David Cunningham of Horizon Board Company
Interview by Kelly Groce
Photography by Adam Valadez
David Cunningham is a Texas based surfboard shaper for Horizon Board Company and a flyfishing rod designer for Marshfly USA. We dropped in on David at his shaping shack in Surfside and had the pleasure of talking with him about his shaping style, philosphy and the future of Texas surfing. Enjoy.
The age old question: how did you get into surfboard shaping?
I got into board building because I wanted good quality boards and did not want to have to pay retail prices for them. Same goes for the rod building, I have always had a dilemma with purchasing things that I can learn to build myself.
Are you more influenced from surf style of the past or present?
I am most influenced from the surf style of the past. Specifically the transitional period from the late 60’s through the mid 70’s. I always admired the styles of guys like Larry Bertleman, Billy Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, and Rory Russel.
What’s your shaping philosophy?
My philosophy when it comes to shaping is following my routine/method. Never deviate. This allows me to achieve consistency. At the core, I believe that shaper is constantly evolving, and with every board I shape I am learning more/ keeping my mind open to new ideas and concepts.
What are your most popular models?
Mid-lengths, I am working on new concepts for boards from 7-8 ft. Fish boards will always be a big part of what I do and of course classic long board shapes.
What is unique about the boards you shape?
I think what makes my boards unique is a good blend of past and present. I have a tendency to lean towards more classic/retro outlines, with contemporary rail profiles and bottom contours.
How is your shaping influenced by Texas?
Building boards for Texas is a challenge. I think a lot of Texas surfers fall victim to West Coast marketing strategies. I think it is important for a surfer to be honest about their ability, and the conditions they are required to perform in. With that as a guideline, locally, I am a fan of wider outlines, slight increases in volume, and fin configurations that work in slower wave conditions.
What do you want/see for the future of Texas surfboard shaping and surfing?
As far as the future of surfing in Texas goes, I hope that surfers continue to be open minded about the boards they are using. Currently, it’s really common to see a variety of boards in the water. This is good because it leads to progression. Twenty years ago a rider might not have been able to link to a board that was good for him because it wasn’t the cool thing or current trend. I hope this open mindedness continues. I think this is going to lead to new innovations and raise the bar of Texas surfing. As far as shaping goes, I really hope to see the younger generation get involved and I hope that the older shapers look for someone to mentor. That’s how I learned, and without the younger guys getting involved hand shaping boards could become a lost art.
Not only do you make surfboards, but you also make your own fly fishing rods. Tell us more about that.
I have been building rods for over 20 years, I started off with conventional rods, and as I grew as an angler I became interested in flyfishing. With that I started to design fly rods for Marshfly USA. It’s been a great project between myself, Rob Schumske, and James Jackson. We have had Marshfly up and running for three years and it has been a great blend of high performance fly rods, apparel and accessories . Our main focus has been inshore saltwater rods, but we have also been engaged with some trout fisheries located in Georgia, Colorado, and the Texas Hill Country.
When you aren’t shaping, where can we find you?
When I am not shaping you can find me hunting, fishing, and surfing with my family. Texas has been a great place for me to stay balanced, I love the outdoors and there are plenty of activities to keep me occupied here on the coast.
If you are interested in getting a custom surfboard or fly rod made, feel free contact David Cunningham at: