BJ: Blake, thanks for having me today. Besides a possible cup of joe, is this the first stop on most days?
Blake: Anytime man, I’m stoked to show you around and chat. I’m actually up super early every day, trading stocks and banging out emails. If there’s waves, then that’s always the first stop on the way to the shop, followed by another coffee..
BJ: Haha, rise and grind right? What are you shaping most often? I'm sure you've heard every request possible, haha.
Blake: These days, I shape a lot of twin fins...mainly my astro zombie and rocket fish models, which are along the lines of a classic fish. I’m also shaping a lot of bigger boards than previous years, mainly my shiitake twinzer. That thing has really started to become pretty popular. Haha, ya, I get a lot of annoying requests...anything from the ugliest color combos to guys wanting family portraits glassed on their boards.
BJ: Haha that’s amazing. Hey, I’m expecting a huge photo of my girlfriend and son on my next order. Board sales were crazy last year, could assume they still are for you! What is it like being a one man show, having to tackle and keep track of it all? I can only imagine how intense that must get.
Blake: 2020 was my biggest year yet, and that was without all the retail orders I would normally get. It definitely hasn't slowed down yet. I feel like it will last for most of this year. I really want to carry the momentum forward and build off of it.
It can be very overwhelming handling everything, and most people don’t realize it's just me, they get a shock when I answer the phone, haha. I’ve really learned surfing is very important to keep me happy and creative. I tend to really get eggy and over everything when I'm not surfing. You really need to switch off sometimes. But as long as I’m surfing and enjoying it, I can work long hours no problem, it's my hobby. I am definitely at a place where I may have to bring on some help pretty soon. I just have to figure out how to structure that.
BJ: I can only imagine what’s it’s like for you. It must be a damn challenge. So, what part of Australia are you based out of?
Blake: I grew up on Sydney's northern beaches, so when I’m back in OZ, that’s where you will find me. I had a shop and factory in Mona Vale for years. These days, I work with a big glassing factory In Brookvale, Sydney called Rhino Laminating. I also work with a factory in Byron called Doctor Ding / Heart of glass.
BJ: When did you decide that the US, Costa Mesa to be exact, was where you wanted to settle down for Panda and yourself?
Blake: So, I came over in 2011 to visit one of my good mates who was working here, for FCS. He was living down in Oceanside, so I hung down around there and Encinitas mostly. I was already making boards for Ford Archbold, so I came up to Newport a few times to hang, surf, and bring boards up for Ford. I came back again the following year, after a wedding in Hawaii, to shape some boards and hangout with Ford. I ended up making the decision to stay for the whole summer. After doing 3 months hanging around Newport, I made a lot of friends and felt comfortable here. It was just a coincidence that Cost Mesa was a major surf industry hub and I’d landed right in the middle of it. There was a bunch of shapers here, but no big board labels, so it actually was perfect. I came to a point when I had to make a decision where to be based, and I was just burnt out on Sydney, needing a change. Costa mesa had the industry and I had riders there. Also, there was a lot more potential to grow the business here due to all the surf stores and the amount of surfers. Australia, there are so many world class shapers and less people, so it’s pretty tough to make it.
I don’t think I will live here full time, forever. I miss home a lot these days since I have not been able to travel with covid. I would like to eventually shift things back to Aus and come back here when needed.
BJ: I apologize for asking as you as you definitely get asked this left and right, but what sparked your initial interest in becoming a shaper?
Blake: I started working for a ding repair guy when I was 16, and that just started me on that path. From there, I ended up working for LSD, who was shaping for guys like Ozzie Wright, Richie Lovett, and Julian Wilson. When i was working for Luke, I got really stoked on it and I definately looked up to Luke a lot, but it wasn't until I met Jordy Smith's dad while in Europe, that I decided to shape myself some boards. When I got back to Aus after that trip, I went into Luke’s factory and got one of the guys to show me the ropes...I just got obsessed and never stopped.
BJ: Does "Panda" have any significant meaning to its name? It sounds so damn good.
Blake: HAHA, not really, I came up with that so long ago, I was so young. At the time, I thought it just sounded really good, and I had a good feeling about it. I purposely didn't want to call it Blake Peters shapes, I wanted something I could build a brand around, potentially branching into other products if I ever wanted.
I thought about changing it a few times, but it really stuck.
BJ: Well, it works, and it works well. In the midst of it all, what does a typical break in the day look like for you?
Blake: Once I start, I don't really stop unless the surf is good! If it's actually good, I’ll bail for a lunch surf, but that’s very rare.
BJ: Anything interesting or exciting mapped out for the year?
Blake: The second I can travel, I’ll be hitting Japan, Europe and Aus as it's been a while. Also expecting my first kid in August!
BJ: HUGE congrats man!
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