Monday, August 30, 2010

Surfboards as art...

Surfboard art is potentially about as good as urban tribalism gets. Unlike site-specific graffiti, it gets around. Boards are bigger than T-shirts. But like trash talk T-shirts and customised utes, a lot of so-called surf art is anything but. All from central warehouse casting. Skulls, skeletons, flame licks, crystal tubes, Nirvana sunsets, yoghurt waves, pneumatic mermaids and terrytoon dolphins, doth not pure Corduroy make. Not in art terms anyway. Gotta go deep into the creative Green Room to pull it off. Furniture designer-come surfboard maker Peter Walker has been in there for some time, acquiring the skills necessary to shape boards but also investigating what happens when artist and designers get on board at the concept end and ride it through to the end. Walker was Head of the Furniture Design Studio at the JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design Centre in the late 90s. Since 2001 he has divided his time as Associate Professor of Furniture Design at the Rhode Island School of Design, USA, and Adelaide where he designs and builds hollow wooden surfboards. Each board is uniquely made (predominantly from a light timber – Paulownia), sealed, vented and fibre-glassed.

Making Waves spotlights a series of artist and designer collaborations. The assembled quiver of around 15 boards includes a number of Walker’s own designs as well as pieces conceived and designed in partnership with artists and designers known to the artist. Stephen Bowers is in the pack. In this work, Bowers’ distinctive blue and white Chinese export ware motifs, usually found on his outsized ceramic platters and vase forms, transformed the board into a totemic object embedded with OkkaChin-fusion motifs and references. The Bowers/Walker board in this current exhibition is a refinement of this original concept. In the earlier work Bowers painted directly onto the timber. In this subsequent work he laid down areas of white and applied his blue line and wash illustrations over the top. The crispness of effect has been enhanced by drop shadows which cause each unit of design to read as if a fragment of blue and white porcelain. Combined with the highly polished fibre-glass finish, the effect is visually striking. It implies fragility. No way this board is going to get wounded in action. But Walker maintains that each one is surf-ready. As he sees it, “It’s essential – their functionality is implicit in the artistic worth – even if some of them don’t get wet, they could, and that potential is paramount.”

It’s hard to see these beautiful objects getting waxed let alone exfoliated on a limestone reef. But Gerry Wedd’s just might. I think he’d be up for it. His board’s shape is customised in size and shape. The “skin” design has been sourced from the cell-like structure of the Paulownia timber used in its construction. The end result is reptilian. A bit of croc for Wedd’s Middleton slop. Walker’s own interventions are startling to say the least. Boards have been thrown in to the fire or heaped with hot rocks. Risky. He tells of one board getting away, fully alight before he could save it. The association of fire licks with foam flicks rocks. Respect, not only for each artist’s ideas, but for the surfboard as something with its own history, something clean and distinctive in a dirty old mixed up world, underpins the project. Walker’s epiphany came in the form of a Dale ‘The Hawk’ Velzy memorial paddle-out in San Diego in the company of around 2000 surfers. He’s been to the Tom Blake well and drunk deeply. As Walker comments, “The boards themselves are a study of the design evolution of the surfboard, with each one referencing earlier innovations and developments, spanning from 1920’s to the present day, while incorporating subtle changes… The boards themselves could be considered “a work of art”, combining performance/practical design considerations, iconic sculptural forms, particular proportional relationships between material characteristics and form, detailed attention to craftsmanship”.

This article is from the Adelaide Review

If you are in Adelaide and want to check it out :

19 Morphett Street
Adelaide SA 5000
T: (08) 8410 0727

Opening Hours:
Morphett Street Retail/Gallery
Mon-Sat 10-5pm
Sun + Pub Hols 1-5pm

Also check out Peter's other work at :

Friday, August 27, 2010

Takashi Watanabe's retro fish

Japanese wooden board builder Takashi Watanabe has just finished his 6ft 3" x 22" x 2 5/8" fish.The beautiful wood he has used is hand picked for its grain , it is famous Japanese Akita Cedar.The rails are laminated Paulownia and cork and the fins are homemade from 9 layers of Lauan plywood 6.9mm thick.

You can see here in the tail the deck has been glued on after the rail built out.

Great looking timber and colour.

He has built the frame as normal and then laminated the rails to the frame prior to then adding the deck and bottom skins.This gives you greater access to clamp the rail build up on. You just have to fair the rail bands out from the ends of the frames before gluing the deck and bottom on.

Also he has cut this insert in the nose to give him a nice curve to the outline in the nose. It is very easy to loose the nice outline flow in the nose of the board as the thin railband comes to a point.It also give you more surface area to glue to in this limited area. I have also used surfboard foam in the area as well , which is easy to shape and gives a great glue surface as well.

A nice way to keep that flow I was talking about in the nose.You only need to build out a few layers and you gain a lot of strength here.

Check out Takashi's blog at :

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rogers take on the Wooden Board Day

Mike, from Fish n Log Blog in New Zealand posed a few questions of Roger Hall about the Wooden Board Day. Mike had just become a new dad for the 3rd time and was unable to join us this time.

Questions and Answers with Roger Hall on The Wooden Boards Day trip to Aussie recently, Micro*

1: What did you take to display at the wooden boards day this year ?
I took three boards this trip, A 5'11" Speed Dialer made from 9 different species of wood, It's probably my favourite one, Board two was a 7'0" Semi Gun made mostly of Cabbage Tree timber, This is the most recent board we have built here at Surfline, The third board was my personal 5'11" Speed Dialer that I have really been enjoying riding over the past couple of years.

2: Did you order 'the kiwi breakfast' on the flight over ?
Absolutely not! Actually I took an evening flight.

3: Who was the first surfer/shaper you saw at the park on the day ? (other than 'bigfish')
Mike Conner of Bush Pig surfboards fame, Mike had his latest paulownia Pig style board, Nice work!

4: What or who's boards impressed you the most ? and why ?
That's a hard question to answer as there was so many boards that impressed for different reasons, However the sexiest board by far was a solid balsa Hot Curl shaped by Dick Van Straalen, I was busy talking to people most of the day and actually didn't get to see every bodies boards, I liked Richard Harvey's stuff too, He does a range of things and his personality an depth as a surfer/shaper comes through in the boards, It's hard to name anyone in particular as every shaper there had worked really hard to come up with their particular take on construction and shape, I saw good work laying around the park no matter whether it be a seasoned board builder or a first time hobbyist.

5: Was there any species of timber used that sparked your interest ?
Well, It's all wood and some pieces just seem to shine, I think for me its more the combinations, Dovetail Surfboards had some nice clean contrasts in some of their boards with Paulownia and a dark rich cedar?, There was a lot of Paulownia boards which is great in itself but what caught my eye was woods of other colours, I liked John Sutcliffe's N.Z recycled Kauri board!

6: What was the atmosphere at the park like ?
It was quietly humming, Heaps to see and lots of people looking and admiring, A really nice vibe between all the shapers and there were first time builders rubbing shoulders with industry legends but most of the time it wasn't obvious which was which or who was who, Really awesome to be part of.

7: What feedback did you get on your boards ?
I got a really good response, I think people could see a difference in my approach with different timbers and could see a lot of hard work had gone into them.

8: Was there a shaper/surfer that you shared common views with ?
I think there is a common thread running through all of us making wood boards even though we may all be exploring different aspects, But that's the depth that wood has to offer, I think that many of us share common views but then there are places that we may go as individuals and I think that's pretty special and we all feed off that without necessarily needing to copy one another, It's a fantastic venue for trading ideas and talking openly, Grant Newby is a Saint for putting these days together, It adds a lot more meaning and context to being a shaper.

9: What will you take away from the day ? ideas, thoughts etc ?
A lot of stimulation, Motivation but also a lot of encouragement too, And also a healthy respect for what others are doing and the reinforcement in the belief of just how special it is to be involved in shaping the future as well as the present.

10: What would you like to build for next year ?
There is a number of ways I could and would like to go with my wood projects for next year but right now my focus is on getting my custom orders up to date and beyond that, Following some design paths that I have had rumbling around in my brain for too long and it's time to do them justice . . . . I guess we will have to wait and see.

Thanks guys for sharing you thoughts.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sharpen your pencil

Next time you are in the shed and you want to know if your tools are sharp enough and you have a little time on your hands. Check these for inspiration.Better still send me some of your examples ...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whale inspired fins

Just such a work of art .Inspired by nature ...

Tim Stafford is always experimenting with different things and loves his Bonzer boards.He was making these fins and so I asked him to share how this all came about and what the outcomes have been.

" Hi Grant glad you’re enjoying the fins... pic attached. I started on this route because I made a board I called The Porpoise and wanted something truly inspired by nature for the fins... so I started looking into whales and came across the tubercle principles. This all came out of scientific studies of humpback whales and how they could manoeuvre such a large body at such low speeds in such tight arcs to surround the krill with a curtain of bubbles before diving up the middle for a quick feast. The answer turned out to be the tubercles (lumps/bumps) on the leading edge of their fins... these channel the water and provide both lift and lower resistance. The idea was quickly transferred to wind turbines where they found that the blades could rotate and harness energy at much lower speeds when they applied tubercles to the leading edges. (5mph lowest operating wind speed dropped to 2-3mph making a dramatic increase in viability in low wind areas). Obviously manufacturing costs are a limitation of the concept’s success... I can appreciate that as each pair takes me a full day to foil...

So how do they work, well in terms of manoeuvrability they are unbelievable allowing dramatic changes of direction combined with drive and stability. They seem to get up and go really nicely as long as the wave has a little steepness. In slower waves they performed less well due to placing the bonzer EVO3 side fins too close to the tubercles, this caused excess drag. To test this theory I sanded off the tubercle fins and tested the same board with both a single fin (standard bonzer EVO3) and with quad rear set (EVO4) and the result is better entry speed and slow wave planning, but reduced stability and less manoeuvrability... in essence it lost the magic. It was an important test though as it allowed me to isolate the board itself from the performance characteristics of the fins. The next iteration will be to do it as a twin fin with tubercles... maybe even as a woody!

For me it’s all about applying proven science to surfboard design. Each new idea takes me different places on the wave and that’s what keeps me surfing."

To more understand the science behind the Tubercles check out :

To keep an eye on what Tim is up to :

Thanks Tim for sharing your experience and craft.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wood is good

Just a sample of some of the boards and brands on show last weekend.There really are some very talented people out there. And they come from all walks of life. In fact full time surfboard shapers were way in the minority , maybe less than 20% of those on show.

Someone asked me “do you get board-envy being surrounded by so many beautiful boards?” My answer is ”there is a great mutual respect for the builder of each and every wooden board, as those of us who have built them know that none of it has come without a lot of time and effort”. There is no quick way of building a board. And it’s not so much envy, but more mutual appreciation and respect.

The difference with this year from last year is that every board on display was hand built by the person themselves and a great vibe was felt as they shared their experience and journey in building what they had on display. Paulownia was definitely the wood of choice for most people as it is strong and light as well as resistant to salt water.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A couple of innovative guys

Dick Van Straalen couldn't make it to the wooden board day this year , but gave me this beautiful solid Balsa Hot Curl he has shaped to bring along . It has the most beautiful lines and simplistic flow. Roger and a couple of others took it out for a few waves on Sunday.

Yesterday (Monday) we headed down to Byron for a Tiki Tour and ran into Bob McTavish, who has to be one of the most energized guys you could meet at any age. Bob and Roger have a lot in common and it was nice to be there to hear their thoughts. Later on Ian Chisham from Victoria and South Coast Surfboards dropped in as well. Earlier over at North Coast Surfboards catching up with Evan Squirrell we were joined by Mick Mackie who was in town on a small surfing break with a mate and building a couple of boards out at his farm.
It turned out to be an interesting day catching up with a bunch of innovative guys in the surf industry. The open minded guys who keep us inspired and bring us new ideas and shapes to enjoy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wooden Board Day 2010

We were blessed with great warm winters day weather today for the 2nd Annual Wooden Board Day. Around 24c , offshore winds and waist to chest high waves. A great mix of people and some wonderful boards on display.

Richard Harvey showed off his innovative board and fin system all in Paulownia

Slide in the cut down chop stick and that locks it all in place. Also the board is shape in such a way that it can be surfed up one side or swap ends and surfed the other way round.

Nobby from Japan for the weekend was very excited to meet Tom Wegener who then invited him up to Noosa over the next couple of days before heading back to Japan.

Tony Crimmins with his newly finished all Paulownia board.

Nobuhito ( Nobby ) and his wife Asako with a couple of his boards he brought out from Japan for the day.

This guy had these great art boards if you like that were shaped from rough timber slabs that had surfboard shapes waiting to be uncovered by a creative eye. Something Fred Finstone may have ridden.

Andrew Wells from Grown Surfboards Lennox Heads with a couple of unreal boards.The one on the right has the deck boards made from old hardwood fence palings.

Two great looking all Paulownia chambered boards without glass , just bees wax finish.

Nice timber , classic shape in honour of the past.

An Alaia line up by David from Melbournes Paulownia Plantation timber supplies.

Greg Wheeldon from Brisbane in the throws of building a hollow kite board.

Sunova ( Bert Burger ) Surfboards with some great looking boards

The gentleman on the right is 81 year old Barry Regan from Ballina with boards he still builds.

Gerard Hatton with a range of boards he has built since doing the Paul Jensen course last year.

Some beautifully crafted boards by Manny Oppliger , some of the lightest framed boards around.
An innovative guy new to surfboards but very skilled.

Two likely ladds , Paul Mc Givern and Parrish Watts after a session of belly boarding.


All the way from South Australia was Benjamin Wallbridge with balsa over EPS boards he has been working on.

Tom Wegener Paulownia boards what else. Big fins , one glassed one not.

A proud first timer with his board. Just what it is all about. No matter what , there is no easy way to build a wooden board so there is a lot of mutual respect among those that have built a wooden board.

Biggest board of the day was this 12ft SUP that I designed for Peter Milburn , who did a great job of building it.

Bobby Crisp from New Zealand with his collection of boards.

A nice clean looking Woody Jack Alaia. Laser burnt logo is cool.

Frank Kaczmarek on the left a local bus driver and John Suttclife a truck mechanic from New Zealand on the right. Johns board is all NZ Kauri.

Rob Ivers from Victoria had a couple of great looking boards , this one and a nice fish.

Sam Robinson was keen for run on Toms Tuna. The surf was fun most of the day , the sun was out and there were people swapping boards all day. That was the spirit in which the day was meant to be. Thanks to all who turned up and made it the success it was once again.About 120 board on display and 100's through the park all day.