While it may not get as much acclaim as West Coast locales, the Outer Banks are a veritable surf destination for any wave chaser worth their salt. The warm waters and off-the-grid locale draws surfers and board makers alike, and Scott Busbey of In the Eye Surfboards has been making custom boards for discerning surfers for nearly four decades. His boards are the equivalent of a bespoke shirt – every detail is custom and hand-crafted from scratch.
LEDBURY: What sets your boards apart from other boards? Do you have a signature style or touch?
SCOTT: The designs, shapes and what people like changes all the time. You have to be open to change with different ideas and thoughts. Doing custom work – it’s mainly figuring out what the customer wants. They just let it up to me to figure it out.
LEDBURY: How did you get into surfing?
SCOTT: I moved to Florida in the 6th grade and lived right in Cocoa Beach. One day I went to the beach, and there was an older guy who asked me if I wanted to give it a try and he pushed me into the surf. I just stood up on the board and was immediately hooked. As kids, we used to hit the waves with rubber mats. It started in 6th grade, and then I surfed all through high school.
LEDBURY: When did you first start making surfboards?
SCOTT: I started in 1977. It was something that just grew little by little. When I started longboards were the style, so I took an old longboard I had and stripped all the fiberglass off and shaped it. Each time I did it I learned something new. Then people started paying me. At that time, there were a lot of guys who got into building surfboards on the east coast and we all learned from each other.
It was all an experiment for us. We sanded all the fiberglass off with a sander. I never knew about fiberglass itch until then. At that time, there weren’t a lot of people to learn from – I just learned by trial-and-error.
LEDBURY: How has the craft of board making changed over the years?
SCOTT: It’s changed dramatically since I first started. The biggest change has been with CAD designs. I don’t use a computer or any technology, really. It’s all hand-shaped. These days computers end up doing a lot of the work. I like making custom boards because of the relationship you have with the customers. With hand-shaped boards, a lot of the process is done by eye combined with some hard measurements. I also have templates that I’ve acquired over years. I just do it by feel and by eye from doing it over and over again.
LEDBURY: Do you see yourself more as an engineer, designer, or artist? It feels like you’re an equal mix of all three.
SCOTT: (Laughs) I hate to think of myself as any of those things. I just enjoy building surfboards. It’s enjoyable to watch people ride the boards I’ve built for them. I like the process of giving each board a distinctive look. In the end it’s enjoyable because you’ve created something. You took a block of foam and sculpted it into a shape. I see the beauty in the shape – the curves, the outline, and how it all comes together as one unit. It’s nice when you complete it and it comes out the way you want. But it’s also hard work. You’re hot, you sweat, there’s fiberglass everywhere – but it’s satisfying work.
LEDBURY: How does surfing in the Outer Banks compare to other spots on the East Coast?
SCOTT: Here on Cape Hatteras the gulf stream is so close and the continental shelf isn’t that far. The waves are a lot more consistent out here than the east coast in general. I’m not saying other places don’t have good surf – it’s just much more consistent and powerful here. It’s so dynamic – it’s just amazing. I noticed how much has eroded out that getty. I think about it a lot. The beach changes so much in the day-to-day.
In the 38 years I’ve been here there have been dramatic changes. In 1999, they had to move the Cape Hatteras lighthouse because of erosion – the shape of the island just changed. When it was first built it was only ¼ mile from the shore. The roads have washed out several times since I’ve been here. Keeps it interesting, that’s for sure.
LEDBURY: Do you surf as well, how often? What are your favorite conditions?
SCOTT: I don’t surf as often as I like. If there are waves I try to get out there as much as I can. I’m probably out there a couple hundred days out of the year. Everyone likes glassy waves – when the surface of the wave is nice and smooth. The best times of year for that condition are spring and fall. Fall is especially nice because the water is still warm.
LEDBURY: How many boards would you say that you’ve made so far?
SCOTT: Over 10,000 boards.
LEDBURY: Favorite surf movie?
SCOTT: The Endless Summer is the best surf movie out there that there ever was. I haven’t watched it in a long time. Fifty years later and everything in the movie holds true today.
LEDBURY: Off-season or peak season?
SCOTT: Everyone likes it in the off-season. It’s a double-edged sword. We can’t live here in the off season if you don’t have the tourist season, it’s what supports our business. Winter is nice because we get a little time to relax. Of course, you can surf year-round and the hardier ones among us don’t mind putting on all that rubber and getting out in the winter surf.
Natural Art Surf Shop + In the Eye Surfboards has been an Outer Banks destination since 1977.