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Shaper series: Terry Davis’ family tradition

Because it takes all shapes, the spotlight is on local shaper, Terry Davis. He shapes under the Davis Surfboards label. Davis, known for his witticisms, japes about the nomenclature: “I put a lot of thought into that; didn’t I?” Find out more about how this family man fits into the family of Texas shapers in this exclusive interview!

Terry's son captures him routing some fin boxes.
Cody Davis

Family Man
“It all started back in the late ‘60s—biker parties on the west end of Galveston. My father, Benny Davis, rented a board one time, and my brother and I took turns catching waves all the way to the beach. It changed my life. I will never forget it. Surfing is an awesome sport. I surfed competitively back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and made so many good friends. It truly changed my path in life. I thank God every day for this sport of surfing.”

Like his father, Terry also has two sons. When they were teenagers, they wanted new boards. They went down to the local surf shops, looked at prices, and decided that they could build a couple of boards together. Terry reassured: “They were cool with that. They just wanted new boards.”

Danny, Terry’s brother, is widely recognized within the Texas shaping community. Back in the ‘80s when Terry was busy surfing competitions, Danny started shaping under the label, Davis Precision Surfboards. In 1995, Danny bestowed Terry his planer and lights. “Walla, a shaper was born,” vowed Terry.

Humble Beginnings
Terry started shaping in LaPorte, Texas. His first shape turned out great because “Clark Foam had so many close tolerance blanks back then.” The glass was a process all its own. Terry concedes to a clear learning curve when it comes to painting. He is continually educating himself on the painting process. He had nothing but praise for their first board: “It rode great. The kids were stoked and so was Dad.” He now shapes in his detached garage in Dickinson. There, he built a 16’x 8’ shaping room with lights fixed to the walls and a stereo nearby. He chortles sheepishly: “My wife loves it.”

The Board Room
An onlooker will most likely find Terry in his shaping bay after a lengthy surf session. He prefers to shape when “it’s fresh in my mind what certain things work about certain boards.” Concentrating and with a cold beer beside him, Terry shapes. There is plenty of classic rock to go around, everything from Sublime to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Terry still rocks the “old school poly foam [polyurethane].” In addition, he has also been shaping some expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). His stance on epoxy resin is as solidified as epoxy resin when it cures. Immovable, Terry insists: “The polyester resin is so bad for you.”

The highlight of the shaping experience is meeting Fred. Fred, a part of his shaping family, is used for his tucked under edge. Fred is a sharp-looking 1” x 4” with a degree cut edge, and blades screwed to it. He also is well-acquainted with his planer, which he tries to use as much as possible.

Terry enjoys shaping boards that are popular for the time. He shapes what the customer orders. Those wishing to order from Davis Surfboards can expect a board that “works in gulf coast waves” and is “functional in small, slow surf.” However, Terry does not advertise his shaping services. This is a hobby for him. He humbly reveres his fellow Texas shapers: “There are other guys around here that this is their only source of making a living. I don’t want to take away from them at all.”

Terry Davis is thankful for a number of people who have helped to answer questions over the years: “Steven Pearson, Henry Fry, Bob Martin, Mike Cucco, B.J. Williamson, James Fulbright, Mike Myers, Tom Maxwell, Kerry Pitts, Tim Claseman, Brock Doomswell, and Gary Carter.” While he has never been mentored, Davis takes mentorship earnestly. He helped several people shape their first boards. Additionally, he mentored teenagers who were to present a video project at Clear Lake High School. “I still see one kid in the surf riding the same board we built, and it’s almost ten years old now,” Terry divulged.

He offers heartfelt words of encouragement to those thinking about shaping: “Shaping is not hard, so don’t be scared. Just go for it! I promise you it will ride. Trust me. There are guys that cut blanks right here in the neighborhood and have all the materials you need to build a board. So, what are you waiting on?”

Experience and Evolution
Terry is most inspired by shaper, Al Merrick, and several surfers. He describes Al Merrick’s boards as having a magic feel to them. He is energized by professional surfers, Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds. Locally, he has found his muse in watching Gabe Prusmack, James Walters, Jarrod Williams, and Layne Losee. Terry uttered:

[I] love watching all these guys surf, and my whole Surfside crew. When you have done this for 40 years, you meet a lot of good people, good surfers as well… one big family on the Gulf Coast.”

Keeping up with the young guns is what pushes Davis to surf as much as possible and to stay on trend with the evolution of shaping. He attributes the evolution of his shaping to remaining cognizant of new materials, fin layouts, and concave placement. However, he maintains that basic board building continues to stay the same.

Board Recommendations
For surfing Galveston, Terry recommends “fishy type of boards.” He elaborated that they should be short, wide, and a little thicker than normal (common traits in a fish alongside the unique tail). He suggests pods (Channel Island shape) or dwarts (Rusty shape). Most board companies have different names that they tag them with. His favorite boards to ride are “shortboards, pods, dwarts, and sperm whales.” Because he is now 54 years old, Terry is currently riding wider boards and is hooked on thrusters and quads (Who does not love quad fins?).

Terry offers some sensible advice: “Lower rockers are good for our gulf coast waves. Throw some concaves on the bottom and a five fin set-up, so you can ride it as a thruster or a quad. Changing fins out from time to time will totally change the way a board rides. The quad fin layout is way different from back in the day, so give them a try!”

Words to Live by
“Keep it simple stupid, and measure twice [but] cut once. Give the customer what they want. Family is number one. Regular foots rule and old guys rule!”—Terry Davis

To order a custom board, contact:
Terry Davis
Prices range from $400-$700

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