The Broadcast / Spanish Gold

Spanish Gold

Fortunate enough to journey and meet like minds in the pursuit of surf, we last ventured to an often-overlooked corner of Spain, where we reunited with shapers Juan and Mario of Gold Dust Surfboards.

Learning of the rich Spanish surfing culture that they spoke so passionately about, we knew something special existed in the nooks of the Spanish coastline. We found fortune in their local knowledge and community, striking lucky with the far-reaching swell trains of Storm Eleanor.


4 min read

Words by Juan Leon, founder of Gold Dust Surfboards.


Photography by Jack Johns & David Gray

I wasn’t born with a surfboard under my arm, but surfing has changed my life. I was born in Seville in 1987, but it was almost 20 years later that I first tried surfing. I soon realised that all I wanted was to be in the sea, even though the closest beach was a 50 minute drive away. It took me forever to learn, but I fell in love with the sport; to be able to travel, meet new people and clear my mind with every session was incredible.

In 2011, I graduated with a degree in Agriculture Engineering and decided to go to the UK to learn English. A couple of friends told me about Newquay, a small town in the south of England where you could surf. It was the perfect place to start!

I got there in the summer of 2011. I had saved up a couple of hundred pounds and booked 3 nights in a B&B. The first 2 months were pretty intense as meeting new people and being unable to talk any English was difficult, but I started to work a house-keeping job to make some money.

One of the best people I ever met during my time in Newquay was Fran Hart. We met in a local pub and she offered to teach me English. I took her up on the opportunity without a second thought and went to her house every day for lessons; unless the waves were pumping, when she'd allow me to go surf instead.

One day Fran told me of her son, Luke Hart, a very talented local shaper. Without hesitating, I ordered a board from him straight away, as it turned out Luke was just as much a legend as his mum. It was there I could say things started to change for me.

I offered my services cleaning the factory floor or anything else that needed tending to. I didn’t know a lot about the surfboard industry back then, not to mention my English was still pretty bad.

Luke had a tonne of orders and I was forever offering to learn the trade. Being observant and helping out where possible, I started to learn everything that went into the production of a surfboard. From ding repairs to how to make a proper cup of tea! Technical processes like hot coating, laminations, sanding etc, not to mention I used to watch Luke shaping a lot.

One day I asked Luke if we could make a board together for myself, he said yes and from that point I knew I wanted to learn everything about shaping.

At the beginning, I didn’t think about becoming a shaper, I just wanted to learn and have the ability to make my own boards, but just as a hobby. After a few months close friends were trying my boards out and started to ask if they could have one of their own.

Being at The Toy Factory was great for me. Not only because of the learning curve, and because we were making surfboards under my name at the factory, but because of the legends, peers and really good surfers I got to meet. Master craftsmen such as Malcom Campbell (creator of the Bonzer) and Ryan Lovelace, a Californian shaper who could hand shape a board like you and I eat pizza.

It was thanks to these people and many others who made setting up a factory in Spain possible. Gold Dust Surfboards was born in Spain in 2016, and together with my business partner, Mario Alonso, we have created a shaping business that is continuing to develop the sickest boards in the area, putting together all the knowledge and expertise from our years of experience. Our goal: to offer our customer a wide range of custom surfboards with the highest quality and best finish.

The surfing culture around here is quite new compared to other places in Spain or even Portugal. It all began in the 60's on the north coast of Spain, slowly spreading around the Iberian Peninsula. We consider ourselves very lucky to be sited where we are. Drawing inspiration from the waves, adventure, photography and contemporary art; without loosing the essence of traditional surfboard making. We want to get the perfect balance between performance and aesthetic.

We have some of the best spots around us for surfing in Andalusia. The geographical situation of the area makes the province privileged in terms of the possibilities for surfing. The beaches offer excellent conditions, soft waves and sandy bottoms to perfect point breaks with really long rides. The surfing season starts in November and lasts until March. The weather conditions are very good, warm winters and predominant sun. You will find a magical place that transcends descriptions. Its mountainous and multi-coloured landscape, its hidden paths, its beaches and cliffs, the grace and the enchantment of its natural spaces. They will wrap you in a world so special that you cannot forget.

Field Notes: Ambassador Noah Lane.

It’s not hard to see why southern Portugal and the Algarve in particular is such a popular winter holiday destination. The limestone cliffs and seemingly endless sunshine cast everything in a golden glow and you don’t have to drive far from the tourist hotspots to find an area steeped in maritime history. Orange orchards everywhere. Beauty and abundance. We ambled across the border and followed the Atlantic coastline of Andalusia. Changes in the landscape were only marginally noticeable compared to the changes in culture. Somewhere once, a quote stuck with me about reading a book from the country you’re travelling. 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' may be nearly 80 years old and set in a different part of the country, but the effect is the same regardless. Immersion and connection beyond a normal travel experience. The Spanish have an infectious happiness and ease that molds to the surfing lifestyle. Mario and Juan made us feel like we were home away from home. More sun. Sand dunes and pines forests. The best waves of the trip. Warm water. Spring. A deflated dinghy half buried above the high-tide line was a snap back to reality and sobering reminder that we are the privileged few. I watched the sun set from Cape Trafalgar with the mountains of Morocco and the African continent visible in the distance, and couldn’t believe our good fortune.

Find out more about our friends over at Gold Dust and follow them on their journey of exploration.


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