John Deming, Atlantic News, Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, December 24 & 31, 2004[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]
HAMPTON -- Like most surfers in this region, Shane Smith has a way of pretending winter doesn't exist.
"I think about [surfing] all day long," he says. "With every single board, every step of the process."
Smith is heading into his seventh winter as the owner of 2SI — Shane Smith Industries — a custom surfboard shop and factory that serves some of the most expert and fanatical surfers in the country.
Fanatical, many of them, because they're willing to surf through a New England winter — during which water temperatures can drop to the low 30s.
"The wetsuit gear is really truly amazing," says Smith. "We can go in on the coldest day of the year."
[Atlantic News Photo by John Deming]
Mike Veltsos worked at Smith's shop this summer, teaching surfing lessons and handling surfboard rentals. Smith is a perfectionist, Veltsos says — if he's not physically involved with a board, it doesn't go out for sale.
"Shane's got people in Chile calling for his boards," Veltsos says. "He wouldn't tell you this, but he's literally close to being one of the top board makers in the country."
During the winter, Smith makes four to six boards in a week; in the summer, he makes 20 boards a week, he says. Though his boards are sold in shops all over the area, Smith sells only his own boards at his store.
"Most of my business is guys that are picky and want it done just right," he says.
One of Smith's loyal customers is professional surfer Zev Gartner, a Santa Cruz native who came to New England to attend Harvard. Gartner immersed himself in New England surfing culture, and won the 2003 Red Bull Ice Break.
The Red Bull Ice Break — dubbed a "sub-zero surf event" — is held annually in the winter and is open to everyone up and down the Eastern Seaboard "who excels in the lonely winter waves of the Atlantic."
Smith has competed in the Red Bull Ice Break, which is arguably the premiere surfing event on the east coast. Aside from Gartner, several other competitors in the event are sponsored by 2SI, he says.
"I have the best team in the area by far," Smith says.
The year Gartner won, two of the top six were from Hampton.
But surfing is not allowed on Hampton Beach itself — so what makes this freezing town such a hotbed for the sport?
"It's where all the highways come together," Smith says. "The entire North Beach is dedicated to surfing."
Smith began surfing 17 years ago on Plum Island off Newburyport. He prefers short boards to long boards, but provides both for his customers.
"There's quite a few long-boarders that are dead set on my design," he says, noting that each board is hand-crafted.
Being one of the most widely regarded surfboard designers in the country is a good thing these days — according to Smith, surfing is "really hot these days."
"It's a $4 billion industry annually," he says. "Even people in the middle of the country are interested in surfing."
Smith works primarily out of the east coast, but he's been involved with surfing on several levels. He's surfed all over the world, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia among his stops. His favorite, though, was Chile.
"Chile is my favorite. Much better quality than Hawaii," he says.
In his travels, he's also met quite a few people in the surfing industry, including acclaimed surfer Rob Machado.
So ... why stay in bitter cold New Hampshire?
Smith shrugs. "The breaks are really good," he says.
Exercise Some 'Surf Sense'
If you don't have the right wetsuit or the dead cold of New Hampshire's winter is just a little too much for you, there are ways to stay in shape for the upcoming surf season.
According to Mike Veltsos, who teaches surf lessons out of 2SI Surfboards, weightlifting is not the way to go.
"Pushups is one of the best ways, and aerobics," he says. "Staying very aerobically fit is important. Weights slow you down a little."
This, according to culturewave.com, is because surfing is all about endurance. A large part of surfing is paddling, so endurance exercises are very important. [John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer]
Smith, a UNH graduate, began making surfboards in 1994 but didn't officially file the paperwork to initiate 2SI until 1998. He got his degree in political science, but said he wanted to avoid a nine-to-five job after graduating.
"I was always pretty dead-set on doing a job I liked first and worrying about the bills second," he says. "I think the sky's probably the limit."
With wind, sleet and 30-degree temperatures outside on a December afternoon, the only white powder Smith sees comes from the board he's sanding. A picture of a surfer riding a wave on a hot day bedecks the wall behind him.
"He's very, very conscious about his work," Veltsos said of Smith. "His boards are top-quality."
2SI is located at 19 Lafayette Road in Hampton.