SHAPER PAUL “FLY” BAYMORE

It was sometime around 1997 when I first heard of this legit shaper working just outside the border of Bradley Beach in a garage next to Sudsy Mug in Neptune.  During a session at Newark Avenue in Bradley that spring, I finally met Paul “Fly” Baymore. There were only three of us in the water and I didn’t know one of them was the shaper I had been hearing about.

Eventually he paddled over to me and complimented me on my surfing. But he told me I could be surfing much better with some equipment more suitable for New Jersey surf. 

After that session I drove all over town looking for his shaping building, Fly Surfboards. No luck at first but eventually I found it. That afternoon I watched Paul shape boards and we began talking about a board that would work for me.

Paul built many boards for me over the next few years. He was always very supportive of my surfing and treated me quite well. I’ve never forgotten this and still feel thankful towards him.

Fly eventually closed up shop and relocated to Cape May. I lost touch with Paul but thanks to social networking, we’ve reconnected. I recently caught up with him to see what he’s been up to since those days of shaping in Bradley Beach.

ZAPPO: When and where did you start surfing? Can you tell us your memories of the first waves you rode?

BAYMORE: I grew up one block from the inlet, across the street from Fisherman’s cove in Manasquan. I started surfing somewhere near 7 or 8 years old, sometime around 1967 at Manasquan Inlet. My cousin and I would borrow an old pop out longboard and carry it up to the beach together. It weighed more than we did combined. When I was about 5 years old I remember my grandfather taking me up to the beach to watch the surfers, probably around 1964. I was hooked from then on. I was just fascinated with surfboards and surfing. I still vividly recall the first wave I ever stood up on and rode. Straight ahead Ed but I was riding, god what a feeling that was! The best part about it was I did it right in front of Scott Duerr and he almost decapitated me. He just told me to be careful and paddled away. I bet he doesn’t remember this, but I sure do. There was no stopping me from then on.

ZAPPO: What was the surf scene like when you began? What types of shapes were people riding back then?

BAYMORE: The surf scene back then was really a different thing then it is now. There was nowhere nearly as many people surfing; it was kind of a fringe thing to the rest of the world. The surfer’s beach was just that, the only people that hung there were surfers. You didn’t see the whole family there like you do now and during summer beach hours you couldn’t surf the peak. That was for fisherman only, but that never really stopped anyone if the peak was working. We would sneak over there, then the cops would be called. Guys would actually be arrested for surfing there. It became a game for us kids until they started trying to confiscate our boards. My mom went to police headquarters when they got me and took my board. She just read them the riot act about what they were doing. Probably when I realized my mom could be pretty cool! We used to go to town council meetings and almost beg them to let us surf there. At some point they just gave up and we got the whole beach.

The boards we all started on? Whatever we could beg, borrow or steal. I really learned on an Overlin diamond tail that Carl Danish gave me to use. How many guys learned to surf in Manasquan on a board Carl loaned them? Countless, thanks Carl!

My first new board was a Surfboards Hawaii 5’6″ twin with a really wide diamond tail. My grandparents got it for me for Christmas in 1970.

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Looking back, it was a terrible board. It would just spin out when you tried to turn it. So at the end of the next summer at the pleading of me and my friends, my grandfather took me to Grog’s where I got a single fin swallow tail. It was 6’8″ as I recall, it cost the ridiculous amount of $130.00. I had to mow a lot of lawns to pay for that one! Back then when someone got a new board, the whole crew would come to your house to see. It really was a big deal. Christmas of 1971 was a wetsuit, so I could surf all year long. Back then it was a 3mm top with long johns, boots, and gloves. We froze our asses off! Again, the whole crew would come by to check it out. I should explain that the crew was all the groms my age. There were probably about two to three dozen of us around the same age in the water every day in the summer.

But when summer was over there were a lot less, maybe a dozen of us who were out every day after school and weekends. We were really a tight bunch. We would push each other real hard. Going out in bigger and bigger surf as we progressed. I think we all took some real hard beatings on the way. I know several of us got a little too close to seeing God a few times. But as a group we just kept going back for more. By the early to mid eighties we had become “The Manasquan Guys”.

Surfers like Mez,  Bruce Chrisner, Ray Hallgreen and others were shooting there a lot. Then you started seeing shots of Manasquan published on a regular basis in the surf mags. Looking back those were some amazing days. I really and truly believe that we had the best of it! Now there are so many people surfing, you see well over a hundred or more people there on an average day. I remember someone complaining when there were 25 people out! Oh well, progress.

ZAPPO: In your early days, what surfers did you admire?

BAYMORE: The guys we admired, obviously anyone in Surfer magazine. Lopez, Hakman, Barry Kanaiapuni was my personal favorite, and so many others.

Then the guys who ripped at the inlet. The Duerr brothers, Carl Danish, Charlie King, Dave Petrikan, the Soden brothers, the Wright brothers  from Sea Girt, Artie Cappa,  Greg Mesanko, Ellie Mascolli, Joe Troger,  and a lot of people who I’m forgetting to mention. The really cool thing was when they started to know your name, you felt like you arrived. Until they threw you off the peak of course. But at least they knew your name! My favorite thing from those days was Charlie King coming up to me anywhere he saw me and asking “What’s happenin’ Baymore?” My answer, being completely in awe, was always “nuthin”. This always cracked him and whoever was with him up. He did that one evening to me when my cousin and I were down by Gee Gee’s (that’s where we all went in the evenings) and my cousin’s jaw just dropped, “Charlie knows you?!”  Big man on campus for the evening.

Looking back, out of the guys from my generation at the inlet, there are four guys who really stand out as the best. Charlie King, the guy could make any wave he wanted. The gnarlier the better! Chris Rooney who could just out power surf any wave with that perfect power style like Dane Kealoha. Matt McKiever, a big tall lanky guy with the best ultra smooth bottom to top turn combo I think I’ve ever seen. Then of course Scott Duerr, who just had such perfect board control and style that no matter what was thrown at him, he made it all look so easy. The rest of us were always right there with them and we all had our days. But in my mind, those are the stand out guys. If you go to the inlet on a good day these days, it’s all our kids you see out there killing it, that’s just such a cool deal to see.

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ZAPPO: When did you start shaping and what inspired you to do so?

BAYMORE: Started shaping in 1973 because I just had to do it. Somebody sold me an old longboard for like five bucks which would probably be worth a fortune today. I stripped the glass from it and shaped a “Lis” fish type board with a saw, sureform, and sandpaper. I made my own fins (I still have bad memories of that twin fin) and glassed it in the back yard. Try backyard glassing a board today and the EPA will show up! I did that shape because I saw Greg Mesanko surfing Manasquan that spring at solid triple overhead on Lis fishes. Greg has photos of that day and it really was that big. He and his buddy were the only ones out. I rode that board all summer and I swear it was the best ever, until I broke it. I have no idea why, probably my great glass job! After that if I got my hands on an old board or a blank I’d carve it up. Usually it was a group effort among the crew that was pretty interesting when finished. The whole board making thing to me was just something I felt compelled to do. I’d fix everybody’s dings just so I could look at their boards and I guess I learned a little something. That was all through high school.

When I went to college I had to stop shaping and really didn’t start again till the mid eighties. Then one thing led to another. I would really like to thank Ken Klos (former owner of Inlet Outlet surfshop in Manasquan). He gave me good advice and I can still remember every single word. He sold me his planer (it’s still my favorite one) and he taught me a lot about shapes. What worked, what not to do, etc. I would throw together a booth anywhere possible and do boards. Then Carl Danish put the shed behind the Bait House and we would all take turns building boards. Joe Troger showed me how to glass in exchange for me airbrushing a board he made himself.

Respirators? Nahhhh….Rolling Rocks! Good times. I’d spend every minute there when I wasn’t working, surfing or sleeping. I was just possessed with building boards. I still am. From there I built a booth in my backyard and that got really crazy because I suddenly had shops asking for boards. My landlord was amused by it all, thankfully. There were surfboards everywhere! I was working nights so I could surf during the day and I would glass boards when I got home at midnight. One day a new neighbor who had just moved in saw me and wanted to know where “that toxic smell was coming from”. This lead to the shop in Bradley Beach.

ZAPPO: Tell me about your shop in Bradley Beach and that era?

BAYMORE: A friend of my girlfriend Carol offered to back me, to go “legit” right at that time. I think this would have been 1996. I really tried to talk her out of it but she wanted to do it. She knew nothing about surfing or surfers but thought it would be a good partnership. So we incorporated Fly boards (I was tagged as Fly at some point by Bruce Chrisner and Charlie King and it stuck) and went looking for a shop.

Through Joe Troger we found the Bradley shop and got all the permits to have a legit surfboard factory. He took part of it for his cabinet business and I took the rest. We built a really nice little shop and made sure everyone knew about it. Big grand opening party with everyone we knew. We went all out to get it out there and it worked. We came right out of the box with a lot of orders and away we went. The first guy to join us was Dan Hitchcock as a sander, mostly because no-one else wanted to sand boards and he was willing to do it!  All of us were doing this on top of having regular jobs. Joe doing carpentry, Dan going to school and working as a lab tech, and myself. I was a graphic artist at a packaging company. I vividly remember the day we got three real good orders for boards in. I went to work that evening and just flat quit on the spot. I was now a full time board builder, this was right at the beginning of 1997.

Soon after Jim “Scratchy” Barnes just showed up one day and wanted to work, so we made him a glasser. He picked it up fast with some lessons from Joe. Pete Newman joined us soon thereafter as a full-time sander and I found out Regis Jupinko was in the area ghost shaping for another start up label that was not doing well. So he came and joined us as freelance shaper. He shapes for several shops to this day. This was essentially the Fly boards crew and we were putting out a lot of boards in that little factory. Truly great times.

I guess it was in that general time frame that I met you Shawn, because we’d just close the shop and all go for a surf down the road. I honestly don’t remember what you were riding, but if I said that, I saw something. I love working with surfers on their boards, everyone has different body mechanics, so I’ve always tried to shape to that. I figured I’d just offer, besides, it was good for business to have good surfers on the boards. You were fast and aggressive so why not? I think what we set you up with first was a Dart fish. Regis helped me develop that shape and it sold like crazy. Just a good all around board for east coast surf. Flatter rocker than a lot of stuff in those days, with a double wing swallow. I’m still shaping a version of that board now and it’s still popular.

We got so busy in Bradley it was crazy and it drove the Landlord crazy. His customers at the tool shop would have no place to park,  the place really did stink like resin, and honestly we were taking over his building. I had 200 blanks stored in his attic! He was old and he just had enough of the whole deal one day. So he walked in and told me I had 60 days to move out. I actually offered to buy the property and that just sent him ballistic. So it was time to move. We really had outgrown that shop anyway at that point.

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ZAPPO: After you closed up in Bradley Beach you moved and set up shop down south. What was the reason for the move?

BAYMORE: I looked at a lot of spots in the area up there but by that point in 2000, rents were getting ridiculous. For the space we needed it would have taken 3 to 5 times the amount of sales we were doing. I just didn’t see that happening. That’s like four thousand boards a year. In New Jersey with a heating bill to match the rent, it just didn’t make sense. So I got a line on a place down here in Cape May County that was dirt cheap. It needed a lot of work but it was totally doable. So I took the place, we moved and built another facility. That worked out well in that I didn’t have to jack up my prices to a ridiculous level and we had a much bigger shop to work in. But I lost the good communication I had with people in that area, so gradually a lot of them faded away. I was the local guy people could go to and we lost that which I really regret. Business was still good though, as we were selling boards in other areas both south and north. I also had a good glassing business going. Then came 9/11 which just kinda stopped business in the Northeast for awhile and at the same time I had a legal problem hit me. In a nutshell, I had to shut Fly boards as a company down in early 2002.

It was at this point that I made the decision to just go solo doing boards the way I wanted to with Eps/epoxy. I had been doing them for awhile for myself and some customers. I really liked the way they rode, shaped, and glassed. So away I went with advice from Regis and Greg Loehr. Regis still came up for shaping stints in season, he and I did a lot of boards for about four years. Basically just he and I with an occasional helper. I was able to concentrate on shaping better boards.

I also found that I wasn’t a bad glasser and sander either by doing this. But it was a lot of work and in 2005 when Scratchy Barnes made me an offer to buy the place, I sold it to him. After 8 years of the board business, I was really burned out and just needed to not own it anymore. I ghosted for Jim, but all I did was shape on a part time basis. Until this past year when he closed up shop I kept shaping for him. I guess I just needed to step back for awhile and get comfortable in my own skin again. I never really “stopped’ shaping. I can’t.

ZAPPO: Where do you see your surfing now, in the realm of performance, experience and enjoyment?

BAYMORE: I’d say that we all have ups and downs. I sure have. But at this point I would never trade any of it. As a surfer and as a shaper it’s been unreal. I’ve met so many great people over the years, legends, scoundrels and everything in between. What a cast of characters! Strictly from the surfer’s point of view,  what can I say?

My friends and I grew up surfing one of the best spots in the east at a time when it wasn’t a spot on everyone’s map. We have traveled all over, surfed some great places, and done well. I still surf a lot, only now it’s pretty much just pure fun. I still want to travel more because I’m not done yet! It’s just great to hang with old friends, talk story, watch their kids surf and relax. Our days of having to push each other and prove something to ourselves or anyone else are over. It’s pure fun. Some days it’s like that first wave again, magic. As for what I’m riding, just whatever strikes me that day. Longboard, fish, whatever I feel like taking out. I feel like I’m still surfing well, my best sessions are usually with 1-2 people out or alone. I just find that if I’m in a crowd, I get claustrophobic or something. I tend to get super tight, surf like crap, and just want to get out of the water. For me crowds ruin the experience. I like feeling out what the board is doing, what it wants from me, playing with different turns, and fins etc.

That’s the shaper part of me.

ZAPPO: What keeps you shaping after all these years?

BAYMORE: As far as shaping, it’s more fun than ever and I think I’ve come a very long way. I’m much more able to refine what I’m doing and control the outcome better. I can make them do what I want them to do and repeat it over and over. When I’m done with a shape, I can stand back and look at them and feel good. Not that I’m not constantly my own worst critic, but that just drives me to do them even better.  There is always room for improvement, that’s probably true for all shapers and why we do it. For the last couple of years I’ve been doing boards for Mike Lisiewski’s Boneyard and Matador labels. It’s great! We’ve come up with several models that have done really well and all I have to do is shape them. It’s just so relaxing at this point compared to what the business was, it all shows in the final product. I shape each and every board individually at this point. So that allows me to really tune all of them up to where I really feel comfortable sending them out whether they are a custom or stock shape. The coolest part for me now is seeing them come back from glassing. It’s kind of a “Wow! I did that one?” or “That looks really good”. It just feels good. It’s the art I do, it’s my creative outlet. It’s almost as satisfying as surfing itself.

ZAPPO: What shapers do you find inspirational?

BAYMORE: I get inspired by everybody pretty much. No two of us do anything exactly the same. There is no carved in stone formula for a 6’2″ round pin. So I just like to see how someone turns the rail or where they end the concave’s. You take what you like away with you and use it the way you feel. Hand shaped boards are unique to the hands that shaped them. That’s what has always intrigued me and why I just keep doing it. There’s always more to learn or try. Gotta say I’m stoked to see how many guys and girls are out there shaping now. Good on ya!

ZAPPO: What has surfing taught you over the years?

BAYMORE: To me, surfing is sort of a metaphor for life. Sometimes you get the crap beat out of you by the ocean, sometimes it just all works.

Whatever it was today, it won’t be tomorrow. I seriously have no idea where I’d be without surfing, it’s been “me” since the first time I paddled out. The first time I saw it that day in 1965 with my grandfather. I was seriously hooked from that day forward. The surfing lifestyle is all I have at the end of the day. The rest might be fun, but nothing even comes close. So the slogan goes “only a surfer knows the feeling”.

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ZAPPO: What types of shapes are you working on at the moment?

BAYMORE: What I’ve been shaping mostly are longboards, both performance and classic shapes. Along with a lot of fishes and more full functional shape kind of boards. Fuller outline shapes with a more aggressive edge to them. You still can paddle them without killing yourself, but just surf them super hard and progressively. Also I will have an occasional more conventional short board thrown in. I really don’t get a lot of orders for full on performance short boards and that’s fine by me. My customers tend to be like thirty years old and up, that’s not what they are generally looking for. I think if there is a signature shape that I do, it would be the performance fishes, closely followed by my longboards.

ZAPPO: What would the Paul of today tell the Paul of 30 years ago?

BAYMORE: What I would tell the me of 30 years ago? To calm down and take a little more time to enjoy the ride. Cherish every single moment a little more, don’t take it for granted. That being said, I just don’t believe in sitting around and stressing over the past. It’s done, it’s gone, move on. Would of, should of, could of won’t get you anywhere but in a hole. Learn from your mistakes and then try to do the right thing.

These days, I’m a pretty happy guy. I have a regular job I like.

There’s a guy in LBI who believes in me and my shapes. He helped me to build the shop in my yard. It allows me to focus on them more than ever and they are showing it which just makes me want to do more. These are the best boards I have ever done, but there is always the next batch.

Aloha, see you in the water!

All photos by Diane Baymore

Shawn Zappo is a local surfer and skater who rules the stoves at Kaya’s Kitchen in Belmar. He’s also a musician and will be writing about his surf and skate related experiences as well as reviews on bands and whatever the hell else he feels like writing about. 

One Response to “SHAPER PAUL “FLY” BAYMORE”

  1. This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am genuinely impressed
    to read everthing at alone place.

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