On The Nose with Michel Junod


Previously featured in Santa Cruz Waves

There is sometimes an unflattering, and often undeserved, stereotype of older surfboard shapers: that they are cantankerous and jaded old grumps limping through their shaping bays like lame prize horses, their brains frazzled from long-term exposure to hazardous resin, foam and fiberglass (that, or from all the acid they dropped in the ’60s and ’70s). Sixty-seven year-old boardmaker and longboarder Michel Junod is none of that. He’s robust, clever, grateful and just plain stoked on life, even in the face of a market that is primarily focused on brand name, mass-produced shortboards and fishes. He has a winning business model—making people happy—that’s worked for him the past 50 years.

“People are stoked when they get a custom surfboard,” Junod says. “I’m known as a guy you can come to for a fun, custom board.”

Born in Santa Monica in 1948, Junod grew up in and around the water. From an early age, his mother gave him swim lessons and would take him to the beach in the summers to enjoy the sand and surf. By the time he was 10, he and his best friends would spend most of the summer body surfing and hanging out at the beach. “If you are born by the beach, you don’t really know anything else,” reflects Junod. He caught his first wave on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier in May 1962, around the time that surfing was really taking off in Southern California.

After a few years spent honing his skills, Junod met Carl “Tinker” West, the owner and shaper of Surfboards by Challenger in Mission Beach, San Diego. Tinker built him a board, which led to his first surf team experience and introduction to shaping. In 1966, Tinker moved to the East Coast to open a surfboard factory in New Jersey. That summer, he invited Junod and a couple of other team riders to come work on and promote his boards.

tinker Tinker and Team Challenger

“That’s the way a lot of guys learned—either they worked at the shop sweeping as a kid, or surfing for the team,” says Junod.

Junod spent the next three summers learning to shape and build boards for Tinker. He moved to Santa Cruz in 1970 after an old friend offered him a job shaping for Overlin Surfboards and promised an uncrowded “Wild West” of a surf town. “And wild it was,” he remembers. “There weren’t any leashes yet so no one was even surfing at high tide because they didn’t want to lose their board into the cliffs. There were just a few of us shapers back then. It really was a whole different world.”


After only a few chilly winters in Santa Cruz, Junod could hear the tropics calling. Over the next two decades, he lived and surf on the North Shore of Oahu and on Kauai, where he started a family with his wife, Jodi. He made a modest living shaping for some of the islands’ most reputable brands: Surfline Hawaii, Lightning Bolt Surfboards and Dick Brewer.


Junod: high-lining  in Hawaii

In 1990, he and Jodi packed up and returned to Santa Cruz, where he began shaping for Pearson Arrow Surfboards and was soon drawn back to his longboarding roots. Before long, Junod had become an integral member of the local longboard scene, which has seen a resurgence over the past 20 years.


He was a regular at contests, riding for the Big Stick Surfing Association surf club, and began his own label, shaping for most of the area’s best longboarders. All the while, he continued to hone his skills on the nose. Just ask Santa Cruz’s noseriding heir apparent, Mark “CJ” Nelson.

“Michel Junod is hands down my favorite longboard surfer to watch here in Santa Cruz,” says Nelson. “He is a perfect example of a surfer who has made the appropriate sacrifices in his life to keep his surfing and style top notch for the last 40 some odd years. His surfing is smooth and simple with perfect positioning and an emphasis on style. Dignified and honorable—exactly how I strive to be.”


These days, Junod is still shaping custom boards and hanging 10 all over town. He has this advice for the aging surfer who’s contemplating throwing in the towel: “I always tell people who want to or are close to quitting surfing in their 50s and older, ‘Don’t quit, because you’ll never start again,’” he says. “If you are physically able, and want to keep that part of your health regimen and stoke going, you have to keep at it because somebody else is going to take your place in the lineup and you’re going to come out one day, flail [around] and go ‘Aww, I can’t do it anymore!’

“Later, if you change your mind and want to get back into it,” he adds, laughing, “you better move to Mexico or something—because in Santa Cruz, there are infinite guys to contend with.”

Find him online at surfboardsbymicheljunod.com.


Board Talk…with Derek Hynd



I’ve always looked up to surfing’s more quirky characters, guys who don’t give a fuck about what’s “in”, “hip”, or “trendy”—they march to the beat of their own, at times, off tempo drums. Dora, Curren, “Barney” Barron, Tashnick…they are out there, and most don’t get the credit they deserve. Surfing is about yourself, your board, and the ocean, and whatever you decide to do from there is how you define your art style. However cliché it sounds, surfing truly is, and will always be an art form. From the way you paddle, the equipment you ride, and the lines you draw, everyone is unique. It’s no secret that surf media and the big brands try to dictate what you, as an individual should be wearing and riding, but the more you break free from this soulless homogenization, the more you can get out of your personal surfing experience.

In the

In the “Bay” Photo-Steve Sherman

Enter Derek Hynd. One time professional surfer. Ruthless, raunchy, yet brilliant surf journalist. And for over the past two decades, Hynd has been pushing the boundaries of finless surfing, without giving a fuck about what popular surf culture says he should be riding. How does someone maintain control on a twelve-foot face freight trainer at Jeffrey’s Bay without the stabilization of fins? Well, Hynd has found a way, and boy does fly! His talent on asymmetrical, finless surfboards is indisputable, as evident in surf films such as Litmus and Glass Love.   How does he do it? He’s been quoted as saying, “Finless is taking the fucking fins out of a board and spinning around aimlessly”. Sounds simple enough, but if you ask your average “Channel Islands” pro model sheep to get close to what Hynd is doing, the results would be comical.


Yet, there is a method to his madness, and lately he’s been neck deep in foam experimenting with radical board designs that will allow him to push the envelope even further. I contacted Hynd to get a brief insight into some design elements that he considers when shaping a board that will boogie. In my email I mentioned I was “just reaching out”. His reply was, “Ok, I’ll do it if you promise NEVER AGAIN to say ‘reaching out’. Put that in your blog”. Fucking all-time…

Not afraid of a bit of length...Jeffrey's Bay

Not afraid of a bit of length…Jeffrey’s Bay

Length – it all has to do with the relative straightness of rail in the middle – 3’6″ to 11’4″ – at least that’s my interpretation. I found that one out when I cupped the front and back off a board.

This is what you call

This is what you call “trim” Photo-Steve Sherman

Concave – Important to have it at a spot on the board that isn’t going to suck it onto the face. It’s got to contribute the other way to ‘lift’ when in trim.


 Symmetry – Unnecessary if the board is contoured to work based on different approached forehand to backhand. Can apply to fin sizings and positions or plain shapes or rail volumes.


Volume – Horses for courses but paddling / entry speed is key for me, so I prefer volume up front.

Playing with the rail in Chile. Photo-O'Brien

Playing with the rail in Chile. Photo-O’Brien

Rail – I think taper of rail is more important than overall shape of rail. There are two schools of thought re free friction – soft wrap rail v hard edge rail. The one sticks to the wall and is slower but holds in the pit. The other is edgy allowing release onto the flats…so that to get pitted you’ve got to come from behind the section in a drive. I’m with the edge for what it’s worth.

Maybe the main thing overall is application. None of this hipster neo soul bullshit of kiddie fiddling with a bunch of designs. Stick to the one – and work on it for as long as it takes. That’s where the evolution comes from.