stewart is the real deal, his best work to date took 4 years to make!

We sat down with Roy to hear why he thinks many of you are a “circus full of performing monkeys”, why the Olosurfer is the Sport of Kings, and how he plans to “reinstate the Sport of Kings to its rightful spiritual eminence.”

As you'll see, Roy represents the opposite of mass production, and it's as if Roy jumped in a time capsule from the 1900s on his wood board, looked around, and said I like it the old way, thanks very much!

DS: Where are you living now?

I live in Putaruru, New Zealand..

DS: Where are you getting your sessions?

At Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty (pictured).

DS: How did you get started building boards?

I built my first paipo boards from wood at nine years of age using my grandfather's tools.

DS: Where do you get materials?

Thanks to Paul Joske's discovery of Paulownia as the ultimate surfboard wood, we have been using Paulownia wood exclusively. All our wood is sourced locally. We are also growing our own.

DS: What is your philosophy of boardbuilding?

Pure surfing, a Zen thing. The only goal is to make waves. It's a victory of the spirit over the mundane and reasonable. Pure surfing is unreasonable. It's primeval and predatory. It's a no mind state free of the usual pseudo rational social and mental abstractions which are used to justify and normalise waveriding. Civilisation insists upon the imposition of social context upon surfing via rules, competitions, schools of thought, style, status, and a demand for emotional self expression, as well as the banal demand to have ‘fun'. All of this excess baggage obscures the primary urge. Removing it leaves one in a state where there is no reason to surf. That is the key. No reason is needed.

Every corporate sponsored school of surfing has a list of required tricks which supposedly define surfing and which need to be performed or at least approved of for acceptance into the group. Longboarding has noseriding, cross stepping, soul arching, knee dropping, and other poses. Shortboarding has hacks, gouges, punts and tricks by the dozen. Alaia and finless surfing have 360's, the lala, and other tricks currently being named as it strives to become a ‘real' surfing school. Likewise SUP's obediently line up to ape shortboarding and longboarding moves. The whole deal is a zoo, a circus full of performing monkeys who know the price of everything but fail to understand the value of nothing.  Without point scoring tricks surfing is nothing, just an empty no mind state. That's pure surfing.

Of course without some sort of goal one wouldn't surf at all, so we simply strive to catch and make waves. One might say that it's like competing in order to score one point or less, just as in golf the fewer strokes make the winner. This has a profound effect on surfboard design. Currently the industry produces surfboards which are like golfclubs made to take the maximum number of strokes while producing the greatest volume of divots.  Paradoxically, intense intellectual discipline creates surrfboards which ride more by doing less.

DS: How long does it take to make a board?

The 19 foot Olo of the Sun took four years from concept to completion, shorter boards take less time. I've given up counting the hours as that's a form of slavery. I prefer to create without a clock.

DS: What do you think of mass produced boards?

I don't think about them much, it's reassuring to see them when entering the water though as they handicap their riders. I tend to see all foam boards as mass produced.

roy stewart big surfboard on beachDS: Do kids today miss the spirit of surfing?

Yes and no. All grommets are pure surfers at the start. Kids have a natural stoke and innocence. So they always start out being the very essence of the spirit of surfing. Most kids are however easily influenced, they follow trends, and they need to be part of a group. This makes them easy targets for marketing psychologists. . Nearly every possible naturally occurring surfing attitude has been scientifically analysed by marketing teams, and used to hijack minds in the pursuit of profit. Those kids follow corporate orders. Most never recover their surfing innocence. It can be done, however, by ceasing to be a ‘surfer', and just riding waves.

DS: What does Olosurfer represent?

The Sport of Kings.

DS: Is it surfing in its basic form?

It is basic in the sense of being most central to the experience. Pure surfing is the foundation of all surfing. Remove the loose bits and it is there inside. One just has to remember.

DS: Do you have to ride wooden surfboards or is it a mindset?

No, one does not have to ride a wooden board, but after riding wood, foam holds no attraction. Wood has a natural resonance and a spring constant, it's the perfect material for surfboards. Who plays a foam violin ?

 

Comments

  1. Roy’s boards are nice, but Roy is single minded tool and a fool.

  2. Rockfakey says:

    After reading all of that I still dont get it – sounds to me like roy is imposing just a different set of defining regulations to surfing other than the “corporate” ones hes ranting about. No no… actually I dont like his narcissistic egotistical manner at all.

    • Really I’m removing rules rather than imposing them… and keep in mind that I’m not imposing my opinion upon anyone but myself, it is merely offered for your consideration.

      In contrast the surf industry does impose its rules on people, this is done via scientific maerketing in such a way that people think that they are making their own decisions, but they are only doing so within the paradigms set by the industry.

      Rearding my manner, I’m polite to those who deserve it. You should get your own house in order in that regard.

      • Rockfakey says:

        I never said you were impolite Roy. Your contempt towards contemporary surfing and current design is palpable – in this interview and numerous posts to be found on the internet. Perhaps the statement “That’s pure surfing” sould be “That’s pure surfing to me” I dont know anyone with the authority or qualifications to make such a bold statement, unless you can see into the minds and hearts of every surfer.
        You are one man, and if this is what “pure surfing” is to you, then all power to you, but that does not make the remainder “a circus full of performing monkeys”
        I too am polite to those who deserve it.

        • Clearly the article is an expression of personal opinion. Some people understand it, some don’t. It’s ok that you don’t. Pure surfing occurs when making waves is the only criteria, as that is the minimum requirement. All else is unnecessary. Thankfully it’s not for everyone !

  3. I like Roy. He is intelligent.

    • Thanks Mason. Inevitably the quest to express these ideas produces anomalies and inconsitencies as well as truth, complex philosphical deas can’t be described with a 100% truth content, due to the ambiguous nature of language. the key is to strive for clarity rather than exactitude. This article ( You might have seen it posted at Jamlongboarding already ) advocates the antithesis of pure surfing, or one of them http://chewyblog.com/?p=1176

  4. kelly smith says:

    roy u have a complex. you make nice craft but they are not the be-all-end-all of surfing. surfing is many things to many people. you call alaia riding something that isnt “real”. what is going through your head? if i want to cross step and noseride, does that make me a circus monkey? no. i also like to bodysurf. no board involved. does that make me a circus monkey? no. it makes me a stoked guy having tons of fun. doesnt mean i wouldnt have fun on one of your boards either. they look sweet. but you should try to relax with the whole narrowminded-ness thing. its offputting and, as you say, “unneccesary”. just be stoked and create wooden craft. you dont need to bring all others down. this is the 21st century and there are certain facts about the world we live in, and the surfing world we are a part of. accept them, and be stoked. you dont have to eschew anyone who isnt riding one of your $400 000+ planks. i look forward to hearing your response. i am sure you will have an answer for everything i brought up.

    thanks
    kelly smith

    • Hi Kelly

      In spite of what you or anyone else says I do have to say what I think, rather than saying what you think I should think.

      You’ve really missed the point of the article, but that’s ok thanks for commenting. … there’s no need for me to answer your questions as you’ve answered them yourself !

      Regards
      Roy

  5. There is a short article about Roy his boards and his “intense intellectual discipline” in the latest Surfer Magazine. Funny funny stuff.

    • Yes a short hit piece packed with lies and misinformation, they pretended to have conducted an interview but no interview occurred. Instead they quoted from a swellnet article out of context…. a new low for the surfer rag but most of their readers can’t read anyway.

  6. When it is described like that, it makes me want to wish that I wasn’t afraid of water. Surfing does seem like such a pure and self centering sport. And that board is such a beauty to behold!

  7. Roy has been kicked off Swaylocks and Surfer Magazine forums several times because of his inability to interact with other members in an adult manner. He thinks his opinions about surfboard design and surfing in general are 100% fact and anyone who disagrees with him is 100% incorrect. His surfboards are different, very big and go straight. The board he sent to Hawaii never proved a thing about his design and it’s been there over 2 years. Roy’s extreme self-aggrandizement and constant bickering turns people off and gets him banned from online communities. I would be happy to see Roy sell a surfboard for $528,000 and sad for the fool that paid that amount. Cheerio Roy!

    • I disagree with you ‘Surfer’.

      I am a logical and thorough person who has a penchant for the truth.

      Roy Stuart surfboards are light years ahead of the common longboard types in performance, this has caused a lot of jealousy.

      • Why would a shaper be jealous if they’re selling a many boards and you are selling zero of your expensive ones? My surfboards do what I want them to do, including my longboards. I’ve seen your boards in action. I would never turn down an offer to ride a session on one but with all due respect I have no interest in owning or purchasing one.

        Additionally, if you are a logical and thorough person who has a penchant for the truth, immediately claiming your surfboards are light years ahead of common longboard types is 1 – an opinion and not fact, 2 – again your absolute unwillingness to accept any new idea that doesn’t come out of your own mind. You seek praise and dress like Jesus, you write your own name into Wiki articles about surfboard design history while your surfboards play little to no part (as of yet) in any history of surfing at all aside from the 13 foot surfboard that got some media attention, a poor review by the first rider at Sunset, and a broken fin at small Pipe.

        • The jealousy does no stem from a comparison of number of boards sold and your asumption that sales levels are the only factor of consequence is most revealing.

          Your psychological analysis of the author is wildly incorrect, as is your potted history of my surfboards and your ridiculous accusation regarding wikipedia.

          Regarding performance, my longboards are way ahead of the mainstream products available in terms of wave making function, this has been proven many times.

          On the subject of the 13 foot Ghost your blinkered report which excludes the vast majority of the facts pegs you neatly as just another brainwashed surf industry apologist with an inferiority complex.

  8. Phukit dude, lets go bowling.

  9. Generally the opposition get frustrated due to lack of funds in their cranial bank accounts.

    I merely continue to correct the incorrect, as is my habit.

  10. The discussion is drifting off topic here. The main point which I made was that surfing is burdened with arbitrary socially based requirements, and that what I call ‘pure surfing’ occurs when one abandons those requirements and enters a ‘no mind’ zone

    As the negative comments here reveal, most surfers are incapable of reacting outside of the social bubble, or of responding without making personal attacks and defamatory comments. That sort of reaction rather proves my point.

  11. Brian McAlister says:

    Interesting interview. I have been surfing for over 50 years now – at 58 I am still out there. I have been fortunate enough to have lived and surfed through a lot of changes and evolutions in surfing. I think you will find a great deal of surfers have found this ‘no mind’ state that you talk about Mr Stewart, but chances are they have taken a different path to get there than have you – nor do they feel the need to make it into a battle against consumer marketing, modern surfboard design or what other surfers are doing out in the water. I can see why some people have taken some offence to this post. Perhaps if too many people are missing the point you should look to the manner in which you deliver it or not.
    All the best Mr Stewart,
    Brian

  12. How does one “make waves”?

    It seems to my perception that it is flat in the area where I seem to be now.

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  1. […] expression, as well as the banal demand to have 'fun'. All of this excess baggage … read full news Published: Fri, 27 May 2011 12:05 Tags: Interview with Zen-Master Shaper Roy […]

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