Reef Line Art: Yomitan Village wood artisan
By David Higgins
In most cases, one would envision a surfboard shaper as someone who works in a dimly lit room; painstakingly measuring, applying and sanding layer after layer of fiberglass cloth and resin. The only existing lighting is artificial and runs along the side of the walls to ensure that the shaper can set the perfect angles needed for each board.
Yet, one shaper stands alone in his craft. James is a shaper located in Yomitan Village. He prefers to work outside in the natural sunlight rather than in a ‘shaping room’ with fancy artificial lighting. With a strong passion for surfing and deep inspiration derived from the natural world, James is a motivated shaper with the edge on a niche market he has created through his business ’Reef Line Art.’
James does not specialize in shaping your average surfboard. He actually handcrafts his surfboards using high quality wood sourced from Okinawa that are the perfect size for a hamster to get ‘tubed’ on. James averages a total of 30 hours shaping each piece of wood into handcrafted customized surfboard clocks. He spends hours shaping a surfboard with the perfect lines, curves and angles and then transforms them into his unique clocks. Inspecting the details of his clocks, it was incredible to see that each surfboard was properly shaped using the same techniques and skills that an actual shaper would use. James’ clocks are not mass produced using jig saws and moulds but rather miniature masterpieces to be treasured and shared.
James’ customers are people who appreciate handcrafted artworks over cheap mass produced Okinawa memorabilia regularly displayed on the shelves of stores in American Village. I first met James in his wood shop. He was sanding an enormous half-foot thick slab of wood that he intended to transform into a table. When I returned to see the finished project sanded and lacquered, it didn’t take me long to understand that James was a craftsman with a diverse range of talent and creativity. Currently, he is having a tough time keeping up with surfboard clock orders. Now that the word is out, it seems as if a ‘surfboard clock fever’ has hit and everyone is placing orders.
I spoke to one of his customers, Dick Hardy, about why he purchased a hand shaped surfboard clock from James. Dick went on to say, “I wanted to get my boss a unique gift and not just a run of the mill gift.” James mentioned that on the clock that Dick purchased, he had written his boss’s name and included a map of Okinawa as a unique memorabilia for his boss who was soon to be heading onto his next assignment off the island.
Impressed by the quality craftsmanship in the clock that James had built for Dick Hardy and his boss, I immediately placed an order but due to the high demand, there is now a two-month waiting period before James can complete a clock order. Recently, I had been thoroughly impressed with a company branded clock for the clothing company ‘Oki Life’ so I asked James if he could place our own company logo onto the middle of the custom surfboard clock he was creating for us. He explained his vision and was eager to oblige. I can’t wait to hang it proudly in our office.
If you are in the market for a unique artisan gift for the Okinawa resident ocean lover in your life, then I recommend you check out Reef Line Arts and his handcrafted wooden surfboard clocks. James’ unique concepts combine his passions for surf and nature with his refined craftsmanship. The clocks are not only useful, memorable and thoughtful souvenirs or gifts that keep track of time but also act as an important reminder that we need to slow down a bit and take time to appreciate what really matters in life.