Meet Stefan Aftanas, creator of Aftanas Surfboards based in Tofino BC.  A leader in his field who’s precision and attention to detail is why his boards are in high demand across the world.


Name: Stefan Aftanas 

Employees: 2-4

Since: Circa 1997

When did you start having visions of starting your own business?

Honestly, I never thought of it in those terms. I just wanted to make a few boards and really didn’t think of it as forming a business. I just like designing and then building things. As the popularity of surfing grew, so did the demand for boards. Then came the point where it just became a business.

How did you go from the idea, to actually starting the process? What were the first steps?

Creating a space was the first step. After that, things just started to happen.

What were your biggest motivations in starting your company?

I wanted to do what I wanted to do, each and every day of my life, and not what someone else wanted me to. It has never been about creating wealth, more about just creating.

How did you know you had the right idea and wanted do start?

When I would spend 3 hours at work and it felt like 20 minutes.

What are your most valuable skills and how do you apply them to your business?

Everything I ever learned as a kid growing up with a father who could do and fix just about everything. He taught me, circuitously, that the only barriers in life are the ones you create for yourself.

What was your biggest ‘A-ha’ moment? Any epiphanies that helped you pivot, succeed, leap over a major hurdles?

The moment I realized that you have to take it all in stride. There are going to be great days and terrible ones, it is how you ride them out that counts, the whole time keeping your eye on the long game.

How did you fund the first steps or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?

I grew with demand, saved as much as possible, and self financed through that strategy. Like in the olden days.

How did you develop key partnerships?

Through the hard work of proving myself. Retailers want to know that what they buy from you, they can then sell. I worked endlessly to be sure I looked as good on the rack as the biggest names in the game. I still do that. It tends to put a lot of pressure on those that have helped build boards here over the years


Did you have anyone to help you with decisions or a mentor? 

I didn’t, but I wish I did.

How did you get credibility quickly?

I don’t really know. I guess the boards spoke for themselves pretty early on. I was lucky to have a lot of great surfers on the Island with boards under their feet and spreading the good word. Definitely grateful for that.

How did you handle adversity and doubt from yourself and others?

With a grain of salt. Everyone has an opinion, which in my mind is a good thing. You just have to have confidence in what you see as your future, take the good from opinions, and give it the value it deserves.

What failures (if any) happened along the way and how did you overcome them?

Having a weak training program was a big failure. I have spent a lot of energy getting that on track.

What drives you to keep going when it’s really tough?

I am not big on giving up. In fact, when you really don’t want to do something, that is exactly when you should do it. Train yourself to persevere. Not no matter what, but definitely when you feel like it will get you were you want to be.

What’s the worst business mistake you ever made?

Giving 30 day terms to accounts to those that don’t deserve it.

What keeps you up at night and how do you tackle this?

Too many orders, lol.

What did you do before this?

I was a carpenter.

Who created the Aftanas brand identity? What was the process and did you have a lot of input into it?

I created most of all that you see. Through the direction from creatives that I have met and have helped along the way. I just know what I like and then I hope others will like it as well.

Do you have brand guidelines for your business? If so, do they help you move forward when presenting your brand in marketing and within work culture?

My only guideline is to be sure the look never stops changing. I will always have some time for the root of the brand but never cease to morph it into something new.

How do you create content for social media? Is it a thought out strategy or something more spontaneous?

A blend of both

What parts of the Aftanas experience do you think most resonates with people?

I would say quality and confidence in the shapes. It definitely is not my incredible marketing skills, lol.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

Take a deep breath and remember that I live in one of the best places on the planet that you could possibly hope to live in.

What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Problem solving and decision making.

What one piece of advice would you give a young entrepreneur who is about to start their journey and become a surfboard shaper?

Take your time, get good at your craft, and sales will just come. No one does that anymore but customers really appreciate it.

Aftanas Surfboards

1024 Campbell St, Tofino, BC