In today’s ever changing surfing world, there are people who are committed to helping pave the path toward the future, eager for what it will hold. One of these people is Sesame Shim, one of the few female surfboard shapers on Maui and in the state of Hawai‘i.
Growing up in Manoa Valley on Oahu, Sesame was able to be around her Dad and watch him hand shape surfboards as a young girl. He sparked the fire, and years later it inspired Sesame to hand shape and build surfboards from start to finish all by herself, hoping to encourage and lead other female surfers to get into the shaping room too.
We caught up with Sesame on Maui for a few questions about her process and inspiration in hand shaping surfboards from start to finish.
Where are you from and when did you start surfing?
I was born on Oahu, growing up around Manoa. My dad always had me on a surfboard or in a canoe since I was a baby. I moved to the mainland for a bunch of years when I was younger, but when I moved back my love for the ocean continued. My mom would take me boogie boarding a lot, until my dad bought me my first surfboard when I was in the 9th grade.
Who/what inspires you to surf and who do you look up to most for your surfboard shaping skills?
I’ve always liked the fluid power surfing of Andy Irons and I also really like how Carissa Moore has been surfing with her fluidity and power. I think all surfboard shapers, creators and builders are amazing in their own way and you can’t forget about the glassers and sanders too. But for the moment, I think Glenn Minami is a master. When I’m not riding my own shape, I’m usually riding one of his. My magic board is one of his shapes and I am in the process of trying to duplicate it. Minami shapes awesome boards and to know that he hand shapes every single one and can keep up with production he’s doing is so amazing. I hope to get some pointers from him someday. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Ben Aipa, and I continue to use a lot of his basic techniques when I shape. Here on Maui, Sean Ordanez has shared with me some really good theories on all kinds of aspects of shaping and board design.
Any thoughts on hand shaped boards compared to machine shaped?
I think if a machine is maintained correctly, it can create exactly what you want to shape. However, I do think it’s possible for a board shaper to be such a master that he can be better than a machine, because he can adjust to any inconsistencies in the material.
What type of surfboards do you like to shape most?
I like to shape surfboards for my family and friends along with the community of surfers here on Maui and in Hawai‘i. Mostly I shape mi- fishy type of shortboards, but honesty any type of board is really fun to make. Recently I made a 5’0” mini longboard for my son Aukahi – he’s been riding some fun little waves on it lately.
What got you started with shaping?
I’ve always loved building and creating things ever since I was a little kid. I went to school to become an engineer, but in that field, I never really got to be creative and build something tangible. Years back my husband, Curren, was motivated to shape surfboards by our good family friend shaper/glasser/sander and county lifeguard, Bouvey Bradbury, from Makaha. We each shaped a surfboard and from then on I continued to love and enjoy making boards for the family and community. Let’s just say we don’t want to waste too many blanks, so we leave the board shaping to me, haha.
Why do you think there aren’t more female shapers in Hawai‘i?
I think there are some female shapers out there, but in Hawai‘i, they just don’t get much attention. I think a lot of local shapers period don’t get much attention because there are so many big names and labels available. The amount of females surfing is continuously growing and has had such a boom in the last bunch of years, so it’s just a matter of time before more girls and women are out there making boards too.
What are some of your goals with shaping?
At this point I am making my boards from start to finish, shaping, fin box installation, glassing, and sanding. It’s a lot, but I really hope to refine each one of those skills. I like being in control of my projects, so I don’t mind doing it all. It’s a labor of love. A dream come true would be having a legendary surfer wanting to ride my shapes.
What do you enjoy most about surfing?
I love surfing and being in the ocean, a place to free my mind and just be myself. Nothing could compare to the thrill of dropping into a wave, going fast, floating through each turn, and of course, getting barreled. Getting pounded gets a lot more fun as time goes on too. However, at this point in my life, teaching my 5-year-old son how to surf is what I am enjoying the most. When my son first stood up on a surfboard that I made for him, it was one of the happiest and most rewarding feelings I’ve ever experienced.
What kinds of waves do you like to surf?
I love surfing all kinds of waves, rippable, uncrowded spots in the country or completely the opposite, barreling waves at super crowded Honolua Bay can be fun too. Maui has a lot of good places to surf when the winds turn Kona and we really like to be adventurous. I think that’s part of the beauty of surfing, you get to connect with the ocean and the ‘aina, take it all in, and just enjoy every moment of it.