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Danny Hess and the Search for a Sustainable Surfboard
His boards are often described by the surfers who ride them as “magical.” His website shows the broad range of boards he makes, from small summer fishes to big wave guns, all captured in stunning photographs by his wife Erin Kunkel. At $1295 they are almost double what a typical board costs, but the strength of the wooden design makes them potentially able to last ten times longer. The boards are fast, maneuverable, strong, and incredibly beautiful. They are just as much pieces of art as they are surfboards
“It’s taken me about 11 years to fully evolve this board’s design,” Danny explained to me when I met with him at the Woodshop, a work space in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset that he shares with three other artisans. “I feel really good about the whole package — the board’s performance, strength, durability, and aesthetic. The technology has come to full fruition. But I think that this design has gone as far as it can go.”
With his high-demand custom boards on a back-order of about 6 months, and professional surfers like Dan Malloy gracing the cover The Surfers Journal while riding one of Danny’s creations, you might think Danny would settle. He’s made it, after all: he’s a successful surfboard shaper, respected by surfers and other woodworkers alike.
Instead, he continues to push his boards and his thinking, at least when he has time. Between shaping and surfing, he is deeply involved in experimenting with new methods to make longer lasting, sustainable surfboards.
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