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A Costa Mesa classic: Dano Surfboards

While surfing at Blackies in Costa Mesa, California, I started looking around and noticing people’s surfboards. Some of them I couldn’t see the brands, while others were obvious: it was from Dano Surfboards. I then talked to a few friends that told me that Dano Forte, the shaper behind Dano Surfboards, was an icon in the area and that I should pay him a visit. I then followed their advices and visited Dano in his shop to talk a bit more about his career.

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The friendly faces you see as soon as you enter Dano Surfboards.

“I started shaping boards 27 years ago, in my mom’s garage. I just bought a blank and gave it a try. I was around a bunch of shapers at the time, airbrushing for a few people and I eventually saw a blank somewhere. I asked what it was for and the guy sold it to me. I always watched my boards being shaped over the years, so I wasn’t that confident, but I was going to give it a try. It worked out, but it wasn’t that good. Through your first board, you can see what you’ve done wrong and you know what you can change. It takes a while before it all flows together.”

Shaping boards is really popular in California as you grow up surrounded by the surf culture, but Dano’s childhood wasn’t the typical Californian one. “I lived in New York till I was 12 then I moved to Southern California. I didn’t start surfing for a few years, I was hanging at the beach, but not surfing.”

“This is a board I shaped for someone in Japan—it’s all handmade,” pointing a board next to him. “It’s a lot quicker when I use a machine, but I think it’s the same quality. When it’s hand shaped, there is a little nuance, the board has a human element for sure, but I make some out of the computer for the team riders and they love it. When it’s with the machine, it comes out a perfect board, but there is something about the human element that makes it feel cool.”

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Photo: Andy Staley

“I had some good riders over the year and they still ride some of my old boards from time to time, which is cool. I have Jared Mell who is riding my boards now and he surfs really well.”

“My favourite boards are traditional longboards—retro style, fish and eggs, 70s style single fin.”

“When I started, I was mainly shaping just shortboards. I was competing and I was riding just a regular thruster, therefore had no desire of shaping a longboard. But somehow, down the line, I discovered a love for old-style longboards and I wanted to build some like that. I decided to make myself a longboard and thought it was the old school one, but it wasn’t really. Then I saw other people doing it, so did my homework and checked what they rod in the 60s and how the fin was.”

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“Usually people share rooms, except when they shape. They will have their own room depending of what they do. We have two lamination rooms for the glassing where they put the fibreglass on. We do approximately ten boards at the exact same time. They do the bottom first, put the fibreglass on and turn it over to put another layer of resin. Then do top and bottom again.”

Dano Surfboards was a victim of his success; Dano didn’t expect this at all. What started has a hobby quickly become a career, and not for only Dano, but a lot of other Southern California people. His warehouse is huge and his team is simply amazing. Go get a board or go talk to him, you won’t regret a conversation with him.

Check out his website

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