LIHUE — David Implom says making surfboards is a labor of love.
“I never had much money, so I started making my own boards when I was a kid,” said Implom, owner of Imua Surfboards. “I like to surf a lot and this keeps me into the lifestyle I like to live.”
Implom started making surfboards about 40 years ago, when he was 16. Back then, Implom said boards were made with Styrofoam (polyurethane), a material that is heavier than the polystyrene foam used today.
“Everything has become lighter-weight and a little stronger,” he said. “(The material) constantly changes and gets better and better.”
After graduating from high school, the former native of Redondo, California, took a surfing trip to Hawaii and never left.
“I started off in Maui, working over there. Came over here in 1989 and started working with Bill Hamilton in Hanalei,” he said. “Then I went off on my own and made Imua Surfboards in 1991.”
Implom and Hamilton will donate a board to the silent auction at the Fourth Wave Celebration, a fundraiser for the Kauai Lifeguard Association on Oct. 22.
“We want to make sure the lifeguards have what they need to save lives here on Kauai,” Implom said.
Last year, Implom and surfboard shaper Mike Wellman donated a board for the same event. It was one of the highest priced items auctioned off, said Andy Melamed, event and marketing director for the Kauai Lifeguard Association.
“Dave is instrumental because it’s very hard to get boards fiberglassed on Kauai,” Melamed said. “To donate their time, materials and what it takes are very special.”
Imua Surfboards produces about 15-20 surfboards a week and at least 500 surfboards a year.
There are three key steps in surfboard making: shaping, glassing and sanding.
“The most important process is the shaping because that’s how you want to board to ride,” he said.
After shaping, glassing involves laminating fiberglass on the board to prevent water from entering, while also strengthening it.
“I pretty much glass for half of the island,” Implom said.
The sander then brings the board back full circle.
“He’s the one that has to bring it all back together again after it’s been glassed,” he said. “Basically bring it back to the shape because when you glass the board, you lose the shape a little bit.”
Boards can range from $500 to $1,000.
“You have your small, high performance board all the way to long boards and old-style retro boards,” Implom said. “Then you have your stand-up boards and it’s a very individual sport.”
Implom said older surfers tend to ride the long boards because those are a little bit easier to maneuver, while younger surfers prefer shortboards for versatile motion in the water.
Mark Angell, a shaper at Imua, has been honing his craft since 1964.
“You have to be real open to all the changes (in technology and crafting),” said Angell, who has been at Imua Surf for 15 years.
For Implom and Angell, surfboard making and surfing requires passion.
“You really want a burning desire and an artsy and crafting mindset to be in this business,” Angell said. “You can’t decide to drop what you’re doing, make a career out of (surfboard making). It’s the same thing with everything else. You can’t just get 10 years of experience in just five years.”
Although they usually have 30 boards in the shop at a time, at the end of the day, Implom said surfers like he and Angell are “just a bunch of guys who like to have fun in the water.”
“This is what I always dreamed about,” Implom said. “It’s a labor of love and a lifestyle.”