The story below, was written by Andrew McKinnon, and as Andrew is a much better writer than I am. It was a no brainer to use it. However I do think that I would like to ad a small note to Andrew’s story. John has mostly been known for his surfing prowess, but his shaping, is what we would like to congratulate him for. Although maybe not as old as some in the industry, I have on the legends page, John has been nominated by more people than some of the masters. His boards have always had a very hard-core following and his detail in design is extremely underrated. As this site is to preserve history, but also to feature the hidden geniuses of surfboard manufacturing. John Harris fits the profile.
By Andrew McKinnon
John Harris is in the classic mould of a surf survivor journeyman who is deeply passionate about his surfing and shaping that has spanned over 50 years. It’s that wealth of experience that makes John Harris surfboards so uniquely special.
From the early grounding days of Dee Why where he was mentored by the late and great Peter Crawford kneeboard/photographer extraordinaire John then gained first-hand experience learning the surfboard trade at Brookvale which was the epicentre of Australian surfboard manufacturing.
John later ingratiated himself with the North Coast of NSW living and working in Byron Bay where he connected with successful surfing businessman Warren Cornish who immediately hired this rising talent and their friendship developed into a long time professional working relationship. Next move was to Norah Head where John shaped boards for high profile locals like Glen “Mr X” Winton and Wayne Spong to further develop his shaping skills. He progressed into the professional competitive ranks with impressive showings at the Mattarra Newcastle Pro sharing equal 7th with Michael Peterson in 1976, made the NSW and Australian finals in 78’ to gain a place in the Aussie team, for his first trip to Hawaii, competed in most Australian events and quite a few international contests before heading to Hawaii to surf his first Pipeline Masters in 1981. Later, John competed with the likes of Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton and a young Occy in the early days of the ASP World Tour.
John re-entered the competition scene with the new longboard circuit winning his first event at Manly in 1985. He won the 1990 Australian Longboard title where he represented Australia in Barbados and Tahiti, the following year, all the while never losing sight of his short board roots and the hard core approach to surfing which manifested itself in building high quality surfboards for all occasions and all manners of surf aficionados.
By the late Eighties John moved back up to the North Coast to Lennox Head continuing his close association with the latest developments of surfing and expanding his huge client base stretching from Sydney to the Gold Coast, Noosa and throughout the SE Asian market.
It was inevitable that he would eventually move to the Gold Coast where he established himself at Tweed Heads equating with the local heroes and the many passionate surf punters like himself. John found himself travelling back down to Byron during that time to shape the McTavish longboards, before the shaping machine came into vogue.
His next surfing journey led John to spend a lot of time in Bali surfing with Mr Uluwatu, the highly respected Made Lana where he pushed the surfing limits in epic sessions at Outside Corner and Padang Padang.
Always one with his eye on the ball and never losing sight of the desire and passion for surfing, John Harris has maintained his high degree of shaping and producing high quality, progressive and functional boards that rate with the best. Taking in all levels of the surfing spectrum from the Groms to the Ageless surfer, John’s shaping right now has never been better or more on for whatever you need. It’s that successful formula that is guaranteed to work whether at your local break or when it counts in the serious stuff in some exotic location – put simply John Harris Surfboards have got you fully covered.
“After more than 40 years of hand shaping and designing 20,000 plus, having shaped boards for 10 World Champions, 5 Pipeline Masters, and many great and not so great surfers, I don’t have to second guess,” he said. “It has been my life and nowhere do I feel more comfortable than in the shaping bay, looking down the bottom curve and shaping the rail to suit”
John Harris speaks from experience and candidly expresses in layman terms what it takes to evolve from starting out and morphing into a highly proficient surfer and surfboard maker.
– Andrew McKinnon
Something John probably never knew i’m not sure, but it’s one of those things that happen in life. John was living on Soldiers Point road at Norah Head and I was calling in to see him. I pulled up out front and knocked on the door. No one home, so off to the surf ,so I thought. As I was walking to my car, I heard a groan, sort of sounded like a dog growling, it wasn’t though, it was a mate of mine who had come off his motorbike and ended up in John’s neighbours yard. He was in a really bad way, but after I rushed him to the hospital he fully recovered. He had been there since the afternoon before, unable to walk or talk as he had brocken his pelvis and jaw. This has nothing to do with surfing, except that when JH was going for a surf, it was focus, focus. Terry and I have always remembered this day.