I race around for months on end with work, et al. and then I walk off a puddle- jumper plane on the southern coast of Mexico, that warm wind blows over me, and instantly I’m in total relax mode. Yes, that’s all it takes. Then I head for a remote surf beach about an hour and another world away from the airport.
There I had an opportunity to shoot the breeze with the creator of BillBoards and, arguably, the best surfer on the beach. So, with me poised in his portable fold-up chair and Bill in his hammock, I started in with the questions.
KR: Since KRD is a design studio, I am particularly interested in all the visuals about your company… your logo…LOVE your name, by the way, …the boards. Who designed your original logo?
BP: Thomas Campbell filmmaker, artist, surfer… (actually, make that surfer first), from Santa Cruz. I had seen his films.. surf films called Seedling, and Sprout. They were very influential in the way I started to design surfboards. His style was a bit alternative to the main stream.. it was more about flow and fun, rather than the Pro Tour type of erratic surfing.. it wasn’t technical surfing and tricks.
KR: When did that happen? That change in surf style?
BP: Around the early ’80’s with the advent of the Thrasher which changed the way people surfed. The “old” way was abandoned. The board was built for a powerful, strong surfer; and once someone won a competition using this board, everyone abandoned the old-style boards and went for this style. There was literally 20 years of that. “Seedling” started a move to more natural surfing.
KR: So you saw Campbell on the beach and just asked him for a logo?
BP: No, he motioned me over to him and said, “I want to do a logo for your company”.
KR: And the beach lore about the logo is that you paid him with a new board.
BP: I asked him if I could trade him a board for the logo. He told me he wanted to wait till I had a few more boards under my belt… 100 to be exact. Six weeks ago, Campbell got his board.
KR: Now you’ve got more than just that logo that you are using on your boards.
BP: The next iteration of the logo was created by Andy Davis, another artist, floating designer and awesome surfer from San Diego. He has a clothing company called Ando & Friends, it’s surf clothes. His graphics capture positions of surfers just the way you want to look. When I saw him surf, I realized he captured exactly how he looks when he is surfing… very flow-y and casual.
KR: So, here you are on this remote beach in Mexico, trading in the winter months in the mountains of North Carolina for surfing, hammock-hanging and trailer-dwelling. What’s the first order of the day?
BP: I have eight boards and I have to decide which one to use each day.
KR: How do you determine that?
BP: It’s how I feel… I might feel aggressive, or the waves may tell me which board.
KR: Would you consider selling one of those boards on your travels if you found the right owner?
BP: No, It’s very hard to part with a board. I only had one board as a kid growing up. I surfed every wave with the same board. And to get a new board I would have to trade in my old board and I often regretted that because you have such memories attached to the board… you remember the places and the feelings you had surfing and you miss that old board.
KR: So if someone wants a BillBoard, are they getting a custom board?
BP: I make each board for customers according to what they need when they surf. If I really like a board I make for someone, I just make another for myself. I keep all the specs for each board so if I want to duplicate it, I can.
KR: Who’s your most memorable or stand-out customer?
BP: Pat from Canada. I’ve made numerous boards for him. He changes his mind daily about what he wants and everyday he talks about the board he wants when he comes in from surfing, and everyday it changes. He provides a whole lot of input. At a certain point when I am ready to make the board I have to just say, “ok, that’s it” .
KR: I love that orange board.
BP: That I call the Flow Master. I take that out when I am feeling tired. It paddles better and it’s not as aggressive a board. Ever see the Endless Summer Poster? Well, that was the inspiration for this board.
KR: Love that poster! You said laying in the hammock helps you think. Give me some sage words about designing boards.
BP: It’s a great way to grow old surfing. At some point your surfing gets worse not better and it’s great to think I will still be able to get the satisfaction of being part of other people’s surf experience.
as requested: here are some more of Bill’s boards