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The Handmade Soul of Surfing

Jul 30, 2013

by Lisa Butterworth

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Even if you’ve never caught a wave, you probably have some connection to surf culture. Whether you throw a shaka on the regs, can quote North Shore on demand, sported a Quiksilver sweatshirt, or even listened to the Beach Boys, the sunshine-y, laid-back vibes of the pastime are pervasive. Yet despite the big business of surf culture’s mainstream appropriation, the heart of the community is a self-sufficient, indie affair.

“Surf culture has always prided itself on its DIY ethos,” wrote Surfer Magazine editor Todd Prodanovich. “Fixing a board yourself is better than sending it to the ding repair shop. Checking the waves in person is better than looking at the cams. Exploring the coastline is better than sticking to well-trodden surf spots. This self-reliance is heavily engrained in our culture.” So it’s no surprise that surf DIYers have found a home at Etsy. From handmade boards and bags to surf-inspired art, jewelry, and even cookies, the site is full of surf-loving makers whose enthusiasm for the activity inspires their business.

surfing-diy-etsy-2

theAtlanticOcean

A handmade surf board bag.

“There’s definitely a connection between [surf culture and DIY],” says the Atlantic Ocean’s Natasha. “For me, surfing and being out in the ocean puts my brain in the right place for creativity. There are no worries or stress out there, so I just naturally go to what I love, which is designing and making things.” In her case, those “things” are utilitarian beach totes and surfboard bags, which she began making because “none of the mass-produced ones fit my style.”

surfing-diy-etsy-4

OldSoulWoodWork

Hand planes for body surfing.

Dana, who hand-shapes pieces of California redwood and African hardwoods into stunning, mostly decorative surfboards, experiences a similar feeling. “The clarity that comes from surfing allows me to think clearly and come up with new ideas,” he says. “I am constantly inspired by what I see and feel at the beach while surfing.” He sees a very distinct link between the act of learning how to surf and the tenets of the DIY community. “Surfing is very independent,” he says. “Most people learn to surf on their own, just like most do-it-yourselfers figure things out by watching, asking, and trial and error. No one taught me how to shape surfboards, I figured it out.”

For a pastime that feels so personal, many surfers prefer the intangible connection of handmade goods to the detachment of mass-manufactured ones. “A surfer will always prefer a custom-made surfboard,” says Sina of Ola Para Siempre. “A surfboard that has a history, a board that has been created by the hands of someone you know, someone who knows what you want.”

This belief also informs Dana’s work. “Every surfboard has a story to tell about the waves ridden, miles traveled, and its owners. I like to think that down the road my surfboards will have similar stories to tell.” But when it comes to running a surf-specific Etsy shop, perhaps Natasha sums it up best: “The times spent surfing are definitely some of the best times in a person’s life,” says Natasha. “By making gear for surfers, it’s like I get to be a small part of that.”

Shop Surfing on Etsy

Wild thing - Animal print surfboard cover -
Wild thing - Animal print surfboard cover -
$128.91 USD
Surfboard Bag Surf Bag Board Cover // Natural Khaki Canvas Stripes
Surfboard Bag Surf Bag Board Cover // Natural Khaki Canvas Stripes
$160.00 USD
Body Surfing Hand Plane - Paulownia with Pink and Blue Plies
Body Surfing Hand Plane - Paulownia with Pink and Blue Plies
Sold

2 Featured Comments

  • meganbailey44

    Megan Bailey from SwellLove said 3 years ago Featured

    I heart surfing! Surfing has definitely influenced my creative process. Every time I am in the ocean I am able to relax. I love being able to express my self thru my surfing and my jewelry.

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 3 years ago Featured

    I've never been surfing- windsurfing once, and I promptly ended up in a great big tangle of seaweed, so I don't thing that counts- but it sure looks like fun. Surfing always seems like such an apt metaphor for so much of life- riding a wave, being in the moment, never giving up. Love it!

93 comments

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 3 years ago

    Very appealing!

  • richdon1

    Rich and Dona from TheCottageMouse said 3 years ago

    Wonderful story. Rich was a surfer way back in the 70's. Some of his fondest memories.

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 3 years ago

    Lovely. This really makes me miss the ocean.

  • BarkingSandsVintage

    Jeni Sandberg from BarkingSandsVintage said 3 years ago

    I've never been on a board, but I am weirdly obsessed with surfing and its history!

  • agebo

    Ann Cosgrove from acbcDesign said 3 years ago

    Great article and finds!

  • piccadillypastimes

    Ginger and Tim from PiccadillyPastimes said 3 years ago

    Very enjoyable article : )

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 3 years ago

    Beautiful photos-lots of happy energy!

  • meganbailey44

    Megan Bailey from SwellLove said 3 years ago Featured

    I heart surfing! Surfing has definitely influenced my creative process. Every time I am in the ocean I am able to relax. I love being able to express my self thru my surfing and my jewelry.

  • BozenaWojtaszek

    Bozena Wojtaszek from BozenaWojtaszek said 3 years ago

    That's exactly the story I hear from my partner. But he was there, well, over 20 years ago :) His fondest memories too :))

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 3 years ago

    Surfing is so relaxing! We go quite a bit as I live so close to the ocean. Love every aspect of it.

  • TimeAndTideSeaGlass

    Teresa from TimeAndTideSeaGlass said 3 years ago

    Nothing clears your head like time in the ocean! It's the place I feel most at home and connected! Great article!

  • JoDeneMoneuseJewelry

    JoDene Moneuse from JoDeneMoneuseJewelry said 3 years ago

    Live in the sun, swim in the sea..............how much better can life be? Great article, thanks so much!

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 3 years ago

    It's an odd thing that all of us surf each and every day... surf the web, that is. This story serves as a sort of reminder that we should all of us take time out to surf the real and the tangible. Surfing a wave instead of a TV channel. Writing a letter in leu of an email~

  • FireIslandSoap

    Billy Bubbles from FireIslandSoap said 3 years ago

    gnarlyyy - loved this!

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios from MerCurios said 3 years ago

    Love, love, love the article! Just being in or near the water in general is so soothing. I can't say that I've ever surfed - wish I could - BUT paddle boarding & kayaking is awesome. There is a lovely little park I take my son to down by the harbor in Port Jefferson (Long Island, NY) as we live a stones throw away. I enjoy watching the paddle boarders pass by while my little guy frolics in the sprinklers - the best of both worlds!

  • oceangirlcollection

    Elke Fontillo from oceangirlcollection said 3 years ago

    Super cool article- Its true surfers are like minimalist at heart- so we make sure that what we do have is what we need- and hand made is always top choice-thanks so much.

  • pepparonline

    Andrea Krejci from pepparonline said 3 years ago

    Interesting topic and article. Thanks!

  • apostrophie

    Kristina from apostrophie said 3 years ago

    I can definitely attest to the creativity porthole that is opened when one surfs. Not to mention my rainbow moonstone ring that I made myself became this mystic purple color when I surfed! The ocean is extremely therapeutic and I'm grateful for my 7 years living by it...

  • Agasart

    Aga from AgasJourney said 3 years ago

    Beautiful oceanic selection.

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 3 years ago Featured

    I've never been surfing- windsurfing once, and I promptly ended up in a great big tangle of seaweed, so I don't thing that counts- but it sure looks like fun. Surfing always seems like such an apt metaphor for so much of life- riding a wave, being in the moment, never giving up. Love it!

  • Splendere

    Pearlie from Splendere said 3 years ago

    Bet we are all geared up for some surfing, other than the internet?!

  • PlanetSusan

    PlanetSusan from PlanetSusan said 3 years ago

    I had a fabulous time this past December at the Triple Crown of Surfing competition on the North Shore of Oahu (very Hawaii Five-0). It happens in November and December and I was lucky to see the surfers braving the famous Banzai Pipeline with a huge rainbow across the sky. Awesome!

  • FluffyFlowers

    FluffyFlowers from FluffyFlowers said 3 years ago

    Hang ten, dude! :)

  • CatCheeseCase

    Bee Case from CatCheeseCase said 3 years ago

    Great article !

  • katerinalebedeva

    Katerina Lebedeva from DenaliGold said 3 years ago

    Beautiful...

  • handloomin

    Manju G from JaipurHandloom said 3 years ago

    Ultimate article. Beautiful!

  • OceanPatch

    Susan from OceanPatch said 3 years ago

    I love the vintage dreamy feel of all these photos! There's nothing like the ocean to keep your mind in the moment! What a beautiful post!

  • debvasbinder

    Deb Vasbinder from BabyCuteBaby said 3 years ago

    I only surf the internet but this was a great Read! Thanks for sharing.

  • H88255

    H88255 from HillarysSuperfoods said 3 years ago

    Great post! I really want to learn how to surf!!!

  • CCAttic

    CC Castro from CCAttic said 3 years ago

    Love the story My oldest son has been surfing for 19 years he is 28 and 9 when he started.

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace from VintageMarketPlace said 3 years ago

    I love how they all said how clear and calm it makes their mind to surf. I follow Izzy Paskowitz and Surfers Healing what he has done for Autistic children...healing thru surfing. Its amazing what the waves can do for your mind. Peace

  • beachartz

    Mona Lisa from beachartz said 3 years ago

    Wonderful way to capture the culture... Kowabunga Dude! (and Dudettes)

  • ShopSunandStone

    Ashley Lauren from SunandStoneJewelry said 3 years ago

    As a fellow surfer, I absolutely love this article! Great read and true connection between surfers and DIY!

  • lowelowejewelry

    Lowe Jewelry from lowelowejewelry said 3 years ago

    Great finds :)

  • DelilahsAttic

    Madeleine Keller from ThoseGoodVibrations said 3 years ago

    This makes me want to learn to surf even more!

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 3 years ago

    Wow! Who knew? This is great

  • cosmiksouls

    joan kelly from cosmiksouls said 3 years ago

    Surf's Up !!! Great share ... thanks :)

  • donnieleandro

    Donnie from DonniesDiscounts said 3 years ago

    i wanna learn how to surf but i dont know how to swim

  • migrations

    Migrations from Migrations said 3 years ago

    OK, now I want to start collecting surf boards. Great article, Thanks.

  • YearsAfter

    Sharon from YearsAfter said 3 years ago

    Makes me want to hit the waves right now!

  • patspottery

    Pat Parker from PatsPottery said 3 years ago

    I didn't know that!! Live on the ocean, but have never surfed. Am very DIY, does that count? LOL

  • inspiringanchors

    Megan Braswell from inspiringanchors said 3 years ago

    Going to the ocean tomorrow! Maybe I can renew my mind and come up with some fresh ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Awesome article though, makes me wish I already knew how to surf!

  • favormaking

    Dickson Lee from Favormaking said 3 years ago

    Great finds.

  • MokuzaiFurniture

    Mokuzai Furniture from MokuzaiFurniture said 3 years ago

    love the sunshine but not a fan of the ocean. Well not swimming in it anyways... i think seeing the movie Jaws too early ruined me haha! but love the appreciation for handmade things among the surf culture. Surfing is an art just like making the custom surf board so it makes sense these things would come together! great post!

  • dmollison

    dmollison from dmollison said 3 years ago

    Great article! I wish I could stay on a board longer than 30 seconds. My kids put me to shame. Ah well.

  • dmollison

    dmollison from dmollison said 3 years ago

    Great article! I wish I could stay on a board longer than 30 seconds. My kids put me to shame.

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 3 years ago

    Love going to the ocean and go there once a week! Love watching the surfers! Great post!

  • theindiehandmade

    Ombretta from IndieLab said 3 years ago

    interesting words! Ocean is far away, but we can dream to be surfing it on a board! :)

  • gescate

    Gino Escate from Gygante said 3 years ago

    Great story. As a triathlete, I love the sea and summer

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 3 years ago

    Fantastic blog!

  • jizbasusan

    Susan Jizba from TheWeaverOfWords said 3 years ago

    gorgeous pics and a wonderful article. i've always found the sound of rythmic ocean waves to be calming and peaceful, i can see why surfers love it. my boyfriend who is an avid sailor loves looking out across the great expanse of the sea, nothing but the waves and birds and sky. i think that's his place of peace.

  • PinesVintageClothing

    Pine from GoodOldVintageOnline said 3 years ago

    Always admired the surfers at the beach. Wish I was more coordinated and less afraid of sharks! Luv watching the old footage from the 50's n 60's of the crazy dudes out there surfin in deadly huge waves.

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 3 years ago

    I love the handmade surfboard!

  • michellewotruba

    michelle wotruba from Shellmelove said 3 years ago

    I easily get swept away by the dreaminess of everything about surfing, I'm more a beach girl than a water girl but I have no problem being "dragged" to the beach to watch/video my husband :)

  • Motleycouture

    Motleycouture from Motleycouture said 3 years ago

    Great feature! The ocean is so cleansing!

  • themefragrance

    Theme Fragrance from themefragrance said 3 years ago

    some eat, pray, love - i would rather surf, swim, beach.

  • mriefler

    Molly Riefler from MulberryStreetPaper said 3 years ago

    beautiful story!

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags said 3 years ago

    Great article and finds!

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer said 3 years ago

    Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing!

  • awarris

    awarris from Pangieshand said 3 years ago

    I love the article!

  • metalicious

    Stephanie Maslow Blackman from metalicious said 3 years ago

    How cool to link surfing with DIY, makes a lot of sense. Free spirits, being one with the environment... great article!

  • recycledwares

    Nerrissa W from RecycledWares said 3 years ago

    Would love to try surfing just one time. Looks like fun, and I love the ocean.

  • ESTATENOW

    VINTAGE NOW from ESTATENOW said 3 years ago

    Beautiful Pics...SUF'S UP!!!

  • softoceans

    Clara Joy from ShopClaraJoy said 3 years ago

    I love these photographs!

  • seasidecloth

    seasidecloth from seasidecloth said 3 years ago

    Such great photos,,, who doesn't dream of the surfing lifestyle ? ... :)

  • riscottsjewellers

    Vince from RiscottsJewellers said 3 years ago

    Awesome workmanship!!! Continue your SEARCH!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from bedouin said 3 years ago

    Love all things surfing ~ Growing up in southern California in the 1970's we used take our short boards on the RTD bus in packs tracking sand through the aisles all summer. There's nothing like the ocean and its vast beauty. Great feature ~

  • mfrawley

    Mary Frawley (Calligraphette Ltd) from Calligraphette said 3 years ago

    I've just moved closer to the beach - wheee!!!! I've used these photos in my surfing Treasury list - love love love them. xx

  • SunshineDaydreamz

    SunshineDaydreamz from SunshineDaydreamz said 3 years ago

    Great post - I'm always at the beach. Watching the surfers :)

  • emberair

    emberair from EmberandAir said 3 years ago

    Great post!

  • AudreyKerchnerPhotog

    Aud Kerchner from AudreyKerchnerstudio said 3 years ago

    YUP! Im a beach boys fan. Im a summer baby and they used to always be in concert on my birthday.

  • NicolasKnitKnacks

    Nicola and Jessica Belton from CelticKnittingCo said 3 years ago

    Such a great article! I wold love to learn how to surf but alas not many waves on the east coast of Ireland!

  • Floraldsns

    Aloha Pamela from DesignsnBoutiqueBB said 3 years ago

    WOW " I surely LOVED this Article , photographs, beaches and surfers n those sweet waves , the hand crafted boards n curves and beautiful waves" n statuesque beauties"" " HOW SERENE and surfers enjoying the Oceans , waters waves "ahhh America's Freedom and what it all means" Thank you guys for each contributing to this special section " You made my day to Peace already:") Our Family comes from a long line of "ocean lovers" and some surfers along the way and for me :")body surfing is a must have " n watching the surfers play all day "The sunshine and crispened waves 'A Soulful Sea" GREAT ETSY as Usual "thanks for the early Inspirational read!!!!! Everyone Have a GREAT DAY!!

  • cloudtree

    Anna from Cloudtree said 3 years ago

    Makes me want to smell the sea air! I hadn't even thought about looking for a surfboard on etsy, there is so much variety on here, great to see a slice of surf action.

  • ForTheLoveOfFrance

    Claudia Violette from ForTheLoveOfFrance said 3 years ago

    This is a great article ..my son is a professional longboard surfer. He has competed all over the world in the last 10 years. He shapes his own boards and has a line of wet suits. The ocean or 'getting in the water' has been a call to his soul, a necessity since he was 7 years old. Lucky for him he's a natural. I have the utmost respect for the art of surfing and it's artists.. and amazed and so happy to see the acknowledgement on Etsy.

  • NirvanaRoad

    Lisa from NirvanaRoad said 3 years ago

    1966- The Endless summer. I will always love that movie!

  • AlpineGypsy

    Heidi from AlpineGypsy said 3 years ago

    Thanks for the article - just being on the salt water makes me feel part of the giant Wheel of Life, and refreshes my Soul. I am not a surfer, but there is something so elemental about the ocean and our human connection to it. It can make you a better person. My husband is a passionate surfer, and I think when I met him I was attracted to this part of him, because it is about so much more than just surfing. It is an outlook on life.

  • Maxijoy

    Joy from MaxiJoy said 3 years ago

    Wonderfull photos

  • ishkabibblesdesigns

    ishkabibblesdesigns from ishkabibblesdesigns said 3 years ago

    Lisa, Thank you sooooooooo much for this article. It was like a breath of fresh air and it is exactly how I feel about surfing , beach etc... I design surf/beach lifestyle clothing and feel sometimes my designs may not be as significant as the high fashion trends. Your article and the comments proved my insecurities wrong and I thank you for that!

  • Nikifashion

    Natalia from Nikifashion said 3 years ago

    Awesome article!

  • candlesbynature

    candlesbynature from candlesbynature said 3 years ago

    Great article! Wish I knew how to surf, but clumsiness has always gotten in the way hehe

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 3 years ago

    ♥♥♥

  • catherinemaria

    Catherine Maria Charalambous from BouncyTree said 3 years ago

    So well expressed.

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas from FreakyPeas said 3 years ago

    ahhh, I miss the ocean!

  • handloomin

    Manju G from JaipurHandloom said 3 years ago

    Lovely. Awesome article.

  • COMERARTGALLERY

    Rene' COMER from SensingMajesty said 3 years ago

    Great article! I never thought of my crafting being along the same lines as surfing. Now I feel even more adventurous. ;)

  • Pixie2428

    Doris C. from SewBeautifulbyDC said 3 years ago

    Nice article, thanks for sharing it with us. I love the custom surf boards !

  • jessy1026

    Jess Yeo from v1ntagetreashar said 3 years ago

    Sounds so awesome! Will someone please teach me how to surf! :-)

  • adujeva

    Olga Adujeva from AduevaArt said 3 years ago

    Read this article and almost felt the smell of the sea! Thank you for sharing!

  • BowsbyKiero

    Kieran Walker from BowsbyKiero said 3 years ago

    What a good article. I can definitely relate to all of this. The beach in general is very inspiring to me, let alone the incredible feeling of surfing. Thank you for sharing and re-inspiring me. btw awesome shop!!

  • lapetitenina

    Marina Palovaara from LaPetiteNina said 3 years ago

    Beautiful story with amazing photos..

  • pwctetsy

    Peter Wong from yaamstore said 2 years ago

    True story about surfers!

  • korenkwan

    Koren Kwan from GarasuWonderland said 1 year ago

    lovely article and great finds!

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