Isla Vista will be welcoming a brand new surfboard business called The First Floor, which will be retailing customized, handcrafted surfboards.
UCSB students Jeff Svoboda and Will Howard have turned their passion for surfboard shaping into a fully-functioning business that will serve all of Isla Vista. While the pair does not have a formal shop where the boards are retailed, they are selling custom-made boards through their online site firstfloorsurf.com.
According to Svoboda, shaping surfboards began as a personal hobby between him and Howard last year before it blossomed into the business venture that is now known as The First Floor.
“I wanted to just start shaping boards for myself and my friends who were stoked on it, and it kind of evolved into more friends getting on board and then with more people finding out,” Svoboda said. “It turned into the snowball effect.”
Fourth-year biology major and the duo’s next-door neighbor, Matt Silver, said Svoboda and Howard’s laidback vibes, warmth, hospitality and surfboard-shaping finesse kept him gravitating back to their house for all his boarding needs.
“One weekend, I heard this insanely annoying and loud noise coming from the basement of their house early in the morning,” Silver said. “I went over and saw them working on their first set of boards, and I immediately knew I wanted them to shape me my first board.”
The unpredictable and unique nature of waves around Isla Vista creates an atmosphere wherein many local surfers know how the shape of a board can make it ride waves better than others, according to Svoboda. He said The First Floor strives to create boards with specialized shapes and distinct character, thus serving the needs of customers better than other local shops.
“You learn a lot about how a board works from shaping it and surfing on it,” Svoboda said. “It’s pretty cool to be able to pick it, make it and then ride it and see how everything works.”
The boards crafted by The First Floor have distinctive, original shapes that contrast typical mass-produced boards found at corporate surf shops along the coast, according to Svoboda.
In addition to being handcrafted, each board is specially customized to the individual customer’s needs, Silver said, adding that the shop provided him with a completely unique board.
“I had only recently learned how to surf, so I just told them to just put some love in it and I’d ride it. I ended up buying a long board that they called ‘The Pill’ because of the paint job — white top half and red bottom half,” Silver said. “It’s not a traditional, machine-made long board. It has thinner rails than usual and a thicker center, which helps its maneuverability.”
Second-year environmental studies major Mikey Pawell said The First Floor founders have put in hard work over the past few years, adding that he looks forward to seeing the progression of their business in coming years.
“Shaping a quality board is not an easy task, but Jeff and Will have already been able to turn out quality boards after a couple years shaping,” Pawell said. “I look forward to seeing what these guys do in the future.”
Svoboda, however, said he is in no rush to expand the business and instead said he wishes to simply enjoy what he does without pressure.
“I have ideas and plans like one day way down the line opening a shop, but I’m not trying to rush anything,” Svoboda said. “I shape because I love doing it, and I’m getting much more experience from just watching the guys I work for and learning from them.”