Shaper in Residence: Jeff Doc Lausch

by Julius Bauer

If you scroll through you will see a picture. On this picture you will see a man with a broom in his hand. It is Doc on his last day in the shaping bay. Cleaning up after shaping some boards for us. This act explains a lot about Doc. That he is a legendary shaper and skilled craftsman, no doubt. But he is also a character with values that some of us would be advised to learn from. 


You grew up in Huntington. Take us back to the early days. What was Huntington like before it turned into Surf City ? Who were the cool kids during that time and who did you wanna hang out with? Which posters were hanging in your childhood room ? 

 Yeah, I did grow up in Huntington. I was born in San Diego and my parents moved us up there. My brothers and I, when I was in second grade. We actually moved to this place called Fountain Valley. It's right next-door to Huntington Beach. It was all just feels when we moved there, they put housing tracks and we got one of the first houses in the bean fields and it was a cool time to grow up. I feel super fortunate to be raised in that period of time. My older brother eventually got into surfing before me and I was right behind him. I used the mat, one of those rubber blowup mats. They were canvas with yellow tips, yellow plastic tips in them. I was just so mad about that and then finally graduated to surfing and started surfing with my older brother more and more. He was 4 years older than me and would drive so I had a ride to the beach.My parents will take us down there sometime too. It was a good time to be coming up. Surf city wasn’t Surf City. I don’t even know if that was a thought at that time, but there was a solid surfing scene going on. I guess it could’ve been Surf City but no one really had an ego and wanted to be Surf City. I guess we just were not for the game just because it was a focal point of California surfing.


On a scale from 1 to 10 how bad was your first shape ? What did you shape and where? What inspired you to shape your first board? What tools did you use? What Blank?

It was actually a board that kind of worked. My older brother worked in a surfboard factory called Plastic Fantastic and he was the clean up kid, but he set my parents garage up and would bring home shaped blanks and glass them in the garage. He paid attention to what he saw there. We had this detached garage, so it was kind of ideal to do that and he started glassing them there, and I was fascinated with the glassing process. Got a knee board shaped for me by Borneman and glassed it myself, it didn’t last too long but it was all good experience. I think I was like 15 and had a girlfriend in high school. We visited her Dad inland and he had this gorgeous Weber Performer in the backyard with a beautiful floral inlay all Gloston polish like immaculate. I don’t know he might’ve tried one time it did have a little bit of wax on it, but it was basically brand new. He told me I could have it if I wanted it. So I took it and brought it home with me. My older Brother saw the board and his mind was blown. He loved it. During that time the Shortboard Revolution made his/her way to California, from Australia and Hawaii. Boards got shorter and my brother was struggling with it. He just surfed better on longer boards. He told me ,"Hey I got the scale 100 Planer, the planner of choice for shapers and I think you’d be a good shaper so why don’t we trade? Why don’t you give me the log and you can have the Planner ? I was always kind of good with my hands anyways and thought oh that might be cool, so yeah, using that planner I did my first board in the garage, never seen anyone shape before, sort of really just went for it blindly and it kind of came out ok. I think it was a super flat seven two diamond tail with a glassed on single fin. It went pretty good.It was beginner luck, I would say, because the next one wasn’t so good. Buying blanks from this place in downtown Huntington, go home and build a board from scratch over and over. Eventually got a contact from a shop where I could sell them for pretty cheap and reinvest in new materials. There were only three blank types from clark foam and one of them had a severe twist in it, so you needed to be knowledgeable how to make a straight board out of it. It was a learning curve, but I did learn from my mistakes and just kept going. One after another for love really. Never thought it would be a business straight off but people started to recognise the progress and asked me to shape one for them. I remember being shocked the first time someone asked me. The Customer liked his board so here I am still shaping. 


Walk us through the Story of Surf Prescription. You started the brand after working for Shawn Stussy as a Ghost Shaper. How were those beginnings ? We heard stories about a request for garlic from a Japanese distributor and staying in the Chelsea Hotel because you got invited to the fashion week in New York. Please elaborate. 

While I was building the boards in the garage, my older brother had started a brand called Freedom Surfboards. He and his business partner had this surfboard company where they would get different shapers. Said they were lame on the boards and they were actually. I think it was kind of a front and wasn’t really that much of a business but that whatever I wasn’t really involved in that much. I kind of moved on. Still shaping in the garage and naturally just liked the name Freedom. I was kind of a hippie and felt like freedom was what was happening in the early 70s so I just rolled with that. 1980/81 freedom was sort of out and anarchy was in. I still very much liked being a Hippie but my younger brother's friend was a punk rocker. He would come in and I'll be in the garage, shaping wearing the dust mask with sort of long hair. Pointing his finger at me he said that I'm the mad doctor, that I’m Doctor Mad. I didn’t like that at all but he felt like throwing gasoline on the fire so he just kept calling me Doctor Mad. I guess if you get a nickname and you don’t like it just keep your mouth shut maybe it’ll go away. It didn’t. So I'm D.O.C now and I’m in the garage of my parents. They eventually sold the house. There was a decision to be made. Either give it a try or don’t, so I went all overboard and got a business license instead of doing illegal stuff. Got rid of the name freedom boards which didn’t suit the year 82’’ anyway and rolled with the Doctor Mad thing. Surf Prescription was born. Shaped a lot of boards for myself, tried them out, thought about how they maybe could perform better and tried to translate that into my shaping. In order to progress you have to look outside of your spectrum so I surfed a lot of other boards from different shapers. Blanks under my arm I even went to other shapers, asked if they could shape me a board, if I could stay in the bay and maybe learn something. Some guy’s said no, get out of here, beat it. Some guy’s said ok stand in the corner but be quiet. More and more people got open to it and one of the guys that I went to was Shawn Stussy. He shaped me a really good board. At that point he already knew that I’m also shaping. A couple of years down the line I saw him again and he is all ok our shapes are looking pretty good and I am looking for someone to do some shaping for me. Would you be interested ? I was stoked about that offer. It was really good for my shaping career. I never worked for anyone before so i had to do everything the way he wanted it done, he was really meticulous, a brilliant shaper and designer. It made me a better shaper because he was critical. Looking at every shape tells me what was good and what was wrong. Slowly I developed my eye and feel for the craft in his bay.

I met Amber in the mid-80s and we started hanging out, we just kind of clicked together really well and she would come to my shit boy factory. This was the 80s and everything was huge. She worked in a hair salon back then. She had giant earrings that were made out of metal and were pulling her ears down. I put my hand up to feel how heavy they were. Oh my God those things were a ton so i decided to work on a lighter version. My Brother used a certain high density foam during that time to shape fins. I had the idea to use it for the earrings by shaping the foam and dip in resin afterwards. We decorated it and tried different shapes. She would wear them to her salon and people wanted to buy them. We started doing these earrings like a weird little side biz out of my support factory, we just sort of organically grew to this crazy thing. We would drive up to la downtown. She would wear them to her salon and people wanted to buy them so we started doing these earrings like a weird little side biz out of my support factory. We would really start doing the shapes, just sort of organically grew to this crazy thing where I was doing. We would go up to LA Downtown once a week and get all the stuff that we put on the earrings, all the things that we need to to make them besides the foam and resin. We were just kept getting orders, and one thing led to another, started doing a lot of them and we got a rep in LA, we were doing trunk shows. Thinking back on it how it just happened and it was a fun run something different. We got invited or it was a chance to get a wrap in New York. I can't recall it right now. So we took a trip to New York and booked a room in the Chelsea Hotel, because that’s where Sydney Nancy stayed. Amber was all about that and I thought that was cool so we get in there and we get in the elevator there, meet the people that live in a penthouse of the Chelsea.This one lady looks across at Amber. Amber wears those giant earrings and she goes ,,All those earrings look amazing’’. Amber answers ,,Oh yeah we make them’’. ,,Oh really I am a designer and I’m having a fashion show tomorrow night and in some cool club in New York and I wanna get those those earrings they would go perfect with the corsets that I make. So we do that thing, that was a crazy night and we just kept doing the earings for kind of a while it was a good run. We called them Kelly Lausch design so that was it. That’s the earring story.  

I had boards in the shop in Newport called Newport Surf and Sport. The manager rode my boards. His name was Mario and a Japanese guy came into the store and said ,,Oh I’m looking for a brand. I need to take a new brand to Japan. I’m here representing a business in Japan that wants American Californian Surfboards’’. Mario took them to my rack and showed him my boards. He liked them. So we had a meeting, that’s how I got started with my Japanese Distributor Chiaki, who goes by the name of Jack. I started shaping boards and shipping them to Japan. He comes back after one year working together and goes,, we wanna get a rider’’ and I go ,,oh you mean like a team rider ?’’ he goes ,,yeah we wanna get a team rider !’’. He goes ,,oh ok that’s cool because I like garlic too you like garlic bread too ? and he goes no garlic bread, garlic !  I’m all like oh I know what you mean Brad Gerlach, so yeah OK Brad Gerlach. I’m ,,ok he probably wants to get paid,,. We knew each other and he’s all you gonna have to pay’’ I got the Garlic in the Bread. He was stoked and Jack was stoked. It really catapulted my brand, having him and then shortly after that, we got Donavon Frankenreiter too. Both of them ended up in Taylor Steele movies and we would also have ads in Surf Magazines. The Internet wasn’t invented yet so the only source of information were the magazines and videos.


What's the most successful model sales wise and most successful model shape wise? In what ways does the fact that you have to sell your craft affect it?

Probably the most successful model that I’ve done would be called the pro 222. It’s a basic high-performance with a single to double concave. It features moderate rocker and concaves. I've made more of that model than any other model. It is still valid today; just coincidental, high-performance, I do it in every tail shape, squash, round, thumb, swallow and square. Very neutral and I think that’s why it is successful because it’s so neutral that it just doesn’t have too much going on where it’s pretty user-friendly and it doesn’t require a certain way to ride it. The second part of question number five I’m not even sure how to answer that one. I think I’m just gonna let that one ride.


What was the weirdest board you ever shaped ? What was the motivation for that particular design? 

Donavon. When I was doing Boys room we would work on different projects. He always came in with a new idea he wanted. He wanted me to make single fins when single fins were so out like no one was riding a single fin no one was making Single Fins. Single Fins weren’t cool. He goes ‘’I want you to make some shit make me a Single Fin’’ and I’m like ,,I started my career making single fins I know how to make a single fin’’, so I shaped a Single Fin. That thing blew up and we made the single fin category again. Another time he comes to me and he says I want a finless board and this was before any sort of finless thing was happening. I replied I have an idea for that and my idea for the finless board was not not like most of the finless stuff, you see nowadays, they just slide around like a disc. My thing actually had a deep double barrel concave. I glued three blanks together and I just shaped a crazy double channel into the board. I ended up shaping fishs, maybe a couple dozen of them. A 10 foot one for the drive thru for example. Donavon was in every drive-through back in the day Taylor steals videos and they recreate the drive through this year with Donavon and Benji. Some of the guys that were in those old ones were in it and then a bunch of the kids. It was pretty cool. You were able to watch it on Fuel TV. I think it was on Stab for a while, maybe you can still see it on Stab. Donavon rode the 10 foot I call USO (unidentified surfing object) in the drive-through at Kelly’s surf ranch thing and got super barreled on it. That was a fun project.


Innovation is part of your character as well part of the identity of your brand. How important is reinvention and does it conflict with staying true to yourself? I’m sure you also had some trials and errors. How do you deal with them ? Where is the fine line between letting it go and trying again ? 

I’d like to think that I can reinvent every day. That's one of the things I did learn from Donavon. We would do something that would be super successful and never would sit back, drink beer and say ok  we did that. Instead we would have a beer and ask ourselves what is next ? You gotta get up tomorrow and do something new. So you gotta start over, you can’t stop, you gotta keep going. That philosophy is stuck with me, especially in this business. If you want to stay relevant, you need to reinvent and re-create and come up with the next thing. I always have my eyes open. I’m always looking to improve,looking to put together something new, some variation of something, some twist on an existing thing,put them together and make something new. I’m always experimenting and I mean that’s how you come up with a new model. You come up with some ideas, you put it together, let it test ride by a good surfer and work with the feedback. You do the changes to it. If it’s really good it sticks and then becomes a new model. I’d love to create an app that keeps it interesting. I don’t just do the same thing over and over again. Although some of the models are so good, they don’t need to be fixed. Some of those have been around for a long time and aren’t going anywhere. I will continue to shape them but at the same time I’m constantly thinking about tweaking, adjusting and modernizing things to make it better. I always try to make it better. 


Looking back to the early days, what's the advice you'd give you Jeff career and life wise ? 

This one is good, kind of funny. Looking back on the early days and what advice would I give D.O.C. for his career. I would just say relax a little. Everything's gonna be fine, just do what you do and have a little more confidence and faith don’t be so stressed out. Everything‘s gonna work out. I don’t think I would’ve changed anything. I would give myself advice to not do anything differently. I feel pretty fortunate to have my whole thing evolve the way it has.


Name a movie, a book or a record that had a profound impact on your life. What was it that stuck? 

I’m just gonna go to the music portion of this because music is super important. I always have music on in my shop by, I love music, all kinds of music. Music was super important at the beginning of my brand. Early 80s the beginning of new punk rock, new wave music and scar. It just rings a bell for me. The Clash, the Specials, Madness, Bauhaus, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, The Stranglers and so many bands I loved and their music still plays in the shaping bay. It was a very creative time, it was different. The surfboards were different, we were doing things a lot more radical. Color was a big part of the 80s or and I just love the music in that era. I’m still kind of trapped in the 80s, music wise. It seems like the good 80s stuff is back. Talking Heads, that Kate Bush song, I mean there’s so much music that was good then, that people are rediscovering now and it’s pretty cool. It was a great time to grow, a great time to begin the brand.


How did you stay so young ? 

I've been dying my hair black for about 35 years and I’m probably gonna just keep doing it. I try to eat clean. I try to do yoga at least three times a week and I’ll never quit surfing like I love surfing. Now some people say ‘’you still surf ?’’ and I go ‘’yeah well I try to surf sometimes more successfully than others but I’m not giving up’’. I’m gonna keep trying. I’m gonna keep trying to surf, enjoy those moments when I put it together and get a turn. It just feels so good. I love being out in the water and I think that’s the fountain of youth out there. I mean guys that are my age that I knew quit surfing. They definitely look different than me and my friends, of the people that I know are the same age and continued surfing, we just look different than the average guy. I don’t know, I think there’s something to the Fountain of Youth being out there. So keep surfing people.