The founder of Sequoia Surfboards, and former professional race car driver, explains the connection between motorsports and boards

Sports creativity has no limits and reaches its high points in the mixing of different universes. Like surfing and motorsport. On the one hand, scientific functionality and exaggerated individualism, on the other, stylistic sublimation and collective sharing. Marcello Zani and his company Sequoia Surfboards are the definition of this impossible, yet virtuous and fascinating intertwining.

In his Riviera Romagnola, Marcello married motors from the very beginning, becoming a professional driver and getting to race in the most recognized international competitions. Then he discovered surfing and decided to change the paradigm of his life, abandoning the steering wheel to take off among the waves and their cosmopolitan community. The currents then introduced him to the ancient art of shaping (board making), allowing him to find the perfect end point of his dual sporting life.

Functionality and beauty. Innovation and tradition. After years spent among shapers and spots around the world, Marcello decided to bring this form of sports craftsmanship into the future, or rather, into motorsports, launching the Sequoia brand. Thanks to the combination of science and aesthetics, his boards are trying to create a new dimension of shaping, capable of fusing the highest technologies of motorsports with the intangible data of every rider.

Let’s listen to the story of this atypical shaper and his innovative project, and observe the aesthetics of his scientific artistry through the lens of Nicolò Rinaldi.

From motorsport to surfing, what are the reasons behind this unusual transition?

“I used to skate as a kid and had tried surfing in the flat sea of the Riviera Romagnola, but I got scared suffering the full force of the currents. I couldn’t get back to shore, I couldn’t breathe…. I thought I would never surf again. Over the years I became a professional driver, even going so far as to race the World Grand Touring Championship. The motorsport world was my home. The charm of the sea, however, led me to try surfing again, and from that moment I decided to leave everything behind in order to travel the world with my boards. It was a necessity. In surf culture I found something that was missing in motorsports: a strong sense of community and sharing, and the possibility to fully express my style, my creativity. Surfing is not a canonical sport; it has an anarchic and punk soul that I had never found in motors. It manages to highlight and elevate different styles. In motorsport, for example, it seemed very strange what Valentino Rossi was doing…. Surfing has allowed me to express myself and made me appreciate so many other things, such as friendships around the world and the bond with special spots.”

How did the art of shaping become part of your life?

“My creative drive has always been active, but as a child I never had much opportunity to develop it. Although my grandfather studied design in Switzerland, I cannot say that my family is connected to art. My creative potential was unlocked by fate: I was a serial buyer of surfboards, so I decided to try to make some myself. Like almost all other Italian shapers, I am self-taught and cut my teeth abroad, traveling and discovering this art form. I had to earn every notion on the ground, stage by stage. It was not easy, especially in terms of finances. Despite this, I admit that I suffered a lot when I sold my first boards. I was jealous. I was sorry to give them to other people; they were like children to me. From those first boards, then, everything evolved into the Sequoia Surfboards project-brand, which I decided to establish in Italy. In general, shaping gave me the opportunity to turn ideas into functionality. In motorsport I used to do the opposite, and it didn’t fulfill me in the same way. Today I get excited when I see an athlete win on our boards-it’s a testament to their quality.”

Innovation and tradition. Science and art. How do these extremes come together in the design and performance of each board?

“I am a big fan of the Ferrari brand, and I believe that the drive for beauty is innate in our culture. After all, in Italy we are surrounded by beauty, and an icon like the Ferrari brand has shaped the concept of doing things right, in every way. My idea of shaping is based on respecting tradition and combining it with innovation. This is why the scientific aspect plays a key role in the Sequoia vision. Through futuristic technologies, such as CFD, we are able to improve the performance of our boards with almost imperceptible changes. Today’s shaper has to balance the irrational side of athletes and the sensations felt among the waves, with the rational side of data and specific studies. The same happens in motorsports, with the driver on one side and the engineer on the other. Continuing this parallelism, the old shaper was comparable to a mechanic, while the contemporary shaper must be closer to the figure of the engineer. I strongly believe in this revolutionary philosophy for shaping, and I am sure it will be the future of this profession.”