At the beginning of 2017, I received a postcard from Maui, Hawaii, sent by Valerie Duprat. She was sending me warm wishes for the year ahead while telling me about her time in Hawaii to improve her shaping skills. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that Valerie was in Maui to learn along Matt Kinoshita, owner and shaper of Kazuma Surfboards. A legend? Oh, yes. Matt has been shaping in Hawaii for the longest time and is well-known in the surf industry for shaping boards for some of the greatest.
Every time I think about Valerie and her company, Mere-Made Surfboards, I can’t help but start thinking about the shaping industry. How many women shaper do you know, personally or from far away? Let me tell you—one. Maybe two, if we’re lucky.
Even if the surf industry is becoming more and more dominated by women, it’s no lie that the shaping industry is still highly dominated by men. It doesn’t mean that women aren’t welcome though, it just means that not as many women as we think wake up one morning and suddenly decide that they are going to learn how to shape. And not the kind of learning where you do it just for the fun of it, like going to Shaper Studios, but the kind of learning that you do every day with perseverance and patience until you’re able to craft a piece of art.
I’ve known Valerie for a few years already, as the shaper, but also as a friend. I’ve stayed in her guest house named Coco, I watched her shape in her purple shaping room located in her backyard and I’ve surfed with her at her favourite surf break in Leucadia, Beacon’s. I know that Valerie is inspired by women thriving and conquering the surf industry, as much as I know that she absolutely loves Linda Benson and deeply values what she accomplished. And slowly, Valerie is becoming an inspiration amongst our peers, being the reminder that, yes, women can shape too. And oh, they can shape well.
Learning with shapers such David Charbonnel, Axel Lorentz and Matt Kinoshita, just to name a few, we can see that the shaping world has welcomed Valerie with open arms since she has started shaping 7 years ago. Of course, the shaping world wasn’t all pleased of seeing a woman takes the lead, but I don’t think we should focus on small details like this: what matters is that Valerie, a French expat that now lives in San Diego as a scientist, never gave up on her passion.
In a constant search for perfection, Valerie is able to pinpoint what her customers truly need while crafting them a beautiful hand-shaped custom board. Being a woman that I deeply admire for her creativity and endless love for the sea, Valerie is changing the game of shaping, one step at the time, and we can’t wait to witness all her future accomplishments.
What was a pivotal moment in your life that made you decide to follow your passion?
I realized that I had reached the apogee of my young years and that I would be slowly, but surely, going to decline from there. Totally a mid-life crisis! That coincided with a health scare (turned out to be fine after all) and losing family members, which made me think that I should enjoy every single minute of the rest of my life and live my dreams, fully. Shaping surfboards was one of them.
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