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Surf-shop owner shapes art with boards, brush
Paul Carter left the world of corporate security to shape surfboards for board maker Infinity in 1993 and was out on his own two years later.
The San Clemente resident opened up shop in 1997 on South El Camino Real in his hometown, shaping boards for regular customers, referrals and walk-ins, and has been doing it ever since – except for a few years while he pursued an interest in painting, selling his artworks at community fairs and gallery openings.
When he reopened his shaping shop in 2001, he offered his surf-inspired art as well as his new and used surfboards. Thus the name, San Clemente Surfboards & Art by Paul Carter.
Carter says 95 percent of his surfboard work is custom. Short boards sell for about $500 and long boards for $650 to $700. Artwork can be added for an extra $350 to $1,000.
His original acrylic art is on display not only on traditional canvas but also on miniature surfboards and found items. Prints sell for $45 to $65.
Carter also puts drawings on hats, T-shirts, windbreakers and leather jackets.
Here are some words with him:
Q. What do you like most about what you do?
A. The creativity, and it's never the same. It's always changing – every single board, every single painting. It's always new.
Q. What's the best business decision you've made?
A. Doing what I enjoy, doing what I love to do – shaping and painting.
Q. What business decision didn't work out, and what did you do to solve the problem?
A. I used to have this whole building and I was working all the time, seven days a week; it was too much. So, partly with the economy, I downsized and went back to my original size. It just made sense, and I am selling the same amount of boards with less overhead. Now I am open on the weekends and by appointment during the week.
Q. What trends do you see in your industry?
A. People have an open mind now and are trying more and different designs on boards. They are going back to the type of boards that were shaped in the '60s and '70s and they aren't afraid to try it out. I think people are appreciating the hand-shaped surfboards more because it's becoming a lost art.
There are shaping machines now and they do a good job for something mass-produced, and that's fine, but it still has to be finished by a human.
I am able to charge a little more because what I do is special and there are less and less hand-shaped boards out there.
Q. What do you think is a general trend across the economy among consumers?
A. It's going up, it's on the upswing. I've sold more boards over the past three months than over the whole summer. People want to buy something made in the U.S. They want something that is handmade.
Q. Can you share a funny or interesting story about yourself?
A. This was quite a few years ago during a contest. Steve Pezman from Surfer's Journal was announcing the contest and he thought I was (three-time world-champion surfer) Tom Curren, so when I came in, everyone was coming up to me for autographs and talking to me, thinking I was Tom Curren. I have been told I surf like Curren, and he is a great surfer, so, yeah, I'll take that!
Q. You have written on your artwork and surfboards words such as "Ego free," "Choose," "Be calm," Focus," "Be peaceful." Is there a theme or purpose there?
A. It's important for me because it keeps me grounded, and you gotta trust somebody. I believe in God and Jesus and, keeping religion out of it, I believe it's good to have positive quotes, positive messages in any way and any form you can get them. So, I write them on the surfboards and I put them in my art.
Q. What is your favorite message or quote?
A. Focus on the good!