Let us introduce you to Niklas of Otio Handshapes from Heilbronn, Germany. We've been working with Niklas for several years now, providing him with a variety of fin set ups for his handshaped boards - including the first set of Twinzers we ever made.
We sent Niklas our Shaper Stories questions to find out a bit more about him and his boards...
Tell us where you’re from and where you’re based.
I'm from Heilbronn in Southern Germany. At home I work from my one-room workshop which is in the same house I live in.
What inspired your logo/brand name?
I'm really happy to work in a trade and supply people with sportsgear that plays a big role in their existence. Surfers are making a lot of sacrifices and compromises in their lives to go surfing as much as possible.
Otio means "dedicated to leisure" in Latin and it reflects my products well. The logo that I use mostly on the bottoms is inspired by a pine tree. I started surfing in France and fell in love with the energy that vibrates in the forests along the French coastline. For that reason, my logo reminds me of appreciating my own roots and seeing my on-going learning process.
Tell us a bit about how, when and why you got into shaping.
I got into shaping boards pretty much right away once I started surfing. I owned only one before I actually started making them myself. Manufacturing my own surfcraft was a natural thing for me as I really appreciate the use of things that I've handcrafted myself. My strong slalom kayaking background helped me in this. Competition canoes are super lightweight and mostly made out of carbonfiber. As there's rarely any access to a repair service for kayaks, everyone needs to repair the boats themselves. Those were the first steps for me using epoxy and starting my fascination for resin and fibers.
What kind of boards do you mostly shape?
Most of my boards are retro -inspired I guess. Even though my outlines might be nostalgic I don't handshape blanks for the sake of being old fashioned. I combine what has been found useful with innovative features.
What’s your preferred fin set up to a) shape and b) surf?
I got immersed in twins from pretty much the start of my surfing career. Now that I've discovered more about that specific surfboard design feature, my fascination with the natural speed and the effortless style of it keeps on growing. Even though I love single fins, I'd always choose a twin if I didn't have the choice to bring boards with me with different setups.
Best tip for the budding shaper?
Don't try to save money by buying cheap materials.
Don't overwork it.
Shortcuts are not going to save any time.
I really know that and learned it myself - the hard way!
What’s been the most memorable board you’ve ever shaped & why?
Tough question. The first board that pops up is a 6'4 yellow single fin that I shaped for my surf trip to Morocco last winter. I was surfing it pretty much in all conditions possible on my way down the European coastline. I never really understood the board. It slipped out a lot and I couldn't draw the lines that I wanted. I thought that it just looked nice and felt good under the arm but seemed to be an overall shitty board. Arriving in Morocco I completely changed my mind once I put another fin in it and changed the position. The board all of a sudden "lit up“ and I felt I could do anything I wanted on it. I'd say that is the ultimate goal for surfcraft.
Going through the process of not giving up a board and trying different fins on it really changed my attitude towards the importance of the right fin on the right board with the right position. That was actually a huge learning process for me.
What's the bonus of using Macho Fins in your boards?
I feel a lot of appreciation from people that surf my boards. I think what plays a big part in it is that I really pour my heart and soul into them, trying to achieve the best result I can and not maximising the margin. People can feel my passion. Once I started working with Macho Fins, I totally could feel that they have the same objectives. They're quality first and really open to custom fins. I totally appreciate their mindset. Putting Macho Fins into my boards completes them.
Photo Credit: Korbinian Grad