Joe Yee at The Heavens

An Interview

We sat down with Joe Yee to chat about all things shaping.

Where are you from?  Goleta, CA 

How long have you been shaping? I started around 2015.  So that's 8 years ago?  wow, yes, 8 years.

And what was the 1st board you shaped? a 5'7" winged swallow tail...  I ruined it, though.  How so? I tried to glass it, and I was using UV resin at the time, and I didn't know about catalyst, so I was putting the boxes in without catalyst... just with UV resin.  I went to sand them out, and they just flew out.  I trashed it.  I still have board #2 though:  I templated a v.bowls.  It's actually not bad; it rides like shit though, but shapewise it was really pretty good.

What kind of surfboards do you specialize in?  I mean, I kind of do almost everything, from short boards to fishes to logs, but I'll take orders from people who want to do something fully custom and experimental. I'm always interested in that.

What's your most popular board?  Right now, probably the "Nearman", or a fish. Those 2 are the most popular.  The Nearman is a fuller outline, your more standard nose rider log, suited for more of your everyday conditions.

Do you have any shaping mentors & what other shapers inspire you? Ryan Lovelace. He kind of forced me to shape. I met Ryan when i first started surfing-- probably in like 6th grade, and I got my first custom board from him. Then, after that, we developed a friendship from ordering [custom] boards & surfing together.  When I started shaping, I was scared to tell Ryan, probably for about the first 20 boards, because I didn't want him to see anything.  And he found out from someone else and got mad, and stormed over to my parents house.  It was so nerve racking... he came in & was taking everything out & taking photos of it... because, I was glassing the boards too, so he was looking at both the glass jobs & shapes. {laughs}; and then later, I started shaping for Trimcraft. 

Trimcraft started off kind of cool, because Ryan split up each model so someone could kind of specialize in it.  Michael [Arenal] did all the Rebowls & mid-lengthy stuff, John [Simon] did all the Haley Pins, I was doing all the T-revs, Side-cut fishes, and Symm-snakes, like all the short board stuff. 

Later on, I got to glass a lot of the Trimcraft boards. I was able to know who shaped what without even looking at the signature.  I could tell what board John shaped, Ryan shaped... Now it's hard to tell Ryans vs Johns. Ryan said the Thick Lizzy/Haley Pins are the closest. He gave John a template of the rails & tri-plane.  Yeah, John studied it.  It was just really cool to see everyone's different style.  I think that's what he [Ryan] wants for Trimcraft.

Do you have any other shapers that inspire you?  Yes, John Simon.  Why? For one, it's clean, and I can tell that he is working on things when he shapes, because each batch of boards that he drops off, he gets better.  Or, if I tell him something like "you should do it this way, so it's easier to glass" then he'll do it.  He's like refining things.  Each batch gets refined... it's getting better.  Wow, that's a really good compliment. I can tell John's stuff from when the first time he was here, to where he is now, it's crazy.  Yeah, he used to not really even put hard edges on his first stuff that was glassed.

Besides just shaping, I know you glass a lot of boards, too.  What do you enjoy more, shaping or glassing?  I don't think I like one more than the other.  They both have their pros & cons & different creative outlets. I really enjoy shaping-- watching the board come together, and all the points kind of connecting and finding the flow of the board.  Also, when the things that I've struggled with in the past just click randomly, It's a fun feeling. With glassing, it's just fun because there are so many ways to apply color & experimenting with everything, different colors & mixing colors. 

Who inspires you from a glassing perspective? Ryan [Lovelace]. Because we used to glass all the time together.  Everything I know about glassing is from him. He's the one who taught me how to glass.  Ryan was really my only "in" to the surf world.  So, when i started hanging out with him, I thought every board was hand-shaped, every board was glassed by the shaper.  And then that little dream got crushed. HA.  It was also cool, because I had no idea how boards were glassed before I started shaping boards.  I had no idea of the process of it, so it was really cool to find out & I had to figure everything else out on my own.  Yeah, I think there's something to be said about that. I pretty much tell everyone everything when people ask me.  I get asked about how to do swirls all the time, and I give them paragraphs, like step-by-step, because I know they're not going to do it.  It took me, and anyone else who does it, a long time to get their swirls like that.  You can tell someone step by step and there are little things that you have to finesse to get it like that.  I mean, that's how all of us kind of got brought up & learned.

What surfers inspire you?  Probably the obvious, Dane [Reynolds], my favorite surfer from childhood.  Craig Anderson, I used to love watching him. Do you keep that inspiration in mind when you're shaping new designs? I'd say our waves at home is what inspires my designs. We have such a diversity of waves, that it's nice to cater boards to them, and you can do all kinds of stuff.  What I'm fired up on, is what I'm surfing.

What are you currently riding? I go back & forth... It's either a short board that's under 6'0" or something longer than 8'0"... nothing in between.  Right now, I've been riding the Nearman, and the Turtle Wolf, which is a twin, squatty, swallow tail shortboard. And then, I've been working with some of the local guys in Goleta, making kind of like a grovelly short board for smaller waves.  Shorter, wider shortboards, some have a swallow, some are thick thrusters, the ones that I've been riding are twin trailers.  

What's your favorite wave in the world, that you've surfed?  I'd have to say, most of the right points in Goleta. I mean, Indo was fun, super fun, but I've gotten it better here.

What else are you into other than surfing?  I like cars, trucks, camping, off-roading. I do like the "building part" of the truck, I think that's what I get from my dad. When things break, I sit there and figure out how all the things work together, so I can find the problem before I can solve the problem. I think that's really fun. I'm also a really hands-on person, so I like to do as much as I can do myself. It's also a good rule of thumb to do for off-roading if something breaks down, and you put it together, you know how to fix it.

What's one song that's stuck in rotation on your current playlist? Marriage of the Coyote Woman by All Them Witches

Last but not least, what's your favorite slice of pizza?  I like all kinds of pizza, the specialty ones, but I like pizza too much to choose just one.

Oh, and are you single?  Yes.