Waves of Grain: Handmade Wooden Surfboards by York, Maine-Based Grain
When Mike LaVecchia talks about his profession, he sounds like a man entranced. “Surfing just kind of takes over,” he says. “Once you start getting into it, it’s a hard thing not to think about all the time.” In 2005, LaVecchia walked away from a life in Vermont and moved to York, Maine, to channel his past—working at Burton Snowboards and building a schooner—into his new passion. Grain Surfboards was born, and LaVecchia has been enjoying the ride ever since.
Since the late 1950s, most surfboards have been made from foam, but LaVecchia was intrigued by earlier wooden models built by Tom Blake and other wave-riding pioneers. Grain specializes in these kinds of boards. “Wood has natural flexing properties, so our boards are lively under your feet,” LaVecchia says. “Even though they are a little heavier, they feel very responsive.”
LaVecchia and his team design their forms on 3-D software before having the frames cut off-site. They then use milled cedar to build the boards around these skeletons, refine the shapes with hand planes and spokeshaves, and add fiberglass and three coats of epoxy resin. The boards, which start at $1,750, take about two weeks to make.
The company prides itself on its green practices. The cedar is sustainably forested in Maine; any scraps are used to make boogie boards and skateboards; leftover wood curls go to farms for animal bedding; and even the epoxy is bio-based. LaVecchia also sells DIY surfboard kits and offers building classes at the York workspace. (The company recently secured Kickstarter funds for an alternative-fuel truck and trailer to use as a mobile classroom.)
So how, exactly, does LaVecchia stay focused with seductive swells just across the street? Unlike the consistent West Coast, Maine “has great surf and then it’ll be flat. It allows us to work harder and with less distractions,” he says with a laugh.