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 Wollongong native Dylan Perese to chat about how trends are emerging and how crucial the tight-knit South Coast community has been to the growth of his business.
So mate, since we spoke twelve months ago, how have you seen the shaping world change, and have you seen any change at all?
There's always varying trends and different things that come and go but for us, we have been seeing a significant increase in epoxy boards, so EPS core and either stringerless with some sort of carbon strapping and or just a standard timber stringer. Apart from that, there's a real buzz around twinnies at the moment. Just the word twinny is kind of in-vogue, so I’ve been playing around with hand shaping a few of my own little versions. We've got some little stockies and little stock models like the Asteroid I just shaped, that lends itself to riding as a twinny with a stabilizer. For the most part everyone does their own thing. There are general trends, but for me I kind of still want follow my own path as opposed to follow what's going on out there.
It seems that everyone from your backyard shapers right through to up-and-coming guys, to guys like yourself, then right through to your giant huge retail operations, all have a twinny in their operation. Why do you think that is a bit of a trend at the moment?
I'm not too sure. I guess on the functional side of things, not having that back fin, it sort of ends up with a lot less drag, so you’re just cruising and having fun. You slow everything down so you can just have a little less of a serious and more fun surf. Maybe people are enjoying that feeling, but trends come and go and if someone popular is into the twinny thing and it gets a little beat of steam up on social media, that's all it really takes for everyone to go "Oh, I need a twinnie in my quiver."
Then you see guys like Parko and Julian riding the new Black Baron model and Julian, and it doesn't take much for people to cotton on and go, "Right, I want a twinny of some fun.”
I guess that's the trend now, but where do you see the trend continuing to go?
Who knows? It could go back to singly clink bottoms next year for all we know. I know for us it's about refining and still developing your high performance equipment, which is always going to be our core focus. You've got to cater to the lesser conditions that you get everywhere, especially like we’ve had on the east coast over the last six months. A big part of your market will always be catering to your average Joe, sensible boards with a bit of volume, still refined enough for a good guy to jump on and throw it around, but we'll just keep it pretty simple. A few new advances with some different technology I reckon. I think the eco thing is kind of still slowly building, but who will know? You'll just have to wait and see what's here in a year's time and what's getting shaped in the booth next year.
When we spoke last year, a lot of our conversation was about the solid community focus that you guys have as well with the core of your team-riders coming from Cronulla down to the mid-south coast…
Is that still one of your main driving forces?
Absolutely. Look, that's our bread and butter. That's the community that's always supported us, and we've supported back, so it's always going to be our main focus as our immediate area. Obviously it's nice to network out, branch out and see yourself in some different areas but as long as your local contingency is happy and we're selling boards, that's kind of the main focus, for sure. If you had a chance to shape a board for anyone say in the next 12-to-18 months, who would it be? Look, it's going to always be hard to go past Kelly, because of how much knowledge and in depth understanding he's got about surfboards and surfboard design, probably on every aspect and level, so it would be hard to go past Kelly. But then you've got these young kids who are just doing the most incredible surfing, look, any of those guys on tour, you've got your Filipes or Julians, or any of them would be incredible to work with or even just make a board, get a bit of feedback. I think still, if I had to choose, I would say Slater though.
Fair enough. Who are you looking to for inspiration?
I've got a handful of older guys who I've learnt and made boards with like Graham King and Mark Rabbidge, and they're great. They know surfboard design and the industry back-to-front. But obviously for newer school inspiration, you can't look past those big majors to see what board design is doing at it's most refined point at the moment. So I'm always looking at those guys, but to be honest, I will look at any board I come in contact with. You're always looking and seeing what people are doing and it's definitely not so you can rip it off, it's because you want to see what's out there. I've also got a lot of respect for a lot of the local shapers around my area, Parrish Byrne is doing a good job, taking over where his Dad and Uncles left off and Dennis Wright from Addiction, he doesn't really do custom boards anymore, but he machines all our boards, he's one of the better board builders I've come across. There's a lot of guys you wouldn't have heard of that know their craft really well, that you can draw inspiration from, for sure.
The NSW South Coast is a tight knit community. Have you found, you and Parrish have fed off each other?
For sure. Even say, with our customers and stuff, a guy will go and get a Parrish, then he'll come and get one off me, and we're happy for customers to jump between each other. We've both got plenty of work, and naturally, I think you do get a little bit competitive as we’re still the youngish shapers in the area, but I’d say we're probably split 50/50 boards on the beach. In our area, it's DP and Byrne everywhere pretty much, which is awesome because a lot of the local communities on the rest of the coast have sort of been infiltrated by the bigger retailers with the bigger brands and it's hard to stay in business and stay current when the retailers are pushing those big labels so hard in every area. We're lucky, I reckon, we're building good boards in a good little local area, there's a big surf culture and a big surf following so there's enough work for us. A good bunch of surfers come out of that little area too, that obviously help you develop shaping and keep it in tune.
Words and images: Ethan Smith