By Sue DeWerff
Surfboard Shaper Jessica Stern
Coming home with errant gobs of resin on her arms and legs and sometimes in her hair, along with sanding dust all over her face is something surfboard shaper Jessica Stern says she dislikes about her job.
Along with frequently having to lift heavy cinder blocks and listen to the constant sounds of a power sander for several hours each day, she describes her work as frequently being both mentally and physically exhausting.
But for the 31-year-old Cocoa Beach resident, one of a handful of female shapers on the east coast who oversees the board repair division at R & D Surfboard Factory in Rockledge, her job is one she admits she loves immensely.
“The negatives are always outweighed by the positives, especially when I am able to put smiles on my customers’ faces,” said Jessica. “It’s very rewarding to hear from customers that they are happy with my work.”
When telling her story of how her surfboard shaping and repair career came about she often laughs. A native of Wellington, a western suburb of West Palm Beach, Jessica earned a degree in liberal arts after attending both the University of Florida and Florida International University on a track scholarship for pole vaulting. After working in Miami for several months in the mortgage industry, she moved to Brevard in 2007.
Upon her arrival, she paired with Ricky Caroll, R & D’s owner, in a joint effort to increase his shaping visibility and opened her first business, a performance board rental company. In order to maintain the boards she acquired, she was forced to take an interest in learning how to repair them.
After a downturn in the economy, shortly after engaging in the venture, she made a decision to liquidate the business and was hired by Ricky to work full-time in his factory as part of his ding repair staff.
“I guess the rest is history,” said Jessica, who has been a part of his factory team ever since. “I am fortunate to have connected with someone of his caliber in this industry. He has a wealth of knowledge and has afforded me an opportunity to learn so much, not only about repairing boards, but creating new designs.”
For Jessica, every aspect of every project, whether creating a new board, or refurbishing one that may hold sentimental value for a customer is something she finds to be both challenging and satisfying.
“As a female surfer, I think it gives me a bit of an edge when shaping a board for another woman or girl, something I think many of my female clients find unique.”
Though she admits her current career is not exactly how she intended to use her college degree, she finds it to be one that has become a very therapeutic line of work.
“I am fortunate to have the flexibility to live the lifestyle I want. Even though the money isn’t always the greatest, working in the surf industry is awesome. It is understood that everyone at the factory will show up late if the waves are good.”
To contact Jessica Stern, Brevard surfboard repair specialist and shaper call (321) 636-4456 or visit the R & D Factory, 488 Gus Hipp Blvd., Rockledge.