Behind the Brand: Michael Walter, a.k.a. Uncle Mike, started building boards in his backyard more than 30 years ago. "I was literally shaping them for friends on sawhorses," he says. Focused on learning each facet of the process, he did everything from mowing foam to hot coating to fin instillation to sanding, as he worked his way up the ranks. Eventually, Walter moved out of his yard, opened a state-of-the-art factory in Oceanside, CA, and established two brands of his own—U.M. Surfboards, and Sugar Mill Glassing. Today, with those labels behind him, his new focus is on 21-13. The brand, which Mike says is focused on increasing direct surfer-to-shaper contact, draws on the experiences he built while working closely with world-class surfers like Clay Marzo. It's also based on the mindset that drove him to pick up a planer all those years ago. "I've recently moved back into the shack," he says," back to the soul of board building where it all began."
About his Most Popular Models: "For medium waves," says Mike, "you want a standard shortboard that's longer, narrower, and can draw a more stable line." Three of 21-13's best-selling designs provide exactly that: the Sinister Purpose, the BillionAir, and the Agent all are geared toward giving riders optimum performance in a myriad of conditions, a goal Mike achieves by working closely with his customers.
Taking the Pulse: "Our philosophy is 'Direct Drive,' which means we sell directly to the public with more shaper-to-surfer interaction. With our new web site, 21-13.com, there will be an online store where customers can commingle with the surf community, like the old days. We're building a network of our own."Shop Talk
What's the most important thing to consider when ordering a board? "You want to know what kind of wave you are up against. This is where the shaper-surfer relationship really comes into play."
What's the best part of being in the board building business right now? "Well, with the way the economy is, we have a lot more time to surf. This is good for the heart and soul—it rejuvenates the creative side of the industry."
If you could only have three boards, what would they be? "I would make sure I had the Agent, because it's such a good all around board, the XX-Fish, because it's a great small-wave skate, and the Z-Gun, for when it gets big."