Most Buffalonians can attest to hearing clichéd, hackneyed comments about living in the Queen City. In conversations with non-locals, I’ve forced out a disingenuous chuckle at some lame joke about crappy weather, a failing sports team, and chicken wings. Apparently some people aren’t fans of the cold and snow during the wintertime, and that’s OK. Buffalo has four incredible seasons, including a winter wonderland. Spring, summer, and fall aren’t so bad either.
For those of you who are already thinking about getting back onto the water, come spring, I have an interesting tidbit that I would like to share with you. It might come as a shock (or at least it did for me) to hear about surfers riding the waves of Lake Erie. Surfing in Buffalo was something I’ve heard about but never witnessed, and figured it was a ‘unicorn’ myth anyways. Regardless, I never put much thought into it one way or the other, until I met Brian Trzeciak.
Former toy designer for Fisher Price, Trzeciak is the shaper/designer for the Buffalo Board Co. Trzeciak designs custom paddleboards and surfboards. So what could possibly motivate a Buffalonian to take on what some may consider to be a stereotypical West Coast hobby? During a trip to Hawaii to visit his wife’s parents, Trzeciak was convinced to try paddle boarding.
“When I first got on the board, it was really uncomfortable. These waves would come and I would fly right off, I didn’t get it – it was awful. Then I saw someone surfing with the board, and didn’t know you could do that, so I tried it,” he said. “It was the coolest feeling. I fell in love with surfing. I started to wonder if I could make surfboards.”
Upon returning home, Trzeciak did some research and eventually started making his own surfboards, starting at the Buffalo Maritime Center (BMC). Trzeciak got his start with the BMC when he was seeking out a place to build custom boards for the lake. He walked into the center with the interest of building a paddleboard, which is when he met former director Roger Allen.
“After that, I fell in love with the place and never left,” Trzeciak said.
Trzeciak’s part-time position making boards at the BMC eventually landed him a position as director of the BMC, where he taught both kids and adults how to build boats and surfboards. He also has a workshop located in his home in Hamburg, where he custom makes most of the boards.
I recently had the chance to tour Trzeciak’s workshop and witnessed the first step of creating a surfboard. Sitting atop a wooden workhorse were two 10’ EPS foam blanks. Trzeciak talked me through the process as he taped small wooden boards along the foam to use as a protector for a later step. He then sprayed down the inner side of the foam with water and covered it in Gorilla glue. The glue sets quickly, giving Trzeciak ten minutes to complete this part of the process. After smoothing the glue, the next step was to bind these two pieces together. Placing each piece back onto the workhorse, he used clamps to hold the foam together, transforming the foam into a sturdy board. The foam takes one day to set. After setting, then comes lamination and shaping the actual board. Then the board gets sanded down, before being covered with a combination of epoxy to fiberglass.
“After sanding, it depends on what [the client] wants to do with the bottom. For this board, they want it white at the bottom,” he said.
Then comes the artwork. Trzeciak hand paints designs on the board and puts two layers of fiberglass on top. The fiberglass works as a protective shell. From soup to nuts, it takes about 1.5 to 2 months to complete a board.
I asked Trzeciak how his Buffalo Board business has been going as of late, and he told me that sales have been brisk. He mainly relies on word of mouth – people who have purchased his boards are psyched that they made right here in WNY. Trzeciak also builds boards that are made specifically for Lake Erie conditions.
While it might not be board season right now, it’s the perfect time to pick up one of these custom made beauties. The holidays are upon us… hopefully a few BRO readers are still looking for that ‘perfect’ gift for a lake-faring loved one.