Bill Stewart - Shapers Profile

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San Clemente surfer/shaper/artist Bill Stewart has been a major influence to the surfing world for decades, from his amazing wave paintings on ‘70s OP display bards that garnished shops around the world to bringing back innovative longboard designs that pretty much changed the way people looked at long boarding and brought a whole new breath into modern long boarding during the ‘80s to the present. From car headlights on a board to paintings of Einstein, Bill Stewart has done a lot for the history of surfing design, art and beyond. We recently caught up with Bill to get some more insight on his art and innovations.

G+J: How did you first get into shaping?
B+S: I started with ding repairs, and when boards in 1967 went from long to short, I grinded down the long board, took the glass, and got the blank out of the center of it. That was my first shape in 1967.

G+J: Who were some of your inspirations for shaping?
B+S: Probably Wayne Lynch, as far as board design originally; I loved his whole style of surfing. Phil Edwards; Rick James, who taught me how to professionally shape; and then the main shaper was Terry Martin.

G+J: You’ve created some pretty amazing works of art over the years. What’s one of your favorites?
B+S: I would have to say that the Hydro Hull swept the world, and when I invented the 2+ one and added that with double concave bottom and beveled rails, that was my most original design. Then over the years I’ve come up with different designs like the Nightstalker with headlights and taillights for a shaping contest that I won. I did a four-man surfboard with four people on it doing synchronized surfing that’s kind of a unique thing. I’ve done two murals in Malibu on this giant wall 80’ x 16’ on the Coast Highway in Topanga, and also the murals on the front of my building. I’ve done three different murals over 30 years; the best one I did is on the building now.

G+J: Did you get into airbrush art because of shaping?
B+S: I was a born artist. I was identified as the best in my first grade. I had to show everybody my artwork that stuck in my brain, and being praised for art at that young age was a heavy influence. I got voted best artist in my senior year in high school and then got voted best artist in Surfing Magazine about 20 years ago. I also did 2 live murals on MTV at the MTV beach house. I started airbrushing in 1971. I was the second person to ever airbrush a surfboard. I went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida, in 1971 and that’s where I learned about the airbrush and really kicked off my obsession with it.

G+J: Going back to the ‘80s, there were a lot of designs coming out and bright colors…what are some of your memories of that time?
B+S: That was the punk era, and that was the coolest time ever to be an artist because everyone was so crazy and loose with art, and would let me do anything I wanted to do. One of the weirdest ones I ever did was a poodle run over by a car, and not skidded into it but accelerated to kill the poodle because his mom had a poodle. Some of the other ones that were really weird were bouncing tennis balls on the bottom of boards dipped in paint. I took yarn dipped in paint and spanked boards with it. I took scissors and shoes and all these objects and laid them on the bottom board and then did a huge fade over the top of them; you could see ghost images of all these tools, wrenches and all kinds of crazy stuff.

G+J: You seemed to be on the forefront of progressive long board designs. Tell us about that.
B+S: I’ve been coined as the innovator of the modern long board because I was a professional short board guy who never understood why long boards went slow, so I put double concaves on the 2+ one, the beveled rail hard edges, and learned I had the ability to surf well on a short board And I applied that to a long board, so you could pump speed into them and so in doing that, it changed the perception of long boarding. Once there was aerials and nose 360s and giant figure 8 roundhouses, it really woke up and brought all the guys from the ‘60s back into long boarding, and I was at the forefront of that.

G+J: Do you prefer the traditional shapes that are coming back or sticking with progressive long board designs?
B+S: I now have a new board called the tipster, which is probably the best vintage long board I’ve ever made. It’s got its own custom fin and the tail rocker is unbelievable. One of my team riders hung 10 on the Tailblock and then hung 10 on the nose, so the board is very very vintage, just beautiful lines. Everything about it is causing it to really sell unbelievably well.

G+J: What do you like about traditional LB and what do you like about progressive?
B+S: The difference between the decision that you’re making of buying a traditional board or a progressive board is if you’re a drop knee, stand up with your chest out, cross step, hang heels and just all about positioning and style, the Tipster’s for you, especially on lined-up point breaks. That’s where they probably work the best. If you’re short border and you want to go fast and hit it hard and hang 10 and aggressively tailride it like a short board, then classically nose ride it, that’s the progressive end of it.

G+J: Who were some of you riders back then?
B+S: Colin McPhillips won 3 world titles on my boards; he was a phenomenal surfer. One of my all-time favorite surfers, Jeff Krammer, is a terrible contest surfer but one of the best free surfers I’ve ever seen; in fact, he’s done maneuvers that I still have not seen done today, and he did them 15 years ago. Ted Robinson, David Nuiweva, Dale Dobson, you name it. Tony Savone is now one of my top riders; Stevie Newton, Steve
McClean. I’ve had so many team riders over the years; it’s hard to list them all.

G+J: You’ve been in the San Clemente scene for quite some time. How has it changed?
B+S: I showed up in 1972 in San Clemente. Back then it was a sleepy retirement military town that was pretty run down and really very boring; there was no nightlife, no good restaurants, and the majority of people who showed up here were retired or just surfed, and I guess I’m the second part of that. Compared to the ‘70s, San Clemente now has become kind of the newest coolest town, because most of the cities are overcrowded and San Clemente has still got a soulful cool feel about it, and that’s why people are drawn toward it. Plus, we have every imaginable surf break, from reefs to points to beach breaks, rights, lefts, everything. There’s nothing not here in this little town.

G+J: What are some of your favorite spots to surf in San Clemente?
B+S: I would say lowers by myself or Cottons Point at low tide on a big swell.

G+J: What are some of your favorite designs?
B+S: Anything original that seriously works and is not fake and a hyped-up thing that really doesn’t work, that’s just overmarketed. I love inventions, creations and designs, and that’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’m the co-inventor of Future Fins systems. I’ve created wing fins. I did Santa Claus doing a wheelie on top of the roof waving to people, that was my recent creation.

G+J: Saw an old OP ad with you from the ‘70s; what was your relationship with them?
B+S: When I was working in the alley of broken dreams on Los Melinas in San Clemente for Rick James, Op was next door and I got to know Jim Jinx and Chuck Butner. They used me in a couple of ads and I also did the first 500 OP boards for the display boards and airbrushed them, and they went all over the world and were freehand airbrushed wave paintings for $10.

G+J: Any advice for up-and-coming board designers?
B+S: Become a fireman (laughs).


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San Clemente surfer/shaper/artist Bill Stewart has been a major influence to the surfing world for decades, from his amazing wave paintings on ‘70s OP display bards that garnished shops around the world to bringing back innovative longboard designs that pretty much changed the way people looked at long boarding and brought a whole new breath into modern long boarding during the ‘80s to the present. From car headlights on a board to paintings of Einstein, Bill Stewart has done a lot for the history of surfing design, art and beyond. We recently caught up with Bill to get some more insight on his art and innovations.

G+J: How did you first get into shaping?
B+S: I started with ding repairs, and when boards in 1967 went from long to short, I grinded down the long board, took the glass, and got the blank out of the center of it. That was my first shape in 1967.

G+J: Who were some of your inspirations for shaping?
B+S: Probably Wayne Lynch, as far as board design originally; I loved his whole style of surfing. Phil Edwards; Rick James, who taught me how to professionally shape; and then the main shaper was Terry Martin.

G+J: You’ve created some pretty amazing works of art over the years. What’s one of your favorites?
B+S: I would have to say that the Hydro Hull swept the world, and when I invented the 2+ one and added that with double concave bottom and beveled rails, that was my most original design. Then over the years I’ve come up with different designs like the Nightstalker with headlights and taillights for a shaping contest that I won. I did a four-man surfboard with four people on it doing synchronized surfing that’s kind of a unique thing. I’ve done two murals in Malibu on this giant wall 80’ x 16’ on the Coast Highway in Topanga, and also the murals on the front of my building. I’ve done three different murals over 30 years; the best one I did is on the building now.

G+J: Did you get into airbrush art because of shaping?
B+S: I was a born artist. I was identified as the best in my first grade. I had to show everybody my artwork that stuck in my brain, and being praised for art at that young age was a heavy influence. I got voted best artist in my senior year in high school and then got voted best artist in Surfing Magazine about 20 years ago. I also did 2 live murals on MTV at the MTV beach house. I started airbrushing in 1971. I was the second person to ever airbrush a surfboard. I went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida, in 1971 and that’s where I learned about the airbrush and really kicked off my obsession with it.

G+J: Going back to the ‘80s, there were a lot of designs coming out and bright colors…what are some of your memories of that time?
B+S: That was the punk era, and that was the coolest time ever to be an artist because everyone was so crazy and loose with art, and would let me do anything I wanted to do. One of the weirdest ones I ever did was a poodle run over by a car, and not skidded into it but accelerated to kill the poodle because his mom had a poodle. Some of the other ones that were really weird were bouncing tennis balls on the bottom of boards dipped in paint. I took yarn dipped in paint and spanked boards with it. I took scissors and shoes and all these objects and laid them on the bottom board and then did a huge fade over the top of them; you could see ghost images of all these tools, wrenches and all kinds of crazy stuff.

G+J: You seemed to be on the forefront of progressive long board designs. Tell us about that.
B+S: I’ve been coined as the innovator of the modern long board because I was a professional short board guy who never understood why long boards went slow, so I put double concaves on the 2+ one, the beveled rail hard edges, and learned I had the ability to surf well on a short board And I applied that to a long board, so you could pump speed into them and so in doing that, it changed the perception of long boarding. Once there was aerials and nose 360s and giant figure 8 roundhouses, it really woke up and brought all the guys from the ‘60s back into long boarding, and I was at the forefront of that.

G+J: Do you prefer the traditional shapes that are coming back or sticking with progressive long board designs?
B+S: I now have a new board called the tipster, which is probably the best vintage long board I’ve ever made. It’s got its own custom fin and the tail rocker is unbelievable. One of my team riders hung 10 on the Tailblock and then hung 10 on the nose, so the board is very very vintage, just beautiful lines. Everything about it is causing it to really sell unbelievably well.

G+J: What do you like about traditional LB and what do you like about progressive?
B+S: The difference between the decision that you’re making of buying a traditional board or a progressive board is if you’re a drop knee, stand up with your chest out, cross step, hang heels and just all about positioning and style, the Tipster’s for you, especially on lined-up point breaks. That’s where they probably work the best. If you’re short border and you want to go fast and hit it hard and hang 10 and aggressively tailride it like a short board, then classically nose ride it, that’s the progressive end of it.

G+J: Who were some of you riders back then?
B+S: Colin McPhillips won 3 world titles on my boards; he was a phenomenal surfer. One of my all-time favorite surfers, Jeff Krammer, is a terrible contest surfer but one of the best free surfers I’ve ever seen; in fact, he’s done maneuvers that I still have not seen done today, and he did them 15 years ago. Ted Robinson, David Nuiweva, Dale Dobson, you name it. Tony Savone is now one of my top riders; Stevie Newton, Steve
McClean. I’ve had so many team riders over the years; it’s hard to list them all.

G+J: You’ve been in the San Clemente scene for quite some time. How has it changed?
B+S: I showed up in 1972 in San Clemente. Back then it was a sleepy retirement military town that was pretty run down and really very boring; there was no nightlife, no good restaurants, and the majority of people who showed up here were retired or just surfed, and I guess I’m the second part of that. Compared to the ‘70s, San Clemente now has become kind of the newest coolest town, because most of the cities are overcrowded and San Clemente has still got a soulful cool feel about it, and that’s why people are drawn toward it. Plus, we have every imaginable surf break, from reefs to points to beach breaks, rights, lefts, everything. There’s nothing not here in this little town.

G+J: What are some of your favorite spots to surf in San Clemente?
B+S: I would say lowers by myself or Cottons Point at low tide on a big swell.

G+J: What are some of your favorite designs?
B+S: Anything original that seriously works and is not fake and a hyped-up thing that really doesn’t work, that’s just overmarketed. I love inventions, creations and designs, and that’s what I’ve done my whole life. I’m the co-inventor of Future Fins systems. I’ve created wing fins. I did Santa Claus doing a wheelie on top of the roof waving to people, that was my recent creation.

G+J: Saw an old OP ad with you from the ‘70s; what was your relationship with them?
B+S: When I was working in the alley of broken dreams on Los Melinas in San Clemente for Rick James, Op was next door and I got to know Jim Jinx and Chuck Butner. They used me in a couple of ads and I also did the first 500 OP boards for the display boards and airbrushed them, and they went all over the world and were freehand airbrushed wave paintings for $10.

G+J: Any advice for up-and-coming board designers?
B+S: Become a fireman (laughs).

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