Paul Abbas: Lebanon’s First Surf Board Shaper
In the past five years, Paul Abbas has made a name for himself as Lebanon’s first and only surf boards shaper. From his workshop in Bour, near Jounieh, the surfer spends his days crafting boards for Lebanon’s growing surf community.
When he is not working as a technician at MTV, Paul Abbas can be found in his workshop, an unfinished house at the top of the family building located on a hill in Bour, a few kilometers away from Jounieh. “My mother still hasn’t seen the mess I made in the house”, Paul says, amused, as we enter the family’s summerhouse, on the floor below his workshop. “Last winter’s storm forced me to move downstairs, in my family’s summerhouse because my workshop doesn’t have windows nor doors”.
Paul Abbas had been body surfing for several years when he decided that he wanted to try the real thing. This was in 2010. At the time, the surfing community was still very small and there was no surf shop in Lebanon. Most surfers had to buy their boards abroad. “I would ask surfers if I could buy one of their boards, but most them used short boards, while beginners usually learn on a long board, which are easier when trying to balance on the water. They were also too expensive for me”, Abbas recalls.
Paul’s unsuccessful quest to find a surfboard prompted him to build his own. The autodidact explains that he learnt how to make his first surfboard on the Internet! He even had to build specialized tools himself because he couldn’t find them in the country. “It took me six months, between all the testing and finding the right material, to make my first board. Now, whenever my friends travel, they bring me some material such as fiber glass and special resin I cannot find here”.
Since 2010, Paul Abbas built 42 boards. More than half of them were built in the last year. He says the growing interest for surf in Lebanon has significantly increased the demand for locally made surfboards designed for Lebanon’s waves. When he first started, 90% of his production was for long board beginners. Now, half of the boards he crafts are short boards, used by more experienced surfers.
“I sold my first board in 2012, to a friend of mine. Once other surfers saw him using my board, they started trusting my work. Now I don’t think there is a difference between my boards and the ones you find abroad. I will start making old school boards, which are thicker and wider, because they are good for Lebanon’s smaller and weaker waves”, he says, adding that the craze for surfing in Lebanon came from social media.
With the increasing number of surfs enthusiasts in Lebanon, Paul is hoping he will one day be able to turn his burgeoning business, P.A. Surfboards, and passion into a full time career. He is also going to Mexico in August to work and improve his technique with local board shapers.