These are the masters of surfboard manufacturing. In Sydney it all started as a backyard industry, with the main players of the Brookvale six, Barry Bennett, Bill Wallace, Denny Keogh, Gordon Woods, Scott Dillon and Greg McDonaugh.
Over the year these guys and many others around Australia made boards under their houses or in the garage, until a enough of us were ordering new boards and they all had to move into specialised factories.
Some were tradesman, but most were just self taught. It really doesn’t affect the outcome as surfboards are a hand made specialised product and through the years the initial masters of manufacturing they did all the stages of board building themselves, from start to finish. The demand grew and the masters needed some help so they took on some of the local kids to help clean out the shaping bay or rough cut the blanks. As demand increased again they taught some of their friends or employees to build surfboards. Usually it was just one stage in the manufacturing. Shaping, Glassing, Sanding, Gloss Coating, Polishing and other odd jobs.
These employees or mates eventually grew so proficient they became masters of manufacturing themselves. Some stayed with the original masters to become legends of the process with a speciality. Shapers gained the most exposure then the glassers and with the advent of colour we had another process of art, pin lines, cloth inserts and many other processes. Others left the masters and set up their own businesses and new brands started to pop up all around Australia.
The message I am attempting to portray is that all surfboards are a labor of love, to most of these guys with so much pride and personal design that goes into every surfboard, they really should sell for as much as a small car. The most misleading perception is surfboards are over priced and the manufacturers make fortunes. It has been over one hundred years of surfboard manufacturing and I can attest to the fact there are only a few who have made their fortunes.
To give a perspective I owned or operated surf shops and was involved in the manufacturing of boards most of my life and when a board hits the showroom floor there is about one hundred dollars profit for the shop. That may seem a lot but imagine buying ten surfboards, and two of them don’t sell for some reason? Sometimes a new design comes out and they are old hat. You sell them on special for less than you paid for them so your profit from ten boards is gone.
The reason I have attempted to explain this is to show that when a local board manufacturer is asked to build a custom surfboard and then asked for a discount. He will usually do it a couple of times a month to keep the others in his factory employed. These guys are master craftsmen and in any hand made product by a legend of the industry should be at least double what you are paying now. It has been a problem in the industry since the beginnings!!
The surfboard industry is in an extremely vulnerable position at present with the importation of overseas cheap inferior surfboards coming into Australia. A throw away board maybe cheap, but you get what you pay for!!!
Please support your local master craftsmen as we could lose the intellectual gold mine that these masters have spent many years learning and passing on the expertise. Someone has to come up with new designs or even experiment with design concepts so the surfboards can continue it’s evolution. If we continue to ignore this situation, we will all be riding cheap crap boards that will stagnate surfboard design forever.
The Vintage surfboards we have in all the surf museums are a testament to the development, designs and experimentation that evolved into what we are surfing today.