The story of Alaïa Bay’s resident Portuguese shaper.
Shaping dreams – one board at a time.
Carlos Lopes is a Portuguese shaper, currently crafting mind-blowing boards at La Factory, Alaïa Bay’s shaping room.
Check out some of his handmade shapes in our Surfboard collection.
Born in Lisbon in 1983, he has been living in Switzerland for the past 10 years.
His journey led him to deepen his passion for shaping right in the middle of the Swiss Alps. He went from catching waves along the Portuguese coast to shaping surfboards in a landlocked country. At the time, Alaïa Bay did not yet exist forcing Carlos and his crew to travel to France or Italy during winter to try out his boards.
We met with Carlos in his workspace. Well, the truth is that he doesn’t consider La Factory as his “office” because to him shaping is not a job. It’s a passion. It’s where he goes to create while losing track of time. Where he goes to deliver dreams and smiles.
His dedication and passion still amaze us. As he states, it is the best feeling when he looks into his client’s eyes, and he knows he has done a good job.
Read the full interview below or watch the full video on Youtube.
Tune in to the Spotify playlist he has curated for us, bringing some timeless songs to the table from Portugal, Brazil and much more!
AAA: Can you remember the first time you entered a shape room?
C: It was with Nico from Wave Gliders. He gave me a blank and said: “Carlitos, if you want to do that you can try!” And I tried... and I was very happy and proud of me and my job. I’m still surfing that board when I go back to Portugal. It feels amazing, because it’s my first board!
AAA: Tell us about your passion for surfing. How did you discover surfing?
C: I’ve discovered surfing with co-workers who were also friends. They were coming back from a session with huge smiles and talking about who got the best wave and making jokes about it. They were talking about surf all day long and I didn’t understand any of it! One day Paulo Jacinto gave me a board and said: “Come on, try!” I’ve tried 2 or 3 times and my friends were making fun of me: “Naah Carlos forget the surfing, it’s not for you.” But I kept trying for 1 or 2 years and it has been my passion for 20 years! Now I’m surfing and shaping at Alaïa Bay, in Switzerland! Who would have thought that!
AAA: When you’re sleeping, do you sometimes dream about shaping or surfing?
C: I dream about glassing rooms and colors, surf trips with my friends and family. It’s crazy.
Shaping is creating, it’s another level. I can’t describe that. But glassing is like paradise for me! I love the colors, sanding, polishing, and everything about board building. It’s my Disneyland when I enter the glassing room, I feel like that! Because I can do whatever I want, if it’s my board anyway. If it’s for a client, it’s another story! I feel comfortable in the sanding room. I have been doing that for the last 20 years, so I just close my eyes and sand.
AAA: Lots of people are talking about shaping, but that’s not even half of the job.
C: In my opinion, glassing is very complex and underrated. It is hard to glass a board and to connect with the client’s expectations. It is important to provide the exact color the client is asking for. Usually, it doesn’t exist as a single pigment, so I need to blend different tints, which I love doing!
A few years ago, when I was only sanding and polishing, I have learned a lot about different shapes. The sander must observe a shape in detail in order to keep its specifications. This is why Gerry Lopez says: The best shaper is the best sanding guy!
Back in the days, I was sanding and polishing Paulo Jacinto’s boards. He gave me the opportunity to refine my work and understand the importance of fins outlines as well. I also had the chance to work with Ryan Lovelace, who taught me a lot about flex fins and displacement hulls. There is always something to learn and experiment with! I’m a challenger and passionate, so I never stop!
AAA: You apply a lot of different colors in your boards. How do you choose them?
C: Usually I don’t choose the colors, I just go with the feeling. I wake up and some colors come to my mind. Yellow and Orange are the colors I like the most to have a great polish and give credit to my work. I really like Yellow actually! Whenever it’s possible I work with this color. Not only because I like it, but because it emphasizes the quality of the job and the shape. And even if you don’t like yellow boards, you will appreciate it just because it’s the result of my enthusiasm. It’s just my passion! I want to show my passion, not my boards. I’m not the best, I don’t want to be the best and I don’t care about it. I just want to do what I love!
AAA: How do you feel when you give a board you’ve made to a client or a friend?
C: It’s a very special moment because it’s about connection. It’s about feelings and I’m very proud to see people surfing with my boards. I see this emotion in the eyes of the client, and for me it’s like a pay day. Yes, I have a salary, but my pay day is that day. When a client says “f*cking jesus“ and is really stoked about the board. This is the moment when all the passion I’ve invested in the shape is revealed.