The place isn’t much to look at from the street.

In fact, if you’re driving down this road in rural Santa Fe, you’ll hardly even pay the prefabricated metal building much notice.

But behind the doors of this facility, there’s an alchemy taking place that will bring happiness and joy to countless number of people in the weeks and months ahead. Inside this nondescript surfboard shaping location, there are racks full of blanks and shapes, partially on their way to becoming someone’s next favorite watercraft.

There’s one for a guy living the dream in Costa Rica. Another for someone I surf with quite a bit, ready for glassing. There’s more in a corner, all primed for the many adventures to come.

Breathing life into these pieces of foam is the shaper. From years of experience, he’s figured out a way to translate a surfer’s stated desires—“paddle easier,” “catch more waves,” “make it snappier in the pocket”—and summon those qualities in a finished board. It’s part art, part science and all focused on making the new owner a better wave rider.

To a surfer, the sound of the sanding block against foam and the smell of resin in the glassing room is akin to how a kid feels walking into La Kings on the Strand: Happiness. Possiblity. Escape.

Every one of the boards in various states of construction represent an opportunity to experience a wave in a different way. A longer board gives a surfer that feeling of gliding across water. A shorter board is more responsive, easier to turn in a tight corner of a wave and complete maneuvers.

All of them start with an idea and a talented shaper who can pull the right information from surfers who aren’t always able to articulate their wants and needs easily. The ability to take cryptic feedback from a wave rider and make a board that improves his or her surfing dramatically is such an unheralded genius. It’s a skill that still makes surfing seem magical, like a mad science of curves and angles and measures.

It’s refreshing to know that in this age of mass-produced pop-out surfboards from Asia, there’s a little place tucked away that’s building custom, expertly shaped surfboards that are going to bring smiles to faces. There are more of these little gems here locally than most realize. You just have to be looking for them.

Long live the near-extinct local shaper. Your talent, wisdom and guidance is a gift to surfing that too few of our brethren still appreciate.

Stephen Hadley is a longtime surfer who lives and works in Galveston. If you have an idea for this column, email him at stephend

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