Shaper

Surfboard shaper Chris Tilbe walking in his home town

At the time I am writing this, I’ve been living in Hong Kong for almost as long as I lived in Canada. That’s where I came from. West Coast. Vancouver Island. A tiny blip called Qualicum Beach. Love that place and miss it dearly.

Background

I remember my first summer break from university. I guess it was 1999. I went out to Toronto and stayed at my sister’s place while working for the Hudson’s Bay Company at the old Simpson Building. That was the summer job. Up in their Credit Department. I was the Air Miles guy. While working that job I had a book that a really cool guy in my hometown named John Briuolo loaned to me. I didn’t know it at the time and I know he won’t ever accept me saying it, but I realise now he ended up shaping my entire life.

The book he loaned me was about the history of Gucci. I remember finishing it in maybe August of that year while I was on the bus going from the Lawrence West Station to my sister’s house. I still see it and feel it as it was that day. Putting that book down and gazing out the window looking West. The sun was setting. There was a real warm feeling as the sun hit my face. And as I put that book down, I said to myself “I want to make beautiful things”.

Well I returned to the University of Victoria and completed my degree in international business management over the following three years. Then I jumped on a plane to Hong Kong in 2002 and I bought another book. That book brought me directly into product development, production, quality control, and logistics through a sourcing company I soon started after finishing that new book. And then from that point forward I actually started making beautiful things for other people with an “Indiana Jones” approach to my work. People had dreams and I turned their product ideas into reality for them. I learned a heck of a lot about materials, design, engineering, methods, etc. as well as building a pretty impressive supplier network all over China, Taiwan, and a little in Japan that’s still continuing to grow today. Some Chinese folks tell me I know China better than they do with the extent of my travel throughout that country.

Now here I am. I am taking everything I learned and directing that into manufacturing my own surfboards by hand right from the stringers up. Yeah I make my own blanks too. But, I won’t sit here and bull shit to you that I have shaped tons of boards or whatever. And no there are no pro riders I know of with a Makara in their quiver. Had that question before and frankly I don’t think it matters. What matters is the quality of the product that goes from my hands to yours and the ability of it to fit your unique requirements (I.e. a Godly board).

“You’re new” you might say. Well good observation. Or, you might say I am stepping into this field rather late. You might say a lot. And believe me, my whole life I have heard a lot. While working that job in Toronto this guy was in the elevator with me in the morning one time heading up. He looked at me and asked me where I was working. I responded the Credit Department…Air Miles…blah blah blah…and he said “aren’t you a little young to be working here”. With that we laughed and I got out at my floor. Didn’t even know who he was at the time until I described the experience to my manager. Turns out the guy was George Heller who was the President and CEO of the company. That was was a good laugh.

Anyway, my whole life has been about a constant drive of pushing products to perfection. So if I could constantly do it for other people in a whole range of different industries, I am pretty sure my surfboards will achieve the same perfection.

Point is, it’s not about what you did in the past nor about what you are doing now. It’s about where you are going. So as long as you focus on creating awesome things in front of you, with a little time the things around and behind you are bound to be awesome too.

And you know one day there will be that pro rider with a Makara in their quiver.