Introducing Renaud of Panther Surfboards from Biarritz, France. We met Renaud and his lovely wife Juliette last year on a French roadtrip, and we immediately appreciated their set up - similar to ours as a husband and wife driven family business. We revisited them earlier this year to personally deliver their first order of custom and catalogue collab fins - and to check out their stylish new workshop in Biarritz - definitely a place to pop into if you're in the Biarritz area.
We sent Renaud & Juliette our Shaper Stories questions to find out a bit more about them and their boards...
Tell us where you’re from and where you’re based.
We're originally from a small town near Marseille, France, but we moved to South West France many years ago. Renaud was an optician for many years and fate brought us here little by little. We enjoyed big city life in Bordeaux, countryside life inland in Les Landes, seasonal fussiness of the Basque Country area…and now we are definitively settled in Biarritz, having a brand new workshop there and we would never live anywhere else in Europe!
What inspired your logo/brand name?
We get asked this question all the time and every time it’s the same stupid answer - we don’t know! Panther Surfboards came to us one day, and stuck in our heads ever since! With the logos, Juliette has a liking for graphism so she did them all. Our Diamond logo shape is inspired by iconic vintage surf brands such as Yater and Hobie. The Panther Head with sunglasses is a wink to Renaud’s previous career. We like to create surfboards, but also designs, so our logo catalogue is constantly growing, which allows our customers to choose which logo will be laminated on their board.
Tell us a bit about how, when and why you got into shaping.
I guess, like every shaper, it started in Renaud’s parents' garage. There were not so many sources of information back then or social media to reach out to other shapers, so he had to find answers on weird looking forums and amateur videos from shapers abroad. His first surfboard was a fish, we still have it! Even though he's got better with time of course, it’s still a fun surfboard!
What kind of boards do you mostly shape?
We have a whole range of surfboards: shortboards mid lengths and longboards. We like it fun here and want people to try out our designs instead of sticking with their idea of a « board that works well ». This is exactly why we came up with the idea of the Panther Surfing Laboratory: every Panther model in different sizes is available to rent in order to get a feel for the board, and decide if it’s something you could go for. The rental price will be taken off a custom order so it won’t cost a penny in the end! We really want to introduce people to « other kinds of shapes » which have been developed by geniuses such as McTavish, Andreini and Greenough many years ago - if it’s still there, it’s because it works and we can prove it!
What’s your preferred fin set up to a) shape and b) surf?
Both of us mostly ride single fins. Otherwise it’s a completely different approach to shape an 80’s Thruster or a Glider, this is why it’s fun! Bonzer fins are fun too, it's a whole different bottom shape and you have to understand why it has been made that way by the Campbell Brothers to make it work. We have been lucky enough to work with Jacob Campbell on the North Shore of O'ahu and Renaud learnt many tips from him and from glassing his boards. They are pretty tricky, but also so satisfying once the job is done!
Best tip for the budding shaper?
The best way to learn is by yourself, you’ve got to make mistakes to understand what’s gone wrong and why. Take your time, don't hurry. We are all very small companies so there are pretty low chances to get an apprenticeship from local shapers, but you still can learn a few tips here and there by simply messaging them. We love sharing knowledge! Shaping surfboards is a booming activity, making a living out of a passion is a real possibility, but it might not happen to everyone. Acquiring knowledge takes time, but is essential if you want to be taken seriously out there - you're not going to be able to create a surfboard brand after just one or two shaping sessions.
What’s been the most memorable board you’ve ever shaped & why?
I don’t think there's just one. Maybe the first one, with all the faults it has which reminds us how far we’ve come, or maybe the last one as it’s supposed to be the most complete one? We have been seriously lucky to be able to work in Hawaii with legends and Renaud learned a lot in that time. He is also developing a range of epoxy Edgeboards inspired by George Greenough designs, which are from a whole new world in shaping terms.
What's the bonus of using Macho Fins in your boards?
We deeply believe in craftsmanship and want to financially support hard working people like us. It wouldn’t make sense to order fins from China. A good surfboard could totally be messed up by the wrong fin, so its choice is as important as the dimensions of the surfboard and we carefully recommend a fin for every surfboard ordered. Working with a small company such as Macho Fins is also ideal as they are willing to follow us in our frenzy. Take for example our Reverse Dfin (available to check out and rent on the Pig)! As I said, we're able to develop a whole range of custom high quality fins, made locally, and that’s amazing!
Thanks Renaud & Juliette! And you can check out Panther Surfboards
on their Instagram