Fowler Surfboards

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An Interview with Bruce Fowler


Bruce Fowler has been surfing since 1959 and honing his craft as a shaper since the 1970s. His prolific designs are some of the most well recognized and respected shapes in surfing, backed by over 40 years of expertise. Bruce’s expertise runs deep – he’s operated several surf shops, built custom boards for pros and developed numerous “private label” boards for surf shops around the world, culminating in the world-renown line of Stoker V-Machine shapes. Recognized for their speed and versatility, evo is excited to offer Fowler surfboards in Washington and Oregon!

evo: We know you started surfing when you inherited an old broken board from your older brother’s friend, but what really set the hooks?

Bruce: It was that sliding feeling you get the first time you finally get past riding the soup (whitewater). Somehow I finally got a mean angle going and found trim with the wave. I was hooked ever since!

evo: You grew up sleeping on the beach and surfing for days on end. What is your favorite memory from that point in your life?

Bruce: The camaraderie we all shared as surfers. It was such a free time to be alive. No one was worrying about terrorists or being politically correct. Before the internet, the world was a more mysterious place. Nowadays someone farts and blows up a factory half way across the world and we hear about it half an hour later.

evo: Any tips for aspiring surf bums?

Bruce: Home is where the heart is. Even if it's your van! It's important to be happy for what you have rather than unhappy for what you don't have. Less is more!

evo: What sets your boards apart from the surf pack?

Bruce: After half a century and shaping tens of thousands of surfboards, it really boils down to keeping it simple by providing surfers with what works. I don't need to reinvent the wheel anymore. I've been there and done that, and sure, I learned a lot from doing so, but at the end of the day, my success boils down to offering surfers a surfboard that they can ride every day and really enjoy.

evo: Your boards were originally conceived for Goleta surf and have a huge following. How will your shapes behave in the PNW’s often unpredictable conditions?

Bruce: Actually I find that assessment pretty ironic, because there isn't one surf shop in Goleta that carries my boards! The closest shop is 30 miles away in Ventura! Yet my surfboards sell all over the world and have been very popular in a wide variety of global surfing conditions. I have existing customers in the Pacific Northwest that ride my boards, then head south to places like Sayulita Mexico, Costa Rica, and other spots that further proves the versatility of my designs. Maybe the local shops just figure they will get hold of me directly? That's funny because I'm a workaholic recluse then I split for Cabo or Paris or somewhere just to chill out and soak up some culture. I have great delivery because I'm a ghost most the time!

evo: When shaping a new board, where do you draw your inspiration?

Bruce: Boy what a loaded question...I've run the gamut over nearly half a century of designing everything you can imagine that moves through water. Windsurfing throughout the 80's really opened my eyes on how to quantify a design. I suppose growing up around George Greenough and Reynolds Yater had quite an influence on me. I rode the late John Bradbury's surfboards as a young man while learning to shape my own surfboards, and JB's boards really taught me what a magic surfboard should be. Mike Hynson also influenced my thinking, yet, like "Uncle Al" (Merrick), as we call him, I am completely self-taught and wouldn't have wanted it any other way!

evo: What would you consider your trademark?

Bruce: The bullseye "target" has been with me for decades. I updated it recently by adding one more ring to it. I've always liked the history of what they call "rondels" which were the targets used on British planes starting as early as WWI. The Brits started doing this to avoid shooting their own planes down! But as far as a trademark in a purer sense, I would say it is the colored deck arches from "foam staining" using colored resin tints & pigments I have frequently put on my surfboards since the 1970s.

evo: Biggest wave?

Bruce: I'd say a good twenty foot wave face in Hawaii or Peru, or possibly even The Ranch. Buzzy Trent once stated waves have to be "measured in increments of fear." I think he is right. To be honest, people are all over the place on what size a wave actually is. I would hear it was 10 to 12 feet at one of my favorite spots, then drive up there only to find out it was maybe five feet.

evo: Best wave?

Bruce: Good lord, you really think I can answer that? There have been so many! If I had to pick one, I suppose I'd have to say it is the full carving 360 degree turn I did at Jalama circa 1972 on a single fin...either that or it goes back to my very first right slide at Santa Barbara Sandspit. I still remember feeling like I was going a million miles an hour!

evo: What is your favorite shape?

Bruce: I love Swallow wingers, super gunny pintails, and the newest V Bottoms I'm calling V8 'lean machines'. I also like shaping classic longboards that anyone can camp out on the nose for a lifetime.

evo: What motivated you to partner with us?

Bruce: I'm very quality oriented. In the past 6 or 7 years, I've only offered my surfboards at the very best shops in select areas. I call it my select dealer network versus selling to anyone and everyone. Some guys will sell to anybody. I'm not like that. I checked evo out and know they are a quality operation that really care about their customers. That means they will represent my product the way I would do so myself.

evo: Who is the deadshaper?

Bruce: Deadshaper is a moniker I took on after coming home from Hawaii in 1990 when I was in a near fatal car crash. It was severe with less than a one percent survival rate. I was in a very deep coma and on life support. I went down the blue tunnel and all that stuff. For some reason the powers that be detoured me, and when I came out of it, I was quadriplegic. I never gave up hope, even though I was released from the hospital and categorized at rehab as severely disabled. I took my own crash course in neurology and began seeking every conceivable way to reclaim my life. I studied and developed my own therapies. It took almost three years, but I succeeded, including learning to walk again before I could shape a surfboard. I guess I was a pretty good student, and I have helped and inspired similarly afflicted people in my community since. I suffered severe brainstem trauma, and I'm always telling skaters to wear a helmet for good reason.

evo: Favorite post surf brew?

Bruce: Tecate. It's cheap and seems to be the only beer that tastes good out of a tin can!

On behalf of evo, thank you Bruce!
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