Donald+Brink+Surfboards+Interview

Asymmetrical boards with Donald Brink

Part I of our interview with Donald

Brink Surf is a California-based company where the owner, Donald Brink, transfers his passion of shaping into wooden planks for the world to surf on. What he creates is more than just handshaped boards—it’s art pieces. Donald is well-known within the surf industry for his asymmetrical surfboards. Yes, the ones that are coming back in style at full speed or that have never really left. The process is a bit more complicated than what we think, but while chatting with him, I understood why his company is so popular. People go to him for his surfboards, but also for the man itself. Donald is simply one of the kindest and most stoked persons around, and if a perfect surfboard isn’t enough to convince you to buy from him, his mind will do.

Tell us more about yourself. Who is behind Brink Surf and how did you get into shaping?  

When I started surfing, I tried different boards and started riding a couple of equipment. I was fascinated by how things worked in general, so when it came to surfboards, it wasn’t any different and I noticed I wanted to react at how I could change things. It was intriguing to me so I started hanging around the right people that were shaping boards or fixing them. It was back in Cape Town in South Africa, and that was my introduction: trying to find out what makes a board good or works in a certain way for a specific person. I think I just always knew I wanted to shape.

Even if you’ve been living in California for the longest time, you are originally from Cape Town. What made you move there?

I was actually travelling with a Christian rock band and we were touring. We were in America playing in the East Coast and we came across California for a friend’s wedding, and that’s where I met my wife. It is kind of a long story, but yea, we were based there for a while and I got to know a lot of people. I finally married my wife and San Clemente, where she was originally from, became home ever since.

Parkin_Donald_Brink_Surfboards

I’ve noticed that you are updating your blog quite often—would you say that being close to your present/future clients is important?

I’m putting together little blog posts about how to make a wooden surfboard. It’s not so much about ‘’this is how you do it’’, but I think it’s impressing when you can inspire people to do something that they’re going to like. Surfing is an amazing thing, but I feel like shaping and design can reach people beyond just surfers. Surfing is a community-based sport and I find it very important to realize that this whole conversation can go beyond just riding waves or building boards. We often forget that social media is about being social, it’s not just about promotion. My goal is to make the best boards for the right people, and what I’ve learned is that using the internet to connect with people helps me explain the reason behind it all. Once you do that, you can actually empower what the surfers want to do and what they need. If you give something of value to your clients/potential clients, you will give them a memory and create a difference at the same time. Those customers may never buy anything from you, but they are customers of your thoughts and of your inspirations. You can’t put a value on that.

It’s no secret that you have a lovely family. Would you like to eventually share the passion of shaping with your kids or you would rather focus on showing them your passion for the sea first?

Donald+Brink+Surf+Photographer+John+O'Connor
Credit: John O’Connor

I don’t know if my kids will be involved in surfing or shaping, and I don’t care, to be honest. But what I do care about is to be for them who I’m supposed to be. For me, building these surfboards is being true to what I feel right and progression is what I strongly believe in. I wouldn’t be modelling them to do “what I want them to do”. We’ll help them figure out what they’re supposed to do and we will support them in that. Once you figured out who you are and what you are going to do, and how you’re going to help the world, you start to get comfortable with yourself. When we go to the beach, which we often do, it’s not for the surf, it’s more about being together as a family. For me, I stay true to what I do because I feel like my kids will absorb that. I feel like this is more important than just creating a father and son company.

How do you feel when you see everything you’ve accomplished?

It may sound really negative, but I feel more frustrated about the things that I am not doing. I think it just comes with the frustration of a creative person. There are cool things going on, but to be honest, I am living in California, where it’s an expensive place. Because of that, for years and years, I putted everything in this company. Surfboards cost a lot to design and try, and not all the boards work. It’s been an incredible amount of money and boards that failed, and those failures led to things that finally work. The reality of life is real and I’m just trying to pace myself, do the best I can and dream about tomorrow. I should probably sit down and celebrate joys more often, but I don’t because these boards are individually made and I give everything I have in every one of them. It’s such a unique and individual workflow.


Read the rest of our interview with Donald right here.
To find out more about him, visit his website.

More Stories
Surfing+Russia+kamchatka_Sergey+Rasshivaev
Into Russia’s heart with Sergey Rasshivaev