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Several of Murray's shapes were created with local surf breaks in mind. Winemakers talk about terroir and how their wines reflect the local soil and climate. Murray's boards reflect the power and mercurial nature of our stretch of coast. While springtime is rough, the North Coast can get good waves. Sometimes really good. And when it's on, you want the right board for the job.
Murray's "Pit Boss" was created to surf a powerful, barreling wave near Dillon Beach that requires a long paddle over notoriously sharky waters. His "Clover" design is suited to Salmon Creek when a winter groundswell is pulsing and the waves get steep and hollow. He also makes "Broadswords," longboards suited to both smaller, mushier summertime waves and big winter surf .
There is demand for high-performance surfboards, but Murray usually steers those customers to Ed Barbera, a master shaper who makes boards behind Bodega's Northern Light Surf Shop.
"He does such a killer job with them," Murray says.
Though people have been surfing in Southern California and Santa Cruz since the early 1900s, surfing is relatively new to Sonoma and Marin counties—mainly because it's so damn hard to surf here and there is more consistent surf just about everywhere else in the state.
"Twenty years ago, the Sonoma Coast was the frontier," says veteran surfer deLong.
DeLong counts himself as the first wave of young surfers in Sonoma County. There were a few older surfers like Rasmussen who surfed back then, but they were few in number and some scampered farther north when their solitude was disturbed by newcomers paddling out.
"Back then, there was hardly anyone in the water," he says. "You'd be happy if there was someone else out there with you."
- Michael Woolsey
- ATTENTION TO DETAIL Jamie Murray uses a microplane to shape a board's nose.
Murray says most surfers he meets simply want to get into the ocean and enjoy the area's natural beauty and bag a few waves along the way. He includes himself in this group.
"As older, experienced surfers, we're looking for a wilderness experience. It's not about wave count or blasting big airs."
He says he enjoys working with surfers, half of whom are women, to bring their ideas to life. What do customers want from a board?
"Everything," Murray jokes.
"It's got to handle everything from ankle high to double overhead. Our conditions are wild and unpredictable. [Shaping for those conditions] is a fool's errand, but that's part of the challenge."
He much prefers custom shaping to sticking a board in a shop for someone he'll never meet.
"I like shaping for people I know. It's more fun to imagine who I'm making it for."
Murray isn't planning to quit his day job. He figures he makes enough from each board he shapes to buy a good sandwich. Every dozen boards or so he'll have enough money to make a board for himself. Which he apparently does a lot. There are boards stacked in and around his house like cordwood.
What is it that compels him to shape in his tiny shop and lay awake at night thinking about foils, rockers and hulls?
"My wife asks me that all the time," he says, smiling. "It's my quiet time, and it's nice to do something physical after teaching all day. If I put in four hours in the shop there's a [finished] product. It's what I want to be doing."