*This was published in AltDaily.com, March 2011*
In a 25-foot by 10-foot storage space, covered by a thin layer of fiber glass dust created by the sanding of newly made surfboards, the magic happens.
That storage space by the Virginia Beach Ocean Front is where 757 Surfboards founders Robert Seatherton and Andrew Everson make custom surfboards. Literally, make. Not just repair or sell.
It started as a hobby about three years ago then became a business as Robert and Andrew decided to make boards to sell (not just for themselves).
“We had a lot of designs in our heads that we wanted to make for ourselves, then finally after breaking our boards we were just like, let’s just do it…We wanted our own boards that didn’t cost an arm and a leg,” Robert said, who is a biology major at Old Dominion University.
“Everyone wants a standard cookie cutter surfboard. Robert and I decided to change that and to try to bring in a new wave of open minds,” Andrew, 21, said. “How can you reach full potential with boards that aren’t custom for your size, weight, and ability?
“We realized we were pretty damn good at it, so we went from there,” Robert, 21, added.
Robert and Andrew pay for the storage space themselves, which is about $150 a month. In the summer when they have more orders to make boards, the business helps pay for the space.
“We’d love to have a store down at the beach,” Robert said.
As of now, the storage room is their perfect solution as they balance the labor of creating surfboards with school and other jobs.
“I juggle as best as I can,” Andrew said, who is a business administration major at Tidewater Community College and is transferring to ODU in the fall. “With the company I’ll often pull late nights at the shop but how can you get anywhere without putting the time in?”
Robert was working on a board that he and Andrew call “The Rebuttal,” which was customized with a fading black, to blue, to white paint job from the tail to the nose of the board. There is a repetition of skulls that overlap and extend from the bottom-middle of the board up to the right side. White lines reminiscent of sun rays start from the lower right, radiating out to the left side, with black paint splattered on the top.
He was scraping tape off the side of the board which created a high pitched squeak similar to nails on a chalk board. Then he put on a mask to cover his mouth and nose and began sanding.
“It gets on your skin; it gets on your clothes,” Robert said. However messy it gets, Robert said he loves shaping and sanding.
“My least favorite part of the board making process is letting the board go still. You get attached in a way to the board since so much time and work gets put into each one of our boards,” Andrew said. “My favorite part of making boards is taking on the new challenge and knowing what it will be in the end.”
The boards begin as a basic surfboard shape made from a type of expandable foam. It looks like a large, white, chunky surfboard with the wooden stringer down the center. Shaping it is the first step.
Robert said it takes him and Andrew about three hours to shape the foam make it the desired style and shape, ensuring it’s perfect and accessible for surfing any wave.
After the board is shaped, it is glassed with a special epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth then sanded for a smooth finish. A plain white 5’10 board goes for $350, and the price goes up depending on size and customization/design.
Of course, all boards that Robert makes for himself have a British flag on them somewhere since he is from Portsmouth, England. He came to America in 2004 which is when he started surfing and Andrew has been surfing since he was 5.
Robert and Andrew can stencil, airbrush and even hand paint desired designs on boards. Robert said airbrushing is the easiest method. After that, he puts a border of tape along the edge of the board then covers it with an Epoxy resin mixture to give it a glossy look.
The boards are then left in a designated area of the shop to bake. They use a space heater at about 75 to 80 degrees.
“This resin takes two hours to dry, depending on the temperature,” Robert said, as he was mixing the resin and brushing it across the blue skull board he was working on.
“People call us up and they want a board for like $250 and they want all this crazy custom stuff…as much as we want to give it to them just to get our name out there and give them a cool board…the matter of time it takes…” Robert said. The materials alone to make one board cost $200, which is the down payment for customers.
“Honestly, I can’t really remember how many [surfboards] I’ve done. I just know as each one passes the next ones get better and better,” Andrew said.
“This past summer was our big summer when we got out shop,” Robert said. Overall, Robert said they generate customers through word of mouth and Facebook. Robert also created their web site, http://www.757surfboards.com.
“At ODU, Robert talks to people and posts on Craigslist and Facebook. I’m your street-tag man,” Andrew said. “Take a look at the Ocean Front, you’ll find a 757 sticker somewhere.”
“Craigslist is a Godsend,” Robert said. “That’s where most people go. Most people sell their used boards for $250 – $300. Then you see our brand new surfboards… design your own for $300.”
Robert’s favorite surfboard is a 5’10 board he made for himself. Well, he’ll finish it when he has the time. The board has a large British flag designed on it in yellow and green. Andrew’s favorite is The Rebuttal.
On the bottom of every board Robert makes, there is a short message that reflects his mood at the time he is making them. The message on his favorite board reads, “Let it go.”
Andrew said he and Robert have different styles from each other when designing, and Andrew hasn’t put messages on any boards he has made…yet. One message Andrew wants to share is that he wants to thank everyone who supports the efforts of 757 Surfboards.
“My goals are to be the next big surf company in Virginia Beach, then to hit the national market,” Andrew said. “I can see us a few years from now crushing Indo on our boat trip after graduating college on well renounced 757 surfboards.”
“My vision is international success,” Robert said. “I think between Andrew and I, we both have the creativeness and the drive to do it.”