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Waves of Consequence

Waves of Consequence

A solitary Art Deco hotel rises in the distance, framing the view from where we stand looking across a wide sweep of pristine, glistening sand.

The bare handful of surfers that are out today have been treated to good, consistent waves and warm early summer sunshine. If only we’d brought our boards.

One Endeavour is in South Devon, in the English South West, one of Europe’s most under-rated surf destinations.

We watch as three friends walk towards us across the sand. Their abundant laughter and smiles make an immediate impression, marking them out as contented guys doing something they love. Among them is Luke Young, one of Europe’s foremost board shapers with a reputation extending all the way to Hawaii and California. He is the man we are here to meet.

Young has been surfing since he was a kid; the swell is in his blood. He wasn’t born in the area, he’s a ‘blow in’ as they like to say in these parts, but he is settled here now with a business, a house, a wife and two children. He has done something many of us dream about, turning his passion into a lifestyle choice.

Carving out an international reputation as a board shaper hasn't been easy, but Young now takes care of some big name clients via his business Luke Young Shapes, based in non-descript farm buildings just outside Plympton.

Young’s passion for what he does is clear as he talks about his adopted home. Originally from Hertfordshire, near London, he got the surf bug while on family holidays in the South West and formed an early plan to make those experiences last more than just two weeks a year.

He tells us. “For me surfing is not a spiritual experience, I just love it. You can surf little two footers when you want to chill, or you can get that adrenalin rush when it is really pumping and you are out there with your mates surfing waves of consequence.”

He has ridden world-class waves all over the planet, even spending two winters living on Oahu, Hawaii’s, mythic North Shore, but chose to build his business in Devon, a place where he says the surfing is highly under-rated.

Young learnt to shape boards while working in a surf shop in his twenties. He started out with a £25 electric planer that he taped a handle to; and those early limited resources have helped him to fully realise his talent. 

Now 37, he specialises in shaping 9-foot Guns for big wave riders including South African Barry Mottershead who is based at Mullaghmore Head on the West Coast of Ireland. It has taken him years to develop the hand-shaping skills to satisfy the exacting standards of the top pros, and it is clear from one look at his workshop that he is good. Very good.

surf shack

This is confirmed when he tells us his boards have been used by three-time World Champion Tom Curren and Aussie pro Robbie Page (featured in 80s cult classic surf film North Shore).

Legendary US shapers Pat Rawson and Brian Bulkley have visited Young’s workshop and are both big fans of his skills.

“When I started you had to be able to mow a blank, there were no shaping machines. There are loads of ‘shapers’ around now, with a memory stick and a shaping machine, but it’s not quite the same."

"I make all my boards from scratch, I want to know who is going to ride them, and where they are going. Every one of those boards has somebody’s name on it; it is for somebody. Serious surfers know what they want to 1/16th of an inch – that’s what I like, the personal thing.”

Shaping has allowed Young to immerse himself in the sport that he loves, while working for himself has given him the flexibility to live the beach lifestyle he was first drawn to as a kid.

beach surfer

"I love my job, and it’s genuinely not about the money. I am very proud of the fact that I have shaped them, I have glassed them, my logo is on them because I put it there, and on that logo is my face and my initials."

"Being self-employed is absolute gold, you can work long hours to make time when you need it, and surf at lunch time. I like running a business where everybody has a smile on their faces, but I love making surfboards."

And the best thing about it? It allows him to provide for his family and take his kids snowboarding in the winter. This successful work life balance is summed up when we ask him to think of a place where he is happiest. We basically tell him to find a happy place.

"On a beach with my wife and kids and a few of my friends. It’s pumping out there and there’s a skate park behind me. There’s a mountain an hour’s drive away, and it’s cold up there."

Young’s last word?

“My Dad was a mechanic and he hated it, but he stuck it and he stuck it for the sake of his family. Every Sunday evening you could see the gloom appear in his face. Like a big, dark cloud. I realised that you are at work for a long time so you may as well enjoy it. That’s what I wanted to achieve."

And you know what? We think he has….

surfer leaves beach

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