Q&A with New England Harbour Club:
Neil Toracinta is a proper local, born and raised Newporter. Neil grew up surfing all the same spots everyone else did around here, doing all the same stuff every other kid does, except there’s one thing that makes him pretty special – Tora.
What kid that grows up surfing doesn’t dream of having their own surf brand? Okay, admittedly a lot of them probably just dream about being able to do nothing but surf forever, but bear with us. Neil started shaping boards (one of the very few New England shapers) during his junior year at high school and has steadily turned his part-time hobby into a solid bit of full-time industrialism.
After a stint working for a large company, he’s now putting all his efforts into building what we think is going to be one of the next big break out brands. We caught up with him at his local workshop…
NEHC: What makes a Tora Surfboard so special?
Neil Tora: Every board I make is customized to the individual surfer's needs. I take the time necessary to chat with the rider and figure out exactly what is going to be the best board for what they are looking to gain from it. However, that doesn't necessarily make my business unique, you can find that service from a lot of board builders but the dedication and attention to detail that goes into every step of the process is what makes it special. I appreciate every single order that comes through the door and genuinely want each shape to be the best board the rider has ever owned and ridden. We have a solid team of very talented local surfers and all of their feedback (good or bad) is heavily taken into consideration and applied to every single shape.
NEHC: The shaping process seems pretty technical and complex, how much is it math and how much is feel?
NT: It's more about developing an eye and feel for the whole process, but It definitely helps to know your way around a ruler as well as being comfortable with the tools you use. This all comes from repetition. I applaud the teacher who taught me how to read a ruler and use basic math skills and question the teacher that seemingly wasted my time with long division...never seemed to find a beneficial use for that one.
NEHC: You’re starting a new brand and trying to tell a story with the product you put out, but also letting customers customize that product – do you often have to steer people one way or another?
NT: Haha definitely. Some people order a custom board and want to really customize it; glitter, every color in the spectrum, shapes, crazy laminates, a picture of their Grandmother's cat... It's my job to convert some of those ideas into a design that looks good and will still be functional. There's always a way to find a happy medium and still get the customer something they will love. Functionality is always my main objective with the boards but I do enjoy getting creative and trying new things. At the end of the day every board needs to work well and look good one way or another.
NEHC: Shaping boards seems like a pretty cool and aspirational gig, are there are nastier elements we’re not thinking of?
NT: The materials used for building boards are pretty gnarly for the most part. The side effects can be bad news if you don't watch yourself. If it's not getting it on your skin, it's the fumes, if it's not the fumes it's the dust and so on/so forth. I try to be pretty meticulous about protecting myself from all of that so I can stay healthy and continue to do this for a living. It's just like any trade though, contractors, landscapers etc. The hazards and risks are always there; it's just about protecting yourself and going about things the right way. You’ve got get yourself a good mask! Unless of course you want to get stoned on fumes...I choose the mask.
NEHC: With every surfboard you create - are you relieved it’s finished or are you sad to see it go?
NT: Not relieved but it's definitely gratifying. The customer always seems to be pretty fired up on the finished product and that feels great, knowing I created that board using my own brain and two hands. Ultimately it's a tool that's going to provide someone with a shit load of fun and you can't really use a word to describe that feeling. That's what makes all the hard work worthwhile. Plus if I see someone out on one of my shapes I get to steal it for a wave or two, that's my rule.
Like all good streetwear / surf / skate brands, the name is to the point and the logo is brilliant AND it stems from something genuine. This guys really surfs, and surfs NEW ENGLAND surf – not just that nice Californian water you see in the movies. All of his buddies surf, AND they surf on Tora boards.