Darren Handley of DHD Surfboards
Australia’s really far from the U.S. That’s usually the reason Americans don’t hear about all the rad shapers in Oz. One shaper whose name has been seen more and more on the boards of Top 44 rulers is Darren Handley. TransWorld SURF had a brief chat with him on location on the Gold Coast of Australia. Here’s what transpired:
What made you decide to start shaping surfboards?
Originally, I was sweeping floors at a surfboard factory, picked up a blank, and thought I’d give it a go. I enjoyed it, my friends wanted to get boards, and then I started making myself boards and it all clicked¿I just enjoyed shaping so much. I enjoyed riding my own shapes. With my surfing at that time, I felt I could keep on making better boards than they were making. So it was all that rolled into one.
Do you consider yourself a production guy or do you consider yourself an artist?
Probably a bit of both. We’re doing a lot of boards. To make money in this industry you can’t live on shaping five boards a week. So I shape boards for other companies, like Maurice Cole. I also distribute boards¿which sort of gives me the time to spend on my own boards so I can be a little bit more arty. I work with the pros to get good boards and not just pop them out.
Who do you consider the top guys you’re working with right now?
Well, Mick Fanning and Luke Egan for sure¿they’re the guys I pay and they ride for my company. At the moment, I’m doing a lot of work with Joel Parkinson and Occy¿they’re both riding my boards in the Billabong Pro. I’ll usually go down and watch Luke’s heats, and now I’m interested in watching Occy’s and Parko’s heats. They’re the guys I’m working a lot with¿especially in my area. The Gold Coast is really kicking some goals at the moment with the ASP moving here. We have the World Champion Occy, the World Junior Champion Parko, and Mick Fanning winning the Bells Beach skins contest¿everything’s so big here right now.
Is there any kind of specific board you’re making for Mick Fanning, or is it different for everybody?
Luke’s Egan very particular on his boards. We stuck to one main style over the last two years. Changing fins is the biggest thing at the moment. All my team riders ride glass-on fins¿they don’t use any fin systems because they don’t really like them. They feel they can’t get the performance out of their boards, but there’re some decent fin systems coming. I think they’ll be just as good as glass-on fins. They’re riding normal boards with good bottom curves and small adjustments on every board to make each one go better and better and better.
Do shapers make money?
We make money, for sure. I’ve done quite well¿I’ve got two kids and one on the way. I’ve got beautiful house, a beautiful wife, a nice car, and all that sort of stuff. But I still don’t have a future. If I tried to give up shaping tomorrow, it wouldn’t work. There’s more and more money getting poured into surfing. Japan’s got it right; they pay a lot of money for surfboards¿probably too much. In America, they get good money for their surfboards, but we don’t really make that much. On the Gold Coast, there’s so much competition you have to compete with prices. If you do it right, you can make a bit of money at it.
Do you see anything changing drastically in the future¿ surfboards, fins, etc.?
Yeah. We need people to experiment and change things around. I see fins as being the biggest part for the future. As far as materials go, there’re some materials out there¿we’ve all tried epoxy, but it’s such a hit or miss. Now surfboard manufacturers are wanting more and more boards and they don’t want to pay any more for them, so we can’t really experiment with too much stuff that’s out of the market. As far as board design, I could see vee coming back in soon.
How much of your personality goes into the way you shape a board?
A lot. I’m a prettty radical, pretty boisterous sort of person, but still I’m down-to-earth¿that relates to my boards. When I go to Europe, it’s a pretty way-out place. This year when I was shaping over there, I was doing all sorts of weird things¿putting eight channels in boards for Hoyo Matt Hoy and having a beer every night with the boys. The boards reflected that. When I come home to reality, I stick to the streamlines of what I know. Over in France I’ve got the time, no phone calls, and no office commitments¿I just concentrate on surfing, shaping, and that’s where I come up with more of my new ideas.