Photo by Nick LaVecchia
Last week I had the chance to speak with Mike LaVecchia of Grain, a York, Maine based company that creates beautiful handmade wooden surfboards. Within a few minutes of chatting, it became obvious that Mike is not only passionate about the boards he creates, but also the sustainable way in which they are made, and the people who show up every day to work with him. “The concept of building wooden boards is silly on one hand, the whole world has moved beyond it,” he continues, “but we are trying to bring it back and we can’t do it on our own. We have to get people to rally behind this idea.”
How did a wooden surfboard company end up in Maine? LaVecchia was working on a replica schooner for a maritime museum in Burlington, Vermont when he met a local boat builder, Paul Rollins. He began traveling to Rollins shop in York, to work and surf, all while toying with the idea of wooden surfboards. After renting a house near the Nubble Lighthouse, he began building custom boards. As interest in the surfboards grew so did the crew at Grain. They started sending kits to people who wanted to make a wooden board of their very own. Fast forward to today, and Grain offers workshops in various locations from Maine, to a newly opened shop in Amagansett, New York and even a portable mobile workshop that travels the West Coast.
Grain prides itself in the sustainable way they build their boards. Any waste that is left over is thoughtfully repurposed into a new product. And of course, the end goal is a board that performs well on the water. This is achieved by using a combination of traditional and modern boat building methods to keep the board light, 3D CAD Technology to create their own shapes and turn those into frames, templates and forms, and design collaborations with well known foam surfboard companies. LaVecchia says, “Grain surfboards can be a bit heavier than standard foam boards. This allows for more speed when paddling, and it is generally easier to get into waves. Wood has natural flexing properties, so [the boards] are not as chattery as most foam boards, the wood absorbs texture in water making them feel very lively and responsive.”
To finish our interview, I ask LaVecchia my very favorite question, what are you grateful for? “I’m grateful for the opportunity. I say it all the time, I’m grateful for the whole crew we have working here, and to be able to come into this place every day. When I wake up I’m anxious to get in my car and come to work. I love our shop; I love everyone we have working here.”
Big thanks to Mike for taking the time out to talk with us here at ND, and to his brother Nick LaVecchia for providing us with some amazing photos!