Born and raised in Key West, Florida, esteemed surfboard shaper Todd Pinder knew from early on that he would eventually make his way to Hawai‘i. At the age of 17, he learned how to shape his first board in the garage of an art teacher’s friend. The stories of Hawai‘i that this friend shared planted a potent motivation in Todd to visit the islands someday. Today, Todd resides in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, where he runs handmade-surfboard company Pinder Hawaii.
Throughout his journey, Todd has forged myriad connections, some of which include mentor and pioneer surfboard designer Joe Quigg, legendary surfer Tiger Espere, and our very own art director Dale Hope. Combined with the guidance of his connections, Todd’s strong mentality has attained Pinder Hawaii a large following both locally and internationally, such as in Japan and San Diego.
Hand shaping a surfer’s ride is a meticulous task, but for Todd, each new board is an opportunity to go further. From shaping kneeboards to paddleboards, the excitement of the challenge drives Todd’s passion for the art. With such great tenacity, the quality of his boards are unarguably a cut above the rest.
Q&A With Todd
Q: You started shaping at such a young age, what was the turning point that got you into this craft?
A: Well I was always a hands on kinda kid, not so much into books, so shop and art were my favorite classes. My art teacher was one of about five surfers on the island and he introduced me to a guy named Jimmah who I bought my first longboard from. He used to build sailboards and run a shop, but by the time I met him, he only had a shaping room in his garage. Before that in the 80’s he lived in Maui and always told me about the islands. He knew my Mom would take me up to Cocoa Beach and told me next time you’re up there grab a blank and I’ll show you how to shape it. I was 17 at the time I shaped my first board and from hearing stories of Hawaii I knew where I had to go.
Q: Can you tell us about Joe Quigg & your relationship with him?
A: Like most things in my career it was by chance, I had bought an old Mercedes wagon from a guy named Jimmy Hueman. Jimmy owns Quiggs first catamaran he built and it's amazing! Part of the payment for that wagon was a board, Jimmy wanted me to make a replica of the last balsa board Uncle Joe shaped. After that Jimmy knew Joe would really appreciate seeing my shop and how I do things, He also knew it would get Joe’s mind going about building boards and talking about it would be healthy for him. So every once in a while when Jimmy would take Joe to lunch, they'd stop by after to hang out! It was simply amazing!
Q: What is the surfing culture like in Key West in contrast to Hawaii?
A: While Key West holds a lot of culture and history, surfing isn’t one of them! But I can say that growing up there has made me who I am and makes me appreciate everything Hawaii has to offer!
Q: If you were not surfing or making boards, what do you see yourself doing?
A: I’ve been into photography for nearly 20 years now, mostly film. Shooting both stills and movie cameras like 16mm. Guess developing my own film is similar to using resin, mixing chemicals. Another thing I love is working on my old Benz’s. I appreciate well made things and am always impressed by German engineering.
Q: What is the biggest adversity you’ve had to overcome to get Pinder Hawaii to where it is?
A: Umm, money? Haha! Surfboards, and especially the way I make them, all by hand, wouldn’t attract too many business men. No huge factory, no CNC machines, just me trying to make a better board, and to stay true to the craft.
Q: You have a big following in Japan for your boards, where else do you think you can take Pinder Hawaii?
A: Well I was super lucky early on in my career with Japan. At the time I was shaping for Cippy Cabato of Classic surfboards, his good friend was legendary surfer Tiger Espere. Uncle Tiger was living in Tokyo, teaching hulu, paddling outrigger canoe, and even had a radio show telling Japanese the Hawaiian ways. He would come back home for visits and shape a few boards at Uncle Cips. I kept bugging him about shaping in Japan and the one time he asked if I get passport? I said yeah! He said ok the guy coming over then in two weeks, then we go Japan! His friend was no other than Mabo San, the first national surfing champion of Japan. So, for the next three years or so I made several trips a year shaping in Japan! As of late, I have made a close relationship with Joel Tudor, now I make several trips a year to San Diego shaping there. It's an amazing opportunity, not only working with Joel but San Diego is a mecca for the surf industry and is a lot easier sending boards out worldwide. It's funny now, I remember my dad telling me I should learn to be a bartender because you can get a job anywhere in the world. I feel now with my skills and connections, I can do just that with shaping! Already I have invitations to Europe and Australia!
Q: What excites you the most about making a board?
A: The biggest thing is the challenge, it's why I hand shape. I’m challenging myself to shape a better board everytime. There's an old saying, the guitar is easy to learn but hard to master. I feel this explains my challenge with building boards. One thing Jimmah first told me before he let me pick up the planner was, there's no such thing as a perfect board, but that doesn't stop me from trying!
Q: What is your creative process like?
A: Honestly that's hard to say because I’ve been shaping for so long now it's just what I do, but I’m influenced by history, surfers I’m working/hanging out with, also my customers!
Q: What is your most favorite board you’ve made so far?
A: That's like asking me my favorite song or dish! I enjoy making so many types of boards, from kneeboards to paddle boards, which I feel is one of my biggest strengths, diversity.
Q: Can you tell us the story about how you met/became familiar with Paul/Dale & Western Aloha?
A: I met Uncle Dale over 20 years ago while helping a good friend build a sailing canoe. I don’t think you walk away after meeting someone like Dale without some kind of Impression left. From then on I knew he was someone I wanted to impress and earn respect from.