Three minutes with Jimmy Lewis

With a world-famous brand like Jimmy Lewis it comes as no surprise to find that the boards in this range are subtle in style and strong on performance. Ian Phillips of chatted with Jimmy about life, boards and the future for sup boards and shaping.

Give us a little background on you Jimmy, where did it all start and how did things evolve for you?
I was 15 when I first began shaping. It was a dream that became a passion and ultimately a lifestyle.

I’ve shaped so many boards and worked on loads of innovative ideas with top guys like Mike Waltze, Pascal Maka, Laird Hamilton and Connor Baxter so to pick out one thing that I am most proud of is really hard.

Back in the early 80s was a really dynamic time with new materials and development going crazy. Mike Waltze really helped to bring me to the foreground after winning the Aloha Classic on one of my custom wave windsurf boards. Not long after Pascal Maka broke the speed sailing record on one of my custom speed needles. That was a huge day as Crossbow II (catamaran) had held that record for six years. In one day we had three guys breaking the speed record including Eric Beale – 36.73knots, Jimmy Lewis – 36.31 knots and Fred Haywood – 36.13 knots. Pascal whipped us all at 38.86 knots on one of my own boards.

During the 90s I hooked up with some big brands like Bic, Sailboards Maui and began on a more commercial path, developing plugs for some pretty successful boards that went mainstream.

Around 1995, Lou Wainman, who was a pioneer of kitesurfing asked me to work with him to develop some bidirectional kiteboards and it was this that totally innovated kiteboarding as it is known today.

2005 was my first real experience of SUP. Laird Hamilton asked me to shape a board for him that could surf so we developed the Cruise Control. Ten years on and this is still our most successful board delivering performance on tap, but still being a great all-rounder for fun flat water paddling.

So who makes your boards?
Every single board is shaped by me. That is where it all begins. Then we have some amazing surfers and paddlers who put it to the test.

What I never do is send a board off for production that cannot stand the test of time.  I won’t change a shape next year for the sake of it and I don’t stick on new graphics to sell a new model.

As for the final production one of the best things I ever did was strike up a long-term relationship with Kinetic in Vietnam. Having a dedicated factory with a trained and permanent workforce means our standards are kept seriously high.

Over the years we have developed a unique construction method that makes our boards lighter and stronger than our competitors. The finish is showroom quality and it lasts. Even our fins and boxes are custom-made to be perfect.

Give us a little walk through on some of the boards that work for our UK waters.
I can honestly say that all of my boards will work in UK waters. That limitation comes down to the paddler and conditions on the day. Here on Maui, we don’t always get perfect conditions and quite often it is windy so the boards have to handle a lot of varied water conditions. People have this idea that Maui is perfect but I can assure you the islands aren’t.

If I had to pick a few boards for waves I would say check out the Stun Gun, Worldwide and Hanalei

The Jimmy Lewis Stun Gun is a really classic surfboard shape.  Super thin rails and a constant rocker line that really helps for fast turning and drops. For this size of board it is pretty stable, but having a pin nose and tail does keep you on your toes. The 8’7″ for people around the 80-90 kg mark is a great size. That length of boards really helps catch the slower waves and carries you more easily through the chop.

The Jimmy Lewis Worldwide has been on the cards for some time and last year when it came out it became an instant success. The most distinctive feature is the full length deck pad that works really well when you’re driving to catch slower bumps. It just a really peachy shape and in the 8’1″ becomes very aggressive. The 8’9″ is so stable and well suited to some looking to be a bit more chilled or a bigger person.

The Jimmy Lewis Hanalei is a crazy board. Go out paddling on some inland waters and cruise around, but then head out in the tiniest of waves or double overhead and the board lights up. If you don’t believe me try one. The boards shape is timeless.

For fun water time the  Jimmy Lewis Cruise Control that I designed for Laird Hamilton is still an all-time favourite.  I’ve had Masao, a local Hawaiian tattoo artist create some awesome artwork for it so this board really stands out now.

I have a few raceboards like the Jimmy Lewis UBoat and this is an area that is growing so the R&D is going into that all the time.

I know a lot of people just want to get out on the sea and enjoy some time adventure paddling so our Jimmy Lewis M14 is something to look at. It surfs like a small board, catches every bump, cruises on rivers and lakes and then screams on 30 knot downwind runs.

Is it all about SUP for you or do you dabble elsewhere?
SUP has really taken over now. I still shape boards for close friends or those special occasions. It may be a gun for Jaws or a killer little surfboard, but what I always say is my production shapes are better than my customs. The construction is so much stronger and the shapes are so proven that there is little reason to not trust one of them.

What can you see happening next?
I have some great dealers around the world who are always throwing ideas around with their riders. It is great to see the sport evolving and I love to be part of that.

I know a lot of new guys shaping come into the scene with radical ideas, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the paddler. If it fits you then it doesn’t matter what others think. I have seen so many shapes, ideas and trends come and go.

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