Writer Ed Thompson and photographer Julien Roubinet are collaborating on a book documenting surf culture in New York and New Jersey. At the moment, the project is under the working title Ice Cream Headaches, referencing the familiar feeling of brain-freeze when surfing in the depths of winter.
The work explores the culture that surrounds surfing in the often-frigid Atlantic off the shores of New York and New Jersey. The finished book will feature photographs, essays and interviews with forty cultural innovators, from surfers and surfboard shapers to artists, writers and photographers, young and old – people who have built their lives around their love of the ocean.
For Whalebone’s NYC issue, Julien and Ed introduce you to four of the people they’ve met during the making of the book. First up: Shaper JW Falcone.
Joe Falcone keeps a low profile as a shaper. He doesn’t shape for a living—it’s damn near impossible in New York City—but his connection with surfing in this city runs deep. Joe grew up at his family home in the Rockaways, Queens, surfing from age nine. At age seventeen, he built a simple shaping studio in his mom’s garage, and he’s now been shaping there for over a decade.
“I never shape a board in one sitting,” Joe told us during our interview. “I could do it quicker, but I like to sit there and think about it and make sure everything is right. When you spend more time looking at the thing, you can see more. This is the best angle,” he told us, pointing to a garden chair positioned at the tail of the board. “You sit here and look at it from both sides. You see certain things start happening as you work. I get really obsessive looking at it—I forget about everything else. That’s why I tell visitors to bring water and food. You can be in here for so long and you just don’t even know it.”
Joe has carefully built relationships with some of the world’s most innovative shapers, many of whom drop by his shaping bay when they visit New York. Manuel Caro of Mandala Custom Shapes in Leucadia, Southern California, has been a big influence and mentor. Similarly, Joe has spent time in the bay with the likes of Josh Hall and Andrew Kidman.
“Andrew I’ve worked with the most. He’s like a family member to me. I don’t have much length of time in my formal training with these guys but I’ve made a lot of boards, fucked up a lot of boards. You kinda get to know where you’re at.” It’s safe to say Joe does know where he’s at. There’s currently a 6-month waitlist for his immaculately crafted boards.