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Interview: Almond Surfboards' Dave Allee

We chat with the founder of the Californian company about shaping and building their boards and their future

by CH Contributor in Design on 12 August 2014

by Kohl Crecelius

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In a world obsessed with the idea of more, Almond Surfboards has been able to carve out a niche within surfing that is both meaningful and intentional. Located in Newport Beach, CA, Almond's young team has focused the scope of their work to create a recognizable identity and reputation for quality. Dave Allee—who began shaping Almond boards in 2007 and opened their flagship store in 2009—says of their philosophy, "If you are interested in what we make, then we make the best of that very thing, otherwise it's of no interest."

Their beautiful longboards are so beguiling, buying one is almost inescapable. As we worked our way through the custom ordering process, Allee told us more about Almond's approach to designing and shaping classic boards, retail and growing their brand.

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The goal is to get you into waves earlier because when you can do that, everything else comes together.
What are the key characteristics of an Almond Surfboard?

Our ethos around surfboards is different than most. We build boards that have some volume and are relatively flat with continuous rocker. We want our boards to glide really well, when you’re paddling and surfing. The goal is to get you into waves earlier because when you can do that, everything else comes together.

What is the process when someone comes to you looking for a new board?

I talk with everyone who wants to order a board. For me, it’s about trusting their self-reporting when it comes to what they are looking for. I like to understand what boards they are already riding and what gap in their quiver they are hoping to fill. I want the process to be as conversational as possible.

At the same time, it’s important for us to bring our expertise to the table. We’ve spent the last seven years focused on the 16 specific shapes we offer. We help guide the process to ensure everyone gets a board that we are confident they will love.

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Could you speak to your design aesthetic and how it is involved in the process?

We want to make stuff that we are proud of. Early on, we had to make a conscious decision to not try and be all things to all people. We have a specific aesthetic. You either love it or you hate it and we’ll be fine either way. Everything is considered and understated. It’s all in the details.

Color is something that really matters to me. Our color palette conveys a specific brand identity. From a distance you can tell that it’s an Almond board without seeing a massive logo.

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Share more about the color wheel you employ.

Annually we create a specific color palette that directs all of the colors for the year. A lot of time goes into dialing that color wheel and making sure the colors are just right. I want to give people the opportunity for customization, but I believe that happens best within boundaries and limits. We want to give them color options but not 10,000—just 27. It’s way easier to make a decision within a color palette. Again, we know what we are good at so let us help you figure out what you are looking for and what fills your personal taste.

What happens once the shape and colors are decided on?

Craftsmanship is a value at the core of who we want to be. Since day one, we have gone to a lot of extra effort to build our surfboards by hand. It’s our goal to educate our customers on all the steps that go into making their surfboard. In communicating the steps it helps them understand why certain constraints exist, and it helps them appreciate that surfboard that much more. We hope that people take pride in the fact that there is one guy who shaped their board. In fact, Griffin has shaped every board we’ve sold since 2008.

What is so significant about craftsmanship for you?

Surfing in and of itself is not an existence. We value making, creating, doing, scheming and dreaming. We want to celebrate the craftsmanship in the surfboards that we make, as well as the people behind the products that we build.

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There is a beautiful heritage in the history of surfboard craftsmanship. As we educate people on the work of board builders, we hope they appreciate what they are receiving all the more. One dude has shaped every single Almond board since 2008. We truly don’t want to cheapen the work Griffin is doing and the thought of how we have arrived at the boards that we make. We want people to celebrate these accomplishments alongside of us.

How does this play out in your brand?

We want our surfboards to be a small representation of a bigger need in humanity to have that sense of collaborative effort and accomplishment and common purpose. The ability to say, at the end of the day, this is what I made.

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That’s why we do T-shirts with blue prints of boards on it. Honoring craftspeople of all types. The reality is, I know a lot of surfers that are incredibly talented in a lot of different areas. I like to think that the fact that we are surfers is not the thing that is the most interesting things about us. Professionals of all types are also surfers. In actuality, we are spending a few minutes a week riding a wave and hopefully we are spending the rest of our time doing significant or substantial things.

Check out Almond Surfboards in Newport Beach or visit them online. They also have a line of clothing that is made in America, including a new women’s collection.

Images courtesy of Almond Surf

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