Step inside the studio of a surfboard maker
See how Gal Larar makes custom boards for surfers around the globe.
In little more than a year, Gal Larar has gone from one-time hobbyist to in-demand surfboard maker among those in Israel's close-knit surfing community.
The former top-ranked bodyboarder (he reached No. 8 in the world at one point) began making surfboards for fun when he lived in Australia several years ago. Upon returning to his hometown of Netanya, Israel, he decided to turn his passion into a profession.
Today the 31-year-old Larar finds most of his clients through word of mouth. Many are part of Israel's obsessive surfing community. Other come from further afield, like the United States.
He makes up to six boards a month in his small studio at the edge of Netanya. The boards cost upwards of $1,000 and take three weeks to make, but the time and money are well worth it, he believes.
"Surfing is such a personal sport, why wouldn't you want your surfboard to have the same personal touch?" he told From The Grapevine, pointing out a lot of surfboards with big brand names come from China and are made by machines.
Larar, on the other hand, offers a personal approach that guarantees each board is unique to the surfer he's making it for.
He first meets with each client to get proper proportions so that the surfboard is just right for their body type. He'll even tag along for a surf session to get an idea of their skill level, an important factor in how heavy or light he makes the board.
Once this first stage is finished, he goes about making the board.
Larar first cuts the shape from styrofoam before planing and sanding it. This is the stage, more than any other, where precision and detail are most important.
"Every time I put the sandpaper to the styrofoam I'm making a decision I can't undo," he explained to From The Grapevine. Admittedly Larar has fallen victim to this reality before and has had to discard boards he was no longer satisfied with.
Once the board is shaped, Larar will apply any art to it that has been requested before laminating it with a fiberglass cloth and then a coating of epoxy resin. Afterwards he adds the fins to the bottom, and it's about ready to be used.
Larar's daily routine is in keeping with the relaxed surf culture that has become so well known. He usually doesn't get to work until around 11 in the morning. He'll work 6-8 hours and, during the warmer months, find time somewhere in his day to hit one of Netanya's famous beaches.
But Larar is no slouch. He's anything but, in fact. Besides his constant workload, he also takes time to do repairs. During our visit to his studio he was working on a board a friend had given him. The friend, also a surfer, had by chance come across one of the first surfboards made by legendary American surfboard maker Ricky Carroll while on a trip to Costa Rica.
"We reached out to Ricky and told him about it and he got super stoked that we were fixing it up," Larar told us.
Larar's burgeoning business remains a one-man show, and he has no plans to expand.
"I just want to make a comfortable life for myself, to have what I need. I don't need to create an empire," he told us. But that may be out of his hands, especially if the demand for his boards continues to grow.
To contact Gal about getting your own custom surfboard, go to his Facebook page.
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