Tora Surfboards is a custom shaper and surf brand based out of Newport, RI. Tora makes a handful of playful models with names like “The Serial Chiller” and “Shredda Bob” to name a few. I got to sit down with owner, Neil Toracinta and pick his brain on a number of topics, ranging from the state of surfing in the northeast to what keeps him getting after it. Enjoy!
GH: Where are you from? How did you get into surfing?
NT: Proudly born and raised in Newport, RI. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Newport; a place with plenty of coastline and a pretty unique surf culture. My friends and I skated all of the time before we really got into surfing. I think that, paired with spending so much time in and around the ocean, it was a natural transition and kind of inevitable for us to get into surfing, which we really got hooked on as young teenagers.
GH: What did you do before Tora?
NT: Tora all started while I was a student in high school and continued throughout college. Being able to shape part time and learn the craft while I was still in school allowed me to build a foundation for the business. After graduating college I got a job with a global brand doing field marketing. I did that for a couple years, as Tora got put on the backburner, because I wasn’t able to dedicate much time to shaping and running the business. Now I’m doing Tora full time and I’m able to dedicate 100% of my efforts towards everything we put out, especially the boards. It’s been great so far.
GH: Where did the inspiration for Tora come from?
NT: It all stemmed from surfing, but when I started shaping boards I had no intention of turning it into a business. It was just strictly a fun thing to do at that point. I would (and still do) get inspired by the work of shapers like Matt Biolos, Bob Pearson etc. to shape my own boards and come up with my own designs. If I shaped a board that performed well out in the water then that just fueled the fire even more to keep growing and learning. It eventually got to the point where the boards got better and started to sell but it’s never stopped being fun. If anything, it’s more inspiring now than it’s ever been because I get to work with all kinds of different surfers and shape all kinds of different boards.
GH: Shaping is obviously a few parts art and few parts science, what excites you the most about building surfboards?
NT: I enjoy working on new designs and perfecting existing designs. Anything that provides a challenge is always good because that’s a great way to progress your shaping. The most gratifying part of the job, for me, is probably when I get the chance to work with really good surfers and design a board to perform a specific way or for a specific wave and watch it perform exactly the way you intend for it to out in the water. That’s a good way to put a smile on someone’s face and always gives you a little more confidence and satisfaction in your work each time.
GH: The east coast surfing scene has grown a lot in recent years, how does the future of surfing in the area (Newport in Particular) look from your perspective?
NT: More crowded haha. No, I think surfing has grown a good amount in recent years, not just on the East Coast, but on a global scale as well. It’s cool to see kids getting into it at a younger age and raising the level of surfing out in the water, especially here in New England. A couple younger guys I’ve been making boards for in Newport, Seany Dungan and Luan Huberman, have been absolutely ripping and giving a lot of guys twice their age a run for their money, which I think is great. New England is home to a lot of underground guys that surf really well, but as far as I know there haven’t been many, if any, professional surfers to come out of New England that were born and raised here. Who knows, maybe we’ll see one in the coming years if the sport keeps progressing on a local level the way it seems to be doing now. We also surf when the water is 32 degrees here so that’s gotta count for something.
GH: Going off of my last question, how do you plan to continue getting the community more involved in the surf scene in Newport?
NT: I think anyone who really wants to get involved or learn how to surf will take it upon themselves to do so, one way or another. The surf community in Newport and New England has always been really good to me and supportive of what I do. For now, the best way for me to return the favor is to continue making boards that will allow people to have the maximum amount of fun and get the most out of every session.
Go check out Tora’s website here, and check out the shop for some rad branded apparel.