I met Josselin a couple of years ago on a surf trip to La Torche (Brittany). We were driving with the car when we passed by Rise Up Surf School that had an art exhibition sign outside. We decided to check it out and we saw that together with the artwork hanging on the walls some surfboards really got our attention. Lucky us, the shaper was around and a friendly guy from the school introduced us to Josselin. He invited us to his shaping room in the backyard of the school and there we got hypnotized. We can’t wait to go back to La Torche, but in the meantime, I had the opportunity to chat with Josselin, the shaper behind Zeppelin surfboards.
Can you tell me a little bit about surfing in Brittany?
Surfing in Brittany is cold and windy most of the year, but you can ride every day if you feel ok to do some kilometres and choose to go north, west or southwest depending on the direction of the swell. If you adapt the surfboards from longboard to shortboard or even bodysurfing, you can enjoy a really good session and enjoy the sea pretty much every day.
When did you start surfing?
Here at Lesconil. When I was 12 years old I started bodyboarding on a slab which is the main wave that I had in front of my house. Later on, I decided to practice windsurfing, but one day I snapped my sail when I was too far in the sea. I was really super scared (laughs). That was the last day I practised windsurfing. Then I realised I was feeling more comfortable surfing because I could go back to the shore just swimming so I started surfing and soon I got addicted to it.
How did you start shaping?
I had some problems with my back when I was 20 years old and I was working in a bank doing something uninteresting. I couldn’t surf during this period and to keep a link to the surf, I started shaping and adapting surfboards to myself making them larger and thicker using EPS surf blanks. When I was feeling better with my back, I tried my first surfboard and I got a really good feeling. I still use the surfboard because it works. I also gave it to friends to try it out and they told me that I had a talent for shaping surfboards so I just continued shaping because it made me feel really good. It was an escape from the work at the bank. After a working day, I could go back to my shaping room and it felt like a bubble of oxygen.
Fat bum. Image courtesy of Josselin Tanguy
You're again out of the water because of another back injury. How are you dealing with it?
It’s hard. I try to organize myself differently these days. I can’t shape and I hope to go back shaping in September and be back in the water in 1 year. During all this time right now… it’s hard to do nothing. It’s hard for a guy who is used to creating so I just try to paint and draw to keep my mind busy. And about sports… I’m walking (laughs). It’s hard because when I go for a walk and I’m at the beach I really want to go swimming but I can’t. I look at the sea and it’s like she’s calling me. The way that she looks at me, it makes me really want to go to the water, but I don’t want to jump a step and go too fast. I want to go back to the water in a good way when I’m fully recovered.
How did you develop your knowledge about shaping? Was it self-taught learning?
I learnt the first 3 years as an autodidact and then I went to Australia where I looked at the way they were shaping surfboards and making something great. So I learnt also there, but I realised that I didn’t really want to learn on the customer’s boards. I think if you’re paying for something, you pay for something good and of high quality so I went to La Rochelle to the UWL factory with my boards and I showed them to Renaud Cardinal. I was very lucky because he was looking for a shaper at that moment so he gave me the job. I stayed there for 3 years and I learnt a lot during that time.
Why the name Zeppelin?
Because Led Zeppelin it was one of the first music bands I ever heard. The first cd I bought was Led Zeppelin Remasters. My brother and my sister were listening to them when I was a baby and I really like the music of Led Zeppelin. When I was shaping my first board and doing the bevels for the rail, I saw under the lights what appeared to be like a zeppelin, a real zeppelin. It reminded me to Led Zeppelin and I thought, why not? It’s a good name.
M8. Image courtesy of Josselin Tanguy
Who are the shapers that you get inspiration from?
Lots! The first shaper that I was interested in was Ryan Lovelace. He has almost the same age as me and we both started shaping at the same time. He’s an international famous shaper because he developed and reinvented old concepts such as triplane bottom surfboards. He’s from Santa Barbara and he influences me in the shape and resin tints. He’s kind of an artist not being afraid of trying a lot of things and that really interests me. When I went to the UWL factory in La Rochelle, I met Renaud Cardinal, my boss, who became a big influence to me and also a lot of the guest shapers that I met during the 3 years I worked there. Other shapers that also influenced me are Malcolm Campbell, Jeff McCallum always trying to make something different, and Thomas Bexon from Australia and glasser Jake. A couple of really nice and open-minded guys.
Can you tell me a bit about your riders?
My riders are Mathieu Marechal and Annabel Talouarn both from Brittany. I know them since we were kids and they both surf longboards. I appreciate more the longboard image than the shortboard one because here in Brittany we don’t have hollow waves or super powerful waves and the longboard just looks better. I’m not a good longboard rider myself so I trust them to give me good feedback to make my own design. I prefer surfing shortboards or fishes. During the last 2-3 years, I started practising longboard and that’s why I’m not used to riding them so I need good feedback on longboard because most of the customers want logs.
What are your plans when you go back to shaping?
I have something in my mind. I want to try some kind of new design. I’m interested in the spoon shortboards. The spoon boards were developed by George Greenough in Australia during the ’60s and I don’t see a lot of these boards here because they’re very hard to make. It takes a lot of time and I want to make a spoon for myself because you ride it not really standing. It’s a kneeboard. I like trying new things shaping and glassing so that’s the next thing I want to develop.
Zeppelin surfboards. Image courtesy of Josselin Tanguy.
Shaping room. Image courtesy of Josselin Tanguy.