Tracy Petrucci: Small Business Spotlight: Ian Statzer of ICON Surfboards

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small Business Spotlight: Ian Statzer of ICON Surfboards

ICON Surfboards
Oceanside, California

With modern expression of individuality reaching new heights, it's no wonder surfers all over the county are gravitating towards these iconic boards. Ian Statzer - local artist turned shaper - builds his individual flare straight into his work, and designs surfboards for the creative souls in and out of the water. Keep your eyes peeled along the coast and you're sure to see his ICON logo poking out of the waves at each turn.
With a humble spirit, and a modest business approach, Ian is the perfect example of an organically grown small business. While still working as a shaper for other big-name local brands, Ian sets time aside to meet with interested buyers individually, and creates specific boards custom to each surfer, a craft that has long been dismissed or that comes with a hefty fare these days.

There is such a humbling satisfaction in buying something when it makes a difference to the seller. There's a sense of camaraderie in supporting a company when you know the story behind their business, and that your contribution, no matter how small, impacted their success. Remember a few years ago when people began to turn away from mass-produced products, such as beer, for the locally-produced, hand-crafted alternative? There is nothing different in the surf community. Big brands have dominated the scene for the last few years, making it difficult for young bucks to entertain the idea of investing in a small-name start-up. However, recent merchandisers such as Captain Fin Co. and Brixton have brought modern day surf culture back the roots, and provided a platform for successful local business.

Interviewing Ian was the same sort of feeling.
A simple guy, doing what he simply loves. He believes in the community. He believes in the art. Let's see what he has to say!

1.     Did you grow up surfing in Oceanside?
Yea. I moved to Oceanside in 1987, and been surfing and skating here ever since.
2.     When did you first get interested in shaping?
I first started sweeping floors for Dave Pierson at Ezera surfboards….From there I learned pretty much the whole trade from start to finish. I worked my way up and glassed boards for close to 13 years, but I was getting boards from people and they weren’t really exactly what I wanted. So, I decided from there to start shaping my own boards. I couldn’t figure out what to call them, so a friend of mine told me to sign the new boards how I used to sign my artwork from a long time ago, so I stuck with that name [Icon].
3.     What sets your boards apart from others?
The different rockers, and the foil, and the thickness of the board. I want them to still ride like a high performance board, even for a little bit bigger dude. You need more and less foam in certain places. I’ve always ordered specific boards, but they never really turned out the way I wanted, so I decided to create a board the way I envisioned them for myself. I like to make good, high-performance short boards because that’s what I ride. Everyone has their own preference for a board, but I try to make boards that are practical for around here, for mediocre California waves, that work in all-around conditions. Oceanside is always changing. Sometimes the surf is really good, and sometimes it’s really horrible, so it’s nice to have a board that you can take out any day and still surf great.
4.     You’ve grown your business organically, through word of mouth in the local surf community. Is that what you intended?
Yeah. It’s all been through my friends. I started out by riding my own boards and people noticed them and started asking for them. Soon, more and more people got hyped on them. I never advertised because I was just making them for myself. A lot of new board companies come out with big ads and blow all this money and then within a year, they’re gone. I started just doing this for myself and it turns out now that I can make a living off of it. Eventually I won’t be shaping for other companies [Super, Surf Ride], and I’ll be completely on my own.
5.     Going forward, where do you see Icon going and knowing what you know now, what changes, if any, will you make to your marketing approach?
No I want to keep it somewhat underground, and local. If it takes off, then it takes off, but by keeping the business smaller, between shaper and surfer, it’s still 1-on-1. If I start blowing out a bunch of boards it becomes less custom.
6.     What does Icon represent? What’s your business motto?
Each board is custom. Making the best boards and using the best materials. Quality over quantity. Just making sure everyone is satisfied. I like to see people out in the water and get their feedback, hearing from everyone…they don’t have to call an automated service. I want to keep the local beach culture underground, like the 80’s-90’s, not so mainstream like surfing has kinda become. Taking care of each other but keeping the scene alive of what true surfing is, the counter-culture.
Email Ian if interested in customizing your next board at
Get inspired. Think outside the box and inside your community. Until next time!
Leesa King.

Note from Tracy: Here is my board that Ian just finished. It represents three beautiful people from my life I've lost. He did such an amazing job creating this artwork from scratch to match their love of both Ninja Turtles and Sea Turtles. <3

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