It’s really nice to see a lot of people are opening their minds at the moment in regards to what they ride. I don’t have any new big design breakthroughs; everything is pretty much the same as it ever was, but I’m really enjoying keeping things clean and accurate, tight and refined. I’ve been hand shaping everything to suit each individual surfer who comes to me for boards. I don’t do stock boards and I’ve never really wanted to either. I’ve always wanted to make boards for people who were interested in creating an open dialogue with their shaper so that over time things could keep moving forward and continue to improve. Every board is custom.
Cool, so you’re chilling out on messing about with planshape, but I hear you’ve been dabbling in some creative timber boards?
Yeah, I do about three different types of timber boards at the moment. There are the timber veneer boards that David Rastovich was riding a lot about five years ago which are a two and half millimetre timber veneer over styrofoam. Initially we didn’t glass them, they were timber glued onto Styrofoam and that was it, no resin or glass whatsoever. I’ve been making those since the early nineties with a guy called David Franks and they look and feel beautiful. Then there’s a Paul Joske/Tom Wegner inspired Alaia. It’s a fairly flat traditional Hawaiian style board that’s about an inch thick with various combinations of concaves and hull bottoms. The other one we’re doing is a hollow timber board that I’m making with a guy called Jason Oliver. Jason had been buying boards from me for a long time. Then out of the blue one day he told me he wanted to make a hollow timber board and he wanted to make it out of wooden pallets. He ended up making me one and it turned out to be an absolutely fantastic board. So now we get our timber from old pallets and make boards from them. It’s basically 100 percent recycled wood and the technique we use to create them makes them just about indestructible.
How does the pallet board perform?
In the water the things feel totally alive. They initially feel quite stiff and ridged but this is good because you get instant reaction and feeling. They carry a lot of energy through the turns and at times feel almost too fast and loose, yet they’ve still got plenty of bite and drive… its nuts! This one’s currently a 5’5 x 19 ¼”x 2 3/8” twin fin. It’s an absolute cracker!
Did you use pallet timber for the fins?
No, no (laughing) I cheated. I could have, but I just got lazy. I used plywood because I’d already cut them out.
From beginning to end, does a pallet board take long to construct?
That’s the drama with them. The first couple took about forty-odd hours. We’ve whittled that down now to about thirty hours for each board now. Compared to a normal surfboard at around six hours, they’re a considerable time waster (laughing).
Are these boards environmentally friendly?
It’d be easy to claim an environmental advantage here just based on the use of recycled timber, but we’re still adding epoxy resins and fibreglass. There’s a lot of people making timber boards and looking very alternative, but even gluing together timber strips still needs glass top and bottom to hold the construction together. It’s probably incorrect to say these boards are environmentally friendly, but we are slowing the transition to the rubbish dump. The good thing about the timber veneer boards is you don’t need to use those materials at all. The veneers are 300mm wide meaning we use four main veneers on a whole board and therefore eradicate the need to glass them. There are no real joins and the integrity of the glue holds it all together.
Tell me about your new work area mate, you’ve moved from the industrial estate at Burleigh back up into the hills?
Yeah, I’m at home with the chooks and the cows at the moment. I’ve moved my factory out of the madness and I’m working out of a tin shed sitting on 29 acres. I love it. As we speak I’m looking out over the paddocks and my nearest neighbour is about a kay away and it’s just peaceful and quiet. The inspiration is incredible, it’s such a creative environment and because I am dealing with individuals who I can connect and share the love with. I feel like the boards are only getting better (laughs).
Fear not, the trees are safe, it’s the ol wood pallets that are doomed Photo: Shorty
Your website certainly has that rural life feel to it?
That picture on the homepage is our composting toilet (just add sawdust and lime to even out the ph and you got yourself perfect food for the vegies – the circle of life continues, man). The music on there is all of us tooling around in the factory. I guess we’re just trying to keep it real. For me shaping has always been the surfing lifestyle, not just chasing the dollar. It’s about creation and the journey along the way. To make a decent living from surfboards these days you’re often faced with business decisions that can compromise your values and ideals. Given that some people are just smashing the market with mediocre and thoughtless product, quite often imported from overseas, I found that trying to compete with that was killing me spiritually. The only way I could get around the problem was to do what I am doing right now. The product at the end of the day is a joyful one and most importantly my customers appreciate it. I got over the whitebread stuff a long time ago. The craziest thing is I’ve been harping on about fish-inspired boards since the mid nineties and it’s only recently that everyone is realising, ‘Wow, you don’t have to be riding what Kelly’s riding to be a good surfer.” There’re guys like Rasta who really opened everyone’s eyes to what you can do on a fish. Back that up with the inspirational stuff watermen like James ‘Billy’ Watson and Jamie Mitchell are doing and it really is an exciting time for surfers.
The latest issue of Australia’s premiere surfing title has hit the newsstands and this issue will challenge everything you thought you knew about surfboards. Featuring design conversations with elite, the weird, the genius and the downright whacky, the Blueprint offers perspectives that will inspire you to open your mind to the glide of varying surf craft.
The issue kicks off with a major piece written by 9 times World Champion Kelly Slater, who is spearheading yet another surfing revolution by shaping his own boards for this years tour. “I think everyone should go out there and ride something weird or something you’re not used to, just for the sake of it. Right now, if you want to shred you’ll end up refining your equipment. If you want to have fun, you’ll lean towards something easy. If you want to have fun while you shred you have to design something different and then refine it. That’s where I’m at right now. For the first time in a long time, I’m finding that surfboards are exciting again,” says KS. It’s compulsive reading from the most influential surfer of all time.