Shaper: Kevin Cunningham

Posted: May 13 2016

Kevin Cunningham makes eco-surfboards of uncompromising performance and character. With his company, SPIRARE, he aims to breathe new life into surfboard design.

A few months ago, before a stretch of travel totaling 7 weeks outside of the US, I journeyed first to Rhode Island to meet Kevin. He had two surfboards for me. Here is a little bit about them, and the trip.

1. The Twin Keel

Twin Keel surfboard by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare

This board is class and beauty. A little extra handiwork for additional niceness by way of triple stringers and glass-ons all done in red cedar. Alive underfoot, one solid style vehicle. Don't pick your path on the wave without first talking to the board. Think about your line and ask, is it cool? She will respond.

Cedar glass on fin by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

The twin keel takes me back to when surfing was voodoo. When I went to the beach to see what the waves were like, not check a half dozen surf cams on the internet. I didn't know, or care about volume. I drew different lines and less was more important in that moment. Sometimes I couldn't control the board so much, so I let it go where it wanted to go and just enjoyed the ride. Take that nostalgic feel and modernize for a board that is better than your relationship.

For more info, go here: https://shapyr.com/collections/kevin-cunningham/products/cedar-twin.

2. The Split Arc Tail Quad

Split Arc Tail Quad by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

She is pretty. Shaped from foam fractions off the desired measurements, then fully wrapped in a wood veneer to match the order specs. Strong, light, FU lite! The name FU Lite was inspired by a phenomenal west coast shaper with a phenomenal vocabulary. "FU" stands for "Fuck You". It's that light.

The tail is dipped in white, and the fin boxes are black. Contrast, kids! Take this board to the tropics. Watch the black and white play with the emerald green water and blue sky. I'm telling you, it will be easy on the eyes. Easy on the earth too, with recycled EPS foam. Bonus! Performance in the water? I'd guess it catches waves and takes you pretty quickly to maximum fun levels. I've felt it up and down and aside from paddling out myself, I can imagine that it is probably that loose skatey feel you would expect but with a little extra drive from the quads. Breeze through flats, cruise over to the inside section, stuff her into the pocket. Wood all over, gets better with age (there's another relationship joke here). Imagine yourself throwing this around on a chest high chunky wind-swell in the Caribbean.

For details, or to make her yours, go here: https://shapyr.com/collections/kevin-cunningham/products/split-arc-tail-quad

Wood wrapped surfboard by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

Split Arc Tail Quad by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

Both of these creations were whittled down from a list of many more. Hybrid 2 + 1 single fin style shortboards and Mini Simms didn't make the cut this time around. It's hard to choose when there are so many attractive fish in the sea, as there are on Kevin's website: http://spiraresurfboards.com/.

Once I did finally decide, with help from Kevin's design files and advice, the boards were shaped. Then they were glassed... but not so fast! Getting a board glassed in the northeast USA can take a little longer than in places more surf-rich. No doubt it shall be done, and it was indeed. Kevin followed through with the goods. I didn't even send one single "is my board done yet" email, which is my greatest, and only real accomplishment in the process of making these boards a reality. Kevin appreciated as well. I was patient, so you don't have to be. This board is ready to party.

I got word the boards were ready for pickup and the timing came shortly before some travel plans were about to be executed. The itinerary: Portugal for one month, New York for two weeks, then Japan for three. It was crucial I hop on a ferry the next chance I could or it wouldn't be until late summer before I could release these boards into the wild.

I booked a ferry from Orient, on the northern fork, at the eastern end of Long island. The other "The End" - no disrespect to Orient, it is as much "the end" as Montauk to the south. I drove my car onto a big boat and made my way north.

Providence Rhode Island

Providence Rhode Island

The tour of Kevin's workshop was stimulating, as expected. A shaper is always an interesting breed, and a shaper in the northeast tends to have a unique blend of old world craft, nautical notes, hints of wood. I could smell the cedar that found its way into the twin. It's warm and wholesome, and performance at the same time. It's not cheap production here, there is passion in these parts. In a shared workspace in Providence, Rhode Island, I found a group of different craftsmen all under one roof. To my left upon entering, two fishing boats on the dry. Furniture builders throughout. Surfboards in the back.

Providence Rhode Island

Spirare Surfboards, Providence Rhode Island

The place oozed precision. Meticulously hand drawn sketches and dimensions of rail profiles. Obsessive organization of hand tools and power tools. One spot with miscellaneous items, made almost less random via magnet strip holding everything together. Templates stacked and hung, dark walls for high contrast against fresh foam. This shop was clean and orderly. Even the foam dust and stringer shavings seemed to be in the right spot. Amidst the complications of designing, shaping, glassing, sanding... not to mention the business side, fulfilling orders and responding to emails, it is a great accomplishment to also keep your shop in top shape.

Kevin Cunningham, Spirare Surfboards workshop, Providence Rhode Island

Kevin's Measurements, Spirare surfboards

Kevin's tools, Spirare Surfboards workshop

Kevin's templates, Spirare Surfboards, Providence Rhode Island

Twin fin by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

I took some photos and talked a while before I wrapped things up, paid the man, and got a few lunch recommendations. Upon exiting the SPIRARE workshop, I was meeting up with Sarah — a Brooklyn friend who is currently residing in Providence. Nothing more surfboard related from here, but in order of importance food is a close second. The Grange Providence (http://providencegrange.com/) was tasty and the conversation is always pleasing. After lunch I met Sarah's dog Polly who had a few creatures-of-the-sea in her quiver.

Polly of Providence Rhode Island

With two fresh new boards in the hatch, I made my way back to the port to catch the next ferry. They had one last spot left, earning me an hour extra of much needed sleep.

Ferry from New London to Orient

Have a look at the fine selection of shapes at Kevin's site: http://spiraresurfboards.com/ and learn about his SeaResin material here: http://www.foundatsea.net/. He is environmentally focused and design driven. His shop is envy inducing, his surfboards are exceptional.

...and please, before I wax one up, view the boards I picked up from Kevin here on SHAPYR.com. They are currently in New York and available for sale now.

Kevin's templates at Spirare Surfboards Workshop, Providence Rhode Island

Spirare Surfboards Foam Dust

Hand shaped by Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

Kevin Cunningham of Spirare Surfboards

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