Love of extreme sports propels Cardiff surfboard shaper


In his 25-year career as a surfboard shaper, Chris Christenson has shaped a staggering number of surfboards. Around a whopping 20,000, in fact.

“A lot has changed” since he started, Christensen explained during a rare lull. “When I began, there was less of a blueprint for building boards and designs. There was no YouTube, shaping machines, or social media. You had to know how to use your tools and be able to do the numbers.”

Christenson, a Cardiff resident who is behind Encinitas-based Christenson Surfboards, has thrived in the competitive world of extreme sports, thanks to a passion for the craft of shaping and years of experience.

Born in Whittier, he moved to Southern California as a child where his neighbor happened to be a shaper. “I caught the bug from him early on,” Christensen remembered. “He had a backyard operation, so I’d roll over there on my bike with training wheels and watch him do every process from shape, to airbrush, glass, and sand. I shaped and glassed my first board when I was 18.”

Since then, Christenson has worked tirelessly to propel his business to its status as a crown jewel of Southern California’s custom surfboard scene. “Running a surfboard factory isn’t for someone who is afraid to work long hours,” he said. “I spent years driving to work with my headlights on and driving home from work with my headlights on.”

Besides having a passion for the beach and surfing, Christensen also has a love for winter sports. “Snowboarding and the mountains have been huge parts of my life,” he noted. “My motto has always been ‘From palm trees to pine trees.’”

That’s why it made sense this winter for Christenson to team with Jeremy Jones of Jones Snowboarding on a line of surf-inspired snowboards.

“Jeremy expressed to me that he always wanted to work with a surfboard shaper that was passionate about snowboarding,” Christenson said of the unlikely combination. “We shared some ideas and similar philosophies, and our collaborations have stemmed from there.”

The first result of their partnership, the 2015 Jones Mountain Surfer, features binding hooks instead of standard surfboard bindings, among other modifications.

“Next season we’ll be launching a model called the Storm Chaser, which I designed with Jeremy in his garage,” Christensen explained, noting that he used the same approach while designing a surfboard. “We have been testing it this winter and are stoked on how it works, both in powder in the backcountry and resort groomers. The board is all about bringing a snowsurf style to the mountain.”

This foray into the world of snow sports doesn’t mean that Christensen is leaving behind his main passion, shaping surfboards.

“Surfboards are more diverse now than any other period in the history of surfing,” he said. “Being diverse has always been my approach and helps me avoid stagnation.”

Christenson is constantly trying to navigate a changing career. “Extreme sports keeps getting more extreme, and as a designer I have to progress with the athletes as well,” he summed up. “I approach my craft just as if I were to make a parachute. It has to work.”

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