Behind the Brand: The San Clemente surf scene of the '80s was the epicenter of California's progressive movement at the time, and Cole Simler grew up smack dab in the middle of it. While grommets like Matt Archbold, Dino Andino, Christian and Nathan Fletcher, Shane and Gavin Beschen, and Chris Ward were all ascending the amateur ranks, his paternal role in this tight-knit crew materialized as he took up shaping, working with and amid esteemed San Clemente-based builders like Midget Smith, Chris McElroy, Timmy Patterson, and Terry Martin. But he didn't start his own label until he moved north, to San Luis Obispo, where he attended college. The variety of waves and surfers he found on the Central Coast gave Simler the opportunity to enhance and expand his entire breadbasket of designs, especially guns, longboards, and hybrids. "It was cool," he says, "because if you made a 6'8" or a 7'0" up there, you'd actually have waves to ride it in." That's also why he stayed for more than 10 years, where his label became one of the biggest in the region. When he finally moved back home in 2000, he immediately fell back in with his motley crew. Nathan Fletcher approached him in early 2000 looking for more speed, so after a little trial and error with twin fins, Cole began updating the long-forgotten four-fin. The results of his tinkering were fantastic, but Nathan was still breaking boards in vast numbers upon landing his big airs, so Simler added corrugated rail channels to increase structural integrity. Today, his updated quad concept and the rail channels are in widespread use. Cole, meanwhile, is still quietly evolving designs by maintaining a steady working relationship with several pros, including Jordy Smith, Ryan Carlson, Matt Archbold, and more.
About his Most Popular Models: As a central player in sparking four-fin renewal, it's not surprising to find that quads comprise roughly 40 percent of his business. "The bottom line is they're great boards for a lot of people." Yet Cole's high-performance shortboards, step-up quads, and round-nose fish like The Grasshoper keep him plenty occupied.
Taking the Pulse:"The whole four-fin thing has helped us learn a lot more about the importance of fin design and fin placement. Boards will always be refined, but fins are going to be where the real advances take place."Shop Talk
Which design project are you having the most fun with right now? "Probably whichever one I shaped last. Customers are so much more open-minded than say, five or ten years ago. I've been doing a lot of high-performance (not retro) twin-fins lately. A lot of kids have never even ridden a twin, so it's fun to see them trip out on how fast they are, and how easy they are to do airs on. We also have a trunk board, which is a short little disc with a Bonzer concave that runs the whole length of the bottom. It's pretty exciting how much variety there is nowadays."