Old Town carpenter channels love of surfing into his own custom boards

Posted Aug. 14, 2014, at 5:33 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 14, 2014, at 2:03 p.m.

Luke Cushman of Old Town knows his way around a wood shop. Cushman’s father was a carpenter and passed the trade to him, and he hopes to pass woodworking on to his 13-year-old son Jonah.

Cushman, who is soft-spoken and has a shy demeanor, wears a necklace made with a small rock climbing nut, a metal wedge used as protection while climbing, hanging from its center. The necklace symbolizes his love for the outdoors.

“I’ve been snowboarding, skateboarding, ice climbing, rock climbing, everything outside, but I knew that if I got into surfing, it’d be all over after that point because I knew I’d have a blast doing it,” Cushman said.

But there’s still work to be done. In order to support his family, Cushman wakes up before sunrise to drive to his job as a carpenter on Mount Desert Island, more than an hour away from his home near Pushaw Lake. Cushman arrives back home late in the day, more than 100 miles from consistent surf, and goes to work on his surfboards.

“All my time was consumed with finishing this first board and getting it done and everything, and I’m still not tired of it,” said Cushman.

Cushman got the surf bug during a monthlong trip he made to the West Coast two years ago. He bought a couple boards in Portland, Oregon, and started surfing.

“We can do this in Maine, too. We started looking up spots and never knew what was out there, it was kind of natural to bring it back here,” said Cushman.

Two years later, Cushman’s dream is to continue building boards and turn his hobby into a living. He hopes to buy a Sprinter van and head west again to surf and attempt to sell some boards.

But for now, he works tirelessly in his woodshop and drives the two to three hours to places like Popham Beach and Long Sands in York to do what he loves.

“I love being outside and riding waves, it’s like forces of nature you’re harnessing. It’s peaceful,” Cushman said. “It’s everything wrapped into one.”

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath has two of Cushman’s surfboards on display as part of their “Homegrown Shapes: Wooden Surfboards of Maine” exhibit and will be on display until Sept. 28. More videos from the shapers in the exhibit can be viewed on the Homegrown Shapes Vimeo page at http://vimeo.com/user27436114.