11th Street Surfboards Joins the Surf Station
Words | Darby Moore
But if backyard shapers are a different breed, then Phil Dompe of 11th Street Surfboards is a species all of his own. Dompe differentiates himself from other board builders by controlling every aspect of his hand shapes, from constructing his own blanks all the way down to the final polish. When he first started making boards as a teen in the late 1970’s, Dompe relied on his perseverance and willingness to fail to get over the learning curve of being a self taught shaper.
“Back then, it was just me trying to figure out how to do it,” Dompe shared. “It was me in my garage just making a lot of mistakes, but my friends seemed to like to ride the boards anyway because it’s fun riding a board that one of your friends made.”
Dompe got his start in the shaping bay in a time that starkly contrasts the environment young shapers are entering today. Unlike beginners now, Dompe did not have online resources like how-to videos and step-by-step instructions to explain the process. After taking a short break from shaping to attend college and obtain his engineering degree, Dompe found himself back with a blank in his hands.
Picking Up the Planer Again
“About 15 years ago, a friend of mine had a couple of Clark blanks in his garage and he offered them up to me, so I started shaping again,” said Dompe. “And then Clark went out of business and it sort of forced me to do something a little different. It forced everybody to learn something a little different.”
After Clark Foam’s closing in 2005, over 90 percent of board builders in the United States were put into a position to find a new supplier of the foam blanks used to make their surfboards. It was then that Dompe began experimenting with EPS construction and with making his own foam blanks.
“I got really into alternative ways to build boards,” Dompe said. “I started getting into vacuum bagging different materials together, and Drew [Baggett] was a real inspiration for me. I started bagging different densities together and it just sort of blossomed from there and I started using carbon fiber and all that. It’s been a fun ride.”
Developing the Secret Weapon
Nowadays, Dompe is back shaping in his garage, spending most of his time building custom boards for his customers. One of his regular customers is former Surf Station boardroom expert, Matt “MattO” Ollis. After seeing Dompe in the water for nearly 15 years, Ollis was invited to check out the 11th Street Surfboards operation.
“I never realized how much of a craftsman and how elaborate his one man board building process was,” Ollis shared. “We rummaged through some templates, looking at older boards of his and decided to make a one board mush master for most conditions here in St. Augustine.”
Through Dompe and Ollis’ tinkering, the 11th Street Surfboards model, the “Secret Weapon”, was born. Overall, the board is short, featuring a straight outline and full rails. Lots of concave and a big kick in the tail block of the shape pairs with a flat nose rocker to create a board that has the drive of a fish, but that performs well in the pocket.
“Growing up in Florida surfing everyday here in St. Augustine, I’m trying to make something that will work in anything from knee high to chest high [surf],” Dompe explained. “I worked with making some boards for Matt and we came up with a couple that really worked for him and he kind of showed them to other folks and they really liked it too.”
Thus, the birth of the Secret Weapon.
“He called it the Secret Weapon because it seemed to work in everything. It has a little less entry rocker and a little less rocker overall, so as soon as you stand up you’re on plane and you’re going. That board, it works in everything. It’s nice to have a board that you can take to the beach and know that it’s going to work in almost anything you can find here in Florida.”
One of the main advantages to working with a local shaper to dial in your next surfboard, is that shapers can tweak a board based on your feedback. Not to mention, local shapers are familiar with your area’s surf condition and tend to be more adept at creating shapes that will work well in those particular conditions.
“Funny story and a true testament to Phil’s skills,” Ollis jested. “After my first session, I felt like the board didn’t have enough bite so he put it back in the vacuum bag and added a really hard tail edge with resin and it changed the design for the better.”
New 11th Street Surfboards Available at the Surf Station
Dompe and Ollis’ collaboration shape, the Secret Weapon, will soon be available in the Surf Station boardroom. This versatile shape will be joined with another model of Dompe’s, the Thief. The Thief is another wave magnet produced by 11th Street Surfboards, a winged fish that can perform in just about anything that St. Augustine has to offer.
Aside from their functional designs aspects, 11th Street Surfboards reflect Dompe’s care for his local surf community, and for creating boards that will thrive within it.
“It’s such a great community here,” Dompe said. “You paddle out in the backyard here and everybody’s friendly, everybody’s nice. You see whole families out there surfing together, it’s a great experience. There’s a lot of great shapers around here too, which is pretty amazing for our little community. It’s just a neat place to be.”