Behind the Brand: By the time Bill Stewart moved to California from Florida in 1971, he was already a respected surfer, artist, and craftsman. Those talents earned him a steady gig at the world famous Hobie factory in Capistrano Beach, where he went to work with Rick James and Terry Martin. Working in the biggest design hub on the coast, he was surrounded by an abundance of surfing legends that ran in and out of the labyrinth of shaping bays, and it wouldn't take long for Stewart to become one of them. Stewart launched his own label in 1979, and by the mid '80s, his team included many of California's best up-and-coming surfers, including Mike Parsons and Shane Beschen. Yet his biggest impact came in the field of high-performance longboards, a segment he's dominated over the years with players like Jeff Kramer and Colin McPhillips. Stewart's beveled rails helped the Hydro Hull high-performance longboard become one of the best selling boards of all time. All the while, he's maintained his very creative approach to various board designs, from his twin-hull Golden Slipper SUP board (which won the 2007 Catalina Race) to his new five-fin high-performance shortboard, the S-winger, which incorporates Stewart's beveled rails on the bottom with his S-rails on the top, then blends them into a double-wing pintail.
About his Most Popular Models: As for his longboards, it starts and ends with his Hydro Hull, a concept he came up with nearly 20 years ago, and can't stop selling. Of course the Colin Pro model and the Colin Noserider are great movers as well, and the Mai Tai, designed especially for the ladies, does extremely well. And Stewart's S-Winger five-fin is getting most of the attention on the shortboard side: "We haven't had one person come back who's mind wasn't blown."
Taking the Pulse: Shapers are going to have to get creative and innovative to help their products stand out from the mass of "standard" shapes and designs. New designs will not only need to look different, they will also need to perform better and provide the rider with new and interesting experiences."Shop Talk
What made you want to become a shaper? "I was a competitive surfer in the late '60s and '70s, and I wanted to improve the designs of boards I was riding at the time. I wanted to make them go faster, ride looser, and be more forgiving while doing more progressive maneuvers."
What's the best part of being in this business now? "All the new materials and shapes out there. Both are really driving shapers to experiment more, which means more custom boards. I'd like to see that continue. We do tons of custom boards out of our shop in San Clemente and through our dealers across the country. It's very gratifying to work with someone and help them design a board that not only looks exactly like they want, but is also the right size and shape for them."