St. Augustine surfer-shaper Sean Cusick is part of talented crop of young craftsman mowing foam in the Oldest City. A shredding surfer on all manner of craft, he was a standout at this year’s Old City Log Jam, and seems as light on his feet as he’s handy with the planer.

As an extension of our semi-regular Know Your Rights column, contributing photog Luke Kothera trained his lens on White and filed the following interview.

When and how did you start shaping?

I started shaping the year I started surfing. I grew up inland and always loved making stuff with wood, metal, clay, or whatever I could find around my parents garage. Everything I made had to have a purpose otherwise it was just aesthetic junk to me. I started surfing at the end of eighth grade. Then I saw a video featuring Tom Wegener and he seemed so stoked on the life he lived as a shaper-surfer. I looked into surfboard design and had a total paradigm shift. All of the sudden I had found something I could make that could be not only beautiful but totally functional.  After that it was just a matter of learning my way around the tools and techniques. 

Photo: Luke Kothera

What was the first board you ever made? What about the best one?

The first board I made was just a plain old 6-foot single fin. It was actually one of my better shapes out of the first few. But I totally botched the glass job. I had no idea what I was doing—glassed the whole thing with one layer of 4oz cloth and no hot coat. But it surfed great for a year until I put my big toe through the deck. 

After I moved beachside, I met Kevin Mileski from Black Pearl Creations in St Augustine who I consider one of the most talented shaper/glassers I know. He helped me glass a couple boards and shared some crucial knowledge that I still use today.

I was in Noosa Heads, Australia and had the pleasure of meeting Tom Wegener. For the past couple years he has been perfecting the Corky surfboard which has a foam core with paulownia wood and cork sheets on the outside. They have no fiberglass.  Aside from his incredible surfing talent, Tom is probably best known for bringing the Alaia back to life. These thin, finless, wood boards are way too much fun, but that’s for another time.  What really caught my attention was this round-railed rockered-out beefy board with a giant fin right on the tail. Up until that time I had only been into thin, flat hipster boards and I thought it was just an old dusty has-been but he told me I really needed to try it. So I lugged it down to the beach and paddled out to the point. On the first wave I was absolutely blown away. Tom had explained the idea behind it and so I did as he told me: walk to the nose from behind the section and hang ten at the bottom of the wave and wait for the magic to happen. So I did, with every intention of falling and losing the board into the rocks, but then I felt it as I wrapped my toes around the nose the board.  The rails and fin engaged and the whole board lifted out of the water and into the pocket. It held there for a while and then allowed me to crank out a full turn and then drive through the white water and out again with even more speed. Absolutely insane. 

Since then I’ve been searching for that same balance of lift, speed, and control in the deepest, steepest sections and finally found it with one of the more recent boards I made. It’s 8’11” long x 21 1/2” wide and has a 16” nose and 15 1/2” tail. It’s meant to be ridden as deep as you can go in the wave. Tom always says if the lip isn’t hitting you in the waist as you’re hanging ten then you aren’t deep enough. I incorporated up-rails in the nose and tail and a round middle rail to facilitate suction and hold in the pocket. I made it smaller because I travel a lot and I wanted something that would work in a greater variety of waves. Even at 8’11 it’s still one of my best noseriders. I just love it.

What’s interesting about shaping for Northeast Florida surf?

I’ve been surfing and living overseas and on the west coast now for almost as long as I surfed in Florida. And I’ve surfed some great waves. But I still find enjoyment coming back. Nowhere else in the world is there a Chris Tincher looking at a windy winter knee-high crumble and getting everyone in the car stoked on little hang tens. North East Florida waves are interesting because you rarely surf the same wave twice. One day it will be high-tide thumping onshore barrels and the next it will be knee high and glassy.  So it’s a challenge when someone asks for one or even two boards that will cover all the bases. But it allows plenty of room for experimentation. I’ve been pulling a few late night coffee and Coltrane binges lately, tweaking out my designs in search of something new and I’m really excited about what’s to come

“Know Your Rights” is a semi-regular column featuring profiles of and conversations with local surfers whose love for the ocean fuels their passion, in turn inspiring a deeper connection to the Northeast Florida community and making the RIGHT coast the BEST coast on which to live.