We have been drooling over Spirare Surfboards… Made using alternative materials and methods, Kevin Cunningham crafts ‘functional art’ that are sheer beauties to behold. We picked his brain about his exceptional boards and handiwork.
Firstly, how does a man with Bachelor of Architecture and degree in Fine Arts end up making beautifully handcrafted vessels?
I have always had a penchant for making things with my hands; it’s what led me to design school. An architecture background gives you a good base to move into other design fields; being a surfer I naturally gravitated to shaping boards.
When you started shaping in 2003, did you have a mentor to guide you?
I am mostly self-taught. I learned a lot from another local shaper here in Rhode Island though. At the time I was taking my boards to him to be glassed and he would suggest what to do to improve the shapes.
What was the first board you shaped and did you ride it? If so, how did it go in the water?
The first board I shaped was a 7’6” egg/funboard shape. It rode ok, it’s long gone, but if I saw it now I’m sure I would think it’s awful. It got me hooked on shaping though.
Could you summarise the philosophy behind ‘Spirare boards’ in one sentence?
Spirare Surfboards explores innovative performance surfboard design using alternative materials and methods to make highly functional pieces of fine art that emphasize green design and sustainable construction.
What was the major catalyst for you to start Spirare, with the environmental aspect serving as a driving force behind your work?
I knew that conventional surfboard materials were hazardous and harmful to the environment so I set out to design a sustainable board that still had the performance and function of the polyurethane foam boards. That first board I shaped was made in my apartment; shaped it in the living room. I thought it would be nice to have a means to shape boards that was healthy for both me the shaper and the environment. (I don’t shape in my living room anymore…).
Many people talk about being environmentally minded, but when it comes down to the pricepoint, people often choose the cheaper option, which is usually not the most environmentally sound. How have your boards been received? Do people appreciate the work that goes into your boards and that you employ alternative materials and methods and as such, are they willing to pay a premium price?
My boards have been received well. I put the performance of the board at the forefront with being green. If the boards don’t surf well it doesn’t matter how green they are, people won’t want them. I do my best to keep the price point as close to that of a conventional poly board off the rack in a shop. Although my boards cost a little more, you get a product that will last much much longer than the conventional poly boards. They are far more durable and don’t fatigue the way poly does.
Do you have model that seems to be the most popular seller?
The Mini Simm’s and fish hybrids are by far the most popular. Boards that are great for everyday small scale surf.
Have you seen a shift in surfer’s and shaper’s attitudes towards a more sustainable approach to surfing during the time you have been shaping?
There has been a big shift in making an effort to be sustainable since I started shaping. There are more alternatives to the conventional materials now.
Are there any other aspects in your life that you endeavor to reduce your environmental footprint?
I do what most people do as far as reducing my footprint by recycling and re-using as much as possible. I also have a hybrid car which helps I guess.
In terms of durability, how do Spirare surfboards fair in comparison to those of more traditional materials?
My wood/recycled eps boards are very durable. They don’t get pressure dents or dinged up like poly boards. They liveliness of the boards remains consistent too, the wood doesn’t fatigue like foam making them last 10 times as long.
What do you get up to when you’re not busy shaping?
I try to surf as much as possible, but the ocean isn’t really cooperating with us this winter here in the northeast, as often I would like. I like to dabble in fine arts still too; been getting back into oil painting recently after a 12 year hiatus.
Finally, if you had to choose a song to reflect the essence of Spirare boards, what would it be?
That is tough question, not really sure…Beyonce’s Single Ladies?
If you want to froth over his boards some more, head over here.