There’s something quite charming and mysterious about how the sea works. We’re stranger to its own force and it acts like a magic spells on us that is impossible to get rid of. The surf culture is now becoming a normality in random places where waves aren’t the best either the conditions, but the joy of paddling out with the hope of getting some magics is enough to make you wake up in the morning and try it out. If surfing isn’t common in these locations, shaping is something even less typical. No matter what people say or think, you don’t need to have been raised in the heart of the surf culture. No, sometimes all you need is to be living in one of the coolest place in Europe, Italy, and get bewitched by the spirit of the sea. That’s what happened to Marcello Zani, founder of Sequoia Surfboards and passionate surfer for almost five years.
The idea of someone shaping boards in Cesena, far away from any good waves and, especially, in an uncommon place for surfers, instantly fascinated us and we decided to give a call to Marcello. I can say that the conversation between two people with thick accent isn’t the easiest, but luckily for you, you don’t need to listen to it. But if you did, you would have discovered an interesting man passionate about his crafts with a warm honest smile glued to his face. He’s probably the coolest Italian I know so far, and Sequoia Surfboards is definitely a brand that you should know about. Italy is well-known for their sense of technology and their creative nature, so you can just imagine how Marcello combines his love for innovation and for the board riding culture to create impressive surfboards in Cesena.
As I said earlier, Marcello is quite a recent surfer with only five years of experiences, but the board riding culture isn’t something new to him. Raised with a skateboard under his feet, he is taking his knowledge of skateboarding to create a new vision for his surfboards. A vision that involves super performance shortboards influenced by the aggressive style of street skating. Knowing the core of the industry doesn’t make you a shaper, though, and shaping surprisingly became the career of Marcello a year after surfing for the first time. “I always liked boards - when I started, I bought tons of boards and just fell in love with all their different styles. Then, I started to shape one time and it looked really good, so I decided to fully go into it”, told us Marcello. For what may look like an irrational decision and unthought of, the path Marcello took ended up being an amazing choice that finally brings a touch of diversity in a shaping world way too small. He then explained to us what the culture is like in Italy: “Surfing isn’t a big culture as you know, but there are many designers here, especially near my city, and there are many technologies, so I think it helped my way of shaping and how I think about it”. Having a grandfather that is a designer, we can easily understand that his path was greatly influenced by this parental figure and he should be thankful to him for his creative sense and hand-working skills. He added with a laugh that his grandfather was a designer indeed, but of women’s shoes. Who mind? Creativity is creativity and talent is everywhere!
Living on the East Coast, his chances of surfing around his city are slightly small, so he grabs the car and travels to get some swells. Two hours and a half later, he can finally ride some waves if the conditions are good, but get ready for some crowded surf when it’s pumping cause there aren’t many spots in Italy. Remember hating Trestles when it’s crowded? Well, same thing for spots in Italy - get ready to surf with more than a hundred people. This country has never been on the map for surfers either shapers, but the motivation is there and the passion is hiding in all these Italians, which is quite amazing if you want my opinion. That's the true essence of surfing - the motivation of surfing shitty waves only for the sake of being there.
Surfing is exploding in Italy right now and we’re led to believe that many people would be willing to try to shape, but we’re actually wrong on the subject as Marcello is one of the only or few that is shaping at the moment. How can you learn to shape when you’re alone in the adventure? “When I knew how to do, I travelled to California and stayed with the guys at Shaper Studios. They’re amazing and I learned a lot. They work with Donald Brink and Ryan Lovelace, which are two of my favourite shapers”, explained Marcello.
Of course, shaping involves constant learning and Marcello is hoping to get back to California to refine his skills. “You can’t learn to shape a board in Italy because there is not many other people and if there is, they don’t want to tell you anything!” added Marcello with a laugh. Shapers usually picks places where waves are constantly pumping or almost, such France, Spain or Portugal. It is understandable, but the fact that Marcello is one of the few that is actually living and shaping in Italy make him stand out in a unique way.
“I am shaping classic boards by hands, then for the performance surfboards, I usually use a CNC machine from Euro Glass, which are one of the best producers in Europe. I am using the machine because I want my board to act perfectly and one board should be exactly the same as the second one”, added Marcello while talking about the performance of his boards. By combining hand shaping and the use of CNC machines, Marcello is able to offer the best of two worlds for his customers - they can pick whichever they prefer. Falling out of the subject, Marcello revealed us an upcoming project for 2017: a new technology for his surfboards! Well, he technically didn’t say anything, but enough to stir up our curiosity. “I don’t want to be just an Italian company, I’m seeing bigger than that. I will do one board next year with a new technology and I can't say too much, but I am really excited about that”, confessed Marcello.
Inspired by Asymmetrical boards and greatly influenced by the work of Donald Brink, Marcello also has a weakness for Ryan Lovelace’s surfboards. Not only for his surfboards by itself, but also for his vision about surfboards making and his philosophy about it. As for Brink, Marcello considers him as “a genius”. Shaping became not only a career for Marcello, but a way of living.
From being a professional racing driver to skateboarding and now shaping, it is an interesting path Marcello decided to take, but one that works! “The most difficult thing is to do the same thing different time. If you have the machine, it’s easy, but when you do everything hand shape, it’s really hard to keep the quality with performance boards”, admitted him.
With a short movie on the way and this new technology that is keeping us awake at night, Marcello isn’t done working hard to achieve better and bigger, but that’s part of the fun isn’t? When you combines passion with a career, it isn’t necessarily easy, plus, add this to the fact that you’re living in Italy, where surfboards shaping isn’t a common thing and waves are usually quite bad, this is even worse. But, that’s when you learn to be a hard-working person, and this is when you achieve big things. If you ever end up walking in the streets of Italy, stop by to see Marcello and maybe who knows, get a board from him.