Ever since the beginning of the Kanaha race series, more racers placing in the top three or winning a division have used JL windsurfing boards than any other. In 1982, Pascal Maka took a JL board and smashed the existing windsurfing speed record with an incredible 27.82 knots. A year later, Maui resident Fred Haywood demolished Maka’s record using another one of JL’s boards by going 30.82 knots. Eventually, windsurfer Eric Beale managed to top 40 knots using one of Lewis’ boards.
Well known for his provocative and controversial ads in surf magazines worldwide—one popular ad called “Bitch Witch” features a beautiful girl wearing a painted-on bikini top—Jimmy Lewis has made himself a name as one of the best all-round board shapers. He began shaping the first kiteboards six years ago when Laird Hamilton began playing around with the sport.
“The boards we made were more like oversized water-skis,” Lewis told me. “I began to make a few wakeboards for kiting, others started to take notice of the boards I was making and suddenly, it’s seemed most of the top riders in the rapidly growing sport were coming to get my wakeboards.”
Lewis said he’s been making things out of foam, fiberglass and resin since 1962. He crafted first full-sized surfboard in 1968. By 1981, when he started making windsurfing boards, shaping was his only source of income.
Lewis first came to Maui for surfing in 1969. He stayed just three months, but couldn’t get the island out of his head. By February 1971, he was back, this time for good.
“I’ve done a bit of travelling in the past 20 to 21 years and, although there have been some nice places I’ve been to, I don’t think I could or would ever live anywhere else,” Lewis told me. “I went to Brazil several times about a year ago and I just recently went to Costa Rica. We’d go out to dinner in our shorts and t-shirts and be sweating like pigs. Here on Maui, the weather is perfect for me and, I’m sure, lots of other people. Of course the conditions here surf-wise and wind-wise make it an ideal place for a board maker because of the many opportunities to test ride the boards.”
Recently, I took my JL “Dominatrix” kite/wakeboard to Surfers Paradise in Australia. There, the local top-wakeboard guru took me on a ride on the rivers. He didn’t want to believe I could go behind his boat using this board. After I proved him wrong, he eagerly asked if he could try it out.
I asked Lewis what makes his boards like Dominatrix or the new Bitch Witch so special, and he smiled.
“I have made the boards that some manufacturers have molded for their production line, notably Starboard and Wipika,” he said. “I also do prototypes, plugs and team boards for two of the other big manufacturers. I made the first Dominatrix shape in May of 2002. Recently some manufacturers and some shapers are coming out with a knock-off of some sort of this design. But the one thing these pretenders don’t have and never will be able to duplicate is the JL Magic.” MTW