There are few sports that allow participants to combine art and athletics, but local stand-up paddle board maker Steve Kerr has found away to combine his passion for the increasingly popular sport with his creative side.
“I always wanted to be somehow involved with surfing,” said Kerr in his studio, located in the Latimer Street brewery building. “I’m a snowboarder and that’s what brought me to Nelson. This sport is really booming, quickly, kind of like what snowboarding did 20 years ago where it went mainstream really quickly. I’ve seen an opportunity and that led me to building paddle boards.”
Simply put, Kerr’s boards are functional art.
Using the grain of sustainable, locally harvested cedar, the boards each have their own unique design.
“It’s really fun. It’s quite an organic process,” said Kerr. “Shaping and making them is a totally fluid experience. Even though I start working on the boards with a template, I normally end up doing them by eye or by hand. The aesthetic of it is important and how the wood grain looks and fits.”
Paddle boarding has its roots in Hawaii.
It’s believed ship artist John Webber, who accompanied Captain James Cook to the Sandwich Islands in 1778, depicted paddle boarders in his 1781 engraving.
“If you read National Geographic there are always pictures of tribes around the world using logs or old dugout canoes, like in the South Pacific you’ll see indigenous people paddling an outrigger with people standing and paddling,” said Kerr.
“I remember seeing a picture in a National Geographic last year where this man was paddle boarding down a river in Africa pulling logs behind him. Making and using paddle boards is very much paying homage to an indigenous approach to the high tech world. For myself and anyone who uses them, a big focus of it all is staying in touch with nature.”
Even though paddle boarding has been popular in Hawaii, it is gaining momentum in Nelson as people take to the rivers and lakes.
“The whole surf culture is very similar to the mountain sport culture but has just been geographically separated,” he said. “They are really similar and how people approach them and approach them with our lives. And now we get to have our own surfboards and that is really attractive to me.”
Kerr will be having a showing for his paddle boards on Friday, August 3 in suite No. 4 in the brewery building.