Nov 2010 21

Kala Alexander on his Buttons hawaii/Vercelli twin-fin

Jay Adams-Back Door -Vercelli team rider

HOLLYWOOD/Hawaiian born and raised, Marcello Vercelli, Z-Boy, surfer, shaper, punk has lived and still lives an ideal.

From one atomized existence to another surfing lurches through splurges of fashion, picking up and dropping the easily-led, promising posterity yet delivering anonymity to the fleeting fad.

Marcello grew up between Venice Beach and Hawaii — progeny of Jay Adams and adopted by the Venice punks, also a proud Da Hui member, he has culturally straddled the Pacific’s alt-brigade for decades and resisted the tidal lurches of fashion.

Tim Baker asserts “The punks – they’re the only ones we have left. They’re the last hope.” For Marcello what started out as an experiment, like many things, turned into a career and offered a sense of belonging.

Let’s start with a little background…

…I grew up in Playa Del Rey and Venice California surfing and skating — moving back and forth to Hawaii because of my father’s helicopter business. I hardly went to school and rebelled against everything, I had surfing, skating and music running through my blood, my whole life… I didn’t care about much else.

Somewhere around my late 20s, I stumbled upon shaping surfboards after becoming unhappy with some of the shapers I was dealing with as a surfer. Like a light bulb going off in my head I had the idea to shape myself a board, and there I was, using a friend’s shaping room and tools just to see how well I could do.

Unknowingly I’d inherited my Father’s engineering skills … it all came together for me. As far as drawing on skate decks goes, it was simply a result of a bad habit of drawing on my school desk as a kid and continually drawing on boards for my friends through the years.

You’ve got deep roots in Venice?

Yes, I’m not from there but, I was adopted by them along time ago. OxGx Suicidal Venice Punx! Its a long story as to how that all started but then I’m also a proud member of the Da Hui O He’e Nalu and very grateful for this as well.

So how long have you lived in Hawaii? And why move?

I lived here off and on for 25 years. And when I am in Hawaii I respect Hawaii, it’s a beautiful kingdom. I think it’s very important to be living and shaping boards for people over here on Oahu where waves put your boards to the test and the surfer’s life is on the line a lot of the time, I really feel at home here, and everyone makes me feel at home.

How many years have you been shaping? Did you apprentice under any shapers?

I have been shaping for 20 years, and I have shaped for a number of top shapers.I think its important to have mentors, and people you can go to and ask questions.

How did that first board come out?

I was surprised it turned out great, shaping came naturally to me and I felt it was my calling. I proceeded to call every surfer I knew in my phone book. Twenty years later I’m still shaping great boards but I’m still broke!

Are there any other shapers which have had a major influence on your shapes?

In early days in was Scott Klattey and Mike Perry , and I really like the Hawaiian shapers.

What type of board is your favorite to make? All boards, I put 120% into every board, I dont care how long the shape takes.

Hardest part about making a board? Getting the glass job perfect.

Glassed in fins versus removable?

Removable is great for packing boards and shipping, also experimenting with fins. Most of my personal boards in my quiver have glass on fins.

You have an incredible assemblage of test pilots : Kealii Mamala, Jay Adams, Kainoa McGee, Kala Alexander, Simon Ebling, Ikaika Kalama, Johnny Boy Gomes, Buttons Kaluhiokalani…etc What sorts of contributions have they made to your designs?

They are an incredible help, they teach me what I don’t know, and I am always learning. After all there is so much to learn, and it’s hard work keeping a team running!

What boards are you personally riding now?

My own quiver and designs such as my 6’2 wing swallow, 6’0 stonefish, 6’5 pintail, 6’6 single fin, the bump pin single fin is one of my favorite boards. And my 7’0 & 7’10 are waiting, I use my 9’0 high performance long board with groove rails for down the street when I want to get wet real quick. I’m making myself a 6’8 pin tail for North Shore.

Your feeling about computer shaping?

I use it for certain people’s models and they are good for doing models for stores. I hand-shape most of my boards because they are ‘true’ custom orders.

What is your philosophy when it comes to making surfboards?

Listen to what the customer wants and needs. Ask questions and offer help if needed.

For how long have you known Jay Adams?

I met Jay when I was 13-years-old and he was a punk rocker — hanging out with him I learned how to use my back foot in both surfing and skating. That’s when we started drawing on skate decks and our surfboards.

It was around the time I started drawing the DogTown drawings. We were always spray painting the walls around town and punk shows (but not like how kids tag today). Jay also brought me to the Lord.

Tell us a little about him…

Jay Boy Adams a unique and rare character that you would never forget if you meet. He leaves a strong impact on you because he figures you out before you can. He’s had a very rough life, but not like any life you or I know of. His Mom was a free-spirited loving person, but with a gnarly edge to her, hence Jay Boy.

His step-dad started the Z-Flex skateboard company a history going way back. He is a living legend and extremely talented, always one of the best guys in the water, and the nicest guy you ever meet. That’s why they make movies about him and write books about him. Jay is like an older brother to me. I will always be there for him.

Tell me about Jay Adams signature model…

A Very detailed shape we made a skateboard type templet and scooped out foam from around the rails giving it groove rails which take the volume off the rail so you keep the thickness on the deck plus you have the groove rail for your hands to grip. Then we scoop out volume on the nose too, it looks like a space ship. We shaped alot of boards together to get to this design and Jay Rips on it.

You also shape also for Button Hawaii?

I was the main shaper for Buttons Hawaii in Hawaii but the company is having legal battles and everything is on hold right now. Uncle Buttons is Ohana to the Vercellis.

What do you love about being a surfboard shaper/designer?

The feeling I get when I make a good board for somebody, or even better to see it in the water ripping!

Tell me about the changes you’ve seen in recent years in the shaping realm, and how it has affected your craft?

In the last ten years or so surfing has grown so much there’s been a big demand for cheap indestructible boards made in china under trusted company’s labels.

But these boards are not made by surfers, which to me takes the soul and real magic out of them. I believe surfing and surfboard building came from Heavy Soul.

How would you describe a surfer?

Lots of experience, some natural talent doesnt hurt, and you have to dedicate yourself to it for life! It’s not like skateboarding where you can drop in all day long for hours. Waves come and go, you miss one you dont ride it.

When a new customer comes to you for a custom shape, what kind of questions do you ask to ensure you’ll make them what they’re looking for?

I spend alot of time asking questions, like what do you want out your new board, what kind of improvements can be made on your surfing, what kind of waves will you surf? Basically I try to get in their head so it can come out of my hands in the foam’s shape.

What are you currently listening to on your iPod?

The Weirdos, The JamSuicidal Tendencies and Just Good Friends.

Other interests?

Changing really shitty diapers a lot! No … really I’m a new father and that’s been my only interest lately. I play guitar in a punk band, but lately Rocky and work takes up all my time. I still try to surf as much as I can, hopefully more when Rocky gets older.

What do you want the world to know about you?

I am a child of God and I do the best I can to do the right thing in life, because God is always watching.

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