written by Bronte Dod photos by Bruce Ely

Flatter, fatter and with less power than in California or Hawaii, waves in the Pacific Northwest call for a different kind of surfboard.

Michael Hall, a 30-year-old middle school science teacher, decided to make his own surfboard since he couldn’t find one designed for Oregon’s coastal waters. He then started Blackfern Surfboards in 2010 to reflect surfing in the Pacific Northwest, which Hall describes as dark, rugged and wild. 

Learning to shape boards required trial and error. Cutting and sanding is noisy; the resin drips and smells strongly. Dust gets everywhere. Due to the mess, Hall built his own workshop in the backyard of his family’s Southwest Portland home. Hall makes around seventy-five custom surfboards a year.

“Hopefully when one of my customers sees somebody else with a Blackfern board, automatically there’s a connection at a values level, and the person doesn’t feel like a stranger,” Hall said. “That’s an opportunity to build a connection and foster a positive and healthy surfing community.”