Michael Arenal: Shaping a Career Through Surfing

Michael Arenal grew up on the shores of Southern California, skim boarding, boogie boarding, and body surfing. It wasn’t until his friend took him to the North Shore, at age fifteen, that he first discovered surfing. Flash forward a few years and he bought his first longboard—he was officially hooked. Now, he rides boards of every shape and size and has taken on shaping as a career. Here, Arenal shares how he first learned his craft and offers advice to up and coming shapers.

When did you shape your first board?

I made a few hand planes first, and technically the first board I “shaped” was a 6’10” Alaia and then an Alaia belly board (or Paipo). After doing those I just figured I should try to shape a “normal” foam surfboard. I was seventeen or eighteen and I made a 5’4” Mini Simmons inspired twin fin with crazy bottom contours and rails. It took me about a week to shape using all hand tools, no power tools, and I made some mahogany keel fins for it. I loved that thing and pretty much surfed it exclusively for awhile. I remember being at Creek and Strands catching waves so early and going so fast as I watched other people struggling to catch waves. I still have it.

What boards do you typically ride?

Everything and anything. I like to change things up and keep exploring new feelings on a wave. But mainly single fins and twin fins.

Where are some of your favorite places to surf?

San O, Church, and I recently moved up to Ventura/Ojai, so lately it’s been Rincon and C Street.

When did you decide you wanted to pursue shaping as a career?

Ever since shaping that first board that’s all I wanted to do. Up until I shaped my first board, I never had a clue what I wanted to do when I got older, but I knew shaping was something that I would always do no matter what. I went to school for graphic design for a bit because I had to go to school, but all I could think about was surfboards. I wanted to shape. Luckily, I have supportive parents who let me leave school to pursue shaping full on.

Fresh out of the shaping bay.

How did you learn your craft?

I never apprenticed under anyone because I didn’t even realize that was a thing. I just started doing it. After a few boards in I met Donald Brink. I owe so much to him. He allowed me to hang out, answered questions, invited me to go surfing with him, and helped me with my first glass job. He is so giving and I can’t thank him enough. Then I started working at Hobie Surf Shop in Dana Point and met Gary Larson who I got to watch shape through the window while working, as well as Josh Martin and Tyler Warren. All of those guys have helped me and are so kind and giving with knowledge.

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