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Surf Shacks 054 – Peter Schroff

Surfing is lucky to have characters like Peter Schroff. Eccentric, complex, artistic, bold, and most importantly; different. In the surf world, the name Schroff is synonymous with the Echo Beach movement in the 80s. His colorful shortboards were a must have for any high performance surfer during that period. Everything from the board graphics to the print ads for the Schroff brand were drastically different from anything else in surfing at the time. Flash forward to present day; Peter is still marching to the beat of his own drum and very much an enigma. He moved from Newport Beach to Venice 31 years ago and works as a professional set designer and installation artist operating under his design studio, Superlove, but still finds time to create new unique board designs in his home shaping bay. Upon meeting this tall, quirky, sixty-something-year-old figure, you would never assume that he shaped some of the most iconic, progressive boards in modern surfing. His home is more like an art piece – or art exhibit (depending on your interpretation of the a-word). Each room in his front house has a different theme ranging from a medieval breakfast nook with antlers covering the ceiling, to a vibrant Hawaiiana dojo, to a Japanese geisha-like living room. Then in stark contrast, there’s his back house, a prototype of futuristic minimalism. Lengthy novels could be written about this man and even just his home, but for now we must settle on this brief interview.

Where are you from?

I was born in Newport Beach and spent my first 31 years there.

How long have you lived here in Venice?

I’ve spent 31 years here in Venice.

You’re now moving to San Pedro, what has prompted the move?

I moved to Venice for the community here. At the time there was a strong art community here to practice performance art. Back then you could do pretty much anything you wanted to do without anyone breathing down your neck. San Pedro is like Venice was 31 years ago now.

Despite all the changes in recent years, what are your favorite parts about Venice?

I chose a place to live where you’re happy there — with out going anywhere, culture, fine restaurants and work.

When did you you first get into shaping surfboards?

I did my first board 50 years ago on the kitchen table on my back patio. After surfing a couple years, it was just the natural thing to do. I started sanding, masking & spraying primer at my dad’s body shop in Newport at age 7, so the motor skills were there to work with materials.

Your surfboards are so iconic and representative of the whole “Echo Beach” era. You had already been shaping for a while by that point, so what was it that sort of put you on the map and made your boards synonymous with that whole movement and aesthetic at that time?

Growing up in Newport, surfing since the 60’s where there’s always been strong, hipped out surf culture, mixed with a strong art & design background, everything just clicked.

Tell me about the old ads for Schroff. Where did you find the inspiration for those?

The Schroff brand always stood for taking folks off the beaten path. I reckon you could say the ads were political (as much I hate to say); always mocking the way folks think with a twisted sense of humor.

I was expecting to come to your home and find a treasure trove of your older 80s boards. You seem to be a collector of a lot of different things (like lamps for instance), but your own iconic boards don’t seem to be in the mix. Why is that?

I’m not one to masturbate in the corner. I have managed to keep all my personal bitches for the last 31 years, kinda like all the old girlfriends — still like family too. I must have 10-15 of these old bitches — all given names: Bunny, Honey, Gidget, etc. and a far cry from the Echo Beach thang as you can get… All solid pea green with eyes with a super narrow dopy round nose. And oh yes, we do run an orphanage here for all the un-appreciated old objects too.

As for the design of your home, you seem to be torn between two aesthetics that are in stark contrast to each other: Your front house is a funky, colorful craftsman bungalow filled with all sorts of eclectic decor, whereas your back house is a picture of modern minimalism. Both are thoroughly considered and beautiful in their own right, but you would never think they are both the same person’s home. Please explain.

I’m just not happy being a simple man, I’m much happier being a extremist.

Fair enough. What are your favorite parts about your home?

You know, I moved from the bungalow 13 years ago after an obsession with her. Every room was a mathematical equation to her theme; little Tokyo, Chinatown (opium den), Heaven, Mid-evil times, The Lodge with all the taxidermy & mahogany paneling, etc. I got to the point where if a girlfriend would move something, I’d freak. Anyhoo, that’s when you know your bitch owns you and it’s time to move on. I have a feeling my final 31 years will be living the best of both bitches: “minimal kitsch.”

Tell me about Superlove, your prop / interior / event design business. How would you describe it and what are some examples of projects you have worked on?

I’ve worn a red ring on my left index finger for the past fifteen years (like a red ribbon) that is re-painted every week to remind me to enjoy life & love. It’s (my nature is to stress and be a work-a-aholic), the best thang in life is to make other folks happy! Some of the work best known to the surf community are the trade show stands I’ve done for Gotcha, Quiksilver, O’Neill, OP, etc.

It’s cool to see your shaping bay – “where the magic happens” as they say. Do you still get a lot of custom orders? How often are you back there shaping these days?

This room is scare, nothing more, nothing less, no music, no decor, nothing! I’ve never been a production shaper. One or two boards a week is my comfort zone.

On top of everything else here, you also have a pretty sweet customized van. When did you get that and what inspired the build out?

The camper is a sum of the parts a few years ago, probably inspired by one of my heroes from Newport, Scott Price when he build this Camper in his brand spanking new Econoline by in the 60’s.

Where is your favorite place to park it?

Not telling.

/ Photography and interview by Matt Titone

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