Yes, I started making surfboards because I didn’t want to work a normal job, wanting to be engaged in my lifestyle. A personal challenge of making my own boards better… That wasn’t enough, I wanted to make everyone else’s boards better too…
My first surfboard?
A Red single fin from in the rubbish dump. that was on the Yorke Peninsula, South Oz around 1977. Well I actually I started by making one first, it wasn’t easy getting a board then. I used a kerosene fridge door and stripped the tin off the foam, shaping that piece of foam from the middle. Paddling around on that ‘til I had no nipples! That was when I was about 10. When I was about 12 I found that red single fin in the dump. It had no fin at all, so I took it to school and made a fin in woodwork and dad helped me glass it on at home.
My Family moved inland to Warwick when I was 15 for a while, we were away from the sea. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I went back on holidays to the beach. I then bought a second-hand Sky surfboard at Lennox heads Surfshop off the rack and went surfing. That was it, driving down to the coast every weekend even though it was a 3-4 hour drive. Quickly, finding myself in a situation when I could leave the work I was doing and having enough work to survive down the coast so I could surf all the time.
What is it you love about surfing?
Never ending challenge, having fun. I never really looked at the competitive side of things. It was always about the experience and the feelings of grounding and being close to nature.
Do you have one wave that you’ve caught that stands out in your mind?
Sure can remember some classic surfing moments in the early stages. Like duck diving into a sunrise, or seeing a mate catch a wave in front of you and get barrelled, those sort of memories are the ones that stay with you. Even surfing in Currumbin for the first time and seeing the planes fly over. Then there was my first surf trip to Indo and surfing waves that no one has surfed before in Lombok and Java. Surfing those amazing breaks to myself and not being able to tell anyone about it because no one knew about it! There was no Instagram posts or even internet then.
What sort of education did you have?
Leaving school at 15 and did an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic, I did that for 4 years and in between, I was doing part-time work as a photographer in a studio and for motorcycle racing magazines. That’s what got me to the coast, freelance photography.
Was that in Surf Photography?
There was no way I was going to get into surf photography here on the Gold Coast, it was a full on competitive scene. It was back in the day that it was single shot, Analog Film photography… you had to get it right, I could do that – there just wasn’t the money in it. So I worked from 11 to 2 for a spare parts shop, and that paid my rent. I went surfing the rest of the time.
What started you making boards?
A next-door neighbour worked in a board factory and he needed someone to do leg rope plugs in the afternoon, they paid a dollar a plug and there were about 100 boards a week. He said come down each afternoon spend an hour or so. So I did that, and in the first week, they started offering me more work. “Do you want to make fins?” they said, so I started making fins and it went from there. I liked it because it was the same as surfing, it was ever evolving, I could never be the best, I could never know everything.
That was at New Line, it was a big glassing factory. We glassed Jim Banks, Nev’s, Christian Fletcher, McTavish, Thornton Fallander, Zappa etc. We did 100-150 a week, all the famous brands.
How did you move from there into Shaping?
Only at New Line for a year and I wanted to have a hack for myself, I borrowed my workmate’s tools. Martin Wright was an ex British Champion and a very friendly Pom. MW has worked for me on and off for many years now. Anyway, within the first half a dozen boards I was hooked, So I bought a planer and just started making boards for myself.
Who did you shape for?
I never shaped for another label or brand, other than I did 6 boards for Hot Stuff. (find them… they will be very rare). I was already up to 10 a week and I was ready to move out on my own. The Hot Stuff ones sold straight out the door of the Burleigh shop, but his other shapers that were involved all had a big whinge so I didn’t get to keep going with that, so I just worked on my own label.
How many boards do you a week?
Actually, less than I did years ago, 60-70% of my work over the years was export, but the strong Aussie Dollar has really put a stop to that, instead of doing 40 a week, I’m probably doing 25. I’ve really had to work hard on the Australian market, I opened a shop on the Gold Coast so I could really be in front of the market with my boards and sell a lot there. However, the day to day of retail wasn’t fun after a while.
Moving to Bali for a few years, making some factories really happy over there. I spent a lot of time teaching the locals how to to do better work. There are a couple factories that make top quality stuff now. I’m quite happy with my boards being sold in Sideways and rate them as good as most of the Gold coast factory production. I now Fly in Fly out to Bali making boards there for Indo with all Aussie materials. And I make one-off customs here on the gold coast with all local materials.
Art has always played a large role in your work, do you do the art yourself or do you source that from others?
I’ve always been the major part of the artwork on my boards. I’ve had people that have worked for me here and there that have had a bit of a go, I was inspired by them all. Mostly my own concepts of art have carried through across the brand. There were always innovations that I started right out in the early days. From buying a Stencil /Sticker machine thru to doing printed graphics under the glass.
Started working with Troy Bremner who’s dad had the printer and we just started playing with it. I was offering that to the market close to 20 years ago, it’s pretty commonplace now. Having studied Graphic Design formally over the last few years. its great putting my hands on experience in other uses designing t-shirts, logos and products for other brands too.
How’s your Modern Vintage brand going?
It sells well being a premium board, which most of my work is now. It is for the market that wants that revisited shape from yesteryear. They are made to a fashion colour wise and the graphics are all made to suit today’s trends and fashion. As much as I don’t like to succumb to fashion first, it also helps the bank balance. Often leading the curve doesn’t pay well lol.
I have also achieved formal qualifications in Mechanics, Photography, Business Mastery & Fibreglass Mould Making. This has allowed me to expand my knowledge and bring new combinations together for a varied approach to design.
That’s how I got here today.
How do you play or get your creative breaks now?
Spare time activities often find me Riding Dirt bikes with my kids in the bush thru to travelling to exotic Surf locations thru-out Asia. Also regularly enjoy being a surf contest judge in emerging surf countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have created a synergy and network of experiences and friendships.
I also offer Tutoring on Shape3dx Software having used surfboard design software since 2003. Its great to share my knowledge and stoke with other keen board builders striving to improve.