When I heard about a female surfboard shaper right in my backyard of Santa Monica, I made it a point to connect with her and hear her story. Little did I know, I was about to embark on a journey of filmmaking, friendship, and mentorship. April Newman and I laughed over coffee for hours, as I listened to how she started shaping surfboards.
April was born in New York to a family of artists. Her parents drove out to California in 1960 when she was nine months old. They moved into a big old building right on the Venice Boardwalk, which is now the Sidewalk Café. She spent many years living on the boardwalk and surfed around Venice. She told stories of the Santa Monica and Venice ’70s culture, in and out of the water. She told me it wasn’t easy being one of the only girls out in the lineup, but April has an undeniable passion for the ocean that no one could have stopped her.
April’s surfboard company emerged when she became curious about the art of shaping wooden boards. She was already hand crafting wooden furniture so it seemed like a natural transition. April’s nickname had been “Ape” growing, so “ApeShapes” was only fitting.
April brings more than just a surfboard to the shaping table. She gives her surfboards life with color and painted designs. In that, they each have a story. She even started helping me shape my own 9’0” by showing me her shaping techniques, as well as passing down her courage and confidence that I take into the water.
We hope you enjoy our Freesoul Projects short film “ApeShapes.” See more of April, or request a custom board, at