Eric Arakawa Designs sits in a green factory building that’s about as North Shore as the North Shore gets. It’s actually quite beautiful. And peaceful. When I call for directions in the morning the woman on the other end of the phone warns me that I’ll probably drive right by them if I miss a landmark here, a sign there. And sure enough after a few country backroads we end up in somebody else’s driveway. There’s no giant sign with Arakawa’s name on it. No billboard with his logo, advertising what’s become known as the best boards available on the North Shore of Oahu.
This stretch of coast in the middle of the Pacific is still surfing’s proving ground. And every winter the world’s best surfers send hundreds of orders to this man, knowing his boards offer their greatest chance at doing something special on the North Shore. That’s really what I’ve come here to talk to Eric Arakawa about: How one becomes the go-to shaper in this particular dot on the globe? I know answering this won’t require a conversation about design concepts or glassing technique, and it turns out the first piece of my answer lies in finally finding this old green building. It’s humble. He’s humble.
Eric makes us a cup of coffee before giving a tour of the factory. He asks me what I’d like to talk about, and he’s relieved once I tell him. It turns out 99% of the interviews he grants turn into Q&A’s about new designs, who’s riding his boards and geeky shaper speak.
From that moment on everything Eric Arakawa shares about his life, his work, and his beliefs create a formidable answer to my question. He always loved to surf, but he saw many places and experienced many things along the road before starting his business. The boards are just a piece of the puzzle. Or as Eric puts it, “It’s like a big pot of stew. The main ingredient is going to permeate everything. It’s going to bring flavor to the whole pot.”