In Conversation with: Rob Morgan of Roma Surfboards
Rob! How’s it going?! We’ve been loving watching your journey for a while. Can you share a little insight into how Roma came to be and what is stands for?
Hey guys, thanks for reaching out!
I worked in a great surf shop years ago and got to know a few shapers who were making really good boards in Cornwall and North Devon. The shop was a meeting place, had a fun team and it represented a side of surfing that I clicked with. No doubt I wanted to do my own version of that.
We started with a van, about 20 boards and slowly ticked along. After a while I started working more closely on the boards we were making. First with Bro Diplock and Paul Fluin and now with Steve Darch, Adrian Phillips, Jack Day, Jason Burnett and Andrew Teasdale. Recently I’ve been working a lot with Hugh Brockman.
Roma had been born into existence as a result of these relationships and the boards felt like the core of what would eventually become Roma Surfshop.
I wanted to have a set of racks full of boards that represented the talent that was on our doorstep and I wanted people to engage in the custom process.
Without a physical space of our own we relied on the generosity and shared vision of others. Finisterre supported the “Roma Surfshop” idea and we stocked boards in the stores and took custom orders.
We did pop ups with DARN and Arbo Surfboards and slowly the side project became the full time store.
Give us a taste of a day in the life of Rob?
The first three months since opening were pretty busy and the six months we spent getting the shop ready were equally full on.
I sacrificed some surf time to get the ball rolling but recently I’ve ben able to carve out blocks of time to get in the water. The early morning window seems to be there again and that means coming into work off the back of some waves.
It’s a classic but I start with coffee. We have a Mokkapot so I put on a litre and try to share it before I drink the lot.
Maybe we take it seriously and start selling coffee and cake but right now it’s just fuel for conversation.
Amazing to see the shop renovation come to life. It looked like a real communal effort. How was the process, and why a physical space for Roma?
Roma needed a physical space. So many people believed in the idea of “Roma Surfshop” and we had threatened to open a shop for long enough.
Shawn from Atlantic Coastal Supplies helped with the initial planning phase of the store and my other half Amy is responsible for the general aesthetic.
The build was communal and close friend’s chipped in but the stuff that catches the eye was done by Jo House, Chris Mudge and Ali aka Mother of Nothing Signs.
The stain glass window that Jo did is one of my favourite additions. We always wanted to create a space that looked like it had been there for a while. The sweet chestnut shelving, cork floors and the brown and cream shop front. That window looks like it’s been there for ever.
There’s four other people that over the years have been closely tied to the shop and in their own way pushed it forward and eventually over the line. Jose, Larry, Dan and Alan have contributed a huge amount.
If I was going to open another store that’s the 9 people I’d call on.
Can you tell us a little more about your approach to making surfboards and how you collaborate with the various shapers you work with?
I’d always like to consider Roma Surfboards the core of our business.
I treat the range like one big quiver working with different shapers to fill the gaps. We’re not trying to make everything, although the wealth of knowledge these people have means we could and if someone asks for something we can draw on all this experience to come through with what they want.
What I like to do is use one of our “models” as a starting point for a custom order. There’s definitely a niche within surfing that Roma sits. I like variety in surfboards and I try and tailor the range to suit different surfers needs but we definitely focus on a certain type of surfboard.
Boards that have some natrual speed, some foam that keeps them in trim and boards that are made by shapers who understand what the majority of surfers want from their day to day surfing.
That could mean different things but we want the person who is ordering a board to be involved in the process and we want to help them translate what they’re after.
We’d love to know more about your relationship with surfing and what it does for you - mind and body.
The difference between me last week and me this week says as much as you’ll ever need to know about my relationship with surfing.
Three early alarms, three surfs in three days, and three productive days in the shop.
It gets things moving for me. There’s a blog post out there on the web somewhere. It’s probably on tumblr! I wrote something like “if you’re surfing you’re a surf shop”
Naturally we want the shop to be a place where people want to spend some time, you want to match the enthusiasm people have for surfing, for the coast and for Cornwall. There’s no easier way to stay motivated than to be surfing regularly.
Lastly, any exciting drops, collabs, events or projects to look out for?
We’re working with two illustrators on collections. One that will take us through the Autumn and early Winter months and one that will be ready for the start of the next year Tom Hubmann created three great pieces that we ran across our apparel range on launch and we’re working with him again and Zach Rush is working on a capsule that will run right across the shop and filter into the overall look of the Roma brand.
In the immediate future we have a hands on set of workshops with Guy Butcher making laminated and vacuum bagged hand-planes, belly-boards and paipos.
There’s an exhibition planned in November before we round the year off with a Roma x DARN Christmas party.
Enjoy Pentire & Tonic at Roma
We love what Rob and Roma is doing. From film screenings, to hand-plane workshops. There's always something fun and interesting rumbling. If you head to one of their events in store, you get to enjoy one of our Pentire & Tonic cans too!
Photography thanks to Bella Rose Bunce (colour, shop) and Yonder (b&w, event) via Roma.