Builders Q+A with Parrish Byrne

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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.

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We dropped in on Parrish Byrne at the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro to hear about his experience recreating a classic Tom Carroll board alongside his Dad, Phil, and the sometimes intense dynamic that comes with shaping boards with your father.

You’ve come in here to do some shaping with a little bit of a vision to recreate a classic Tom Carroll board. Talk us through it.
Yeah, well I was sort of up in arms about what to do. Shaping wise, I didn't want just do a 5’11” performance board as it becomes a bit monotonous. I was just at work the other day and I was seeing an old Tom Carroll board on the wall. It looked pretty cool. I got it down, measured it up, got it through the machine and then also asked my Dad to come and put his hands on it with me. From there we shaped this board together, which is pretty cool. We haven't really done that before and it was super fun.

Your dad shaped boards for Tommy Carroll back in the day, did you always look at that board and go "Wow, that's a piece of art" once you sort of start to get your head around what surfboards did and how they worked?
Yeah, that's when it started. At first, it was just another board, but once you get stuck into the design concept and what works and why it works, yeah, it was super interesting. This board stuck out because I feel like the outline is really progressive for the time. It was shaped in 1981, but once I measured it up, it was very close to what our standard high-performance short boards that we do today, so for 1981, it must have been really ahead of its time.

Do you know much about what your dads thought patterns were when he devised that board?
Yeah, it was shaped for the first ever wavepool tour event in Allentown, Pennsylvania and basically the boys on tour went to the wavepool and then they went to Japan, so Dad's design concept was all around ankle-high wavepool, then Japan, which is generally small, and it's kind of fitting for Manly as well. In summer time we generally get small surf at events, so it's kind of a board that sort of, you know... It means something towards the contest here. It's something that, say if the contest was in '81, I'd guarantee Tom would be riding this board today.

Did you make any adjustments with the new board that's compared to the old one? Are there any sort new-school fine tuning elements to it?
Yeah, there is. Dad kind of got a bit cranky with me about it, but I just felt like the rails and the back end of the board were a bit thick on the board. He later explained to me the reasoning behind that was for the pool, obviously. It's fresh water. It's less buoyant than saltwater, so they thickened up the tail so you get that little bit of elevation. Me, being a perfectionist and tweaking design and stuff, I actually thinned out the tail on this one to make it sort of more suited to a wave like Manly or something.

Tell us a little bit about the relationship with your dad. What was it like growing up under that sort of tutelage, for lack of a better word?
It was great, you know. My main thing that I respected about my Dad and all those guys that he did boards for was his relationship he had with those guys, you know. Once he was in there, he did everything 110 percent for the guys on tour and stuff, and they were part of the family, essentially, so I carried that onboard. When it would come down to the actual making of the boards, he listened and took on board everything they said, so that's something I've kind of took on board and he was doing with me, while I was competing. The reason I actually started shaping was I had some ideas and we were in the bay and he was sort of fobbing off everything I said, so I said "You know what? I'm going to start shaping boards so I can do what I want, not what you want." So, that's kind of a funny one there.

Over the years I imagine that you probably have locked horns a little bit with different concepts between what he would like and what you think works.
Yeah, definitely. It's definitely old school versus new school. That was the first time we've been in the bay together for quite a while because it ends with one of us throwing our hands in the air and what not. He doesn't listen to me and I don't listen to him. It's just the father and son relationship I guess. I think everything he's done for me, I wouldn't be the shaper or even the person I am today without him.

If there was one bit of advice he has told you about shaping over the years that has stood out, what would you say it is?
I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I take on board every little detail. He says it's a hard one to perfect shaping and to take it as it is. Don't try to get one thing because you'll just chase it and chase it. Be a bit open minded. Because something is different, it isn't necessarily a bad thing, so keep an open mind and it's all good.

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Words: Ethan Smith
Images: Jeremiah Klein & Ethan Smith