Shaping A Career of Passion and Stoke
by Savannah Sheehan
Mass production, large retailers, and online shopping leave the consumer with instant gratification but little background knowledge on the product. Imagine being in-the-know of the entire process of creating something you want and customizing it to your every whim. Grass-roots operations do still exist and Mike Pechonis at Bird Surfboards will be one of the first to attest.
Deerfield Beach, Florida has been a hub for surfing and surf culture for generations. Having been raised in Deer eld, Mike Pechonis, owner and founder of Bird Surfboards, immersed himself in the surfing community at a young age. At the age of 15, when his first surfboard broke, Mike stripped it down, bought some fabric and boat resin and has been making his own surf boards ever since.
A day in the life of Mike Pechonis consists of physical labor and shear enthusiasm. When I arrived at Bird – officially incorporated in 1988 – Mike made no haste in exploring the grounds of operation, giving me the grand tour. Mike, ahead of me in tow, guided me into the room where the boards are shaped – the first step. We then went into a room that has a stand to hold surfboards and low lights on the walls – at about waist height, and other various tools. Boards start off as “blanks,” or simply blocks of foam. Here, Mike explains how he fits a person to their perfect board, and once that shape and size is decided, he moves forward with sawing away the excess material. “Boards come out of me,” shares Mike, “Michelangelo sees a slab of marble and in that is David. I see a slab of foam and your perfect surfboard.”
Once the board is shaped, it makes its way over to where it is then sheathed in fiberglass and coated in resin. The room resembles that of a colorful, experimental laboratory with resin “stalactites” growing on the stands used to hold the surfboards through the resin process. Along the wall, projects are hanging…projects in this case are completed or almost completed surfboards. Mike used a few to demonstrate different techniques. I stand back in awe as he gives me the name of each person whose board he is showcasing. I look around and there are at least 60 surfboards at first glance, and I think, Mike knows each person’s story and what they seek from their surfboard in the most intimate way. This speaks to me as a testament of the passion in his work.
After the resin, the boards get sanded and perfected with a “pinline,” which is not mandatory, but it ties the boards together. The tour ends, and I ask Mike, “Why? This process seems laborious and time consuming. Why do you do what you do?” Without hesitation, Mike replies, “Love is the driving force, an expression of your inward self.” The most gratification is derived from the experience of the receiving party, as Mike says, “When you call me back and say ‘omg that is the best surfboard I’ve ever had,’ it’s a very personal experience.” As the words leave Mike’s lips, I too feel the weight and reality in his mission.
Mike does not limit what can be created in his work space. “If I can shape it and glass it, I can use it.” Skim boards, body boards, SUP’s and even tables can be requested and obtained. Having been exposed to simply a stint in the world of creating surfboards, the profound admiration and excitement that took over me is like nothing I’ve experienced from an outsider’s standpoint, because at Bird, Mike makes you feel right at home.
To contact Mike about your next board, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 954-943-BIRD