Guy Okazaki is Changing Surfboards for People Around the Globe
Written By: Tyler Holland Inside the Workshop of Surfboard Designer Guy Okazaki
Photographed By: Madeline Craig
The Expert: Guy Okazaki
Credentials: Surfboard Shaper
Surfing and Southern California are basically synonymous. With the abundance of sunshine and warm weather, the beautiful beaches that grace the southern West Coast are a surfer’s dream. Many residents and visitors try the sport at least once, but what happens if you get hooked? You could rent, but you’ll eventually want your own board. And you will probably want a board from a store that has rightly become an institution, created by someone who has a real passion for the sport. That’s when you come meet Guy Okazaki. Guy has been surfing since he was five years old and has gained experience with all shaping methods and riding styles since then. With Guy’s original handcrafted products, you’ll be getting a board to be proud of that will be as much fun to ride as it is to look at.
Q: When did you first discover your love of surfing?
Guy Okazaki: There wasn’t an “a-ha” moment as far as I can remember. Surfing was something that was always a part of life, especially while growing up in Waikiki, Hawaii. My dad was a long distance swimmer and surfer, so surfing and being around the water was a part of my lifestyle.
Q: When did this love of surfing transition to the desire to create your own surfboards?
GO: That happened in the late 60s and early 70s while I was still competing in surfing competitions. Even outside of the contest arena, I wanted to get better. I wanted to be the best and have the best equipment. This all took place during the design era. I was introduced to shortboards, but there weren’t any guys to buy shortboards from yet. If you wanted one, you had to make it yourself.
Q: What’s the mission of your company?
GO: I want to innovate and create the fastest, loosest and most advanced surfboard I can envision.
Q: What current trends in the surfing world are exciting to you?
GO: There is a movement afoot to combine surfboard materials. It isn’t new, per se, as people have been tinkering with it forever, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it out for myself yet. It seems unique and like a real game changer. Traditionally, boards have been made using either polyurethane or epoxy, but now builders are using both materials in a single board. This is a real novelty and could have interesting results.
Q: How are your boards different from those made by other companies?
GO: It’s hard for me to answer since I don’t really look at other boards. Many companies are looking at my work and some well-known brands have even copied me, which I take as a great compliment. Others trying to imitate my products keeps me getting up in the morning. It motivates me to stay innovative, or at least try to keep coming up with new and interesting products. Whether or not I’m actually innovative, I don’t know. I guess it comes down to me creating things I think are really nice. I hang around other shapers and manufacturers but don’t focus on what they create as much as I focus on what my customers and team of riders are doing on a day to day basis.
Q: Who’s riding your boards in pro surfing right now?
GO: None are on tour at the moment, but there are some great riders out there using my boards such as the South African surfer Damien Fahrenfort. John McClure is another one of our well known riders, as well as Tristan Welch and Gavin Dogan.
Q: Do you have any favorite design qualities to find in a surfboard?
As far as design goes, there are many elements that go into creating surfboards. Ratios are always changing and focusing on one element simply does not work. When adding or subtracting something, it affects something else. Adding an additional element can come back to bite you. I don’t focus on a specific design quality, so it’s hard to pick a favorite.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
GO: My inspiration comes from many sources, such as artists, animals and the universe. The universe and physics come to play in everything and nature has also infused everything with a great deal of beauty. For example, there is a reason why a fish can swim so well. I take many of these things into consideration when creating surfboards. One source of inspiration that springs to mind is a stealth bomber I saw not too long ago. I became fascinated with it and read up on how it functions and what goes into its design. I thought to myself, these elements could really work on a surfboard too. You never know when inspiration will strike. You just have to be open and always on the lookout for new ideas.
Q: You’re a big part of the community in Venice. How did you end up in Venice?
GO: The decision to move to Venice was my dad’s choice. My parents decided to move to California and wanted to be by the beach. We ended up living only three blocks away from the beach once we moved to Venice. Hard to beat the location.
Q: What do you like about working and living in Venice?
GO: I enjoy the community. It used to be a hotbed of surfboard builders, but the area evolved and they moved elsewhere. Now it’s becoming really bohemian, with a blossoming arts and music scene. I love the free culture Venice represents. From the beaches to the canals, you have a lot of different scenes. You can walk around and listen to live music every weekend.
Take It To Go: When Guy isn’t designing gorgeous boards, he’s chowing down on Vietnamese sandwiches from GTA, also known as Gjelina Take Away.
Guy’s Top 5 SoCal Beaches for Surfing: This always evolves as well. Surfing is a very gypsy lifestyle. Everyone migrates—even sand migrates. That being said, I’ll give my overall favorites:
- Trestles in San Clemente
- San Diego
- Secret spots in Ventura
The Surfboard Encyclopedia
There are so many types of boards out there so Guy gave us his favorites to narrow it down.
- The Smegg: “Stands for small egg. It’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s a refined and smaller version of the classic longboard design.”
- Minigun: “Aesthetically they represent speed. This is for those who gravitate toward boards that are narrower and faster than the norm.”
- Alien: “Performance shortboard. It works really well and has been successful and popular with team riders. I’m constantly working on improving them due to their popularity.”
- High Performance Thrusters: “I ride these myself and most of my friends and team riders ride these 80 percent of the time. Niche boards might be more fun to pull out and play with, but you can’t overlook the regular boards.”
- The Full-Sized Eggs: “These are really popular right now. Exactly why is a mystery to me to be honest, as I thought people would be going for the gunnier boards for the winter. They paddle really well and people seem to be interested in getting foam under them and being able to paddle around in bigger, more challenging surf.”
Native Knowledge: Guy has been designing surfboards in Venice Beach for over 30 years.
52 Brooks Ave
Venice, CA 90291
Guy Okazaki crafts epic boards.
Madeline is a Midwest native relocated to Southern California. Other than travelling, her biggest passion is photography. She’s constantly on the lookout for the perfect candid moment; her camera is like her third eye. Dabbling in all types of photography, Madeline created Obsidian Color Photography to showcase her photos.