Malachi Boyce jumps out of bed. He checks the clock. 3am. The sun hasn’t even thought about relieving the moon from her night shift.

A sudden solution to a tricky surfboard design has jolted him awake. Just as he suspected, the fix unfolds. His design needs to be flip-flopped: Using fancy computer programs, he redistributes the amount of foam for better balance.

Soon he’s onto the final touches of a new design, named “The Nugget,” for semi-pro local surfer Dane Anderson. By the time his wife Kacie and 3-year-old daughter Rylie rise at dawn he’s been up hours. Kacie tells him he’s crazy.

He may be. Crazy in love. Even after long workdays operating his Malachi Boyce Construction, he rolls up to his Watsonville shaping bay to sculpt curves. He talks about shaping the way an excited astronomy teacher talks about quasars and quintessence – some of it soaring over his audience’s head.

At the speed of an auctioneer he’ll talk sustainable bamboo stringers, hand-carved rails, tails and concaves – pointing out features of the board with hands moving as fast at roadrunner feet.

“Most initial work is by eye and by hand – very much art,” Boyce says. “Boards should flow in your hand like water. It’s hard to replicate with computer-assisted drawing. It’s a feeling.”

Growing up in Marina and bodyboarding since he was 14, Malachi, now 32, has “been addicted” to surfing since he tried it in his 20s, even if it was an inauspicious start. “It was an embarrassing display,” he says. “A total yard sale.”

His shaping career is recent by comparison (and more graceful). It started as a quest to create a durable board in his garage; five years later he’s become a prominent force in the surf community. His Route One Surfboards celebrated three years of existence in August.

“My feet have always been awkward,” he says. “My relationship to surfing is with my hands. I am a far better shaper than surfer and that will never change.”

“It’s hard to replicate with a computer. 
It’s a feeling.”

He has developed a line of boards with names like Short Stack or Ham and Cheese (prices start at $550). While some standard boards are available at On the Beach Surf Shop, he customizes most of his boards to the client, considering rider weight and height, how much maneuverability and stability he/she wants and the size of the waves being chased.

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From there he uses two programs, AKU Shaper and Shape3d, to develop what amounts to an architect’s rendering. He’s gotten so versed in AKU that he’s fixed bugs for its programmers.

After he gets what’s called a “blank,” essentially a block of dense, specialized foam, pressure mounts: one miscalculated cut could ruin the entire block.

To watch him shape is to observe intense focus. He moves about the board like a cat on a hunt. He’s deliberate yet fluid, using a giant file – and other tools like sandpaper, a sanding screen, a planer, rail jigs and templates, a spoke shave and foam pads – to draw out his desired shape. (For photos of his process, visit www.

It is later sealed with an epoxy coat. Fins are installed and glassed with Resin Research epoxy. Conveniently enough, Route One shares warehouse space with Paradise Fiberglass, a company that specializes in fiberglassing for water sports.

Another factor: the Route One team. The band of highly skilled local surfers work as testers – and ambassadors – and include Anderson, Jonny Craft, Logan Davis, Noah Wegrich, Solomon Doherty and Josh Mulcoy, well-known names in the local riding community after Sunshine Freestyle Surfabout victories, various sponsorships, and first and third place in this year’s Rip Curl Pro Canada (for Wegrich and Anderson). They provide input on what the boards feel like in all kinds of conditions and Boyce uses it to make them better.

“I like to think they stick with me because we share the same interests: to surf, have fun and travel,” Boyce says. “I am just really lucky to have them riding my equipment and call them all friends.”

Anderson is among those stoked.

“He makes amazing boards, but first and foremost he is an exceptional human who cares about others,” Anderson says. “His knowledge combined with his raw enthusiasm is contagious.” (Full disclosure: I was introduced to Boyce because he supported my indie publication Good Things Magazine, which featured an article on Anderson surfing Baja.)

Back at the shaping bay, Boyce takes a break from shaping to check his email.

One email stops him: A group of kids pooled their money for a friend’s 16th birthday. Route One’s “Ham and Cheese” is the kid’s dream. Later Boyce says the experience was, simply, “good.” Then he adds something that speaks to his kindness and attention to detail, and hence his popularity with surfers: “I’m making a birthday video for the kid right now.”

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