Patrick Salamon’s hand-shaped cedar surfboards are so beautiful you might hesitate to paddle them out into the surf. Although he’s built them to ride, they’re also works of art.
Salamon is the founder of Waterman Surfboards. Working in a shop at his Campbell River home, his boards are often bought by collectors from around the globe just to hang as art installations in their ocean-front villas.
The Campbell River craftsman’s journey to boutique board shaping and life was not exactly conventional. For one, he grew up a farm kid in the flatlands of Saskatchewan, about as far from a surf break as you can get in Canada. Post high school, he scrounged together airfare for Australia, where he got hooked on surfing. Salamon learned how to repair dinged boards to make some money.
After returning to Canada, he became a journeyman plumber and gasfitter. But he continued travelling the world to surf, with a dream of relocating to Vancouver Island. In 2016, he and his wife made the move. They loaded up a trailer, hooked it up to their Ford Bronco and drove to Campbell River. Neither had set foot in the city before. Two weeks later, they bought a house.
Salamon says right away he noticed a lot of cedar canoes and kayaks. He also saw people building cedar fences out of some of the most beautiful wood he’d ever seen.
When his wife landed a good job, he dove into the dual duties of stay-at-home dad and surfboard designer and shaper. He also manages to surf 60 days a year, some of those on the finicky winter wind swell of Vancouver Island’s east coast.
Salaman’s goal is to shape boards that reflect Vancouver Island much more than a generic foam-core surfboard does.
It was two years of perfecting the subtle techniques of building hollow but strong cedar boards to the point where he was comfortable selling them. The closest comparison, he says, is how wooden airplane wings are constructed.
Salaman’s appreciation of cedar shows in his craftsmanship. Besides Instagram posts, word of mouth is his most powerful marketing. And as a one-man show, it doesn’t take many orders to fill out a year.