An Interview With Paul LeFevre, The Son of Cobra

Justin: So, who are you and what do you do?

Paul: My name is Paul LeFevre and I’m actually from France. I grew up in Normandy and did all my studies in Europe and I’m actually living in Biarritz in the southwest of France. Basque Country - it's the most beautiful surf area and the mountains in the Pyrenees give us lots of snow in the winter so ya know all the snowboarding and surf at the same time, so yeah.


J: And what do you do?

P: I am a shaper for Son of Cobra. I’ve been a glasser for many years for many surf brands around the world and I have been shaping my own boards for many years. I’ve been glassing for about more than 10 years now so I am a little bit past the fume and resin stuff and I try to focus more on my own shape and my own label. So the Son of Cobra is my own label. I have like six surfboard models. I am also a graphic designer and illustrator. Voila! Haha.

J: So, where did Son of Cobra come from? Where’d that name come from?

P: Oh, that’s a long story - it’s actually a band from France, it’s like a punk rock band called Cobra and it comes from a song that I like and all my friends started to call me Cobra and blah blah blah. Nothing very serious about that, it's just a cool name, I like it.


J: What drew you to that - was it just the music? What drew you to Cobra?

P: I don’t know because Cobra is a huge factory in Asia. They build a lot of surfboards there. I'm kind of away from that. It comes from the music band and the friends and everything like that and I just like to wear the name. It’s kind of different and kind of away from all the surf stuff and nothing too spiritual, haha.

J: So, what got you into surfing?

P: Well, I was born in Normandy and I grew up in a windsurfer area. I've been doing a lot of windsurf and after I finished my studies we’ve been surfing a little bit but as you know in Normandy there’s not so much waves over there - it’s like all the stormy, windy swells coming in. So, I learned surfing when I was young but not as [well] as a normal surfer here, ya know? I started to travel after my studies in Australia and around the world and I start surfing maybe 10-15 years ago. And yeah, I get into it like that.


J: What made you start making surfboards?

P: I didn’t come from a rich family and it was a money issue when I started studying I could not afford a brand new surfboard, you know? So I started to make my own and I start to love it. I started to do all the graphics and the spray paint because I was studying illustration and graphic design. I started doing all the art and the spray paint then I went to the resin tint and add the resin tint onto the shortboards and stuff. So I’ve been playing with color and tint and pigment since the beginning, you know? And yeah that’s how I made my name.


J: Tell us about the process that has developed from there... starting from when you were younger till now, how has that developed?

P: I've been actually learning a lot because my job was to learn more about getting specific with the pigments and resin tints and stuff. This job made me travel a lot. Traveling the world I met a lot of shapers. I met a lot of surfers. And so I have tons of surfboards in my hands from many shapers. From ...Lost Surfboards Matt Biolos, to Malcom Campbell's Bonzers, Pucas surf, McDonald in Australia, Thomas Dixon, stuff like that... So I think I learn a lot glassing all those boards. All the curves, all the shaping by hand helps my eye focus on all the details. All the rocker, rails, outline, everything. Every kind of board from short board performance surfboard from ...Lost to Bonzers, even longboard, classic longboard.

J: So, how have those other shapers or artists or - whether it’s music or art - how does that influence the style you’re working with now?

P: All this influence, yeah, it feeds my work. Comes from kind of everything. Comes from here comes from there. From the music. From art. All my studies in art school gave me a lot of inspiration as well. I like to push, always push, push for new ideas and go forward all the time. It makes me feel alive, it gives me motivation to get up the next day always trying new stuff and I can’t stop.


J: I know that you talk a lot about cars… what influence do those vintage cars have on your style? You mention the curves… how does that translate? What is the influence of that and how does that translate to your work?

P: All my passion from the car came from my dad, actually, I guess. I was always in the garage at home working on something. I got my first car at 18 and I started with different cars. My first American car was a ‘68 Ford Fairlane. That was my first v8. I rebuilt everything. I did the bodywork myself. So yeah, like I said, it’s all about the curves. Like whether it’s shaping a board or working on the bodywork on a car - trying to always get the perfect curve even when driving cause what I like to drive right now is my 2002 BMW from 1973 and it’s all about curves. It’s a very tiny low autosports car so you gotta know how to drive to go fast and having some good turn on the curve is pretty close to having a good curve on a big wave. That’s why I like to say it’s all about the curve. Shaping your curve, taking a curve in the car... I mean, yeah.


J: So, moving forward there are a lot of different facets to your art that correlate with driving the car or working on the car. What is the most enjoyable part for you whether it is the shaping or the graphics or the glassing, what are you most drawn to with that activity?

P: I don’t think there is like a particular activity that I like the most. I would say it’s kind of like a balance to me. To have my little shaping part, my little go away part, spending time in the garage welding metal or setting carburetors or spending time in the shaping bay trying to shape, to improve my shape every day. Yeah, to me, it’s a good balance of everything but It’s always about making something with my hands, you know. I enjoy everything because of that. Doing a little bit of shaping, a little bit of cars, a little bit of everything. If you do one thing all the time it’s kind of boring, you know? So yeah, I think I’m really motivated to do different things - not only one thing - not only shape, not only surf, shape surf shape surf, no. I like to get a way a bit to come back.

J: Would you say that there is any specific kind of emotion that you think that your artwork revokes or do you think it’s more about how the rider translates to the board.

P: I don’t know I try to do what I like and I try to speak about my shapes and I would say I try to mix new and classic art of the surfboards and I add all the modern characteristics to it. Like, for example my Classic Fish is like the name, a classic fish. It’s very classic. But yeah I like to add a little bit of extra rocker down the rail a little bit to make it more modern, you know? Little bit of modern twist into it and that’s what I do for pretty much all my boards.


J: So why black and white?

P: Like I said I’ve been glassing surfboards for the past 10 years and all the resin tents all around the world and so I’ve been mixing colors for the last 10 years so I don’t know maybe I’m tired of all the colors. Now I’m going to get back to it but for now I like to mix in black and white so I don’t have to think about mixing color and stuff. And using black and white make me focus on the technique more on the glass then trying to do all the same tints just changing color. Black and white is easier to mix and to add on different glassing techniques.


J: Why Santa Ana from France, what drew you to Southern California?

P: Why Santa Ana? Well we are here… it’s a long story. All my work with …Lost Surfboards. I’ve been living in California for about two years and I’ve been working for …Lost surfboards in San Clemente. I met Mike Kina, the owner of the shop, through all the car stuff because we are both passionate about BMW 2002. Mike use to race those little cars. That’s how I met him is through the car and I’ve been living in Costa Mesa. So super close to here so it was easier to me to come work over here. He opened the shop for me and I’ve been working here for …Lost and my own stuff.


J: How does shaping here in California compare to shaping in Biarritz?

P: It’s kind of different in Europe it’s kind of more I don’t want to say slow but it’s a different operation of work, you know? Here there is more customization some more people so we get easier on the business especially on the surf industry than in Europe. Europe's a very small market especially in doing kinda very fine custom surfboards and it looks like there is more market here for custom shaping surfboards.


J: Let’s talk about Neon Wave. So why are you working with Neon Wave?

P: Why Neon Wave I don’t know… Neon Wave came to me with a nice - we met by mail - through mail you showed me a very nice presentation of the beautiful shop in Rochester, right? And I like it and there is not so many surf shops around the world like that and I really am glad to be into it so yeah I’m looking forward to see how it’s going to look…