DRIFT wants you to know the story behind your surfboards. Lately we’ve been collaborating with Brother Surf Crafts. Dave and Tom Bracht are a sibling team hailing from Ocean View, Delaware, a small coastal town with a tight-knit surf community. They want to be the go-to shapers for surfers who want a board that is 100% shaped and glassed by hand.
Dave and Tom Bracht of Brother Surf Crafts began making surfboards only a few years ago. But thanks to a combination of expert mentoring, talent, and dedication to the craft, this family team is now shaping and glassing full-time, and have developed nine distinct board shapes to fit a wide range of surf conditions and abilities. Many of their boards are now on the rack at DRIFT.
This October, amidst a solid fall swell, Tom and Dave passed through Rhode Island to drop off a few boards—including a custom Pro-Fish for Rob (similar to this one). After a day’s worth of surfing overhead waves and strong offshore winds at Matunuck, we all made the trek up to Pawtucket for dinner. Over dumplings and noodles at what might be *the best* Chinese spot around, Dave and Tom gave us the story of how they started shaping and glassing boards, who’s influenced their work, and where they want to go next with their craft.
The Origins of Brother Surf Crafts
Dave and Tom are lifelong surfers, but neither intended to actually create surfboards for a living. In fact, it was a cruel twist of fate that initially led Tom down this path, with Dave soon to follow. As Tom tells it:
I fell. I used to skateboard a lot. Like pools and stuff. And I fell and broke my hip. To the point that like, I didn’t know if I’d surf, skate, skim, walk… It was bad. And it happened right before summer. And uh, I needed something to keep me feeling like I was like in the water, even though there’s no chance. And we had a blank on our front porch…
Dave had bought Tom that surfboard blank- a plain white block of foam. He knew that his brother would be out of the water for a while (he was out for more than six months) and would need something to keep his mind occupied. The only problem? Tom didn’t know anything about how to shape a surfboard. But he was intrigued and had time to learn, so he sought out help from someone with experience. As luck would have it, such a person lived right in their small surf community: veteran shaper Brent Clark. In all, he’s got more than 40 years of surfboard shaping under his belt, including years shaping for Gordon & Smith Surfboards, and Innerlight in Florida. Tom explains:
I took the blank, went over and was like Would you teach me?And surprisingly, he said Yes! And Brent, what he would do is, he would tell me a step. I’d do the step, then I’d come ask him again, So, alright, what’s the next thing?And he’d be like, alright do this. And then I’d do it and... I just bugged him every so often. But he was so nice, ‘cuz he had this workshop at his house, and he would just leave it unlocked and you could go over and use his shaping bay, use his tools, like, whenever you wanted. And then after my first board he was like, This is something that you need to keep doing.
It wasn't only Clark who took notice. Dave was actually incredulous that Tom could’ve shaped such a nice board on his first try. Says Dave: “So, Tom shaped it and I was expecting it to be like pretty bad. And he… brought it to [the surf shop] where I was working and I was like Nah... you didn’t shape this.” Tom asserted he shaped the board. Dave recalls, “It was actually good. And I was like, Dude, I actually think you have a talent.”
Glassing was another challenge. Tom took his first board to a nearby glasser, but the wait and the cost were both prohibitive. Meanwhile, both his brother and Clark were encouraging him to keep shaping. With a humble pride in his voice, Tom recalls that Clark in particular was pushing him to develop his talent. “He was telling people…You gotta meet this guy Tom, he’s better than me after three boards.” Tom kept honing his skills. But as Dave explains, “When you make a board, you wanna ride it, to learn.” That is, it’s not just about the fun of surfing your own board, but seeing how the board actually rides, so you can improve the next one. Access to quick and cost-efficient glassing became imperative. The solution? Dave took up glassing, and the two have been working as a team ever since.
Learning to glass like a pro was not easy. “I’d done it once before and the fumes were so bad,” Dave recalls. Rookie mistake—he wasn’t wearing a mask. “I had a headache for like a week.” The first boards Dave ever glassed, he admits, were rough. “We still have one and I wanna burn that thing so I don’t have to look at it. It’s so hideous.” Dave glassed literally hundreds of boards before he felt confident in his skills. Today, he’s developed not only his skillset but also an aesthetic that is classic and refined.
In concert with Tom, Dave created a color palette for each stock board they shape. For their Pro-Fish, for instance, they like to stick to a deep, warm color palette (as seen in the header photo and here, here, and here). For mid-lengths, Dave prefers subdued pastels (see here). The theme running through all Dave’s glasswork is uniform: minimalist and sophisticated. “We try and do stuff that’s just simple, classy, won’t go out of style ten years from now.”