SHAPESHIFTER - OBSERVATION ON THE MANY FACETS OF MATT BIOLOS

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There is a certain way Matt Biolos looks at a surfboard. Its the same way he looks at life. As a perfect opportunity to eliminate the bullshit. And he doesn’t just hold a surfboard, he grabs it. He spins it. Weighs it. Slaps it as if he wants to see if it’s awake. Shakes it like he is shaking the coins out of its pockets. He tests its trip. Its integrity. The way you would a handshake. It’s grip. And when he hands a surfboard over to a team rider it looks like he just requisitioned it from a black market armory. And that is really something there, the way he tests his boards.

Aside from the feedback he gets from Griffin Colapinto, Kolohe Andino, Mason Ho, Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks, Yago Dora, Ian Crane, Coco Ho, Taj Burrow, Cory Lopez, Crosby Colapinto, Cole Houshmand, Erin Brooks, Eli Hanneman, Kade Matson, Sky Brown, Vahiti Mahana and the almighty Chris Ward, aside from all this stellar feedback, Matt Biolos is a good surfer himself. Damn good. Good enough anyway. To know what a surfboard is doing. Just like his life. Family, kids, business, all good enough. No bullshit. Solid. Feeding, thriving and happy. Not balancing any ledgers or nothing. He’s just a successful organism raising other successful organisms. That and running the most creative counter culture punk twinged surf company in the sport’s history. A company of his own design. One that took courage to introduce into our bloodstream.

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Lest we forget Matt Biolos is an artist and a proven marketing genius. He could see the missing teeth in the grinning surf industry of 1992 and so he filled its cavities with heretical antics that mirrored the zeitgeist of the disenfranchised and defiant suburban surfers of Orange county. And why not? He was one himself. Who else could come up with surf movies with titles like What’s Really Going Wrong? Good stuff. I mean, the man once made a surf star out of a homeless bum that was always getting his hair set on fire and once even duped the whole surf industry with a giant magazine ad claiming to have sponsored Kelly Slater and all the top pros. Only to reveal that he was using his Mexican gardeners, shirtless and in boardshorts, as his models. Both hilarious and middle finger at the same time. And half the surf population came over to his side then, boy, let me tell you.

Of course the music helped with all this pugnacious success. Matt Biolos has always been a punk from Chino, a landlocked California city famed for its men’s correctional facility. Yeah, that punk thing. Even though he admits to a soft spot for the beach boys. But what the hell, you won’t find a living soul who denies Brian Wilson was the real deal. And Biolos loves real deals. Biolos believes the Rolling Stones latest album is in the top five greatest Musical achievements in human history considering the players are all over 80 years old.

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Try and argue with that. Try and argue with Matt Biolos at all. You are in for frustration if you do. First of all he’s half deaf. A lifetime of wetsuit surfing and screeching planers and whining CAD’s will do that to a man. So right away you’re at a disadvantage, not knowing if he can hear a word you are saying, or if he even cares, having to repeat or yell half of everything you say. It’s exhausting. But the thing is, he’s right. And not just some of the time. But all the time. There’s the frustration. And that’s exhausting too. Information for him is ammo. And he can use it as half stiletto, half howitzer. You’ve got to dig his delivery though. It’s final. There’s that no bullshit thing again. There ‘s that unlikeliness, that unlikely charm. He has a Cheshire smile that you just can’t resist. It can all feel like a pain in the ass and a blessing at the same time.

He’s also one of those unlikely looking people. Handsome in an Ernest Hemingway sort of way, but still unlikely for a surfer/shaper. Very unlike the greyhound shapers he employs like the genius Tuti from Brazil. No, Matt Biolos, with his salt and pepper hair and his Dad bod with beamy shoulders, more resembles a surfing bear just awoken from a long winter’s nap. He likes his tequila of an evening too. Now there’s a no bullshit drink if there ever was one.

Heaven knows where the artist inside him comes from. Maybe it’s from once living on a boat in the Dana Point Harbor. Or maybe that he got his start as a surfboard sander. Hell, the itchiness of that vocation alone could drive a man to be the President of United States, let alone a surfboard shaper. But he did. Become a shaper I mean. And looking at him now in the Mead Hall of the Kandui resort holding court over a mix and match of guests like Pete Matthews of White Monkey Fame and Ray Wilcoxen who owns the joint and all the sunburn nosed middle aged men in slaps, you can damn near see the designer in him. That thing. Those restless eyes and that restless mind that cannot listen to a word of bullshit. Oh, he is profane, make no mistake about that. And ribald. Openly referring to his German verbal sparring partner across table as a Kraut. Even though Matt Biolos often refers to himself as a Jew. Quite literally, not figuratively. Because he is. Jewish I mean. But that’s all part of his non-wokeness. If he wants your opinion he’ll give it to you.

Still, that world championship design thing of his, that thing. How do you place that inside him? That thing he has proven is within him. That he knows that design is intelligence made visible. That he knows that marketing without design is lifeless and that design without marketing is mute? How do you place that inside him? I guess you just shrug your shoulders and figure that having guts is never a bad idea.

By Matt George

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