By Eddie Solt
Thruster/quad-riding foam-jockeys are the surfing equivalent of pop punk/white boy reggae, the popular,SouthBay background elevator music that seems to be spewing from every speaker in town. Shaper Adam Davenport, 28, bucks this trend and instead, follows the legacy that goes straight back to Dale Velzy. Davenport’s operation is roots rock and roll with a heavy lamenting dose of blues and surf guitar. The 2001 Mira Costa graduate picked up the planer after not being able to afford the boards that fit the kind of surfing he was after. “I had a picture in my mind, and I still do, of pure, golden era longboard surfing. I wanted to somehow translate that into the boards that I rode and the style that I surfed.”
While still a preteen, Davenport was driven to the old Walker Foam Factory in Wilmington by his mother. He purchased a blank and promptly went to work shredding foam in his mother’s garage. “I always looked up to the way my father and uncles surfed, the guys in the Bruce Brown, Dale Davis, and McGillivray/Freeman movies,” Davenport said, “I wanted to be a part of that era. I grew up with an absolute disdain for the modern thruster.”
Davenport is a fourth generation Southern Californian. His father and uncles grew up surfing Ballona Creek and were on the Robert’s Surfboards surf team with boards shaped by Robert Milner.
“Wayne Miyata’s glass shop and that whole mystique caught my imagination,” he said. ” When I was in elementary school, I used to daydream about being the sander for Bing Copeland and sanding noseriders shaped by Dan Bendixson.”
“Hermosa Beach and the South Bay were the hubs of the surfing world,”Davenport said. “Bing, Noll, Jacobs, and Rick were all here and Weber was up the street in Marina Del Rey, (and not Venice).” Davenport graduated with a degree in history from Cal Lutheran where he was the starting center.
Despite being accepted into Law School, he decided to return to the surfboard industry. His first job was doing board restoration, ding repair, and Polishing for Aquatech Glassing. “Scott Anderson and Sean O’Leary taught me the fundamentals of using a power sander, resin, and other disciplines,” Davenport said. “I’ll always be grateful to them for giving me a shot.”
Davenport was also influenced by FineLine Surfboard’s Brian Hilber and Mike Gibe of Cigars of the Pharos.
“Hilber’s is one of my all time hero’s,” Davenport said. “He grabbed me by the neck and showed me the basics of using a Skill 100 power planer, board design and theory, and helped me design my own version of his Zombie model, which is my The Thing.”
“Gibe helped me take my board building to another level.” Davenport said, “Proper finish work, functionality and form, Mike is the consummate, detail oriented mentor and steered me in a direction that only he and Tyler Hatzykian understand.”
Tyler Hatzikian of Tyler Surfboards in El Segundo is the premier surfboard builder of our generation and Davenport’s mentor and boss. Davenport spends a lot of time sanding Tyler’s latest “advancing traditional design,” surfboards.
“He has taken me under his wing,” Davenport said. “Everything I do and how I do it is because of him — his techniques, work ethic and skill. I just want to make him proud and represent his label in a way that reflects his class and craftsmanship.”
Currently, Davenport’s catalog includes exclusively ‘60s inspired equipment, like The California Classic, 4065 and The Pig. Other model names like, El Cadejo, On the Rocks, and The Thing, separate Davenport from other shapers, who still heavily rely on names from the past.
“The Pig is my take on a classic early ‘60s design with a D-fin and no damn leash,” Davenport said.” The El Cadjeo is more of a mid-60s noserider with parallel rails, and slight hips for speedy points. The Thing is a small wave noserider with a 19-inch tail block and massive V.
The 4065 is the bastard love child of a mid ‘60s Weber Performer and a Rick UFO. And the On The Rocks is all about the jive, being a cool, casual cat in critical sections, maintaining correctly timed noserides in the pocket, and ripping Dewey Weber-esque cutbacks.”
Davenport’s goal is keeping his scene small and “building a core group of enthusiasts and friends who have a like-minded outlook on surfing.”
Tyler Surfboard’s team rider and Hot’s Kitchen beverage director Mike Siordia said Davenport is the right guy to continue the SouthBay shaping legacy and the culture around it.
“Adam gets it,” Siordia said. “There’s the whole shaping side of what Davenport represents — craftsmanship and functional hotdogging vehicles. And then there’s Davenport team night at the Purple Orchid or the conception of the “On the Rocks Model” on the bar stools of the Harbor Room over a mighty white Russian. More surf lore added to the South Bay Memory bank, man.” DZ