Handmade in America: The Story of Infinity
At a time when many stand up paddleboards are mass-produced by a handful of factories dispersed across Southeast Asia, one Orange County, California manufacturer is going about business in much the same manner as they have for decades. Steve Boehne, founder of Infinity, has learned a fair share about what it takes to design a board to move efficiently across the water in his career as a shaper spanning more than five decades. Steve shaped and glassed his first surfboard back in 1960, long before the explosion of modern stand up paddling, and likely before the parents of several of today’s top young paddlers were even born.
“You can’t buy authenticity,” his son Dave said to me during a recent tour of the Infinity factory in San Clemente where a team of specialists were diligently going about their work in specially designated rooms throughout the two-story facility. Dave and his brother Dan are second generation shapers, both of whom learned from their father during countless hours in the shaping bay over the years. Dave is now the co-owner of Infinity, while Dan is an Endodontist with a practice literally across the street from the harbor in Dana Point. “Some people play softball on Thursday evenings as a hobby, my brother shapes boards,” said Dave with a grin.
Dave Boehne inspects a new Blackfish in the shaping bay as templates from Infinity’s decades in the business line the walls. Photo, Infinity
Steve was working in his shaping bay on the afternoon of my visit. The walls of the room are ringed by board templates from his tenure in the business, each containing a date and description written in black marker. Infinity stand up paddleboards typically take between 8-10 weeks to complete. It may seem like a long time in comparison to a molded production board, but the pride and precision of craftsmanship that goes into each board is not easily replicated.
Infinity’s stand up paddleboards benefit from the company’s ability to draw from their experience across all the facets of their business; from shortboards, longboards and tandems to prone paddleboards, retro designs and waveskis. In a marketplace where many SUPs are difficult to distinguish from one another, Infinity is not trying to be all things to all people. “We want to retain our cool, hipster brand image and focus on being an élite performance brand,” said Dave. You’re unlikely to see a 10’6” all-around SUP from Infinity on a local waterway, however they are open to special requests, such as a custom fitness board being hand shaped for Brody Welte, the founder of PaddleFit.
An Infinity Speed Freak letting it rip off the lip. Photo, Infinity
In 2015 and beyond, Infinity is planning to increase the accessibility of their boards by expanding their handmade shaping business to place more SUPs in shops across North America and around the world. “The boards sell themselves,” said wholesale manager Justin Van Dyck as he showed me the distinction between the sharp, hand shaped edge on the tail of an Infinity surf SUP compared to the slightly rounded rails of a production model.
All of Infinity’s stand up paddleboards are designed and shaped by Steve and Dave Boehne. They began crafting surf SUPs in 2004 and raceboards soon followed as the sport began to evolve and take shape. Unlike many production boards from large manufacturers, hand shaped racing SUPs from Infinity are readily available in three constructions with variable strength to weight ratios ranging from Team Vector and Team 50/50 to Infinity’s Team Carbon Elite which employs the lightest, stiffest strength to weight ratio on the market today.
Infinity’s surf SUPs have gone through a similar R&D process and utilize Infinity’s proprietary suspension technology to create a unique balance to load and unload energy while paddling. The innovative shapes and technologically engineered construction makes Infinity’s surf SUPs among the most sought after boards by the industry’s top competitors and recreational SUP surfers alike.
The Infinity Speed Freaks on the move. Photo, Infinity
New for 2015 is the introduction of the Blackfish – Infinity’s latest SUP racing shape. Inspired by the sleek lines found on a Steve Boehne designed prone paddleboard, the Blackfish is Dave’s interpretation of what a modern SUP board should be. Quick and nimble, the Blackfish is poised to leave a wake across the SUP racing scene as the Infinity Speed Freaks paddle on.
Dave Boehne told me “you can’t buy authenticity” and while I understood the sentiment as it was intended at the time, I beg to differ. With a board from Infinity, you have the opportunity to do exactly that.