The noted shaper on his defence of the made-in-America surfboard industry…
Three days ago, the shaper Peter Schroff’s Instagram account, a vehicle he used to shit on made-in-Asia surfboards, had been disappeared.
Or if you want a quick education into his attacks on Slater Designs, Firewire and so on, click on Blood Feud: Schroff v Hayden Cox, Relentless: Schroff’s War on Mark Price, Peter Schroff Does Yellow Face, Modern: Peter Schroff Doubles Down and Three-Way: Dorian v Tudor v Schroff.
I’d tried to contact Schroff, who is sixty-three years old, retired and living in a gorgeous shack in San Pedro, Los Angeles, a couple of times, Facebook, IG, the usual. At the end of my last story, I tried to smoke him out by calling him a sissy.
An email was duly relieved: “We think it might be in your best interest to print the truth save your credibility. Last we heard you were going to interview us to get the truth from the horses mouth, the next day Beach Grit is sporting A FireLiar ad & the interview never happen. You know darn good ’n well what this battle is about, Over sea surfboards production is flooding our market with unethical business practice!…… seems there’s some dirty hands involved here.”
Earlier today, I called Schroff. A soft voice answered.
“Who in the heck is this?”
Oh it’s Derek, BeachGrit. Tell me, where are you and what are you doing?
“You know, having a cigarette and a beer. Doing pretty well. I haven’t received a call from Australia in twenty or thirty years.”
What happened to your Instagram account?
“Well, the big boys had it yanked off Instagram. It just disappeared. No warning, no nothing.”
Are you going to start a new account?
“Well, you know, the thing is, it took years to develop that following. We were gaining momentum ’cause it was definitely hurting Firewire. I heard they got it disappeared through an attorney. Said, they’re killing our business.”
I mention that Mark Price told me he had nothing to do with it and that it was, most likely, removed because of what was perceived to be racist content.
“Ohhhh,” says Schroff. “You’re from BeachGrit. Shit, it took me a while. I can barely understand English let alone an Australian accent on top of it.
“But, yeah, everybody sent me messages saying I gotta go look at BeachGrit, that it was very one-sided on the Firewire side. You know, once Kelly Slater joined Firewire it started taking off, outta control. The way I see it, another five years there won’t be any surfboard industry except for the Asian one.”
The American board builders are cutting each others’ throats to sell boards. They can’t compete with boards landed for 120 or 150 dollars. It’s a complete mess here.
I ask: but doesn’t the made-in-Asia phenomenon create a point of difference for the custom shaper?
“Well, you know, you got the little hipster thing over here, that’s the custom thing. That’s maybe five percent of the market and at the rate it’s going, ninety-five percent of the market will soon be Asian-made boards. The American board builders are cutting each others’ throats to sell boards. They can’t compete with boards landed for 120 or 150 dollars. It’s a complete mess here. They’re cutting corners to make boards cheaper and it’s ruining the market. Nobody can compete with the consignment surfboard strategy. That’s causing a lot of damage. Every shop is taking 120 Firewires in their store because they get ’em for free, basically, they only have to pay when they sell ’em. And you know how surfboard shops are. They don’t pay their bills too well. It could be six months before the surfboard maker is paid. Firewire has the backing to pull that off.”
Interestingly, the consumer hasn’t directly benefited from the reduced cost of wholesale .
“The retail cost is pretty similar whether it’s made in Asia or custom-made here but the fact is, they’re giving the retailer a lot bigger profit margin and consignment. It costs a custom shaper 215 just to get his shape glassed.
I’ve been surfing for fifty-five years and I’m watching it just turn into a toaster oven business. The methods that we’re using is to ridicule Kelly and Mark Price and to have local people be too embarrassed to buy the boards. That’s the strategy.
“And besides,” says Schroff. “I’m retired. I just build boards for friends. I might do one or two boards a week. I’m not fighting for my livelihood. I’m fighting for the surf culture. I’m the elected jack-ass. That’s my stand on it. And, believe me, I’ve never been political in my whole fucking life. This thing is outta hand. I’ve been surfing for fifty-five years and I’m watching it just turn into a toaster oven business. The methods that we’re using is to ridicule Kelly and Mark Price and to have local people be too embarrassed to buy the boards. That’s the strategy.
“Nobody wants to touch me with a ten-foot pole. I’m a stick of dynamite. Most people are watching in the background. But it’s leaving its mark. Definitely every surfboard builder and retailer in the US knows what’s going on.
“Can you name anything that’s handmade any more? Skateboards are over and there’s nothing else. So it’s like preserving an endangered species. And, believe me, America is rooting to win this fight.”