Aired on 2020, Jul 16th  in Podcast / Shapers

Interview with Marcello Vercelli

Aloha and welcome to the 13th episode of The Temple of Surf , first series.

Today’s guest is the Hawaii – based legendary shaper Marcello Vercelli.

Marcello shared with me amazing stories about his career, Hap Jacobs, Matt Calvani, Jay Adams and many more!

If you want to know more about Marcello you can visit his instagram page or his website:

https://www.instagram.com/vercellishapes

http://vercellishapes.com/site/

You can find today’s episode on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, iTunes, YouTube,…), but, if you prefer to read the interview, just find it here …. as always, forgive us from spelling mistakes!

Marcello asked us to thank all his sponsors : Black Flys Eyewear, Da Hui, Ace Trucks, Dog Town Skates, Hosoi Skates, Z- Flex Skateboards and the Bike Factory Hawaii.

TTOS:  Alhoa Marcello and welcome to the show! Where are you today? 

Coming from Honolulu, Hawaii !

TTOS:  How is it going over there in this time of coronavirus? The beaches are open? Are you guys able to surf? 

Yeah, the beaches are open, we’re able to surf pretty much everybody is out there surfing, not working as much, a lot of them not working at all. 

You know, in Hawaii they allow us to surf because that is handed down from ancient, Hawaiian Royalty, …. so it’s mandatory surfing.

All the way around the Island, this is part of our Hawaiian culture….. it is made in order to allow everybody to surf.

In my work, we make surfboards, sell them and it was just actually very busy, as everyone is surfing right now. ….It’s kind of nice. 

Everyone got in touch with the Ocean…. Even me, I got to surf so many days in a row. 

It felt great as opposed to before working so much … shaping full time and working at the surf shop, full time on the floor, selling other shapes and, and making relationships with people ….working has been really great, it has been nice over here.

It turns into a beautiful rhythm, you know….everybody’s just super stoked, because you’re making something that make people happy. 

It’s exciting people, riding waves and enjoying it so much……it’s a pleasure helping them, improving their surfing is so important to me and it’s a joy to see it unfold. 

When they call me back and we talk to each other, I see them in the water…I can see the progress and it’s just like, deciding….. I love it. 

That’s why I do it, you know, that’s what I wanted it when I was a kid….that’s what I wanted from the other shapers too. 

TTOS:  If you had a shaper that was giving you suggestions and maybe doing some modification on a board for you according to your body type, that is super important…

Exactly. 

It’s fun to give back to the community and stuff.

I’ve surfed for over 40 years of my life and I really understand how to make that work. 

If I can help people that are coming up and learning and getting better and better and getting them better shapes, I can see their progression. 

It’s fun to watch them progress  and mature getting more experienced surfing, you know? Yeah. I love doing that. It’s really cool

TTOS:  in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?

I would say being excited to keep doing it and to have the “love bug” of doing it. 

Like once you get the bug and you’re doing, and you’re addicted to surfing, you know, it doesn’t matter what board you’re riding. 

What’s important is just your heart in it, you know, your compassion to do it. 

That’s the most important thing….

You also need to have an Ocean, of course …..you have to have an ocean to do it. So maybe that’s the most important thing. J

TTOS:  How did it all started with you and shaping boards?

I would say a quick story….what happened was this:  I was getting boards from a certain local shapers from our town and my friends were riding for them and they were liking them. 

My surfing wasn’t really progressing at that moment from those shapers and when I started riding other shaper’s boards those were kind of almost the same.

I was always kind of getting frustrated even if some of those local shapers were really good too. 

What happened was, one day I got a board from a guy that worked at EP surfboards on Hermosa beach, and He was a shaper named Mark Patch out of Orange County…he gave me a used board and I rode it and everyone’s like “wow, you’re ripping that board”.

 I felt finally my surfing go back up, from that moment I started going to get boards from that shaper and I was bringing all my friends down there to make orders…in that way I would get a cheaper price… you know? 

And then this one shaper in Hermosa beach, which is in LA told me: “Hey, once you bring your customers, to me, I’ll make your surfboard for real cheap, like 80 bucks, you ride for me and, you know, I make boards”.

I was like, okay, I’ll try that out, he made a board,  I rode it….. It was pretty good, but I wanted to go tell him to do some more changes…..I was standing there with the blade, telling him: “I want to do this. Why don’t you do that?” 

He finally just goes, “why don’t you just do it yourself? There’s a new blank right there. Here are  the keys, give me money for the blank and you can just shape it yourself.”

And I just did it…I went in at 11 o’clock at night with a big coffee and then I left at four in the morning. 

I finished the shape and I went home. 

The next morning I went through my phone book and called every surfer I knew him and said, “Hey, I’m shaping you a board.”

TTOS:  That it was a good opportunity that you got and then you transform it into business, right? 

One important component in this whole thing was that my father taught in helicopter engineer and I worked with him as a kid and it was around him and his business, my whole life.

That stuff rubbed off on me as well.

He made me go to school in junior college and he made me take a class called “conceptual physics” that kind of helped me out a lot…. you know algebra in a certain kind of way of thinking that helps me understand water surface against air. 

All those different components when a board is touching water,these things will talk to me without me realizing why I would eat it. 

And it all came together at one time, so, that morning, I called everybody up. 

I said: “Hey, I want to make you a board…. 250 for boards”.

At that time the glass jobs were really cheap and the blanks were cheap too. This was 28, 29 years ago. And I just been shaping ever since, it was 1992.

I moved to Hermosa Beach and I remember my roommate saying…”you need to meet this guy cause he shapes boards over at the factory behind where we live”

I met Matt Calvani, that now shapes for Bing surfboards….. he ended up being my roommate and he’s one of my mentors. 

He got me started in the factory. …he said, you take over the spray factory, learn how to airbrush and then we’ll give you Dennis Jarvis, his old shaping room

With that will be two accounts “dive in surf”, which is Body Glove and  “Val Surf”, which is a big shop in the Valley that makes boards. 

In that way I could learn how to shape boards, making those fun boards, longboards etc.., but it was just good practice. I just shaped everyday. I sit, I looked it up color board and I’ve been doing it ever since

https://www.surfboardfactoryhawaii.com/vercelli

TTOS:  In your 30 years and plus career, you shaped thousands of boards, right?

I mainly handshape….I’m not using any computer programs for my Vercelli shapes, but the boards of the other companies I work or worked for, those are cut on computer. 

As I said, my own boards are all hand-shaped and I’m able to pull shapes out of the blanks especially for all the custom orders

You know, I get a lot of custom orders and they’re all different….nothing really is the same.

All these different kinds of cool shapes, single fins all the way to know nose riders, longboards everything in between….. 

To build an handshape board and have all those templates and concepts, all the experience you’ve had shaping all comes into play. 

When you’re making a custom board for somebody that’s asking for something that’s unique, you know, it’s amazing.

TTOS:  I might say, hand shaping is an art and we need to preserve that, right?  

Computer definitively help us to do things better, but you know, there is nothing, I guess from a surfer or shaper perspective, better than ride something that somebody did specifically for you by hands.

Yeah. I really enjoyed that and I want to keep that alive…. I even have a tattoo of a planer on my arm.

TTOS:  Okay. I guess that, that means commitment, right?

Yeah. For life. Right?

TTOS:  If you have to look at the young shapers today….is there anybody out there that that you think deserves like a particular attention or old school is the best school?

The new guys that are up and coming, I’m excited for them. 

A lot of them are good surfers and that’s exciting….. I really like that combo of being able to understand how to really surf well and understand how to help people to get better at surfing. 

You know, that’s a gift in its own. 

I appreciate shapers that surf the boards and they can surf them well and you can trust them. 

“Why am I coming to you to make me a board? “ Because I can see that you really know what you’re doing….. that a driving force is needed to find a good shaper and that’s why I started shaping myself. 

I was sick of not getting boards from guys that couldn’t surf. 

So back to your question, I kind of just say : “ there’s not really any names I’m going to say, but I’m just going to say, I really appreciate a good shaper that could surf well and understand how it works, really works.”

You know, a lot of guys today are working under a lot of other shapers and then they go on their own. …that’s pretty cool. 

A lot of those doing finishing on computer shapes of the shapers are working for… 

I know a lot of guys that are branching off from the main shaper and they’re getting their own labels from doing that. That’s cool. 

Is important that they learn how to handshape, how to really get the rockers in and everything, “the hard way” and work with surfers and getting feedbacks. 

That’s kind of how I did it…… I did it really the hard way, it was painstaking, but it really solidified and it ended up working out really good that way. 

I do have programs on the computer, but lately I, in the last eight years or so, I haven’t been using it.

It’s been easier and faster, just to handshape boards, you know? I just grab them, shape them and then they’re done, you know?

Back to shaping the young shapers coming up I don’t really know….

I work 70 hours a week and I work across islands, so I have to drive an hour each way to work…..I’m not online looking at a lot of shapers and see what everyone else is doing out there 

In my surf shop, we sell Channel Islands, Eric Arakawa…. 

Eric’s one of my favorite shapers growing up as a kid, as a Hawaiian surfer…I love his boards. 

I have plenty of pictures of me riding when I was a kid ….I really loved his boards. 

Then we have Kim Purington, he’s a great shaper, some straight up surfboards, you know, that’s a big label in the eighties. 

He works alongside me, I share the shaping room with him….he’s an excellent shaper with lots of knowledge.

And then we’re selling Sharp Eye high performance surfboards, I’m the shaper for Hawaii and that’s a real exciting line of surfboards. 

He’s in the top 10 in the world, you know, high performance, short boards with all of his pros on the tours and everything. 

There’s a lot of feedback in those shapes. I’m having a lot of fun working for him and we’ve loaded up a rack of those boards. So that’s one of my shaping accounts.

https://www.sharpeyesurfboards.com

TTOS:  Working with other shapers in a certain way, challenges you positively to try to improve yourself. I mean, I think it’s not about competition is just about trying to improve….

For me is to be able to be in touch with the customers and that’s everything, because once you are in touch with them, I can get them what they want.

I’m glad I worked on the floor of a surf shop because I could really see what the customers really need and what they want. 

That allows me to be able to have that frame of mind when I get into my surfboard shaping company part and I start designing boards and deciding what I’m going to make for the shop. It’s nice that shop carries all my boards. 

Clients order boards and I keep shaping for the shop too as well. 

I think for shaping a board you need to talk with the customers and find out what their what’s in their head and I can get what they need.

That’s a key when you’re shaping outside of a shop, if you’re just going by what you think they need, it’s different than what you know, they really need. 

Being in touch with the customer is the most important part as long you’re qualified to do that, then that’s the level. 

And another thing too, I also shape with  Steve Morgan, he’s one of the HIC creation shapers. 

https://www.hicsurfboards.com

I’ve been working alongside him for 20 years, he’s a great shaper and he’s got a lot of experience. He used to work for Dick Brewer back in 1974….. there’s lots of roots….

For instance, before coming to Hawaii, back when I lived in Hermosa Beach I was able to see Hap Jacobs and I worked next to him.

He’s the reason why I longboard, he’s one of my main mentors of longboarding. He’s a great guy, great friend. . He’s an important wheel. 

There are other shapers, Dan Bendix and he died, he was a fireman chief at Malibu fire department. 

He was an excellent shaper. He shaped all the Bing nose-raiders 

I worked with Wayne Miata, one of the best glasser in the world…. Guys like that are not even around anymore…that’s a dying art. 

He used to do resonant work. And I used to work in his factory hearing the legendary stories of Waimea and Waikiki Beach, that handful number of boys facing waves.

I was blessed to be in Hermosa beach, making boards in Greg Noll’s building that he’d still own from back in the fifties when he made boards before he moved up North in Northern California, but he still owns this building in Hermosa beach.

There’s so much culture in surf history…..

I worked with Webber and that’s another bigger very important shaper name and I learned a lot from them. 

I brought all this to Hawaii with me and now I can share this with my customers and I make a lot of custom boards for around the worlds…. we ship everywhere. 

It’s really fun to be able to share what I can do with people….I have different specialties and still it’s really cool that surfers can choose a shaper. 

And it’s something that the clients need, you know…..it’s exciting. 

I’m glad that there’s lots of shapers because it helps everybody getting to the right board they need.

TTOS:  You know Marcello, we’re speaking since 15 minutes and you’re talking a lot about customers and clients, and this is so important, because I feel that you really shape for them…..it’s like a mission and I really appreciated this approach because,it’s not only business. 

Of course business is important, to pay the rent at the end of the month, but thinking about client all the time, I think is a perfect angle because at the end you make people happy  and they come back to you and then maybe they’re going to bring their sons to you and it becomes more than just the relationship of a purchase, but it becomes a relationship with a with a friend. I would say…. 

Many, many, many, many friends. Yes. I love it.

TTOS:  if you have to look back at your career, what was the greatest achievement or the thing that you are very proud of?

Oh, that would be making Jay Adams surfboards for 20 years.

That was an experience that a lot of people out there really don’t know because Jay, when you really knew him, he is a handful. 

He was a handful and amazing to his biggest heart in the world, but also ruthless. 

There are so many sides and depending on the situations…..it was so exciting, you know? I grew up with him since I was a kid at the skate park, I was 12 and he was probably 18. 

I was a little younger, but as punk rock came in, we both got into punk rock and we both started hanging out together and he became my older brother. 

in 1981, we were going to punk rock shows together and going off up Los Angeles, there was a really fun time!

You’d see people that you knew from skateboarding to surfing that they also cut their hair and it was going crazy! Watching great bands….it’s just been super fun. 

Our relationship was built on that and skateboarding, we skated together and surf and I learned so much from him. 

Later on, in life, he lived in Hawaii and I moved to Hawaii full time

I was sending boards to him, once in a while, some from Hermosa Beach, but, when I moved to Hawaii full time, I was surfing with him full time….we were surfing Backdoor Pipelines Off the Wall, Rocky, I was surfing every day with him up there. 

He made you go wherever he went and it was hard sometimes, you know, but I learned a lot and he’s one of the Boys in Hawaii.

He’s one of the few guys…the best surfers out there and most respected!

To get respected at the Pipeline lineup is a huge lifetime achievement and not everyone in the world will ever get to do that. 

Jay got that, but to make Jay boards or surfing pipeline and all that, was such a big honor for me.

We surfed under Bell’s house at Rocky point….he looked at my board, he would look at James….it was really a fun time. 

At that time I would surf rocky point everyday…it was my favorite wave, being young and doing that with Jay’s shaping for him….. that was the highlight of my shaping career. !

Jay Adams and as well, working with Hap Jacobs

One of my first day long boarding, you know, it was really fun….. he always told me…let’s go surfing, Saint Onofre, which is a big longboard spot in California…. he would say, come on, let’s go. 

I’m like “no, I’m only a short boarder, I hate long boards, forget it”

He insisted asking me and , one day, I was having a bad day. …he said “ grab that board. Let’s go” 

I got up, I got a cooler full of beers….I went down there and I went surfing with them and they couldn’t get me out of the water. I got like 200 waves….. I was riding it, just cutting back, back and forth. 

He gave me a 9’0 high performance team board and then he ended up giving it to me to make a template off that started making longboard. 

And he gave me that board to use until I made my new board…. it was so funny. 

One day we went to Welzy house in San Clemente, the legend…… 

I had to pee and they go : “yeah, you can just pee against the wall over there”

I went there, while I was looking at them, they were laughing at me bickering… and I’m like, “what?”

All of a sudden, while I’m peeing, this giant four foot goose comes out of nowhere and he starts running after me ready to fight by kickoff and I peed on myself while running away, in the meantime those guys were on the ground laughing! That day changed my life.

That was so important, I started longboarding and people tripped out because they don’t like …either you shortboard or you longboard…. 

I learned how to ride a long board and now I can make long boards for people confidently…

Because of the dimensions, It opens up another dimension to your surfing because longboarding, you can get a lot more waves. 

You can circle up more places that you can’t  with short board on, and you can start really small waves and you can change up into different angles of longboarding,…high performance….classic, killer… stylish surfing. 

You can combine it all if you want. There are millions of ways to go and to make people longboards and there are a lot of people that want longboards. 

So when you ask which days were so important to me I would answer that day longboarding and then just hanging out with Jay and my friend, Simon all of us over here at the black fly guys in Hawaii, 

The 3 of us we would just go surf over North shore and just have so much fun.

I’m also going to Hui Surfing Club on the North shore, all the support of the Hui and all my friends. They’re making them boards and they’re pros. 

I’ve had a really fun time, believe me, in Hawaii….learning a lot and just very blessed to be here, to do this very blessed, to be able to make boards for good surfers who teach me how to shape when I’d make a team rider board, they are always telling me what they need.

And they are surfing dangerous waves….. I’ve got guys like Kealii Mamala who is three times world champion tow surfing like Garrett Mcnamara. 

I was making all their tow boards they were riding on a hundred foot waves 

They teach me what they needed and their life is on the line surfing pipeline and all these different places over here. 

That’s why I moved from Hermosa….I came here to go to college and really learn how to shape and make real boards. 

I worked with all these gnarly surfers that taught me how to do it… without them I wouldn’t know how to do it.

I worked with six world champions and I did their boards…all of them were all particular about their boards, all of them!

I worked for a lot of companies,  I’ve worked for top notch companies the whole time. 

I made a lot of good surfers boards under those guys company and I’ve learned a lot from surfers and everything and that’s what combines me….all those experiences like I had with Jay making him boards and his friends and all of us. 

This combined to other people that really taught me how to shape. 

I don’t really listen to a lot of shapers as, I suppose, they got their own style and it works for them…. I’ve worked for a lot of shapers even if I would have wanted to learn from, but also, a lot of them were really good.

I think I’m stubborn, I always said what I wanted to do and put it in there and make it work.

TTOS:  You told me before that you are playing on a punk rock band and I wanted to ask you something, is that music or punk rock music influence in any way the way you’re shaping or the way you make surfboards….is there is a connection between the two or is totally separate in your opinion?

Oh, well I think it all goes hand in hand with certain people, I put my skateboarding influenced into my shaping for the short boards, even long high-performance longboards. 

And because I mentioned skateboarding, music comes from all that together, because music is the background for my surfing and skating and shaping.

Music is always in the background…. I listen to all kind of music, classical music, reggae, punk rock, jazz, classic rock. 

I love to play punk rock because I can let out energy with style and it’s real fun. 

I’m with a group of guys in a band that all surf skate and we all relate to each other and we play a wide range of music.

That’s in the punk rock family, but it goes all different directions. 

My singer can also rap freestyles so he can, all of a sudden, he’ll go into a slow version and then we’ll start doing a little hip hop beat, and he’ll start rapid going off freestyling about the crowd and everything, and then he’ll go right back in his song.

We have a lot of influence of rock music of heavy metal, a lot of new school, punk bands, a little bit of old school punk bands….there are  a lot of different wibes and everybody in the band is add to the band.

We have two guitar players…. a killer singer that is so talented…. he just comes up with lyrics and musically arrange and our drummer can play jazz and all kind of music. 

We have a new bass player right now that that is several different bands as lead guitar player, so he plays bass guitar but rip the bass. 

All this goes hand in hand with shaping, surfing, skating and the music.

TTOS:  we are 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 

My catfish model

TTOS:  The best shaper of all time.

Al Merrick

TTOS:  Your favorite song ….

The Police,  Message in a Bottle

TTOS:  Your Favorite surf spot:

Rocky point

TTOS:  best surfer of all time…

Buttons Kaluhio Kalani

TTOS:  The last question is a bit unusual, we want to know your “best relationship advice”….

“Listen”, listen to your spouse 

Recorded in May 2020

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