Patrice Remoiville is the new chief in charge of the development of Bic Sport Stand Up Paddle boards. When top rider Eric Terrien signed to BIC Sport in December, we wanted to follow the whole process of creating prototype boards for Europe's best SUP racer. So, we caught up with him in the Landes area of France, in the shaping room at AVP. Patrice Remoiville at the « Sanding Screen ».
Patrice Remoiville is attacking life on various fronts. For Bic Sport alone he's wearing various hats : head of development for stand up paddle boards, commercial director, he's also giving out big time to promote the brand. He's doing the rounds in France presenting the latest Bic SUP boards. So much so that there simply aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. We spent two days with him, trying to appreciate how much personal effort goes into his shaping work. Patrice had previously met Eric in Fuerteventura, where he's based. A meeting vital to the future digital development of the French riders' future boards. Once the general design is finalised, the digital files are what dictates the hot-cutting of the polystyrene slabs. Leaving the master to deal with the pure shaping process of the cut of the rails, the volume-spread, nose and tail design, the precise positioning of the hollow where Eric will stand. Watermarking the first shapes out of the workshop is the creation of a professional collaboration on which Bic Sport is staking quite a bit. Eric's arrival has strengthened the Bic development team, whose wave boards have been tested up to now by David Latastere. With Eric on board, Bic should very soon be asserting itself in the 12'6 and 14' markets.
The increasing presence of the French manufacturer in the US market via a distribution partnership is a not insignificant element of this strategy. With its continuous progress in this major market, Bic's hoping to be able to respond very quickly to the demands of an increasingly sporty and active market with a production facility in Vannes running round the clock. Eric's arrival is just one piece in the complex puzzle of a long-term strategy.
Your nick name is Roro apparently ?
Yep. My actual name is Patrice Remoiville, I was born in Bayonne (south west France) and I'm 47 years old.
How did you get started in board shaping ?
I started when i was about 16 in Souston, near where i lived. I was into every kind of sea sport possible, from kayaks to sailing. When i was 16 and a half I started windsurfing and that really lit the fuse for me. But since I didn't have enough money to buy myself a board, I started making my own customs and funboards, that's what we used to call smaller windsurf boards at that time. We were making moulded and shaped boards, and I started making surf boards from salvaged slabs of foam. When I was 18 and started travelling, there wasn 't enough room to take a windsurf rig, so that's when I got into surfing. When I was 22 I started shaping boards for a living, at Vieux-Boucau, with a long-time friend Pierre Cazadieu. We called our brand Koungat, we worked together for about three years and in our last year we shaped nearly 300 boards.
You were close friends with one of the legends of surf board shaping, the Australian Maurice Cole. How did you meet him ?
Towards the end of 89, I joined Maurice Cole at Aussiegor in Capbreton, the Rip Curl shaping workshop. Gerard Dabbadie (also nowadays at Bic Sport) was there at that time too. I gave up being involved in the stratification and finishing so I could concentrate on managing and co-ordinating workshop activity. Cole and Dabbadie were two giants of the shaping world and they taught me a huge amount. It meant I was working among some of the biggest names in shaping and top professional surfers.
After that you got back into shaping ?
In 1993 I joined the Spanish board maker Pukas for a year. Back to stratifying. In 1994 I came back to Capbreton to open a business doing sub-contracted stratification, Roro Glass, Roro was already my nickname. The business went really well, I worked for some of the big names like Eric Arakawa, Rusty Preisendorfer and Simon Anderson. And there was also Maurice Cole who was working in close collaboration with Tom Curren. During the summer season all the pro surfers spent two months where we were to do all the circuit events. Maurice was shaping for all these stars and I did the stratification. It was a fascinating experience.
How many boards ?
Frankly, I have no idea how many boards I've worked on in my life. Around 10,000, although I'm doing that less and less nowadays.
And after that ?
After 1998, when Maurice decided to go back to Australia, it was a big worry to lose my main customer. So I decided it would be a good idea to start a business in Europe manufacturing polyurethane blocks, seeing that there was nobody in the region supplying that service, but after a few years, I had to stop because of the euro/dollar rate exchange and I needed to think of a completely new direction for my career. I've moved back to where it all started and I've concentrated more on Stand Up Paddle, which has been my main sport for the last four years. Even when Surfoam was still going I'd started shaping SUP boards. I'd started a new business, AVP, making branded surf boards. So I used that brand to start making pure custom boards, for shaping and stratifying. In 2011, without using any outside contractors, I produced 50 different designs. About the same time, I started working on new wave board designs with rider David « Davos » Latastere.
You seem to like Australia a lot, any particular reason ?
I'm married to an Australian who comes from Byron Bay (near Brisbane). It's a beautiful place. I really like Australia. I've spent lots of time with Autralians. I've learned most of my English from Australians and I really like them.
Do you still travel a lot ?
I travel a lot for my work, all over France, America. I've been to Australia a lot, all over Europe and Asia, often for meetings with manufacturers.
How do you see the future for SUP ?
It's difficult to see how the sport is going to evolve. No one can claim to have the answer. Hopefully, with enough good quality teaching, it'll get across to the biggest possible number of people. At Bic we try to listen to what the every day riders tell us, because no one could possibly predict how the long term development might go.
And so down in your area, how well is Stand Up doing in that bastion of shortboard riding ?
In the Landes and along the Basque coast, the profile of your average rider is fairly classic. It's very often experienced surfers having a go at the new Stand Up adventure on a different type of board than they're used to. Stand Up surf riding is suffering from lack of patience. Riders mustn't forget that it takes time to adapt, even if you're a good level surfer. But I've got quite a few customers who, given their other sporting interests and activities, will get into SUP racing. Racing looks like it could develop very fast, while SUP surfing looks like stagnating, the main problem being cohabitation (of the spots) between shortboad and SUP. You will probably see « segmentation » of the spots, like at Capbreton with its off-shore sand banks.
What's your favourite shape ?
The bigger the challenge the more interesting it can be. For me, shaping an 18' board is one of the biggest draws. I've already shaped a lot of surf boards, so that's less exciting. I'll be hoping to get some 18' protos out as soon as we get our new shaping machine in at the Bic factory in Vannes.
What about stratification ?
Before I got into shaping, my major specialisation was stratification. I like this stage of board manufacture, specially if I'm using coloured resins. I make my boards in a traditional way, the stratification happening around a reinforced foam shape. I've tried using vacuum processes in the manufacture of surf boards, but there's no significant advantage to that. In Stand Up race, where the boards are significantly bigger, it could help produce boards with the optimum amount of resin, keeping the weight down. But that's an option, not an obligation.
So, no vacuum processes in your workshop ?
No. In 1989 I worked on lots of windsurf shapes at Rip Curl. At that time the first sandwich construction boards were appearing on the market. That coincided with lots of manufacturers switching their production to Asia. We didn't go down the same road.
What's your situation with Eric Terrien ?
We needed a bit of time to get to know each other. I went over to visit him in Fuerteventura, talk about shapes and coming up with the designs on the computer for the 12'6 and 14' boards I'll be shaping for him. For the two 12'6 boards, the design is pretty classic, the rails of one being tighter than the other. Using these variables we can start working on a new design, but also extrapolate that onto the 12'6 Touring production model Bic Sport should be soon bringing out. As the shape develops, Eric and Davos disappear to test the latest wave riding protos (a David Latastere 9' pro model). This pause gives me time to work on my own on the rail design. When they come back from testing, Eric and David report back on how the proto shape performed, then there will be another couple of hours of shaping to do to finalise certain aspects of the first of the 12'6 boards. It may seem a bit laborious ; Eric would call it meticulous, it's certainly right and proper for the development of a design collaboration that should allow the top French rider to develop his boards to help him achieve his goals for the 2012 season.