For the second year in a row we built a pop-up shaping bay on the promenade above North Steyne Beach at Manly, NSW Australia during the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro. The idea behind the buildout being that while competitors pop off air reverses in the soft beachbreaks, shapers could work away in the shack, connect with other foam mowers and ground the event in true surf culture simply by working on their craft in a public space. From this, we bring you our Builders Q+A series: a series featuring questions answered by some of Australia's finest surfboard shapers while they were in the shaping bay working on their boards.
Vissla catches up with shaper Alex Crews to discuss his future and why a team of down-to-earth rippers works just as well as having a CT star on your roster.
So, yeah, talk to us, in the last twelve months mate, what sort of changes have you seen?Whether they are still here or they've come and gone in shaping.
I guess epoxy's really starting to nudge its head a bit more into the limelight. Especially for competitors and seeing them open their minds up to riding that and using it in heats. I guess that would be the biggest one. But, other than that, just maybe a few more alternate shapes are starting to also nudge their head up.
Yeah, that seems to be a pretty big general consensus by all the shapers I've spoken, and they all seem to think that people are open to trying different things. Are you finding the same?
For sure. Yeah. Definitely, just more and more people are starting to hit me up for alternative stuff that I'm making, like The Fox or the Two Fangs models. I guess thereΓÇÖs even a resurgence in that people want a hand-finished, hand-built product and something that doesn't seem as disposable.
What sort of things have you learned over the last twelve months?
It's a good question. I definitely think my performance boards have improved. Just taking things from those hybrid, little fun boards and putting those into my performance stuff. The same concepts have actually improved them a little bit. I think just all around, as a businessman, just going through the ups-and-downs, there's been mistakes and things I've learned from those to take to move forward.
What sort of things are you looking forward to doing that you probably haven't had the opportunity to do yet?
I'd like to maybe travel a little more and do some shaping overseas or something; a little stint in the States or just anywhere. Then, maybe even opening a shop at some pointΓÇª
Do you think that that'll allow you to have a better connection with your customers? Having that shop front?
I'd say so. I think having your own space as a business and a brand and being able to bring them into that space and give them a bit more of an experience of, you know, what your brand is, what it's about, and just market yourself the way you want to marketed. I think it's an important part of the business, for sure.
You've got an up and coming team, it would probably be fair to say. Was that always been a bit of a solid focus for you, to embrace that youth?
Yeah. Honestly, it sort of only come about probably around last year. I was definitely trying to get a high profile surfer for the sake of trying to get more sales, but, just finding those guys, obviously, they're at a point in their careers where they want something that's going to work from the get go. They don't want to put that time in and they don't have time to waste working on a board when it's make or break in a heat. Since that, I feel like I'm actually starting to get my own brand image and even my own image from my own shaping credibility, working with these young kids. Just forming a strong bond and a relationship. When you look at a good example, would be Fanning with DHD. They've been working together, so hopefully one of these boys is the next Fanning. (laughs)
But do you think that having that kid that is a little more connected to the general public and helps drives sales just as much, as say, having a big name who is unreachable?
Yes and no. I think that just depends on the consumer, really. There are crew, who like that knowing someone's down to earth and knowing someone who thinks theyΓÇÖre on everybodyΓÇÖs level. And then there's people who want a product because it's got SlaterΓÇÖs name on it. So, yeah, it's a bit of a yes and a no.
But really, the boys on my team have been ripping. Toby (Mossop) just dropped a mental clip, and he's really starting to grow his name and become a bit of a person on the scene. And even little Zach McMahon's been doing okay in the Pro Juniors as well and making a little name for himself there. I see a future with them all, so I'm sure they're going to do something cool in the future.
In twelve months time, where do you want to be when we have the chat this time next year?
I'd love to have my own shop, and doing a consistent amount of work. And sort of, maybe just working for myself purely.
Words and images: Ethan Smith