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TheKiteMag 50 the Committed Raf Shaper 34 1200x800 - The Committed: Rafael Raso

The Committed: Rafael Raso

Brazilian-born Rafael Raso spent his childhood watching and learning the skills needed for board shaping. He now lives on the south coast of England where he started his own shaping business. Hats off to him, as he also holds down two other jobs so he can keep his shaping business going, and still manages to find time to kite himself. True dedication…

PHOTOS: Howard Kearley and Mike Hillman
TheKiteMag 50 the Committed Raf Shaper 5 scaled - The Committed: Rafael Raso

Talk us through your kiting journey and what kit you use.

I started kiting in 2015. I had my first lesson in Tarifa and immediately felt it was the best sport I’d ever done. I have a strong connection with the ocean, and kiting just connects everything together… it’s amazing. My local spot is Lancing Beach and Shoreham on the south coast of the UK. It is a lovely, friendly location, especially good at low tide in a southwesterly. Autumn and winter is my favorite time of the year, we almost always get small to medium waves then. The summer can get very busy and brings flatter water. My first kite was a CORE Nexus – I remember having the only CORE kite in the sky at Lancing Beach back when I started. Now I use North – their Carve 7m is my favorite kite – and of course I ride my own boards.

Tell us how you got into shaping boards and learnt the skills needed?

My mother owned a surf shop in São Paulo, Brazil. I remember the shaping room but I was very young and wasn’t allowed to go in there because of the dust and smelly chemicals like polyester resin. Unfortunately, after being robbed more than 10 times my mother decided to close the shop… A few years later the same shaper from there, Ricardo Pizano, opened a small surfboard factory at the end of my road. After school I would head straight there and spend hours at the window watching Ricardo hand shaping surfboards. After he finished I used to ask him questions and ask if I could take the offcuts home so I could make mini surfboards with them… Great memories…

I started shaping my own boards in 2017. I contacted a few old school friends and asked for help with some tips and advice. When I told them I wanted to start my own surfboard business and shape strapless kitesurf boards, they all said that I was crazy… that the market is oversaturated, and it would be nearly impossible to get anywhere… that the big brands out there dominate the market and the mass production of surfboards makes things really difficult for artisans like myself to make a living just shaping surfboards. However I didn’t listen to them and in 2018 I launched PUZZLE SURFBOARDS…

It can take years and years to learn the skills needed but thanks to the modern world and technology you can speed up the process. I still hand shape most of my boards and I really want to keep doing this, however when the time comes, if I have to embrace the world of computers to help me out I will. Everyday there’s something new to learn. I’m learning along with my own mistakes and making progress along the way – this is the beauty of shaping surfboards.

And is the shaping your full-time job?

I would love if that was the case! However I have two other jobs to help pay the bills. I shape surfboards between 3am and 7am. Then from 7.30am until 2pm I run a small mobile coffee bar in a converted, 37-year-old horse box, and from 2pm until 5.30pm I deliver roast coffee products to restaurants, pubs and coffee shops. I’ve been living this lifestyle for over three years and often feel I want to stop everything else I do and just shape boards… Until this happens I can’t stop thinking about it… I have my shaping room in a business unit and I built another workshop at the back of my garden so I can work on weekends and evenings from home.

You also have a family. When do you have time to kitesurf?! And do you do any other sports?

In winter on weekends I go out for two hours or so if the wind is good. And in summer I can kite after work and sometimes have an early session before work. I did practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 10 years and I have skateboarded for a long time as well. I love surfing and sometimes paddleboard with Renzo my little boy. I have done a few trips to the wave pool in Bristol which is really fun.

Any other favorite kite spots?

I love Camber Sands in the UK or Wissant in France, just a three-hour drive from my house. When I visit my family in Italy or Brazil I always take my kites. Next year I’m planning five weeks in Costa Rica, kiting and surfing.

You’re sure to bump into some other shapers there! Do you take inspiration from other shapers?

Sure, I have a big list! But my top four are my UK mentor, John Isaac of Squire Surfboards who is always there for me, Daniel Thomson of Tomo Surfboards who shapes incredible kitesurf boards, Hayden Cox of Haydenshapes who really took his business to another level (check out his book, New Wave Vision), and Matt Kazuma Kinoshita of Kazuma Surfboards who has been a real master for over 40 years and hand crafts surfboards only.

Have you thought about how to make your boards more eco-friendly?

100% yes. Unfortunately this mass production of boards overseas is a big problem for the environment and there’s so many people out there who probably don’t even know where the boards are made and by whom… I only use epoxy resin which generally doesn’t cause any problems with atmospheric pollution. I use blanks from US Blanks to shape my boards – they are probably one of the best in terms of recycling offcuts and are the first solar-powered surfboard blanks manufacturer in the US.

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