NAPLES — In theory, there is a perfect surfboard for every wave in the sea.
Vincent Redding is searching for those boards.
Redding, 57, is a master carpenter who came to Naples to work on luxury homes a few years back. After establishing himself, he rented a downtown Naples storage unit to revive another dream — building the perfect surfboard.
He’s never going to actually achieve this goal. No one ever will. Both waves and surfboards are completely subjective. However, it is the journey to push that narrowing tangential line closer to perfection that is the destination for this craftsman.
Along Redding’s journey, each of the hundreds of boards he has built have come to represent a part of his life spent traveling (and surfing) around the world. Most he has sold or made for other surfers. Several he has kept for himself. He has ridden every single one.
“I love them all. They are my children, as crazy as that may sound,” said Redding.
Redding’s boards are wood. He’s not chasing the latest technology or material in surfboard manufacturing. Instead, he’s searching for long-forgotten stashes of juniper wood in the attics of old homes.
When Redding was a child in northeastern Florida, his mother was responsible for creating his obsession with woodworking. As an antique dealer, she enlisted her son’s help to reassemble pieces she had bought and disassembled to fit into her car. It was where little Vinnie first saw how pieces of wood could fit together into something great.
“These things are all math. All measurements. The control lines are geometry,” said Redding about the basic structure of his surfboards.
After measuring out and building the skeleton frame of the board, Redding’s instinct takes over as he builds the rest of the board by sight.
“I can see one-sixteenth of an inch discrepancy in the control line. It will drive me nuts until I sand it down and it is gone.” As the wood is sanded down, the board’s character is revealed.
“When you put layers of the wood on, you are never going to know what you are going to get until you sand down the excess. The process of shaping the wood reveals the wood grain,” said Redding.
It is a slow and deliberate process, opposite of the mass-produced boards for sale in most surf shops today. Redding isn’t concerned about fame or fortune with his surfboards. Instead, Redding’s head is wrapped around ideas about what to do with a stack of juniper boards neatly stacked on the floor of his shop.
“I have the hardest time making up my mind on what I’m going to build next.”