Peace out – Surf up!

System Surfboards is bringing together some of the best local shapers to create unique surfboards.

System Surfboards represent local skills under one umbrella, uniting shapers, with their unique local craftsmanship, in one place. The hub of the brand is Jah Shaka Surf Shop in the centre of Lagos, where you can find some of these innovative surfboard shapes on display. 

Rhosanna from Toxic Magic

The independent surf brand was founded by Chris and Griff and has been steadily growing in Lagos since the start of 2012. “Through a deep-rooted love of surfing, we decided to set ourselves a goal to produce some stylish, traditional and affordable surfboards with quality in mind right here in the sunny Algarve,” says Griff. “We decided to approach some of the best local shapers we know to help produce some great surfboards.”

A surfboard shaper is someone who designs and builds surfboards. The shaper often tailors their work to meet the requirements of a client or a  particular type of wave. The shapers used by System Surfboards work under the labels of Kluba surfboards, Ferox surfboards and Toxic Magic Shapes. Their shared skills give the brand a guaranteed seal of approval for quality control and durability. The process of surfboard shaping has evolved over the years, so they like to embrace innovation and originality and to keep up with trends and designs of the times.  

The boards come in many different styles, shapes and colours, from traditional longboards to minimals, and shortboards which utilise the different styles of shapers.

The company’s ethos is to give new surfers the opportunity to have a custom board designed to their own specifications at a reasonable price. The production time ranges from four to six weeks.  

Chris observes, “Over the years, we have slowly built some momentum with a good reputation for surfers to come and buy their first-ever custom surfboard with us or to work alongside the shapers. We now have brought together a small local talented team of riders, allowing them to test run prototypes and represent the brand, shapers and themselves.”

The System Surfboard riders are Miguel Braz, Chris Michalak, Ale Rista, and local musician Naomi Falcon. Jah Shaka also produces a range of branded merchandise with hats, tee-shirts, hoodies and accessories to support their riders. “In a world where there are so many surfboard brands, we hope to give more visibility to the smaller independent businesses near us and support our local community.”  

Instagram: @systemsurfboards

Main image: Ale Rista surfin on a System Surfboard @Massimo Pardini

Meet the shapers

Uwe Kluba – Kluba Surfboards

Uwe started making his own boards about 20 years ago with a friend and quickly became hooked on the very challenging mix of craftsmanship, creativity and artistic work that seemed to deliver endless possibilities. 

Originally from Germany, he has lived in the south west of Portugal for 15 years. Before that, he worked in the automotive industry, which involved a lot of travel, so he started looking for a place to settle and have a more consistent lifestyle.

“Since the beginning, I felt that I wanted to bring a very broad range of skills and knowledge to my craft, not only in the range of shapes but also the material I use.

I personally can’t limit myself to any type of boards, it’s simply too much fun to ride all those different shapes, each one delivering different lines, feelings and approaches to riding a wave.”

He produces some boards with the standard PU/PE, but he also loves to build with wood and cork for its look and durability. “If you start building boards, it becomes more of a people business. You work with and for people, which is very challenging but also satisfying.  Nothing beats the look of a stoked customer.” 

As well as designing boards for high-end customers, Uwe gets the greatest satisfaction building boards for regular people who can not afford or don’t want to pay for a so-called ‘top brand’. “Not everybody has the time and means to spend time every day on the beach hunting waves.” Uwe helps customers to find shapes that fit each individual, from high-performance shortboards and beginner boards to classic longboards or alternative designs. He also loves to work with colours making every board unique.

“System Surfboards is a great team to work with. They have their feet on the ground and their hearts in surfing.” 

Matthew and Rhosanna – Toxic Magic

Matthew and Rhosanna have been together for nine years and have been making surfboards for three. Originally from France and Wales, they moved to the Algarve in 2019 after a road trip led them here. Although they were initially planning to continue to Morocco, the couple decided to stay put after realising the amazing potential of the Algarve for surfing and other things. Matthew, aged 27, says, “It came as a natural consequence of my desire to learn how to build things and have control over their inherent design.”

The couple explained to me the process of making a surfboard is split into different steps, which includes many techniques and incorporates a variety of skills.

The first step is shaping, which essentially is the sculpting down of a foam blank into the desired shape. Matthew told me, “After I have finished shaping, Rhosanna starts the process of laminating a composite layer of resin and fibreglass to the board.” 

This process adds structural integrity to the blank through the watertight layer of composite materials but also allows for customisation with a variety of techniques of layering and pigmentation. The final step is sanding the board. The board needs to be sanded multiple times throughout the build process, but the final sand will accentuate the board’s design and complete it to its desired finish. 

Not long after starting their brand, Matthew and Rhosanna moved into a warehouse which they turned into a shared space for other shapers. They called it the Happy Chemicals Factory. The idea was to have multiple shapers/glassers under one roof, sharing information and learning from each other. Matthew explains, “Surfboard manufacturing is a difficult business to get into and, often, people wanting to learn are met with resistance from older shapers. We wanted to create a space that was counter to that attitude.”

This was a value shared by System Surfboards, who unite multiple shapers under one brand. “They took a chance with us, which meant a lot. We were still relatively new to the business and were very grateful that Jah Shaka was able to see our potential and also take a bit of a risk by investing in us so early on.”


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