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.
We caught up with Sam Tehan at the 2019 Vissla Sydney Surf Pro to talk about shaping for a label that’s been around for 40-plus years and the future of shaping with new materials.
Talk to us a little bit about your, your journey into, into shaping and how it began.
I started shaping when I was about 18. I'd been working at Jackson Surfboards for, probably, about three years as apprentice and just a full grommet, hanging around, and then I won a blank at a longboard comp which I think it was a regional titles down in Cronulla. So then I started shaping, made one and it didn't go great, but I managed to sell it, and then make enough to buy materials to make the next one and it all snowballed from there.
Was that what planted a seed for you to want to go into shaping?
No, I grew up round a factory so I was always just making boards and hanging around fixing boards and I always interested in them. So, when I finished school, it was a chance to work there full-time, so I thought I may as well do that as a job. I didn't know what else I was gonna do.
Cronulla's always had a pretty solid depth of shapers come outta there…
Yeah, you know, Cronulla has a long history and the labels that've been down there, like, Jackson's and Gordon and Smith were like some of the original ones. Even Force Nine's been around for nearly 40 years now and they've had a lotta guys on tour through the 80s and things, so there's a bit of a legacy there with a lot of decent shapers growing up.
Is it a bit of weight on your shoulders to work for a label that's been around for 40 years?
A little bit but Jim (Lucas – Force 9 owner) is pretty good. We’ve got plenty of freedom to make what we want and work with the customers. We’ve got a good team of groms down there in Cronulla and we look after them and get them out in the community, so we get a lot of feedback off them. Also, I still do a lot of longboards for a couple of the other companies like Bennett Surfboards, for a few of their teamriders, so I get the chance to shape a bit of everything.
What is it about I guess shaping at the moment that you really like?
Yeah, I like that there's a lot of freedom now, like people make boards every different style, there's all the asymmetricals coming out, different lengths, different thicknesses and something for different conditions. You go out for a surf not everyone's riding the same thing, everyone's riding something different, they're always chasing a different feeling. It's always fun to find something different and incorporate what people want in their custom boards.
And what do you think the future holds for shapers? I mean especially guys who work with longer heritage labels like, say, Force Nine.
We’ve always tried to push new materials and different things.
I think at some stage we'll probably all begin incorporating a lot of these new types of materials, as well, we might have to change the way we make boards. You know, make them stronger so they'll last better and they'll be something worthwhile holding onto. It won't be a situation where you get board that lasts 12 months and then you gotta get a new one and the old one's gone to the tip. If you make something that's strong and lasts, and then you'll find you're able to do different shapes and change with different materials, the shapes will change with different materials.
Words and images: Ethan Smith