Behind the Brand: Matt Kechele is in many ways the Godfather of Florida's modern day surf scene. He's played a vital role in its rise to global dominance, paving the way for many who followed him out onto the world tour. While Kechele battled for five years on the world stage, he's better known today as one of the patriarchs of the modern aerial movement. He's also coached the East Coast to multiple X-Games titles. He's been shaping boards since the age of 13, when he started in his parent's garage. Growing up in Florida's shaping and performance hotbed, he admired the experimental approach of Greg Loehr, the meticulous approach of Richard Munson, and says he benefited greatly from Ed Leasure, who gave him the opportunity to shape for Quiet Flight in the early '80s. Kechele played a vital role in the rise of Kelly Slater, as he was shaper and mentor for Slater during his teen years. In fact, as a teen, Kelly smashed nearly every amateur record in the books on a Kechele and rode one to a third place finish in the World Contest. Today, Kechele is still extremely hands-on with his business, shaping, designing, and testing, and his team riders like Travis Beckmann are enjoying the results. Beckmann just finished fourth on the ASP Pro Junior tour in North America.
About his Most Popular Models: "Guys like Travis are really open minded in testing my new design theories," he says. "It's great because we ride similar boards and I can feel and ride it myself for a solid final observation and analysis." Most of his top guys are riding High Performance Modules in the 6'1" range. Yet his older, big guy set rave about his Big Guy UFO four-fin models, his Stub Fish, and his Pug Performers, all of which Kech refers to as his "easy riders" for everyday surfing in North America.
Taking the Pulse: "I knew customers worldwide were going come full circle and start realizing that traditional American-made polyurethane boards are still the best performance-engineered boards there are. The Top 45 in the world certainly think so! The ride speaks for itself. The foam is still getting lighter, stronger and better."Shop Talk
What's the best way for a customer to understand his wants versus actual needs? "The customer needs to be open and able to speak directly to the shaper/designer. I'm into being hands-on with my customers. That's why I'm the guy who answers the phone at Kechele surfboards. Pretty novel, eh? I pride myself in the fact that I've kept this as a business model. The shaper needs to understand where the customer plans on riding the board, their height, weight, and abilities, not to mention whatever troubles he or she is trying to resolve."
What's the most important quality to look for with your surfboard? "I think confidence is the most important quality to have in your board. I relate it to a racecar. Would you rather have a former Formula One racecar driver working on your car, or just some Joe-don't-know-Schmoe?" We're a reputable brand run as a small, hands-on operation that offers excellent-riding boards and great service."