Amelia Island based shaper and surfer, Justin Laird, was given the opportunity of a lifetime when he was granted the privilege to shape a surfboard for 11-time World Champ, Florida’s own Kelly Slater.
Now, Laird wants to pass on that same stoke he felt throughout the process, and give back to people in need, by raising some much-needed funds for Waves 4 Water (W4W).
“Like most of us, I stay busy, I have a family and work a very full time job, but want to do something to help people other than those I see daily,” Laird says. “The thought that my hands shaping a board could drive a change in a village, school, church, or orphanage is exciting and breath of life for me personally.”
Laird got into shaping as a hobby, but the practice quickly became one of his biggest passions. Laird’s demanding job gives him about three hours of shaping time in the morning, from 4 a.m until about 7 a.m. He also gets about three hours of shaping time when he gets home from work. But If that weren’t enough to fill his proverbial plate, Laird has a loving wife, two amazing little girls and a son on the way. The full schedule doesn’t bother Laird one bit. He embraces the challenge of shaping a board for Slater, in fact, the idea was his brainchild.
The board itself came to Laird in a dream. Slater and an all-star team of shapers, including Daniel Thomson, the magician behind Tomo Surfboards, as well as planing hull stalwart Marc Andreini, perennial tinkerer George Greenough, and the late-San Diego surfer-shaper Bob Simmons, who many refer to as “the father of the modern surfboard,” were all standing in a warehouse, along with Laird, talking different shapes. Slater wanted a new board. Laird said he used aspects from all of these shapers’ designs and began shaping Slater’s new wave pool weapon.
“I used so many different aspects to put into this board,” Laird says. “Spoon, concaves, multiple rockers, rail shape, release points and a few other things all play into the design. “There really is nothing like this board, it’s one of a kind, and I really want to see it have a go in his pool.”
Laird thinks that the coolest part about the dream was that after Slater told him the dimensions that he wanted in the dream, the board actually dressed out to about 26.81 liters, coming very close to Kelly’s prefered volume between 24 and 26 liters. Once the dream was put onto paper, Laird sent it all in a direct message to Slater, and it wasn’t long until Laird got Slater’s response.
“I heard my phone go off at 3 a.m, and it was Kelly responding to me, so from there I just went along sending Kelly updates, and began shaping the dream board,” said Laird.
Laird says the whole experience was really cool, because it was easy to see that Slater was enjoying it, and responding to all the updates. Laird said that those conversations weren’t about the shape itself, but sometimes they just found themselves chatting about random surf stuff.
“It was amazing being able to talk with Kelly like that,” Laird says. “He’s a person who is incredibly well-known, but it’s still so easy to talk to him as if he were a good friend.”
“The best part was Kelly’s Complete understanding of design principles and why they were used,” Laird continues. “He understood the theories and how they go together to make them all work in unison, and I hope to hear a ride report in the near future.”
A ride report with some feedback on how the board performed from Slater would mean a lot to Laird. Ride reports on board performance are everything to shapers, and not just from a the overall feedback. Shapers that are given the opportunity to see really good surfers test their boards is an incredible experience.
“I think it is everyone who has ever gotten into shaping and shaped a few boards dream to have an amazing surfer like Kelly ride their board,” said Laird. “When a guy who really rips gets on your board you can really see your vision and design come to life, more-so than when you ride it.”
Kelly posted a few pictures with Laird on his instagram page with the new board in hand, giving him a shoutout and wanting to pay the stoke forward, and give back. Slater put it this way.
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So about a year ago I got a message from a guy telling me he had this dream where he was talking to me, @tomo_surfboards, #GeorgeGreenough, and one or two more shapers about board design and I told him exactly which dimensions I wanted on a board. He woke up and wrote it all down then shaped this board for me and sent me a message on insta. We’ve since played tag trying to link up and today was the day. Justin Laird (@lairdsurfcraft) dropped me off a 4’11” and a 5’4” he made from his design dream. This was a huge effort and he went out of his way for me which I really appreciated. Just wanted to share a cool little story and send a thank you back to him and his family for sending me a pic of his girls (who also made me a ‘Thank You’ card). Good to meet you and I know it’s cliche but here’s to hoping other people follow their dreams and share the stoke and ideas. Let you know how these ride soon. 🤙🏽🏄🏽♂️
Laird decided to pay the stoke forward and decided to run a charity board auction benefiting Waves for Water, a charity that provides clean water to communities in need all over the world. Laird says that waves for water came in to play because he loves the size of the impact from the group. A quote from Waves 4 Water that stuck out to him was, “there are so many problems in the world that are seemingly unsolvable, but water is not one of them.”
“That resonated with me, I feel like the donations will go to work immediately and have a large scale impact,” he says. “That makes me feel good, like I’m able to contribute and have an effect from far.”
Laird has provided the chance for everyone to help out a great charity and perhaps win a board fit for “The King.” He is covering the shipping cost for the board in hopes of getting the most out of the donation.
“I’m going to “raffle” the board on live Instagram live Sunday, Oct, 7th at 4:00pm during a vintage board show/swap held at Amelia surf co in Fernandina Beach,” said Laird. “I will also be selling raffle tickets on site for the board in which all proceeds will go to W4W.”
Laird’s initial message on how to do be a part of the board raffle was also provided via instagram. Laird would like to raise as much money as possible.
“Make a donation and DM me a screenshot of your receipt. Scroll the photos to see the donation I just made as example, $10 for one ticket, three for $25, or five for $35,” Laird states. “Please… if you have the means, donate more, I wanted to keep this fair so everyone can have an equal chance!”
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Charity Raffle Below!!! As most of you know, I was fortunate enough to live out a dream or “dream board” and have one of the most impactful moments of my life. Thanks again @kellyslater ! Everyone who knows me understands I shape for the love of surfing! It’s my passion and other than my family is most all I think about. For me it’s the ultimate form of self expression and creativity. To pay the stoke forward that I just received, I would like to do a dream board raffle with @wavesforwater as the recipient! Here’s how it works. Go to @wavesforwater , make a donation and DM me a screen shot of your receipt. Scroll the photos to see the donation I just made as example. $10 for 1 ticket, 3 for $25, or 5 for $35. Please… if you have the means, donate more, I wanted to keep this fair so everyone can have an equal chance! Here’s what you get! A custom board with @futuresfins or @fcs_surf, @usblanks (powered by solar), @slaterdesigns eco traction, and epoxy resin with some carbon goodness from @graphitemaster ! The drawing will be shot live on the afternoon of October 7th. I’ll post the drawing time on the entry cutoff date of October 6th. @theinertia @boardporn @surfer_magazine @surfersjournal @voidlive @911surfreport . . Please repost and tag. Let’s make this count! . . Continental US and HI for now for shipping. I’ll update once I sort international . . #surf #surfer #surfing #surfboard #wavesforwater #sharethestoke #payitforward
The board itself has yet to receive an official name, but Laird had originally called it the “McFly,” an homage to Dr. Emmett Brown’s time traveling companion, Marty McFly, and a salute to the future-like speed this board generates in Florida waves. An article in the Inertia referred to it as Kelly’s literal dream board, but I would like to go on record as calling the board, “The Scepter.” After all Kelly is king and what’s a king without his royal scepter? Whatever it gets named, on thing is for certain. I want to see Kelly ride this thing, pronto. Your move Kelly.