Originally published on Newsday.com (August 6, 2011)
Since he was a teenager Michael Becker, above, has loved to surf, but his true passion was always a bit closer to land.
Blue Point native Becker spent most of those formative years hidden away in his mother’s shed making surfboards. What started as a hobby has now turned into a career for Becker, the owner of Nature’s Shapes, a surf shop in Sayville that sells custom surfboards.
“I started building surfboards because it was a labor of love,” Becker, 34, said. “It still is a labor of love; there’s not much money in making anything with your hands anymore.”
Becker started selling boards out of the shed in 1993. He continued selling out of his Oakdale home until he opened the store four years ago.
“The store came from just us growing to the point where I couldn’t handle dealing with customers out of my house,” said Becker, who still spends most of his time making boards in his Oakdale workshop.
While in the workshop, Becker can usually be found covered in a blanket of dust sanding down a board. The whole process, which takes about 2 to 3 weeks, is done by hand, as Becker and his small staff hand-shape the boards, then do the airbrushing, sanding and finishing. Becker likes to add his own touch to the boards, as well. Many of his paint designs hark back to styles popular in the ’60s.
Boards are made and sold based on a person’s ability. Beginners’ boards need to be bigger so they can learn how to surf, while experienced surfers can use smaller boards for more flexibility.
“He can make everything the way you want it made, and for what’s best for you,” said Harrison Miller, 18, who works in the Sayville store. “Mike just knows what works for Long Island, and he has surfed all around the world, so he knows what will work for you over there, too.”
Though Becker has been doing this for years, he is still learning. While surfing he is always looking to see what works and what doesn’t.
“Anything bought at a sports store is generally made overseas; you can’t oversee the process so you don’t know the manufacturing defects,” Becker said. “All our boards are geared towards our waves, our conditions, or the person’s abilities.”