After exploring Gnome Surf during Day 15 of the Holiday Gift Guide, we were struck with the lightening of irrepressible inspiration. With that thirst for the sea still pulsing, yesterday, after embarking on our literary and olfactory voyage along the coasts of mainland Portugal, we decided we should make a stop in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and catch some waves in the uninterrupted ocean surrounding the Azorean archipelago. This string of islands is the familial homeland of one of our ARCANISA team members and, as such, we've been lucky enough to spend summers sunning on the black sand beaches of São Miguel, against a backdrop of waves blanketing the Portuguese horizon with glittering lapis corduroy as they draw in from the beyond. At home in Ribera Grande, we are mere steps away from the Monte Verde beach where surfers of all abilities dive into the wind licked waters. Land and life here are defined by an unwavering, symbiotic, and deeply intimate relationship with the ocean. With this uniquely mystical—and frankly, inexplicable—tie between land and sea in mind, it should come as no surprise that these Islands, with their phenomenal oceanic and igneous beauty and some seriously sick waves, also cultivate the trees that hold the ideal wood for surfboards.
Avid surfer and boardmaker, Gonçalo Belmonte, recognized that these local cryptomeria trees which grew from the volcanic soil into the paths of coastal winds, were pillars of lightweight, durable, and sustainable wood waiting patiently on the Azorean hillsides to join the waves below. Prioritizing the preservation of the Island landscapes, Belmonte coordinated with local forestry agencies to ensure the wood was harvested responsibly and was deserving of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification before introducing it to his team of "nautical and environmental engineers, surfboard shapers, foresters, and...carpenters" (1).
Each surfboard produced by Belmonte's company Lisbon-based Breklim is a work of art. If you have not done so already, we implore you to watch the video included at the beginning of this feature which documents with devastating cinematography the majesty of the boards and their intrinsic connection to the land. Rails and rockers—the curves of the boards—are formed from the guiding designs of visionary shapers. Cryptomeria panels, speckled with the interrupting shadows of time-formed knots and rings that mark the wood with a chronology of arboreal life, are laminated together to form bands of natural grain and warming irregular colour reminiscent of the towering cryptomeria trunks that congregate below the dense canopies of Azorean forests. The boards are then individual carved to unveil the gothic lancet arches that define the noses and and the bifurcated swallow tails of the Fish model—our personal favorite.
Quintessential fish boards, introduced in the late 1960s by San Diegonian Steve Lis, are treasured by surfers of all abilities and retrophiles alike. With a short template and two prong tail, typically paired with mirroring twin fins below, the model offers the "stability of a squash tail and the rail control of a pintail", which translated for non-surfing laymen simply means it's a board that is easy to maneuver and comfortable to ride. The shape is incredibly versatile, graceful on many oceanic surfaces, but it shines and sings on small waves. Plus, it's strikingly good looking and does make us feel more connected to the water and our marine companions—even those in gray-suits! But the fish model from Breklim stands apart from the school with it's contemporary interpretation of the form with a rounder bottom rail, exposed cryptomeria wood deck, and truly gorgeous ivory coloured band that wraps the perimeter and laps onto the shore of the wood in the valley between the tail peaks, accenting the scalloped wood curves with an angular vector of solid color. The geometry and textural juxtaposition of the raw honeyed wood against the beaming ivory is a subtle and assuredly successful nod to the midcentury aesthetic that painted the backdrop while Lis was formulating his masterpiece.
Before it ever carries us into sea, the Breklim boards take us on a journey. Gently designed curves guide us through workshops in Lisbon where ribbons of wood are pulled from boards by the steady hands of meticulous craftsmen. Geometry, texture, and hue transport us to the stylish swinging sixties coloured by culturally iconic miniskirts and a euphonious British Invasion. Swirling rings and knots within the wood invite us all the way back to the moment when a dropped seed took root and observed the evolution of a landscape formed by volcanos and ensconced in the vastness of the ocean.
Whether your loved ones are advanced surfers with sizable quivers, surfing novices eager to cross the shore wake in search of swells, or design-enthusiasts with eyes for elegant forms, you can't go wrong gifting them one of these truly remarkable Breklim boards.
And be sure to explore the rest of the Holiday Gift Guide for even more gift giving inspiration!