Shapers-Alan Byrne Story
Alan Byrne And The Evolution Of Channel BottomsBy Tommy Herschell
Alan Byrne’s appreciation for surfing and its lifestyle stems from traveling and hanging with some of surfing’s pioneers. A gifted craftsman, Alan is renowned for his channel-bottom boards. This talent has given him the chance to share the joy from his relationship with surfing and nature through the simple act of mowing foam. Alan Byrne started shaping boards on the west side of O’ahu in ’69, eventually moving to his present quarters on Australia’s Gold Coast. Alan’s experience gives him the ability to be the greatest artist of channel bottoms our sport has ever seen.Born a Kiwi, Alan’s amicable persona has given him the opportunity to travel and build lifelong friendships. At the age of eighteen, Alan set out from his homeland to begin his adventurous existence. He hung out with Hawai’ians like Buffalo Keaulana, Paul Akiu, and Cino Magallenes, building a rapport most haoles would find impossible. “These guys saw me as an individual. I remember the first thing they said: ‘Yeah bra, you come stay at my house, bra. You good guy, bra,'” says Alan in a Hawai’ian accent. It’s the goodwill and generous nature of the Hawai’ian people that keep Alan returning to the rock every winter. Between Hawai’i, California, and Australia, Alan has built relationships all over the globe-he’s truly the embodiment of the young traveling surfer. Now that he’s landed back in Oz, his channel-bottom boards have taken over, and his enthusiasm for surfing has only increased.
The greatest influence in Alan’s surfboard design was born at the most famous of surfing breaks, the Banzai Pipeline. Legendary surfer Col Smith had just paddled in from a session at Pipe when a nosey Alan Byrne, intrigued by the choice of Col’s board, tapped on his shoulder. “I remember walking up to Col on the beach and asking him if I could look at his board,” recalls Byrne. “It was a beautiful-looking board-channels right across the bottom. He turned, sort of looked me up and down, and then grunted, ‘All right then,'” says Alan impersonating Col’s resonant groan. “Our friendship started right then and there, on the beach at Pipe. The board he rode was a Jim Pollard curve channel. Col later changed to clinker channels. Eventually I went on to shape thrusters while Col kept doing single fins.”
Alan’s boards are for special occasions, like silver cutlery-only to be brought out at the most important of dinner parties: “The guys ride their normal boards in competition, and when they go off somewhere else, they like to ride something different.” Today, surfers like Shane Dorian, Backyards legend Darrick Doerner, and Pipe resident Jamie O’Brien all take the opportunity to ride Alan’s channels.
Alan’s strong preference to his channels is simple, “I’m not doing channels ’cause they’re different. I’m doing them ’cause they’re a better engine for a board. They sit and ride in the barrel better, as well as drive harder and faster. They work so damn well, if you don’t ride one for a while and then jump back on one again, you just go, ‘Wow, these boards really are amazing!'”
Here’s one man who hasn’t been taken by the glitz and glamour of the industry. He still shapes by hand and instinct, keeping it real for those of us who really appreciate the beautiful art form of shaping.