By any standards, Chris Gentile has had an extraordinary career. He's an accomplished artist, carpenter and photographer. He's been a creative director for Condé Nast. In 2007 he set up Mollusk Surf Shop in Brooklyn and in 2012 he launched Pilgrim Surf + Supply, opening a second location in Amagansett the following year. In 2015, Pilgrim opened a permanent store in Tokyo after a successful pop-up collaboration with the Japanese fashion and lifestyle conduit, Beams.
We met Chris for a dawn raid at Ditch Plains, Montauk before heading to his house in Amagansett to chat.
As someone who has spent his life making things, from sandcastles on the beach as a child, to sculptures and photographs, Chris' take on the tradition of surfboard making is fundamental to determining which boards are sold at Pilgrim. He personally orders every board, on paper, directly from the shaper. He tells us: “It’s my favourite part of my job!”
“I want to celebrate the backyard innovators who are obsessed with crafting surfboards and I truly believe that the backbone of surfboard making is a folk art.”
“You can't go to school to learn to shape. You can be self taught and go at it by eye - a lot of the early guys started like this. Or there are people like Josh Hall who was taken under the wing of Skip Frye. Skip took this lifetime of evolvement and handed it to Josh as a teenager. Now he has fifteen years experience making his own boards. It's very similar, but Josh’s fusion makes the boards modern and up to date. That's folk art. It's a trust and a sharing of knowledge that makes the boards unique and special."