Behind the Brand: When Eric Arakawa joined HIC in the mid 1990s, he became the first shaper to sign a million dollar contract to join a board label. It was a bold move for HIC, and a bigger statement to our industry about just how important good designers are. Considering Arakawa's background, skills, and reputation, they rightfully viewed locking the legendary shaper in as a coup. Arakawa started surfing at age 10, and began shaping boards at 14. By his mid 20s, he was already one of the most respected shapers in Hawaii. Arakawa earned a reputation for being a perfectionist, someone always looking for solutions to vexing problems, and very willing to experiment in the process. By the late 80s he had already been shaping for every one of Hawaii's most prominent labels, including Town & Country, Lightning Bolt, Brewer and Surfing Hawaii. In the late 90s, not long after joining HIC, he helped usher in the newest era in design by becoming the first major shaper to adopt Luciano Leau's revolutionary CAD machine, which enabled him to design boards on his laptop. His willingness to experiment is one reason why anyone with new technologies goes to seek Arakawa's guidance and feedback first. Long before the Clark Foam bit the dust, Arakawa was a driving force in promoting sandwich composites with advanced flex systems, an area he continues to focus on. Among his many test pilots through the years, world champions Mark Occhilupo, Derek Ho and Andy Irons are but a few notables. Kekoa Cazimero, Joel Centeio, Megan Abubo and Reef McIntosh are doing a lot of the test-driving today.
About his Most Popular Models: Arakawa's boards designed for high-performance surfing in real waves, like the Element, are among his most sought after. The Pilot is designed for more open face speed and flow, while the GX is his popular small-wave board.
Taking the Pulse: "Things are likely to remain static unless design becomes more material driven. A change in materials will necessitate a change in geometry."Shop Talk
How have attitudes toward new technologies changed since the Clark Foam shutdown? "People are open, but the market has been inundated by some ‘ready…fire…aim' technologies. Rather than revolutionizing the market, these only inoculate it. It's getting better, but we're still missing the necessary interface between engineering and design. I have a feeling we may have abandoned the use of some viable materials (and technology) too soon because of the apparent disconnect between the two."
What have we learned in 2008 that will impact 2009? "The Chinese can build a board "good enough" for 70% of the market. But customers deserve more than a cheap board. Greed is recompensed by its backlash. Integrity is vindicated by its offspring. It's a virtue, not a handicap. 2009 will be the most challenging year in the history of the industry, but there will be rays of light for those who have vision. I hope those vested will remember why we got into the craft. I'm looking forward to it."