Endless Summer 2019
Chairman of the Boards: Brian Carney’s Career in Surfboards is Shaping Up
By John Tracy Jr.
Brian Carney working on one of his latest projects in his shop.
An alaia board (a traditional flat wooden Hawaiian surfboard with no fins) that Carney shaped.
When you take the spur off Sea Isle Boulevard just before the bridge into town, you take a step back in time. The old boulevard dead ends at Larsen’s Marina, and nestled across the street, behind a thick crop of native marsh grass, sits an unassuming structure with a lot of history. That is the home of Cape May County’s best new surfboard shaper, Brian Carney.
I went to interview Carney and check out his operation. As I approached the asbestos clad building, I interrupted a work in progress. A shirtless Carney opened the creaky, paint-chipped door of the shop, and beamed with pride as he filled me in on the project.
He and his friend, Mike Rybas (of Avalon Sailing Charters), were fiberglassing the hull of what was to become a small skiff boat built from scratch. Tools and tubs of all sorts of materials filled the shelves of the unfinished garage. Many a boat had been built in that very same building, and Carney is the perfect man to carry on the tradition.
“I found this place on Craigslist, and I thought it was too good to be true. The energy and vibe here is just right,” he says with a smile.
New eco-friendly fiberglass materials pictured before glassing.
The commute isn’t bad, either. Carney lives during the summer across the street on a 27-foot sailboat that he “plucked out of the marsh for $500” and fixed up. “After a day of shaping and getting all dusty,” he says, “it is nice to walk across the street and dive in the bay.”
Carney is a craftsman of all things that you can fiberglass. He has made a career of building and fixing boats and surfboard dings, and in the last two years has really started to grow his shaping business, which he named Piney Customs.
“Growing up, some of the local surfers used to joke around and call me Piney, because I was from offshore in the Pinelands,” he says. “The name kind of stuck and that is why I chose Piney Customs as my brand.”
He grew up in Swainton but spent all of his summers surfing and working in Avalon at the 29th Street Deli/Avalon Supermarket. Carney attended New England Tech in Rhode Island and landed a job at a shop that built all sorts of boats, submarines, and top-secret vessels for the U.S. government.
“It was a cool job because we were always working on random projects and it really made you think out side of the box,” he says, “and it was that sort of creative freedom that made me want to start my own shop one day.”
A partner company in Puerto Rico that produced hydro-foils and stand-up paddle boards often sent work their way, and Carney’s bosses were lead designer Doug Posich and Dan Huntley, who had been the lead shaper for Burton snowboards and had 40 years of experience in the business. “I learned a lot from the guys that I worked with,” Carney says, “but the crazy deadlines of government contracts got to be too much, so I decided to go out on my own.”
Some of Brian Carney’s creations include a board made with eco-friendly flax fiberglass and bio-based epoxy resin and a black-tinted bonzer with glassed-in twin fins.
For two years, Carney spent the summers doing ding repair work and the winters in California, exploring all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway in his self-customized camper van, and surfing as much as possible. Upon his returns to the East Coast, and while living in his grandmother’s shed, he started shaping handmade mahogany skateboards and started to apply his skills at shaping foam blanks into surfboards and glassing them.
“I was always influenced by shapers like Simon Jones and Joel Fitzgerald, who make beautiful retro designs,” he says, “and I always looked up to Brian Brown who is from Avalon and built a career in surfboard shaping all on his own.”
Carney is open to shaping boards of any shape and size, but especially loves to experiment with new materials and concepts. In the corner of his shop stood an Alaia board (a traditional flat wooden Hawaiian surfboard with no fins) that he had shaped, and a whole rack of boards of various outlines. In the shaping room – a stick-framed room within the unfinished building – he had some of his other creations including a board made with eco-friendly flax fiberglass and bio-based epoxy resin as well as a black-tinted bonzer with glassed-in twin fins. In the adjacent glassing room, he was setting up to coat a mid-length hybrid fish shape that he had worked on with his friends Brian and Adam Heron.
Carney with board he donated to the Fins for Friends contest featuring his resin swirl technique.
“I’ve shaped a few boards for Brian, and on the last one I made a mosaic design from inlaid shells in the foam and it turned out really cool,” Carney says. “Now Johnny Kauterman wants one with scallop shells.”
The surf community has come to support him, and he has already shaped and glassed more than 75 boards at the shop. Carney also gives back. Last October, he donated a beautiful blue S-curve fish with glassed-in wooden twin fins that raised more than $2,000 for charity at the Fins For Friends surf contest. He plans to do the same this year.
Piney Custom Surfboards are available for sale at The Spot (both Avalon and Stone Harbor locations) or by custom order. If you are interested in having a board made by Carney, send an email to email@example.com. Also, check out
the latest action on his instagram account, @clamhog.
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