Behind the Scenes: Hess Surfboards

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Out at the westernmost end of Noriega street, the roads are sand-swept and littered with crab shells. Buried most of the year in a thick layer of fog, the Outer Sunset is a neighborhood that few have much of a reason to frequent. When you ask a local what the surf is like, they'll tell you, "the waves here are short, the conditions are harsh, and the water is cold.” Among the abandoned aquarium supply stores and late-night Korean restaurants, there's a large well-lit building that looks more than a little out of place. The painted letters on the windows read "Woodshop."

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You can spot a Hess board in a roof rack immediately. Hand-carved from woods sourced in northern California and adorned with the iconic Hess arrow — they're the crown jewel of custom boards both in the Sunset and across the country.

We don’t really do any kind of marketing. It’s all pretty much just word of mouth.
— Danny Hess
Luke and Danny wearing  Red Wing Heritage boots .

Luke and Danny wearing Red Wing Heritage boots.

We're here as part of a photo shoot for Red Wing Heritage boots for an upcoming sale on Huckberry. After a few shots of the boots in the showroom up front, we take a tour of the wood shop itself. We walk through a maze of mid-century modern chairs and blocks of wood, occasionally brushing into the empty sleeve of a wetsuit, or stopping to pet one of the two dogs who seem to be constantly underfoot. 

Danny shapes boards, Luke and Josh build furniture, and Jeff paints signs and makes art — all in the same space. It's an artistic eco-system that's part-workshop and part-showroom. Scraps of wood are recycled and reused, spare fins are painted, and one project often leads to another. 

"We don't really do any kind of marketing," Danny tells us as he starts to sand down the edge of a board, ribbons of wood curling around his fingers, "It's all pretty much just word of mouth."

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Out the window, it looks as if the sun might be starting to drive off the fog, but when we step outside and look past the sand dunes that spill onto the Great Highway, we realize it was just wishful thinking. - [TM]

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If you're in the Sunset, be sure to swing by the Woodshop.
Check out the Red Wing sale over on Huckberry.

Thomas McDermott