On the fourth floor of a Saint-Henri building, Mitch Martin is beginning to shape his latest surfboard under the deafening sound of an electric plainer.
Martin, a Montreal native, has been honing his surf-shaping technique over the past five years.
“Myself and a friend rented a garage and we got some tools and started teaching ourselves,” he said.
After learning the tricks of the trade by watching Youtube videos during his time out west in British Columbia, the self-taught shaper brought his newfound passion to Montreal.
Martin shapes, applies fibreglass and sands the boards — a process he says takes 18 hours to complete.
“I find it very therapeutic, working hours on one thing and not thinking about anything else,” he said.
Martin has 150 boards under his belt, but admits he is still learning.
“It’s something you’re always progressing, something you can always improve on, just like surfing,” he told Global News.
Martin is just one of a handful of Montreal surfboard shapers.
“It’s a camaraderie, supporting each other to help grow this thing that’s bigger than all of us,” he said.
He adds Montreal surf culture has been growing over the past 15 years.
So much so, that he says he now notices beaches in Maine, U.S., are often filled with Quebecers.
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Closer to home, the stationary surfing waves on the Saint Lawrence River are also getting more popular.
He says what helps keep his passion project afloat is September Surf Café, which he cofounded.
“The coffee shop is what really supports us and the surfboard shaping element is more in our DNA and it’s our passion,” he said.
Martin remembers shaping his first boards in the kitchen of the cozy, west coast-inspired café on Notre-Dame Street.
He called it “September” after hurricane season, where the waves are at their best.
Many in Montreal’s surfing community use the space to congregate and plan trips along the east coast.
“Once you start surfing and you learn how to ride a wave, it’s not going to go away. It’s like a drug,” Martin said.
“Someone starts surfing, they are going to surf for the rest of their life.”