As an investigator for the San Luis Obispo County Public Defender’s Office, Shea Somma often confronts people in stressful situations. So, when he has spare time, he likes to lose himself in his passion: shaping surfboards.
An avid surfer, Somma, 27, began shaping boards as a hobby about six years ago. Soon, he was buying materials to design and build them in his San Luis Obispo garage. He now sells surfboards, too, charging $650 to build a short board and $850 for a long one.
“I was bitten by that bug,” said Somma, who has shaped about 35 boards, many of them with retro designs. “I just wanted to try different stuff, and I didn’t have money to buy new boards, so I finally bit the bullet and decided that if I was going to surf different boards, then I was going to build them, and I’d better figure out how.”
Somma tried to get into a board-shaping class at Cal Poly in 2007, but when he couldn’t secure a spot, he turned to an online forum (Swaylocks), where veteran backyard shapers post a wealth of information. He also considers himself fortunate enough to have met bona fide craftsmen along the way — shapers who have been shaping boards since the 1960s.
A good board, Somma said, is one that he ultimately would want to ride.
“It’s like a puzzle,” he said. “You’re trying to suss out through your work how to continually improve. That’s the addicting part about it. It’s an endless pursuit.”