10-SPOT: Jake Sacks & Notion Surfboards
We caught up with Jake Sacks — a local surfboard shaper, pastor & father of two to talk about surfboard designs. Jake’s “larger than life” message is admirable as he finds his way through decades of an age-old craft: surfboard shaping. The shape of a board can drastically change the way you ride waves. Being able to understand this art form and connect it with the end user is not something that can be learned overnight. It takes years of dedication, trial and error, and a sense of business to keep things flowing. Below are 10 questions we asked Jake to get a quick glimpse inside the mastermind behind Notion Surfboards. Photos: Mickey McCarthy & Jon Carter
1) How did you get into surfing?
I grew up on the rocky coastline of Northern California and as a kid I didn’t really know any surfers. There was a big cove with a beach right down from my house and occasionally there would be people out in the water trading waves. It always looked so fun. When I got into middle school my dad started teaching me to free dive so I had a wetsuit and I decided I was going to learn how to surf. My dad had an old knee boarder friend that was getting rid of some old boards and gave me one, which happened to be a Skip Frye fish. I started taking it to the beach every time we went and I was determined to teach myself how to ride it. Once I could stand up I was able to convince some other friends that it was fun and eventually I had a little crew to surf with.
2) How did you get into shaping and what was your first board you shaped?
I started shaping in Northern California with the help of a local shaper that was taught by guys like Dale Velzy, Bob “Ole” Olson and Dick Brewer. I was in college in North Carolina, so I would learn everything I could over the summers then bring that knowledge back to school and shape every scrap of foam I could find. The first board I shaped on my own was a 5’6″ Twin Fin Fish. I was back in California for Christmas break and I couldn’t get my hands on a blank because Clark Foam had just collapsed so I shaped it out of an old delaminated 7’6″ Gun that I had stored in the rafters. The old, yellowed foam made it turn out pretty ugly, but the shape was super fun and I ended up riding it for years.
3) What inspires you to shape the types of boards you create?
I love everything about waves. They are an open canvas and I love to imagine what lines can be drawn on that canvas. It inspires me to create boards that fit the waves in a way that the rider can draw whatever line they want and the board feels like an extension of their body. I have always shaped every kind of board because every wave is different. The number of lines that can be drawn are endless. My ultimate goal is to match the board to the rider and the way they approach waves.
4) Was there a moment where you felt like you had a breakthrough in your shaping? and what/when was it?
There have been a bunch of small breakthroughs as I have learned my craft. I think recently the breakthroughs have come as I test and refine models. It’s so great to take out a new iteration of a model and have everything click.
5) Other than surfing, what inspires you?
It seems like I am constantly researching and learning about things. Recently I’ve been taking inspiration from entrepreneurs who are doing things differently and using their leadership and business skills to help people and make the world a better place. I have been learning about how people are able to tell a story with their brand in a way that is compelling enough to instill change in the world while remaining profitable so they can stay in business. It inspires me to make our life and brand about something bigger than ourselves and surfing.
6) Top 3 albums you’ve been keeping in rotation?
I keep a mix going all the time. Music keeps me moving but it can’t be too mellow. I don’t seem to get into full albums too much, these days. I usually rock a mix of Bluegrass, Reggae, and upbeat Indie.
7) Where would you like to see your shaping develop more?
I am at the point now where I feel like if I can imagine a design I can make my hands and tools create it. I really think the design side is where the development will come which is exciting because there are so many possibilities.
8) What types of materials do you like to work with most and where do you think board design and performance is headed?
I really like the advances that are happening with EPS foams and epoxy resins but they are harder to work with. Polyurethane foam shapes so nicely. I shape both but the EPS/Epoxy wins most of the time because of the strength and performance it adds. As for board design and performance, I think boards will continue to get shorter with fuller plan shapes. It seems like we are on the edge of a another big design shift. Alternative materials are making boards stronger, lighter and more buoyant which is changing what’s needed in board design. We have the best surfer in the world working with some of the most forward thinking board designers. There are guys doing things on waves that before had only been seen in video games. A design and material combo that makes it so those guys can consistently stomp those airs and continue to push the envelope is the next step.
9) What shapers do you look up to and why?
There are so many good shapers out there. These are just a couple off the top of my head:
Matt Biolos– for making performance boards that are accessible to the average surfer
Tomo– for having the guts to push design to the next level
Hayden– for pushing materials and design, plus being an excellent marketer and brand builder
Chris Christenson– for being able to shape everything from guns to shortboards to fishes all at a top level
Britt Merrick– for being able to step into his dad’s shoes and design board’s for some of the world’s best while balancing being a full time Pastor and excellent Bible teacher.
10) What else is there to know about you that most people are unaware of?
There isn’t too much that people don’t know about me, I’m a pretty open book. The newest thing that’s going down is I have recently helped start a new church here called Calvary Chapel Outer Banks. It’s cool because it’s really for anyone that is curious about what the Bible says about life. I’ve been teaching through the book of Luke on Sunday mornings at the Pit Surf Shop. My life is pretty crazy, between making boards, pastoring a new church and home schooling our two groms my wife and I stay pretty busy.
For more information about Jake Sacks and Notion Surfboards, visit his website HERE.
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