Forrest Minchinton is not a surfboard shaper. That is to say rather that he never intended on becoming a surfboard shaper, on following in the footsteps of Mike Minchinton- the man who has spent the last three decades as Robert August’s head shaper and the last twenty-four years as his father. It was however exactly this aversion to a life in the shaping bay that led Forrest to pursue other, generally less worn paths which would eventually bring him back to the craft. In the last few months, the Huntington Beach native has taken up multiple residencies in Bali and Japan for shaping and, of all things, riding motorcycles. It was indeed his lifelong connection with dirt-biking that eventually led Forrest to hooking up with some old friends at Deus Ex Machina, a lifestyle brand specializing in motorcycle and surfing culture with flagship locations everywhere from L.A., to Bali, to Sydney, to even Milan. Through his recent adventures with Deus, Forrest has had the opportunity to work with some world class surfers and shapers to help define his own unique style and aesthetic of surfboards- a style that could have only been born from the kind of experience that comes from opening up your world to whatever paths may rise up to meet you. In Forrest’s case these paths were often well off the beaten track and covered in dirt, mud, and of course, foam dust.
We caught up with Forrest in his newly built shaping room a little while back to talk about his latest mini-film feature Dust and how his recent forays into the jungles and deserts of the world have led him to starting his own surfboard brand.
FOAM E-Z: How did you originally get hooked up with the crew from Deus Ex Machina, was it more through your background in surfing or your background in riding motorcycles?
FORREST MINCHINTON: I actually got hooked up with them through Dustin Humphrey, who’s an old friend, and I just went over there originally to hangout because all of my friends had been going over to Bali on surf trips. So he invited me out and offered me a place to stay, so I just went and while I was there I ended up shaping a board and they gave me a bike to ride and it kind of just took off from there. That was on my first trip when I went in October, and so after that I’ve been back once more last month and I’m going again in June.
FeZ: Were you doing similar sort of work in Japan as you were doing in Bali?
|On the wave hunt in Bali|
Forrest: Yeah, so once I got hooked up with Dustin they brought me on board as a sort of ‘brand-ambassador’ and I got to take part in a big film that they’re making called South To Sian, so I did some riding in that. So I went to Japan for the premier for that movie and they asked me to shape some boards while I was there so I did some of that, did a little bit of riding, some surfing and yeah.
FeZ: Would you say you’re generally spending more time surfing or more time riding when you’re out on these trips, or is it a pretty even mix?
Forrest: Really every day I would wake up at dawn, go surf with the boys, and then come back and shape until two-thirty or three in the afternoon and then we would head to the track, and that was like the daily routine. So it was like the perfect balance every day of work, surf, and moto. It was hectic but it was fun.
FeZ: We’re just going to assume that given who your dad is you’ve been surfing your whole life, how long have you been riding motorcycles?
|Forrest getting some advice from his father|
Forrest: It’s funny, everyone always says that like “oh you must have always surfed so how’d you get into motorcycles?,” but actually my dad is just as into motorcycles as he is into surfing, and always has been. My grandfather, his dad, was full on 100% biker, so growing it was really fifty-fifty. I honestly wanted nothing to do with surfing really. When I was I really young I was into it, but it wasn’t until I was like twelve that I got really into surfing again where I was going every day. But before that it was 100% motorcycles.
FeZ: Has shaping always been in the picture for you or is that something you grew into wanting to do?
Forrest: I grew up in the Spanners Factory back in the day, it was like my daycare. I pretty much went there every day after school and me and my buddies would make little boards out of rail-chunks and stuff, but I never wanted to be a shaper. I always told myself “oh, I’ll never do that, I want to get a real job,” so I did really good in school and then when I turned eighteen and I kinda realized, fuck school (laughs). I was enjoying not having to be tied down to a nine-to-five kind of thing. I was trying to make money to keep riding basically, so I started doing ding-repair here at Aloha Glassing. And it just went from people I knew coming in and saying “oh shape me a board,” so I would shape them a board and next thing I know I’m shaping another one for my next buddy. It really snowballed a little bit from there.
FeZ: You had a pretty nasty injury recently
breaking your back while riding, how did that happen and how did that affect
your surfing/riding/ shaping?
Forrest: Yeah I broke my back in 2014, I was on a dirt bike as part of a video campaign for PacSun, and we were shooting it out in some sand dunes and I just overshot a jump. I had been hitting it all day too like a thousand times and I just went a little bigger on one run, and I don’t know what it was but I just went too big and landed on the flats. I broke my back, broke my knee, had a partial tear on my rotator cuff, broke my hand, and had a concussion. I really fucked myself. I was in a wheel chair for like three months.
FeZ: Surfing and riding on the surface seem like two completely different sports, is there something that connects them for you or do you approach them independently as two completely different activities?
Forrest: They’re way different on the surface but they’re exactly the same in that when you’re surfing and having a good session you get that flow, you know, that feeling where everything is just clicking and you’re not really thinking about anything outside of what’s happening in that moment, and that translates over to riding. Where really just all you can think about is what’s directly in front of you. Also with surfing and riding, this sounds cliché, but you have to pick your lines. It’s pretty much about speed, power, and flow like how surfing is. You have to pick a line and maintain your speed and keep your flow, it’s totally the same in that way. Even though they’re two separate things, you get that feeling from it, that same adrenaline rush or euphoria, or whatever it is.
For one thing dirt is stationary whereas the water is moving, but instead of milking a wave for speed it’s more about bike control on your terrain, even though its stationary. I think the actions of what you do are polar opposites, as far as the muscles you use and the movements you make, but the feelings you get are the same. For me at least.
FeZ: Were you approaching the way you were shaping your boards differently when you were in Bali than you would, say here in Huntington? How while you were in Japan?
Forrest: Well for one, with all of the boards I make I always have the person in mind- whether it’s for a custom order where I’m trying to keep in mind that person and what they want, or if it’s for a shop geared towards the clientele that shops there and what they would want out of a board.
So going there and coming from here, especially Orange County where what everyone wants seems to be (at least with the people I shape for) more performance based. They want like a high performance shortboard or a high performance groveler beach-break board, and then we’re going there where obviously the waves are a little bit better. So I definitely approached it differently in that they’re geared more for a different type of wave. Also the surfers I was shaping boards for had a different approach to waves in general. It kind of changed my outlook, shaping with guys like Harrison [Roach] and Matt [Cuddihy]. They were riding more- I guess you would call them- ‘alternative’ boards, or boards that were more of a throwback to older design elements.
Coming back I think I have more desire to make boards like that, like boards more… I hate to say ‘retro’ because we’re not making boards like they were made before, but we’re trying to take the good things from older style boards. There’re a lot of elements of old design that got passed over because people were moving onto the next thing. Like a single-fin works really good in the barrel, with a long pin-tail and a fuller nose, it actually works really good. Harrison will catch huge waves and get really barreled, if not more barreled than some of the guys that are on shorter boards because he’s going so fast and can take off so early. So I don’t know, I think I changed my outlook on what can be done on those styles of boards.
FeZ: Who are some of your favorite surfer or shapers you’ve worked with or shaped for so far? Have any of them had a major impact on the way you go about building boards?
Forrest: Obviously my number one influence, mentor, and inspiration for everything would be my dad- if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. Another guy, as far as the old school guys go, would be Mark Martinson, he’s a big influence. Not only in the boards he made since I was around him directly when I was growing up and watching him shape and how he shapes boards (which was a lot different than my dad in how he approaches it), but also because he was a really good surfer. He’s always been one of my favorites, at one point in time he was the best surfer in the world, being on the cover of magazines and just killin’ it, and he also shaped really well.
I think nowadays I wouldn’t necessarily say anyone famous, but one of my best friends from here, Billy Hopkins, he’s for sure one of my favorite surfers. I’ve spent the most time working with him directly on boards, you know, I would surf with him every day. I’d make him a board and then we would go out and ride it and I would see how his approach was to it to get genuine feedback. I love just love watching him surf, I grew up surfing with him. I would also say my younger brother Malakai, he’s another one who really works for it and is just one of my favorite surfers.
Harrison Roach is another good friend, I just love that you can throw him on any board and he’ll go out there and make it look good. He can actually shape really well too, and most people don’t know that, and I respect that. There aren’t many guys out there that can surf really well and shape a decent board as well.
|Riding through Lombok|
FeZ: What can you tell us about the upcoming Deus Dust Project film?
|Forrest's home shaping bay in HB|
So long story short, Dustin saw it and said we should invite him to Bali. I was planning to go over there to shape and do some racing and they were like “since you’re shaping you should just have Billy come over we’ll just document it.” So that’s kind of how the project just came about, it was sort of the brand introducing me.
So we brought Billy over, and while we were there we didn’t necessarily have a set plan, it was more like just go do what we do and we’ll document it. And then it turned out that Harrison ended up coming over so we did a couple collaborations with him on boards. We also did some for Billy, and for Matt Cuddihy who’s a really good longboarder from Noosa. We came up with the name because we were just laughing all the time about how I was always dusty. I would wake and go shape and be dusty, go to the track and get dusty, and they were just making fun of me calling it the Dust Project.
It’s just a short film, only about ten minutes, just talking a little about who I am and what I do with those guys. It was kind of an afterthought honestly.
FeZ: Will the movie feature your guys’ dirtbike/pool session?
Forrest: (laughs) I don’t know, that was on my last day and we woke up and that pool is actually a bar in Bali and in the afternoon it opens and they have all the boys come and skate the pool and it’s just a full-on raging bar. I mean anyone can skate it, but it always just gets ruled by the same guys. My friends are the ones that own the bar and we started talking about it and they were like “oh you should put the dirt bike in there!,” like joking and I was like “yeah, let’s do it!.” (laughs) So it was like three in the afternoon and we just started drinking some beers and three or four dudes just dropped the bike in there and we just started ripping it around, like doing tow-ins and stuff. Yeah, that was really fun.