10 AUSTRALIANS THAT SHAPED THE SURFING UNIVERSE
The most beloved surfer ever to come out of Australia; responsible for the greatest string of performance in that nation’s proud surfing history; yet humble to the point he’ll strike up a conversation with a shirtless stranger carrying bags of trash in an elevator (that was me). Mark Richards won four straight world titles due largely to the twin-fin design he invented, giving him unparalleled speed and flow compared to his rivals. Today, a simple phone call is enough to get you a custom board made by the man himself.
Although responsible for the most ubiquitous design evolution in surfing, the three-fin thruster, Simon made not a cent from it. “I’m just lazy," he said of his failure to patent it back when. By adding the extra fin, Simon was able to provide the extra stability and drive that allowed him to surf parts of the wave no one ever believed possible. He proved as much by winning 1981 Bells contest, providing the icing on a remarkable twenty years of design evolution that took us from balsa wood logs through to highly maneuverable short boards.
How fitting that one of the greatest contributors to Australian shaping was a mythical drug indulging schizophrenic who lead cops on the most infamous car chase in Queensland history, and blew minds at Bells on a board dreamed up in the most altered haze, called the ‘Moon Rocket.’ MP’s life revolved around the simple ambition of getting tubed. It was at his home break Kirra that his tinkerings with rockers revolutionized the way tubes were ridden. By moving the rocker (where the board curves) to the middle of the board he could now rock forward to get him the speed to get out of the tube or simply rock back to get deeper. “It’s like cheating, man," he told friends of the invention.
Cheyne’s greatest contribution to shaping was more of a metaphysical one. While
his designs themselves were, shall we say, out there, it was his holistic approach to sourcing ideas and ushering in innovation that contributed much to the psyche of
Australian shapers. Cheyne was famously dedicated to his board designs, in particular the keel template he developed for his fin in conjunction with the man behind the 1983 America’s Cup winning yacht (it was the same design as the British WWII spitfire wing). Unfortunately Cheyne got caught behind MR and his twin-fin, losing four successive titles before retreating to a commune on the NSW north coast where he ingested a ton of hallucinogenics and made a film about it all, titled Scream in Blue.
With seven world titles on his books (Mick Fanning x2 and Steph Gilmore x 5), Darren is undoubtedly a kingpin of modern performance shaping. These days the leaps in board design are made at a micro level and Darren is famous for how close he works with his surfers. These are the Ferraris of the surfing world, built for speed with the utmost performance in every conceivable condition.
He would one day develop a design tweak that would result in one of the great surfing performances in history, but before that Maurice did two years in jail for selling dope. Once out of the clink, he based himself out of Hossegor in the ‘80s, where a chance conversation with Tom Curren in a car park yielded one of the most influential design tweaks in modern surfing. Called the ‘Reverse Vee Revolution,’ Maurice and Tom developed a new template for that flat space running between the fins and mid-section of the board. That combined with more rail curve allowed higher speed carves in bigger waves, the evidence of which can be found in Curren’s iconic Backdoor roundhouse and his performance at Haleiwa on his way to a title in 1991. Two years later, Maurice would shape Kelly’s maiden world title winning board.
After serving his apprenticeship on the Gold Coast - arguably the region responsible for the greatest advancements in Australian shaping - Christiaan did a lengthy stint under Al Merrick. Here he came into contact with the likes of Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and various other big names on the Merrick label. Shaping boards out of Europe, where conditions vary so much in size and power, he’s been able to develop a multitude of rocker templates for every kind of style and condition. It’s no surprise he’s now the shaper of choice for a large swathe of the WCT.
The man credited with inventing vertical surfing arrived on the scene at the change over from longboards to shortboards. The reclusive, draft-dodging Victorian pioneered countless waves along the rugged southern coast of Australia. From points, to big wave bommies, hollow reef breaks and beach breaks, his boards reflected the versatility of the waves he was surfing. But it was his maneuverable, clean shapes and his penchant for smooth linked turns down the line that he will be remembered for.
Made out of the high performance heartland of Coolangatta, JS has been credited with helping Joel Parkinson win his maiden world title and is revered for the versatility of his boards in all conditions. Having worked with the late A.I, his brother Bruce, and Dusty Payne, his series of guns and big wave boards are considered among the best in the world. While his latest charger, two time world champion, Jack Freestone, is among the world’s leading aerialists, a fact reflected in the high volume though uniquely maneuverable and versatile boards coming out of his factory.
They don’t come more visionary than Greg Webber. The man currently locked in a race with Kelly Slater to build the first fully functioning wavepool was originally a board shaper who rocketed to fame producing boards for Taj Burrow during his career halcyon days. Greg was responsible for the first full concave design (allowing water to funnel down the length of the board and out the through the thins smoothly) giving surfers a smoother passage across the water. He also introduced epoxy to surfboard construction.
Words by Jed Smith