Matt Tatum, S&A Shaper, loves talking surfboards.

This last week I had the pleasure of going out to the Foamworks factory and talk to our shaper, Matt Tatum, about surfboards, and what brought him into the industry. His perspective on shaping and his beginnings were great to be heard, and could someday influence the world of surfing that we embrace today. Matt has now been shaping for us since last fall and we cannot wait for what he has in store for us in years to come.

So how long have you been shaping for?

I have been shaping since 2000, when I lived down in Florida. I was really just shaping for myself at the time but I really got into shaping when I got to Hawaii in 2010. I started doing custom shapes for friends, friends of friends, and eventually new customers. It really helped me build my template stock. But all in all, when I started working with master shapers pushed me to what I do today.

What inspired you to become a surfboard shaper?

What got me shaping was I wanted to really make my own boards. I had so many ideas in my head about the boards I was riding and resorted to buying a new surfboard every time I had an idea. So I started shaping. At the time I didn’t know how to shape but I knew what I wanted. Once I lived in Hawaii I reached out to Mark Liddell. I Went to him to talk to about getting into shaping and he told him to just go to get a blank and shape it. I picked one up, got my numbers and dimensions dialed in, and shaped it out. Haha I actually took my first board to resin works Oahu, Jason Cashawah glassed it it, and during the process Gordon Hansen saw it, and said it was one of the better first shapes he had seen. Since then all sorts of family members and friends wanted a hand shaped surfboard by me. So I first started shaping longboards for beginners and then started working with Gordon Hansen and Jason Cashawah, and that’s when I got into shaping high performance shortboards.

“What makes me different is I have never ripped a surf design, which has really allowed me to better my shaping ability, and to create original shapes based off what I thought worked best.”

How does your shaping knowledge influence Virginia Beach(or generally east coast) surfing? 

When I design a board I have the true idea that it’s going to be surfed here in Virginia. But I don’t forget my background of being in Hawaii, using true principles that work well with solid waves. I blend the two so people can really tackle the whole spectrum of waves, from a summer day in Virginia Beach to hurricane swell in the Outer Banks.

I understand you like to work with innovative and new technologies, what’s the most recent thing you’ve been experimenting with? Machinery, fiberglass tech, etc.

Through trial and error and constant r&d with epoxy I have come to the hex flex (shred flex) tech. Although it is still being tested, constantly being innovated, I am really trying to push the limits on epoxy surfboards. Most times I will make both a poly and epoxy model to test the differences and really make sure we are hitting on the performance of the board, where we test it through r&d and then come out with a better version than from where we started.

Through this process I’ve accumulated over a 100 surfboard files, and with that experience I’ve been able to get to work with Simon Anderson, Luke short, Mark Ganesh, and Bill Frierson. Through working with these guys and the development process, we’ve not only been able to refine our products, but offer pinnacle shapers new technologies.

One of the most recent things we’ve been experimenting with is tuning out files with R&D through the aku shaper system*, looking into getting a cnc Hotwire for blanks, and we also have found a way to set up our lasers to perfectly set up fins on stringer less boards. We’ve been working over a year with the hex flex as well, getting great. Now we are messing around with glassing schedules, designs, and carbons, to really get the proper flex of the board without loosing the liveliness.

*Matt has one of the only Aku shaper systems on the East Coast. He was able to get connected through them by doing some development work for Aku. So when Matt was stationed on the East Coast through the military he, was able to be one of the only ones with this specific CNC machine.

“I’m a true believer of using principles of physics, such as Bernoulli’s principle, and through my aviation background, I’ve really been able to apply these principles into lift, drag, even fin foil. The wing of an aircraft really has similar characteristics and this has allowed me to truly refine a board”

Will you be further implementing this into your boards in the future?

Surfing is constantly evolving. I foresee my surfboard evolution to not have a cap. I never want to say this is the board and this is were it’s gonna go, I want to continue my evolution for my boards and for surfing.”

If you had one board template you had to shape forever, what would it be?

If I truly had to work in one specific area, I would try to focus on a board that would work for a beginner surfer, be good for an intermediate surfer, and be a super fun shape for a high level surfer. A nice mid length that would accommodate the majority, instead of going on either end of the spectrum, have one board that many individuals can enjoy. A board that is going to work for a beginner surfer, then into an intermediate, then to advance then it’s going to really allow them to move through your board selection.

Fiberglass or epoxy?

There’s a place for poly, there’s a place for epoxy and whatever comes down the road. But I’ve really been diggin’ the epoxy lately, and the R&D for the epoxy seems to be limitless. Kind of like “how far can we take it” you know? I like how it’s stronger, lighter, and more durable.

What influenced you to become a surfer?

I started surfing when I was 11 at cocoa beach pier, during vacation, and from there it consumed me. I would draw surfboard pictures in class and some of the art I use on my work today is from stuff I sketched in High school.

I watched endless summer and fell in love with the style and soul of surfing. First board I rented and road was an island nectar. Ever since then my life has been consumed by surfing. From school sketched to my bedroom walls(perfect surfers on perfect waves) really drove me to be a pro surfer myself but since joining the navy and being in coastal towns it was really easy for me to still focus on surfing and get my surfing done.

How often do you get to go out in the water and surf?

I try to shoot out of the factory every chance I get, but I really like creating surfboards. So if it’s a very minimal swell, I really want to get people’s boards out the door, so I will most likely stay in and get work done. But if we get a solid swell I am out the door. I’ll skip a good surf to get a good board done but my joy is surfing and I do this so I can surf, I love it.

Lastly, oceanfront or sandbridge?

Damn neck! So I don’t get hassled about surfboards. Anywhere else I’ll surf 15th street pier or the market down in Sandbridge.

The shaping room

Thank you Matt for diving into your background and your overall stoke on surfing! If anyone is interested in a custom make sure to come by the shop, give us a call at 757-721-6210, or an email at so we can get you dialed in! Matt loves talking boards so whatever you have in mind….. bring it up!!!

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