Welcome to the 17th episode of our podcast! Today with us from San Diego, California, Eric Gordon son of the legendary Larry co-founder of Gordon & Smith legendary company for surfers and skateboarders from all over the world.
Let’s discover more about their history, shaping surfboards, future projects and much more!
You can follow us on all major podcast platforms or read the interview below, please forgive us if we done mistakes while transcribing the whole episode
TTOS: Aloha Eric, welcome to the show, where are you today?
We are in San Diego at the office factory here and getting the day started
TTOS: The week starts good with an interview with The Temple of Surf podcast
First question that I have for you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
it’s really about the stoke, no matter what you are riding.
being stoked is what drives you through that whole journey, being in different places, meet different people, use different boards and equipment.
TTOS: I totally agree with you, being stoked is super important….you said about meeting people and I guess you are meeting a lot, a lot of people between athletes, customers, suppliers, glassers….
Yeah, me and my sister are running the glass shop and then we also writing G&S as a brand, all day long living with our team of boards builders. We have customers, supplier and it’s nonstop…
You know, the surf industry is a big family and every day there is something new, but we love what we do, definitely.
TTOS: Family business and also part of the surf history, your company is one of the clear examples of that….I was looking at the date of creation 1959, 61 years ago…..It’s amazing.
Basically just started with my dad and his friend Floyd, their whole objective was really just to build their own first board, just make boards for themselves.
They weren’t really looking at starting a business, but it just happened.
TTOS: How do you preserve the history of G&S?
That’s a little bit of a process, there’s just so much to it.
I think back in 2009, when we had our 50th anniversary, that was kind of a big milestone, I had created a big event and I put together kind of like a timeline, by decade, showing all these things that happened. And by the time I finished, I was like amazed at how much my dad had done.
That turned into another project of compiling all this information on add photos and the stories. and ended up actually putting together the whole book to, you know, preserve what my dad had accomplished.
TTOS: You are referring to the book that is for sale in your website right? The history of G&S….
Yeah, it’s one long ride and we were looking at possibly doing a reprint, some slight changes to it or what I’m trying to figure out how to get that available online, just to have it out there as a reference, to tell the story of this company.
TTOS: definitely, if you can make those information available, that will be amazing.
Exactly, we also get a lot of like people trying to identify a model, who shaped the board, or what time or period was that.
My next project, something I actually started working on, is a timeline of all of our board models and of course, it’s all G&S models, but it also reflects what was going on during these periods, you can kind of see a picture of all those changes that were taking place over time
The shortboard revolution, for instance with all those amazing changes… it helps people identify the board, but also the bigger picture.
TTOS: You said that, in 1969, the company was created just to provide surfboards to your father and Floyd Smith, the need was to have surf book for themselves, this is what you’re saying.
The initial goal was just to make themselves boards, they were shaping and working kind of separately. Then they came together, were able to build a mold (because Hobie had a secret formula) and they started making boards for themselves and then for a friend and a friend of a friend…..
TTOS: If you fast forward to today, what are the today’s challenges for your company?
One is new, young craftsmen that really want to do the hard work and learn about board building, because we have a lot of older guys here. There are some young ones, but we need new craftsman coming into the industry to keep it healthy.
TTOS: Shaping is definitively a work of art….
It’s definitely a work of art and there are good young shapers coming up. You mentioned Instagram and, you know, it is easier now than ever to, all of a sudden, have a fancy Instagram and shape some exciting looking boards and cover it with some abstract and you have a nice label, but, you know, I think you know, you can’t ignore the fundamentals of design also….
TTOS: today, among the young shapers is there one that you particularly like, that you appreciate?
I listened to some episodes of your podcasts and I would say Ryan Birch always comes up, that kid is the real deal. He does some strange stuff that I wouldn’t dare touch, try to shape myself. He has definitely studied and he just has a natural talent. We glass his boards here, that gives me a chance to kind of look at it, put a straight edge on that.
TTOS: You know, again discussing with shapers like Stu Kenson or Pat Rawson, they always said, shaping is a matter of a relationship between customer and a shaper….The best surfboard is the one that are developed together. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, be a shaper is like to be a translator, you got to listen to the customer and they actually got that customer’s coming to you for a reason.
That relationship has to be based on kind of knowing the history of that customer, where they’ve been, where they’re trying to go, because everyone is so different.
Our philosophy is definitely to stick to good designs, we have so many models.
TTOS: A good surfboard increases the performance of a surfer, right? if you are surfing the wrong surfboard is gonna be very, very difficult…
In your opinion, what is the most important thing in in shipping?
I usually guide myself by numbers, but some people get over obsessed by them, I think there is a point where you have certain numbers that are really sound that are going to help and work with that template, but there’s also a point where you have to let the numbers kind of go and let all the lines start flowing in.
it is definitely some math with art….
My dad always taught me, a properly shaped surfboard is one that you can look at every angle and all the lines converge, no matter what angle you’re at that board.
TTOS: What is the achievement of G&S that makes you proud?
Seven years ago, we had this option to bring the company back full circle, and this opportunity came up from me and my sister to buy this glass shop and rejuvenate the brand, how it used to be
My sister is just hands-on as me, we are making people stuff with one board at a time here.
I think the most important thing is both of us really have a deep connection with continuing my dad’s legacy of what he did. I love every day working with the customers will come, with my sister here, you know, we are a true family.
TTOS: amazing! If I have to ask you, what was the key teaching of your father from a company perspective? what would you say?
I think the biggest strength of what he did was his philosophy trying to make the average surfer, a better surfer through really good equipment and educate him about it.
TTOS: If you can make a surfer, a better surfer or a skateboarder a better skateboarder, I think also you getting a client at the end of the day, right, because that person will come back to you over and over again.
We’d get a lot of return clients, definitively….
TTOS: In G&S, you had great legends that, in a way or another, collaborated with the company… is there a particular story that really is your favorite among all of those?
My father and Floyd got things going, they kind of created a really good collaborative atmosphere…
I think my dad was really a good talent scout, he told me the story when he first Skip Frye… he kept seeing this kid with white hair, just getting all the waves and he brought Skip in and let him go into the business scaffolds for 15 years.
Those collaborations were essential for the company, such a great pool of talents…
TTOS: Do you foresee collaboration in your future or something that belongs to the past and today you prefer to work on something else?
We’ll keep looking for new talent and you just can’t force it, this has to happen organically
Right now I feel like what’s happening in the industry is a rediscovery of old models we produced, old templates….
It’s good to see some younger kids really interested in some of these older designs. And that’s pretty exciting.
TTOS: It’s amazing because there is a lot to discover and this is fantastic if you think about it, because I account like very few companies can offer something like G&S….
We’re very fortunate to have such a great library of templates today.
We got different models and I think we have more than that. We just kind of keep going through…
About two years ago, I really started focusing on single fin midlenght, I just thought that that was such an ignored place….thank God people liked it
I think it’s great to open people’s minds….
TTOS: How amazing if those young kids will come back and say “ have you seen the new model of G&S? And then, maybe, is a model of 40 years ago that has been revisited and still works amazing….
Oh yeah, there’s so much work.
A lot of these models, they were collaboration of in-house shapers and my dad.
People comes to us for specific models and each model has its own way it works and we try to put as much information out there about them.
TTOS: we’re going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind….
The best surfboard that you ever ridden….
I think there was a six/4 a hybrid fish that Larry shaped for me. I don’t know it was right there in that late nineties, early 2000 when the fish came back and everyone’s rode them again.
I remember I hadn’t been riding a fish in a long time and I know some people are going to hate me, but I just enjoyed the fun and fast down the line…..
I rode that board for 5 years, that was an amazing board.
TTOS: Your favorite shaper…
That’ll give me a trouble….Velzy, but I think my safest answer is Skip Frye, he looks at the board in its entirety, he is so talented and she shapes for himself without looking at what is happening outside…. and then of course, I got to say my dad, of course
TTOS: Personal question, your favorite song.
Oh, probably anything from the Clash.
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot…
I won’t say anything local, I can get in trouble with that…. I would have to say “Desert …”, that’s probably the best surf of all my life
TTOS: what’s your favorite surfer?
I think Michael, I saw some clips of him and just the fact that he’s bringing back style and he’s looking at the wave in a completely different way.
Ryan Birch and then, you know, I love watching Tudors
TTOS: The last question, and it’s a little bit unusual, I know you’re listening to the podcast, so I go straight to the point…. your best relationship advice.
I say, when in doubt, do the dishes…….
Doing the dishes, you learn a lot about hydrodynamics and, while you’re doing that, you get out of trouble…
Other than that, you know, I believe “always be yourself” is a good advice.