feature, shaper

Michael Fremont

After we posted the first part of our series featuring some of the surfboards at Beach House Classic shop in Bay Head, NJ, we decided we should contact the shaper himself. That would be one Michael Fremont who shaped under the name Michaels Fremont with his buddy, Tony Michaels (Confused? Us too.) in New York and later San Diego in the early 70s.

 At home on Walnut Street, Long Beach, NY

At home on Walnut Street, Long Beach, NY

We caught up with Michael, who now lives in Encinitas, California but grew up in Long Beach, NY. 

"I was born in '49," Michael told us, "and my family moved there in '52. My father had a house built on Walnut street and when I was 13 I started surfing with my best friend and his older brother Mark Weisberg. He was one of the original guys surfing there after he'd been stationed in Hawaii."

At the time, Mark surfed occasionally with a guy name 'Bahama' Pat. Pat's family owned a liquor store in Long Island and he was not exactly an encouraging sight for parents of would be surfers on the beach. "He was one of these guys who all summer long hung out at the beach," Michael explained, "he had a straw hat, looked like a bum. He was a surf bum. So it took me a year to convince my parents that surfing was OK. When I was 14 I learned to surf down the street at Franklin and surfed ever since."

Michael Fremont surfing

We asked Michael what it was like surfing there at the time. "There weren’t surfing beaches," he told us, "so the only time you could go was before the beach opened and after the beach closed and sometimes the cops would come chase you away anyway. I got pretty good at surfing in New York - it was the only sport I was ever good at! I couldn't run very fast and I couldn't throw very far - that eliminated the normal high school sports."

Michael graduated high school in '66 just as a seismic fault was developing in society. "There was something wrong with the civil and social structure," Michael said. "The song of that year was Buffalo Springfield - For What It's  Worth. 'There's something happening here...' That captured the mood. It was a generational shift: it became clear that our generation was not going to follow the footsteps of the generation before. We were true believers in what America could be and we were disappointed in what it was. With the civil rights movement we were starting to get an enlightened history of the United States. We were idealistic but disappointed at the same time, becoming cynical. The definition of a cynic is a disappointed romantic!"

We asked Michael if he had been drafted into the Vietnam war. "I was waiting, and I had done my pre-induction physical but I got a high lottery number in the draft so that ended my problem with the army. I was absolutely opposed to Vietnam. I would not have gone. I would have become an expat. I had friends that were totally screwed up when they came back."

 Finding some cover from the sun beating down at Swamis

Finding some cover from the sun beating down at Swamis

After high school, Michael moved to Huntington Beach for college but ended up spending the winter of '68 back home in New York after getting sick. That winter he started making surfboards. "It was hard to get the materials," Michael explained. "I had to order blanks from the west coast. I bought a little planer and set up a shaping / glassing rack in my parents’ garage."

The picture shown here is the first proper surfboard Michael made, in the Spring of 1969:

 The first board Michael shaped

The first board Michael shaped

People liked the boards and he continued making more. Although he can't recall, he believes he might even have made a board for Russell Drumm, whom he had known growing up on Long Island and with whom he spent one winter in Puerto Rico. In the fall of '69 Michael went back to the west coast and started shaping under the Michaels Fremont name of the board we found at Eric Beyer's shop, the first board Eric owned. Michael believes he made that board in about 1970. "That was a foil egg shape. For the east coast you had to make it rounder and hippy-er. It would be called a 'foil' and it had a down rail going to to an up rail."

Michael has since stopped shaping and now lives and works in Encinitas, CA, but he was stoked to hear we had photographed one of his boards at Beach House Classic and we're very happy we managed to catch up with him and close the loop!

 Michael on Long Beach in 1968 with a Jim Hanley shaped Bunger

Michael on Long Beach in 1968 with a Jim Hanley shaped Bunger

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Words by Ed Thompson

Photographs from Michael Fremont's personal collection