HOW HAVE YOU ENDED UP SHAPING ON THE WEST COAST OF IRELAND?
I ended up living here on the back of moving to Ireland to work in a mine in 2000. There isn’t much work here on the coast, but there is a good atmosphere locally around self-employment so after a few months I was off on my own doing dings and then just made my first board and have been just making the next one ever since. I hand shape every board and do all the glassing, finning and sanding myself.
WHAT’S THE SCENE LIKE IN IRELAND IN TERMS OF DEMAND?
In general terms, literally everything. Personally I feel confident making boards that I can imagine wanting to take for a surf and, happily, demand for DH surfboards mostly follows that trend. Recently I’ve been making more bigger boards for bigger waves and smaller boards for bigger waves too. Not too many tow boards though…
WHAT’S BETTER, A GREAT DAY OF SHAPING OR AN AVERAGE DAY OF SURFING?
I think I’d take the average waves. Well I would today anyway as it hasn’t been great the last couple of weeks. Usually I can pull off both though, maybe even a great day of surfing and a great day working with a great cup of coffee in between. Seriously though, having a free flowing, productive day in the shed is a real pleasure.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT MAKING BOARDS FOR THE CHARGERS…
You don’t want to let them down on ‘the one’ or even put them in harms way. A few times I’ve asked Fergal to make sure he goes on an easy one first when we’ve been trying new stuff out. I had the same thing with Cain who sent me a text that simply said, ‘Make me an 8’0 for The Cliffs’. He picked it up the morning of one of those mental days back in the autumn and waxed it up and headed straight to Aileen’s… I was keeping the fingers crossed for a result and he got some bombs and we were both stoked. Lowey is the other person who’s probably done the raddest things on my boards and again, he’s a difficult person to make a board for because it’s important to get it spot on. Tom isn’t shy and his brutal honesty works in your favour if you have your ego safely in check. I guess Fergal and Lowey gave me a lot of credibility early on and for that I’m hugely grateful.
Paying a local craftsman is just sound economics
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE BIT OF ADVICE TO EVERYDAY JOES ORDERING CUSTOM BOARDS WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The shaper’s job is to unpick the bag of ideas and wants in your head and your role is to bring as much to the discussion as you can. Everything from your current boards to the style of that turn you most want to nail. Beyond all that, paying a local craftsman to make you anything is sound economics. They’ll probably go out for a meal at your sister’s restaurant on the proceeds.
THESE DAYS SURFERS ARE MUCH MORE OPEN-MINDED ABOUT BOARDS, BUT IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE OPEN-MINDED?
I think everyone should learn to surf a diverse range of craft – but only to a point. The mindset that, ‘this design is crap / redundant / outdated’ is wrong – all you’re really saying is that you can’t make it go and don’t have the imagination to try. At the other end of the scale there is also a lot to be said for really being tuned into your equipment and having everything dialled in to make the most of that one rare day when the stars align. Most people can’t really get to that point if they are constantly having to adjust their style and muscle memory to fit their new ‘open minded’ experiments.