Culture Shifters: Taz Yassin
Interview by Morgan Williamson | Photos supplied by Vissla Taz is 19 years old. His biz, Taz shapes, banks $300k a year – in Europe alone. If you didn’t know him before, you will now. A professional shaper from the Canary Islands, this teen is sans-angst. He’s accomplished. The kid’s worked alongside Timmy Patterson, Matt Biolos, Pat Rawson, Axel Lorentz and […]
Interview by Morgan Williamson | Photos supplied by Vissla
Taz is 19 years old. His biz, Taz shapes, banks $300k a year – in Europe alone. If you didn’t know him before, you will now. A professional shaper from the Canary Islands, this teen is sans-angst. He’s accomplished. The kid’s worked alongside Timmy Patterson, Matt Biolos, Pat Rawson, Axel Lorentz and Jon Pyzel. In fact, not just alongside, but took it to them in shaping competitions at just 15. CJ Hobgood and Artiz Aranburu ride his knives on tour, plus a slew of Europe’s finest. He’s got entrepreneurial smarts, and he’s generous too, even shelling five percent of his keeps to The Make a Wish Foundations. Oh, and, he’s studying naval architecture, too. Nope, 19 years old is no typo. Taz rides forward faster than most so if you’re reading this lazy eye’d, drowning in pixels and beer, an extension of your couch, he might make you feel like bettering yourself. Or necking it. But don’t do that… it’s too messy.
Stab: How are you so young and so good at shaping?
Taz: Well, I started when I was 12 in a little shack behind my house in the Canary Islands. There weren’t many shapers around so I actually learned on YouTube. I taught myself by watching videos over and over until I could see what was going on, and I read a bunch of books, too.
Okay, then how’d a teen from the Canary Islands come to work with some of California and Hawaii’s finest sculptors? I was invited to California for a shaping competition and surf expo when I was 15 and then again when I was 16. I’d made a video of myself shaping, forwarded it to the organisers of the event and they invited me. I was really grateful, because what are the odds of a 15-year-old getting invited? Jon Pyzel was there the first year. And the second year, Pat Rawson and other top-tier shapers were in it.
Is that where Timmy Patterson stamped you The Prodigy Kid? Yeah, that was a little nickname he gave me back in the day. I met Timmy at the first competition. I was sitting on the stand watching Pyzel shape and Timmy was right next to me so I turned around to him and was like, “Woah! You’re Timmy Patterson.” And he was like, “Yeah, okay kid.” Then I peppered him with questions and we hit it off straight away. He invited me to shape at his factory in San Clemente. So, right after the competition I stayed in California for three months, going to Timmy’s factory every day, helping him out and I’d shape some boards and he’d help me get them right. Timmy’s the biggest inspiration that I’ve had.
And after your stint in the Golden State who supplied the kerosene to your shaping flame? I’d done collaborations with a couple of smaller brands, like one here in Europe called Nexo. Then, Pukas (Gabriel Medina’s shaper) picked me up when I was 17 and I started shaping for them. That’s how I got in contact with Aritz Aranburu. I met the crew at Quiet Flight at another expo, they invited me to shape with them and that’s where I met CJ Hobgood. Shaping expos are a goldmine of contacts. So, I spend most of my time in Europe because that’s where my family is, and the Pukas bays. But I try to go to Quiet Flight a couple times a year, because they’re really cool guys and it’s good to get a change, work with people who surf different waves and work with C.J.
Soul arching and keel fins isn’t the kind of surfing you’re shaping for. Nah, high performance is because of how challenging it is to figure out the jig-saw puzzle of what another person wants. I try to stay in that realm, as well as shaping guns. I don’t do anything that retro, I like to make a board that somebody’s going to really care about and focus on.
Now you’re designing boards on an iPad with a 3D design program. The program mimics the process of Imagineers’ creation of Disneyland attractions, right? And then the company founded by Ashton Kutcher’s worst ever Hollywood role wanted a piece of you? The thing about Apple is they don’t market themselves the same as other technology companies, which is why I idolised them in the first place. But they were working on this new project for the iPad Air 2 and they wanted to use people who were doing cool things with their products. One of the producers from Apple knew I was designing boards with AutoCAD, so they came to film one day and they just loved it. They loved the whole combination of something so clean and technological mixed in with something so dusty and manual.
And you’re studying too… Man, do you sleep? Yeah, I’m studying in San Sebastian (Basque Country). I want to be a naval architect. I left school when I was 15 and moved to Australia. I never finished my last year of high school, but when I turned 18 I could take this test to get in to university. I think naval architecture is a great course, not only for surfboard shaping, but in general, anything involved with water crafts and water design is a good thing to have in your back pocket.
How does it translate into your board building? Well, surfboards are a lot more personal than boats because it’s like making a shoe compared to making a car. It’s got to fit right on someone’s foot rather than being able to pile numerous people in. But the principles of what makes something in the water go fast, or what makes something in the water manoeuvrable, those all apply to surfboards.
How many boards are you spitting out? About 100 per month. I used to hand shape, that was my thing. A lot of people move to the machine because of production, but you can still produce boards with a planer which is considered more crafty and respected. The whole problem with the planer is consistency. Pukas has the AKU machine which is the best you can get for the industry. I am lucky to have that where I work, it allows you to be a lot more consistent and make small changes.
Any time for stargazing? Flower frolicking? Or getting drunk, waking up in a dank black market basement and wondering what the fuck happened to your kidney? I like to party as much as everybody else. But I’ve seen a lot of friends get stuck in it. You start going out at a young age when you grow up in the Canary Islands. So I had the opportunity to get that out early. I mean I still go out every now and again but I wake up every day at 5am and I don’t stop till like 11pm. I make sure my free time is amazing and memorable, I don’t want to spend free time watching TV or sleeping. So I’ll bust out as much work as I can then try to go base-jumping or go to California for a month to do the business part of things. It’s like having a big game to play.
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