A simple desire to make a cheaper skateboard led Steve Morgan to become an artist who sells replica surfboards around the country.
Something about spending $130 on a skateboard for his son didn’t sit well with Morgan. The 1982 graduate of Soddy-Daisy High School looked the board over, especially the long-board deck — the part where a rider stands — and decided he could make one out of wood for much cheaper.
“I told my wife I should be able to make one for less than $10,” he says.
That was 2006, and Morgan, who now lives in Virginia Beach, Va., made one out of Baltic birch and painted it up. Friends liked it so much he made a few more, and pretty soon he was selling a few. Quite a few, really, which was somewhat surprising for the former Navy man turned truck driver with zero woodworking experience.
“For the first year, I sold nothing but old-school decks. Flat with no curves,” Morgan says. “I never did anything with wood before. I just looked at it and said, ‘I can do that,’ and I was surprised at the result, and even more surprised that other people were willing to pay for them.”
But a friend who’d seen his skateboards asked him to make a surfboard design to be used as wall art. A little research revealed that only two other people in the country were making similar art pieces, and pretty soon Flyone Boardshop was born. The name was taken from the name of the section of the USS Nimitz where Morgan served while he was in the Navy.
These days, Morgan handcrafts between 400 and 500 surfboard designs a year, and he sells them to clients around the world. They are purchased by homeowners who want something unique, and by shop and restaurant owners who want to create a theme or ambiance. Some are adorned with business logos; one buyer fashioned a board into an outdoor shower.
When a 16-year-old patient with a life-threatening illness in San Francisco requested that her room be decorated with a beach theme, the folks at Special Spaces contacted Morgan to fill one special request.
“Her room was all about the beach,” says Shelley Ham, director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Special Spaces. “One thing she wanted in her room was to have a surfboard. Steve made three and one thing he was able to do was to create a surfboard that had [her] name on it, and having her name on it was amazing.”
Steve Sipprell, co-owner of Goodwin’s Restaurant, was looking for something to help decorate his high-end sandwich shop in a tony section of Chicago. He had Morgan custom make nine boards, including one 10-footer.
“I am absolutely enthralled by the surfboards he made for me,” Sipprell says. “You walk into our restaurant, and we are a small part of this lobby, and people see our surfboards right away and you see the smiles on their faces. They start telling us stories about a vacation or a time in their life. People are happy. The surfboards make them happy. I could not be happier. He branded us.”
Morgan has some basic shapes that he works with and a few popular graphic designs, but he also does custom work when possible.
“I do four shapes usually,” Morgan says. “I do a 3-footer if requested, but mostly I do 4-, 5- and 6-footers. I can do a 10-foot one for a bar top, but shipping is expensive.”
One thing they cannot be used for is surfing, something that Morgan has never done.
“I get that question a lot,” he says.
The boards, which start at $99.99 and go up to around $269, are made of birch or poplar and are coated with an epoxy, which helps give them an authentic look.
He’s also made shelving boards that can be outfitted with logos and used as signs, as well.
In addition to working with wood, Morgan drives long-haul trucks part-time, but says he is close to doing the boards full-time. It makes him happy.
“I definitely stumbled into it and I love it. I love doing each and every board, and I love getting feedback from people.”
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at email@example.com or at 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...