As we mature, our tastes tend to become more refined. We stop pining over Lamborghini Diablos and hyper-colored sneakers, and we start to appreciate the simple, well-designed classics. All of a sudden, a 1966 Porsche 911 and a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers seem to be luxuries that could last a lifetime.
Surfboard design is no different, and in the last decade there's been a reemergence of well-designed, functional surf craft -- the new mindset being "let the wave dictate the board you ride." With this change in course, a new breed of independent shaper has risen, willing to combine what has worked from surfing's dynamic past with the advances of the sport's present and bright future. Their mission is to make surfers feel comfortable riding whatever works best at their local break and stop feeling like outdated kooks if they're not atop plain white thrusters.
Newport Beach, Calif.'s Dave Allee and his Almond brand exemplify this modern take on much-loved classics. Almond Surfboards & Design's meticulously shaped boards are derived from the clean lines of '60s-era logs and tweaked with a fresh perspective.
"I was in a unique position because I was surfing around Alex Knost, who is a leader in the alternative-shape movement, so I sort of had a front-row seat in watching everything those guys were getting into," explains Allee of his company's naissance. "There was a big disconnect between what was going on in their scene and the surf industry at the time. Alex is such a magnetic force that he really helped define the culture ... it was huge influence on us and the surf industry, and we got to see it first in Newport."
Almond was influenced by the creative epicenter that Newport has become, but they also took the energy of their surroundings and found their own unique identity. "Originally, when we first started, the influence was really direct; we saw what other people were doing and wanted to emulate it," says Allee. "Eventually you have to take that foundation and then everything beyond that is formed to fit your own style and voice, so you build off of it. Then it becomes an endless pursuit of designing boards better and designing boards for the waves we like to surf."
Allee has done more than just build a surfboard brand, however; with a storefront in Newport and an ever-expanding group of creative individuals behind the scenes, Almond has grown into a full-on artistic force with many filmmakers, photographers and artists contributing to the company's aesthetic. Their team is diverse and is more likely to curate an art show then rack up contest victories.
"There was a paradigm shift about five or six years ago: If you saw a photo of a longboarder in a magazine, they were trying to do a shortboard-style maneuver on a longer board," Allee explains. "Then the shift occurred and it went the complete opposite way and now it's all about style and grace."
The media landscape has also changed in the last decade, and small brands like Almond don't necessarily need to be featured by the big surf publications to thrive. The Internet and affordable cameras and editing software have allowed smaller niche brands to have a voice and full creative control when it comes to marketing.
"With the renewed energy behind creating your own media, it was just kind of inevitable that people would start creating their own photos and videos," says Allee. "The quality is getting way better. As a longboarder, you're not really trying to win contests or get into Surfer [magazine]; that's great if it happens, but now the focus is on filming a good video segment or getting some beautiful photos."
As a brand that has a heavy design influence, Almond boards are more than just surfboards: They truly fall into the category of functional art. You can be just as happy to have an Almond holding down a wall in your beach abode as you can noseriding one on any number of California's epic points.
With a retail shop, clothing line, special collaborations and surfboard label, Allee and the lads at Almond are continuing to build their lifestyle into a viable business. Everyone at Almond has an inclusive nature and is always happy to have you by their shop for a chat. While you're there, make sure to take one of their many marvelous shapes for a spin. You won't regret it.