Home: Oceanside, California via Cronulla Beach, Australia
Label: Rip Curl
First shaped board: 1985
Boards shaped per year: 850
Favorite tool: Planer
Has shaped for: The Rip Curl Team
If you’re with a kid who’s looking for a board in a shop, what are some important things to consider?
It depends on their ability level. If they’re a flat-out beginner, I’d say get a secondhand board from someone—all you need at that stage is a lot of flotation and stability. If they can go down the line and do some turns, then you obviously want to get the right weight, thickness, and height for them, so they don’t have to deal with too much board to do those maneuvers.
Is there a difference between Australian and American materials used to make a board?
The consistency of the foam is a lot different. I think Clark Foam works a lot easier, but I don’t know if it’s structurally as strong as the Aussie blanks. But Clark wins by a long shot because of the variety of plugs (preformed blanks). In Australia, we just don’t have that many plugs. In a lot of cases, if you want to make that board you were talking about earlier, you have to get the blank, reshape it into sort of a plug, and then shape the board out of that. That was good for my shaping, because it helps you do a lot more. A lot of these blanks are so close tolerance (that) you could just peel the skin off them, put fins on and they’ll work, because the rockers are there, and it’s all really killer. For production, it’s insane to work over here (in the U.S.) because you can just bang them out. In Australia, the shapers have to learn the craft a bit more in depth. Not to put down American guys at all, but I just think it’s harder to work over there (in Oz), because the blanks aren’t as good. The glass is pretty similar, though.
Are computers important to you?
I think they’re really relevant for guys who get a lot of work and want to produce their own shapes rather than hiring guys who can’t shape to their ability. I personally hand-shape everything because I’m only doing 850 (boards) a year, which works out to be roughly four or five shapes a day. Yeah, I think the computer’s totally relevant. The only thing that bugs me with the computer is there’re a lot of guys who can’t really shape that well, but can spend a lot of time on a plug, get it scanned on a machine, and then do everything off the machine. To anyone who doesn’t know about shaping boards, it looks like they’re better than Al Merrick—when in reality, they could have spent a week just getting half of one side of a board looking good.
Will shapers be computer programmers one day?
I think they already are. Bushman, Matt Biolos, and a few guys like that have their own machines. It’s always gonna be relevant to be hands-on—to make a custom board from scratch. I’d hate to think we could lose that—that’d be really sad. Surfboard shaping, when you look at the world around us today, is pretty much one of the last truly handmade things.
What’s the next big technical advancement in surfboards?
I think it’s gonna be materials and fins. We’ve gone to the boundaries of tail rocker and come back to more subtle rocker—to the edge of how thin you can go and keep it realistic. I can’t say every boundary has been tested, but it seems like from what I’ve seen in my surfing, most of the limits have been pushed and then refined. So it seems like materials and fins are where there’s a lot to be learned.