A Day in the Life: Shaper Mike Estrada
Local Mike Estrada grew up beside the waves of Newport Beach, taking up boogie boarding when he was 5, and surfing a few years later. He spent his teen years, along with his brothers, traveling and surfing competitively. Mike’s love for the ocean and dedication to the sport would carve out another hobby: board shaping.
“I messed around with shaping as a kid — one of the first boards I ever made was in high school for my plastics class,” he recalls, eyeing the break at The Wedge, thirsty for a turn. “I’m drawn to it because it never gets boring. Surfers are open-minded about riding different styles of boards, so I am always creating.” He’s in the factory every day (a 2,000-square-foot space in Costa Mesa), and turns out between 600 and 1,000 custom boards a year.
Mike’s goal as a bespoke shaper, he says, is to always continue enhancing board performance through innovative design. It’s this meticulous craftsmanship that has earned Mike customers along the West Coast, Mexico, Japan and Peru, among other top surf destinations, and has made him a favorite with such local pros as Nate Tyler and Chris Waring. “Someday I’d love to make a board for John John Florence,” he says. “He’s one of the best, and I could design something epic for him.”
Here, Mike surfs us through his daily grind as a shaper, surfer and family man.
6:30 a.m.: When I wake up, the first thing I do is check the surf forecast. If the waves are good, I’ll fuel up (a glass of water, a cup of coffee and a banana will do) and drive down to the beach. In the summertime, I usually go to 54th or 56th Street; in the winter, 22nd or 28th are better. I’ll surf for an hour and a half — maybe two hours — before I grab a bite and head into the shop.
(A breakdown of Mike’s favorite surf spots: 18th Street — the waves are fickle, only breaking during a hurricane swell if at all, but when they do, they’re world-class; 22nd Street — a good wintertime break, great for beginners but can serve up big fun for high-performance short board riders; 28th Street, or Blackies, is a wintertime high-performance wave that peaks left and right; 54th Street — good, hollow wave year-round, but best in the fall, picking up swells from both directions; and 56th Street — gets good on big south swells)
10 a.m.: Al Cappuccino [Coffee House] is an old favorite for breakfast. Shirley’s Bagels is another one. Back at the factory, I finish my coffee and answer customer emails. Then I start shaping blanks, and do that for a couple of hours, and get them ready for the laminator. We have a showroom in the front of the factory, so customers come in to place orders and pick up boards. My wife, Michelle, handles that part of the business.
2 p.m.: We have Wahoo’s Fish Taco down the street — a great carb-load for surfing! Michelle and I grab lunch here a lot (I recommend the Wahoos Fish Sandwich and a side of onion rings).
3:30 p.m.: I’m back at the factory and working on boards. I shape, mostly, but will do the lamination, hot coat, sanding and even the coloring sometimes. I like taking designs from the past and adjusting them to change things up. Square noses and quad fin surfboards are popular right now — so I’m working on boards that are a little freer, looser and faster.
5:30 p.m.: If we’re not making dinner at home, Michelle and I like to go out to dinner in Newport. Jack Shrimp was a favorite. Blue Beet is another one of our spots. If we’re in the mood for happy hour, I like to go to Newport Landing, which has a great view of the bay and this really good drink with gin, lemon and triple sec. I like sweet drinks — not afraid to admit it [laughs]. Michelle has gotten me into martinis lately … it’ more manly … a James Bond drink.
7 p.m.: Michelle is more into standup paddleboarding than surfing these days, so that’s something we like to do together. We’ll go in the evenings when the days are longer, or on the weekends at other times. We launch from 18th Street and paddle around Balboa Island. It’s cool to pass all of the houses on the islands and the boats. It’s so beautiful being over the blue water and spotting stingrays and dolphins and all of the seals, and seeing the pelicans fly overhead. There have been a lot of shark sightings lately, but I haven’t seen any! (I did once saw a big whale, though, while doing a paddle out far in the ocean.) Sometimes our [grown] daughter and son visit, and they’ll SUP with us, too.
9 p.m.: I unwind and relax at home — read, listen to music, watch TV — and it’s bedtime at 10 p.m.!
Weekends: More surfing. There’s nothing like your home beach — padding out in the water and seeing people I have grown up with. If we’re shopping, I like to go to Volcom (I make boards for the owner) and my wife likes to check out the consignment shops in Corona del Mar. It’s amazing what some people will bring there after owning it for only a year!
For more about Mike and his craft, visit estradasurfboards.com.