Shaper Bob McTavish offers life lessons

Bernie Prendergast is a 14-year-old kid from Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, who is the latest surfer to be inspired by legendary shaper Bob McTavish. The clip above by Stefan Jose is part of a series that aims to share the lifestyle pioneered by Bob and his friends in the 1960s. Bob has been shaping surfboards for more than 50 years, played a huge role in the shortboard revolution, and is still making craft for surfers of all ages and ability. Bernie is just the latest to feel to the stoke of surfing on a McTavish board, and GrindTV chatted to Bob about the future of surfing and what we can learn from the past.

Bob McTavish
Bob, still smiling. Photo by

At 14 years old, did you have any idea of the role that surfing would play in your life?
At 14 I’d left school and was an office boy running around Brisbane five days a week and surfing all weekend at Caloundra. I knew then surfing would only get bigger in my life. By 17 I was a full-time surfboard maker in Sydney.

It’s a good half a century from when you started; what does it feel like seeing young surfers like Bernie riding your boards?
Seeing Bernie riding one of my shapes gives me a total buzz, as I shaped for his dad 40 years ago when a singlefin 6’4" was the only game in town. Now the range of great shape options means Bernie never has to follow the pack.

Bob McTavish
Bob in his shaping bay sculpting some balsa. Photo by

You played a huge part in some of the radical changes in surfboard design and have witnessed all the evolution in surfboards, industry, performance, and the popularity of surfing, but where do you think it is headed?
I think the future of surfing is great despite the crowding. There are still so many equipment options to be explored and re-explored. A surfer can use his quiver to maximize his enjoyment by mining deeper into where unique designs can take him, all the time having options. For example, riding a heavy fast trimming shortish board in choppy conditions to iron out the bumps. Or riding an elegant flat longer longboard on green microwaves that hardly even break? And certainly for heroes there are endless paddle-in big-wave spots. Once again, all it needs is the right equipment. Sure, we all live for those perfect crankin' swells and outwitting the crowds, but the day-to-day get wets are more fun now as the boards react and deliver better than any time in the past.

Byron Bay still seems like an ideal place for to be a grommet; although it has changed massively, what is the essence of the place that makes it great for surfing?
Byron’s big appeal is surf approximately 320 days a year and a range of rare sand points in the area, plus warm water. Even a few big-wave breaks. Beat that!

What advice would you give, if asked, to a kid like Bernie?
If Bernie can dodge the hazards of youth and keep wet daily, he’s got a permanent friend in the ocean. Surfing is a powerful giver of fun, refreshment, health, and even sometimes in an amazing way, comfort when lonely. It pulled me through many dodgy times in my younger days, and now I can look back with great appreciation.

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