Ocean & Earth – Double Black Steamer

I haven’t surfed much in Winter the last few years and the main reason is the cold water isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be. OK I’ll admit it, I hate the cold water which is a big call for someone who wears shorts and t-shirts all year.

I decided it was time to try a different approach. K-Stars at Wallsend and Adamstown are stockists of the Ocean & Earth range of wetsuits, stocking a great range.

The one I selected to try was the 3/2 Double Black Steamer with the back zip. The back zip is not as long as the traditional zip and is still easy to use.

The wetsuit feels good, is easy to get into and fitted great. The neoprene is soft and doesn’t feel restrictive at all. The internal plush material felt good too.

Marketing hype says that the wetsuit has Glued & Blind Stitched internal Water Shield which is basicallt meant to maximise warmth and minimise water entry, so it was time to put the marketing department of O&E to the real test.

I entered the water waiting for rush of cold water to hit the legs but it just didn’t happen. Even when I got to waist deep there was no cold water. I thought to myself, “This is how a wetsuit should be”. Maybe they were and I had just been missing out all these years.

I was paddling out when the moment of truth appeared. It was time to duck dive! As I went under the cold water hit the head and I was waiting for the water to do it’s usual run down the back. Again it didn’t happen.

After almost two hours in the water I wasn’t cold, had no wetty rash under my left arm pit and felt good. I didn’t feel as restricted as I normally do. When I was on a wave I barely noticed the wetsuit at all.

I really love this wetsuit and can even wear my Ocean & Earth Java 1.5mm Reef Boots with it.

If the steamer is this good I can wait to try the Double Black 2/2 Spring Suit.

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The WQS Grind

Imagine for a second that you are a professional surfer, you’ve travelled over 30 hours and half way round the world. You have 25 or 30 minutes to make it through your heat, lose and you may not even make enough money to break even on your accommodation. Welcome to the world of a professional female surfer.

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The World Surf League’s qualifying series is called the World Qualifying series or the WQS as it’s known takes surfers all around the world chasing enough points to qualify for the World Championship Tour, the WCT or for the WCT surfers to requalify if they drop out of the Top 10. Some years it can mean only to or three surfers will graduate from the WQS to the WCT.

Prizemoney on the WQS is good if you’re winning but takeout all the expenses such as flights, accommodation and food, then you need to be winning but what if you’re lower on the rankings and can not get into a WQS 6000 event then you may have to work your way up through the WQS 1000 events.

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A good idea is to team up with other surfers and share the load as sponsorship dollars only go so far, they are more likely to recieve boards and equipment.

A great example of this is Dominic Barona, Melanie Guinta, Silvana Lima and Luchy Cosoleto. These girls travel together and not only share expenses but give support for each other. Having this support is vital and they all want each other to win. If one of the girls bow out of the event, they turn up and support the ones still surfing. It’s a sytem that I have witnessed firsthand.

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It’s no doubt the girls are colourful, loud and passionate. Could the Australian girls learn from the South American girls and is this is what makes the South American girls such a force in professional surfing.

I think this support of each other helps celebrate the wins and makes loses easier to bear.

WQS 1000 vs 6000 – Which is better?

The development on women’s surfing in Australia is helped by the number of WQS events and the rating attached to those events, but which is better?

 

Having both events available are equally important.

 

The QS6000 events bring the top WCT and WQS surfers to your local beach. The points are highly valuable and can determine who chases the world title the following year.

 

 

The surfing is amazing and it brings an international feel to the event.

 

The best example of this is Surfest, which is held each year at Merewether Beach in the month of February.

 

Due to funding and sponsorship the women’s event at Surfest dropped back to a QS1000 event in 2015. The benefit of having this rating meant that we got to see up and coming young surfers with lower rankings compete against some great international surfers.

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Surfers like Sophia Bernard, The Greene sisters Mikaela & Eliza, Ellie Brooks and Alyssa Lock got a chance to shine and advance their competitive skills in this QS1000 event.

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The benefit from to surfing in Australia is all these young ladies have progressed in the sport, we hope this was due to having events that increased their rankings which then allowed them to tackle QS6000 events.

 

Move forward to 2016 and Surfest became a QS6000 event and continues to be till this day due to crowdfunding.

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A bigger international field is great for young frothing groms, good for increased sponsorship and exposure.

 

A QS6000 event helps our young aussie girls like Macy Callaghan and Philippa Anderson edge closer to the WCT, a reward for the hard yards.

 

Towards the end of the year the lower ranked surfers on the WCT, need to hit the WQS events to make sure the requalify for the WCT. This will be evident at the QS6000 Port Stephens Toyota Classic.

 

This event might not have the same impact, if it were a QS1000 event, however go back a week and Phillip Island will hold a QS1000 event, both important for the surfers competing.

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As a photographer I like the first two rounds of a women’s event where you see the top players rested while the up and coming surfers battle to compete against the elite.

 

It’s hard to deny the excitement of seeing the best surfers competing against each other in the QS6000 events but the QS1000 events showcase much of the development work done by Surfing Australia with our young surfers.

Board Design – Knowledge is Power

Many times in life I refer back to my old school motta of Knowledge is Power. This works well with surfboards but does the average surfer know what works when it comes to surfboards? What about the pro’s, do they know what they’re riding?

As a surfboard shaper I’m always interested in what surfers are riding but was really surprised that many WQS surfers don’t have a lot of input into their equipment.

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Obviously it’s hard to step outside the square, many say that if Cheyne Horan rode thrusters then he would have been a world champion but he was never afraid to experiment.

A common answer to questions about boards tends to get an answer of, “I’m not sure, it’s what my shaper gave me”.

This could be a two part problem. The surfers don’t get the opportunity to get in the bay with their shaper or their own lack the knowledge to tell the shaper what they need.

Now i’m hardly shouting, “You know nothing Jon Snow”, but would more knowledge of board design help out everyone in the surf, even our WQS surfers?

Most WQS surfers may only get a few boards a year so it’s important to have something that works in most conditions.

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It’s easy then to see why the majority of girls ride the square tail, they add stability and the corners of the square dig into the wave whilst turning and help increase the ability of the board to make pivotal turns.

But there are more options

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The rounded sqare is the forgotten cousin of the square tail. Sure they are still on good terms but the rounded square can’t help be jealous. The rounded tail allows water to wrap around the contour of the tail and gives better traction in bigger, faster, hollower and more powerful waves. They tend to be looser, can draw out nice long turns but may not create sharper turns. I always feel they are very forgiving. They do add more surface area to the back of the board which can create more speed in slow spots on the wave.

Maybe the WQS surfers don’t need a rounded pin but the average female could use that extra tail volume and ease of turning, the shape of the rail and the shape of the tail do most of the work when it’s cutack time.

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Channels are another great option. Your glasser and sander will disagree and after shaping a few I can see why. They take more time to make, more time to glass and are great fun to sand, said no one ever. Maybe channels are another story for another day.

The WQS tour is a battlefield and an all round board that works in all conditions is of great benefit.

Now is a great time to bug your shaper and try something different, you never know, you might be surprised.

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You’ll find me in the shaping bay working on a rounded pin with belly channels.

My Confession about Women’s Surfing

I have a confession to make.

I have told my dark secret to several other surf photographers and some secretly agree with me. I prefer shooting women’s competitive surfing. I prefer shooting it over men’s.

So perhaps I should explain my self now that it’s all out in the open.

I have been shooting competitive surfing for around 4 years and have had the opportunity to shoot both men’s and women’s competitions, mainly WQS events.
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One day when I was going through the 2000 shots I had taken during the day, and found that many of the men’s shots were similar and repetitive.

I have found that women’s surfing has retained it’s individuality and each competitor has their own style.

Women’s surfing relies less on raw power, it has a higher degree of finesse and has retained more of the old school feel.

Looking at any female surfer of the WCT and you’ll see turns where the rail is held throughout the turn but this isn’t just for the pro’s.

If you look at the likes of Claire Bevilacqua and Holly Wawn on the WQS then you’ll see power surfing but dig deeper in the WQS Rankings and you’ll find many young ladies who have similar power but have great individual style. Ones that come to mind are Dominic Barona and Holly Wawn.

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Perhaps my love of women’s surfing comes from my appreciation of tighter turns in the pocket, solid bottom turns and a good round house cutback but the girls are making better use of manoeuvres like tail slides and quick snaps.

I think women’s surfing has a long road ahead and I don’t mean that in a bad way. More stand alone events, better conditions and an increase in WCT spots are steps in the right direction to the ultimate goal, getting more girls in the water, loving the sport that connects them with nature in it’s purest form.

Nusa Lembongan

Nusa Lembongan is one of a series of three islands off the coast of mainland Bali, which is made up from Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Pendina.

 

Lembongan is truly a great place and is probably still one of the hidden gems in the area. It has natural beauty, is fairly small and you always feel safe.

The decision to go to Lembongan was made due to hearing about the island through a friend at work.

The easiest way to begin the trip to Nusa Lembongan is to land in Bali, then make your way to Sanur. The reason for this is that most of the boats that travel to Lembongan depart from there. We stayed at the Inna Grand in Sanur, which was a short walk to the office of our boat, Sri Rejeki Fast Boat. This was a good choice as they do hotel pick up in Bali then Hotel drop off in Lambongan.

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Getting on the boat is the start of the adventure, put your footwear (shoes, thongs or fliplops) into a crate and watch your bags get stacked onto the top deck of the boat. Getting on and off the boat means your going to get wet, at least to the bottom of your shorts. Entry is via the back of the boats and it’s done on the beach. It’s all pretty smooth and easy, just keep phones and ipods in your backpack.

The trip takes about 25 to 30 minutes depending on the seas and weather but it’s a good run. Getting off the boat is pretty much a reverse procedure, again it’s pretty easy. As previously mentioned your boat ride includes the transfer to your accommodation.

We stayed at the Mahagiri Resort in Lembongan, which is one of the newer hotels on the island. First thing you should do when you get there is hire a scooter. It’s again very easy to do as nearly every place hires scooters. For surfers I recommend getting one with a surfboard rack, it makes life easy. It also gives you the chance to have a look around for food places. Scooters or as we called ours, the mighty hog cost around 700,000 Rupiah a day or $7 AUD. You pay and take the scooter, no forms, no licence but some basic instruction….don’t crash as most Travel Insurance don’t cover Scooters. At first the roads seem chaotic but you quickly learn there is a system and a lack of agro, very pleasent indeed.

There are many food options on the island and I have to say they are all good and cater to everyone, even the gluten free, dairy free and vegans. You will quickly find your favourite. We found The Sampan, Bali Eco Deli (great coffee), Mickey’s Sports Bar, Nyomans Warung (great fish in banana leaf), The Deck Cafe & Bar, Tiki Cafe & Bar and the Thai Pantry which has a VW Kombi as a bar on the deck overlooking Lembongan Harbour.

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Bali Eco Deli with Scooter Parking

As a surfer I was keen to hit the water. The water is clean, clear and warm. During September it is around 27 degrees each day. The best surfing is on the mid to high tide. I thought it might be ok on the low tide but this was a really bad idea. During this session the reef boots I purchased, paid for themselves six times over.

The main breaks are Playgrounds, Lacerations, Shipwrecks and Ceningan Lefts.

Playgrounds is a nice fun wave for beginners to immediate surfers, which breaks left and right. The left seemed to break better for me and it was fun when I hired a mini mal from the guys at Long Sambung Beach (Coconut Bay). They will also help you out with a lift to the breaks but it’s really not required for Playgrounds. A board will cost you around 500,000 to 700,000 rupiah a day. Again this is only $5 to $7 AUD for the day.

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The view of Playgrounds from The Deck Bar & Cafe with Playgrounds on the left and Lacerations on the right.

The next break is Lacerations and I’m glad it never lived up to it’s name. Again good for beginner to intermediate, this wave is a great little right hander and really fun. Between Lacerations and the next break, Shipwrecks is No Mans Land, take note and stay away.

The third break, Shipwrecks is definitely Intermediate to Advanced and although you can paddle out, grab a boat on the way out and paddle in. Shipwrecks really pumps! All the waves have plenty of power in the and the crowds are great during the time I was there anyway.

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Lembongan Harbour

Crossing the Yellow Bridge takes you to the other surf break, Ceningan Lefts, a ripper of a left hander. The Yellow Bridge is the only way to get there and is only wide enough for two scooters or one scooter and a few pedestrians with luggage.

There is a small wave at Tamarind Beach on Lembongan and it looked alright for a beginner on a mal.

One of the big drawcards of Lembongan is the amazing sunsets. Grab a Happy Hour drink and sit back and enjoy.

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Sunset from Mahagiri Resort

You can do as much or as little as you want on Lembongan. Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Paddle Boarding or every other watersport like parasailing, even banana boat rides.

Every eatery has Wi-Fi, you can keep in contact with the outside world and make your friends envious with your Instagram and Facebook posts while having a cool Bintang.

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Bintang by the pool

Speaking of Bintang, the local small shops and the Adi Mart do largies for 350,000 rupiah ($3.50 AUD). Wine is quite expensive as are spirits however if you are going to have a mojito then this is the place to do it, especially at sunset.

Nusa lembongan is an amazing paradise, it’s Bali but not Bali if that makes sense. We had a 10 day stay on Lembongan and many people we met along the way, wished they stayed longer. It’s relaxing and great for everyone from backpackers to 5 Star, singles to families. Just try to stay away from the last two weeks of September, nothing bad will happen then, I just want it all to myself.

Craig Tonks

 

The Rise and Rise of Macy Callaghan

Upon seeing Macy Callahgan surf for the first time in 2014, it was evident that this young lady was a star on the rise.

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It was immediately apparent that Callaghan feared no one in the water and set about tactically dismantling her opposition bit by bit, and at this point it was easy to be in awe of her natural talent.

Macy comes from a good supportive family, something crucial for an athlete these days, specially in a sport which has consistent travel. To talk to this young woman you find her polite, respectful and well grounded.

Callaghan however does most of her talking in the water, although shouting is probably a more accurate statement.

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The finish of the 2016 WQS Tour, saw her finish just outside the qualification mark for the elite WCT Tour but you can’t help to think this was a good thing.

Another year on the WQS Tour will allow her to refine the skills needed to compete at the elite level. Another year will see her body get stronger and her mental game will go to the next level.

The WCT Tour is a tough place, lose a heat or two and the mind games can easily begin.

2017 has seen Callaghan storming through the early WQS 1000 events with two wins and a second but it is the WQS 6000 events that she will need to make her mark.

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A strong finish at the Anditi Womens Pro in Newcastle was followed by an early exit at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly.

The early exit at Manly could easily be due to battled fatigue, after grinding out multiple events in a few months.

It’s time the world body of surfing, the WSL give Callaghan a wild card into WCT events. I’m not knocking the likes of Bethany Hamilton getting a wild card or two but it’s time for the WSL to invest in the future, the surfers who are ready and this is Macy to a tee.

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I’m excited to continue following the Callaghan journey, a diamond that has been finely polished and is ready to shine.

Go Pro Hero 4

Go Pro 4 Session

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The Go Pro Hero 4 Session is another leap forward in self capture camera technology. These

days if the subject is moving, then it’s being captured on a Go Pro.

 

The newest in the line, the Hero Session 4 is 50% smaller and much more compact.

 

The biggest feature for surfers, is the fact that the waterproof case is no longer needed,

the floaty backdoor is now a surround, which means it encloses the camera instead of

just sticking to the back of it.

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Another feature that will enhance the user experience is the ball joint that lets you

change the camera around without having to unclip it, which is great for in the water.

 

The battery is now integrated so charging is just done by a USB port and once you

turn the camera on, it’s filming so know more wondering whether you are in

film mode or not.

 

There is some great waves being captured by local surfers and some mind

blowing

stills in the shore breaks around town.

 

So getting technical, the camera shoots a still at 8MP and 1440 @ 30 frames

per second or 1080 @ 60 frames per second.

 

A big congratulations to Go Pro for keeping the mounts the same,

a smart move for many enthusiasts.

 

I’ve been a fan of the Go Pro since day one and can’t see the demand

dropping.

 

This is some serious camera and if you thought the Go Pro range

couldn’t possibly get better, then you’d be wrong. This is a must have

piece of kit.

He’s Back – A Journey Home

Peter Garrett – Tall Trees

 

If you to ask Peter Garrett in your best Queen Elizabeth Voice,

“So exactly where is one Peter”?

 

He would reply, “I’m back”.

 

Firstly this isn’t Midnight Oil and it would be a pointless exercise

if it was.

 

This is Peter Garrett and he’s built to last and born to run.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be folk, dreamy hippie

music or pure rock?

 

Well from the opening bass line, the song marches along and has a

melodic nature with short guitar burst but you can’t help hear a Martin

Rotsey riff underneath that is evident in the well slotted instrumental.

 

The best part of this song is the lyrics.

 

Like Mohammed Ali’s punching bag, like Rupert Murdoch’s latest

swag he’s back.

 

 

Where the song takes a turn is after he does some desert time to slow

down his then caught a wave to carry him back although to me the word

back could be easily replaced with home.

 

There is a certain power and passion in the last “I’m Back” in the song.

It has some growl to it and you can tell it has meaning, almost showing

a clarity in his mind that he is back where a musician needs to be,

making music.

 

The second song from the album, “Great White Shark” is made from the

bones of an old Oils idea and you get the feeling it has an activist angle

with the lines like, “The great white shark has got no feelings, the dolphin

is different, intentional innocence”.

 

Looking at the culling in Western Australia of Great White Shark, it

shows Garrett is still in touch with what’s going on around him.

 

Garrett heads out on the road with a great band to play live sets and I for

one will be rocking up to Belmont 16 Footers on the 12th August to hear

the album live.

 

Foxtel music channel Music Max will premier the the behind the

scenes doco on July 12th, which show the making of the album and

will contain some ideas on future projects.

The Gunther Rohn Story

The Gunther Rohn Story

 

The term legend gets thrown around easily these days and when it comes to

the surf industry, it’s no different. When it comes to shapers in Australia, the

list of legends who ply their trade in the shaping bay is distinguished but there

is one name that must be near the top.

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Walk into Richards Surf Shop on Hunter Street in Newcastle West in the mid 1980’s

and you would see a row or two of surfboards with the very famous Town & Country

label, which at the time had some of the hottest surfers on the planet riding them.

They were brightly sprayed and many had the signature of a man who quietly went

about his business of building boards that performed well and after still sort after by

collectors to this day.

 

Reading a list of professional surfers, who have ridden the waves with a Gunther Rohn

shaped board under their feet is long and distinguished however it would be easier to

make a list of surfers who haven’t ridden a board shaped by Gunther.

 

I recently made the journey north to meet the man himself and see the skills that have

made him a legend amongst the legends.

 

Watching Gunther in the shaping bay at his home in Ballina is similar to watching a

great artist paint a masterpiece. His hands work a block of foam like an artist, he could

close his eyes and shape a board purely by how his hands feel the foam.

 

Walking into the Ballina show room is a great experience as Gunther can advise you

on a surfboard based on your size and weight.

 

So what happens when you get a chance to jump in the bay with a legend?

 

After selecting a blank and deciding to go for more of a retro board, we headed into

the shaping bay. I went for a retro design as it reminds me of that iconic Town and

Country Surfboard I had from 1984.

 

After taking the skin off the blank drawing out a template and cutting the basic outline,

I am handed the planer and told, “There you go”.

 

Picasso may have just as well handed me a paint brush and asked me to finish my

own portrait.

 

I set about the task of sanding the remainder of the blank and planing out the nose

and tail. Every now and again Gunther would appear and offer a suggestion and once

again leave me to my devices.

 

When you shape as many boards a week as Rohn, there’s not a lot of time for a beginner

doing his best to impress the teacher. He had custom orders to complete and customers

walking through the door.

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One guy who came in wanted a Gunther Rohn shaped board, as in his words, “It was

the best board I ever owned”.

 

After completing Day one and embarking on Day two Rohn took a look at my previous

days work. Hoping to see a nod of approval, it was negated by a simple, “Hmm lets see

if we can fix this”.

 

As with many people learning the art of hand shaping off the blank, I had made some

rookie errors. I had hoped I was a genius in the making and my errors would turn out

to be an industry revolution but it was not to be this time.

 

I had created the flat bottom vee to concave then back to flat bottom vee, which I still

think will one day catch on.

 

Not only did I get the chance to see a industry leading shaper shape, I got schooled on

how to fix problems and create a great board.

 

Gunther would simply run his hands down the foam, then pick up the board and let it

slide through foam encrusted hands, which was enough to identify the smallest bump

and a quick sand of the identified trouble spot and we were on our way.

 

Although a man of few words, when he speaks, people listen. When asked where the

industry is at, his reply is simple as it is informative. “It’s all about money which means

people aren’t riding boards to suit them, they are riding boards the shops need to sell”.

 

Coming to completion would see my blank etched with the words “GR for Craig”. To

Gunther it may have been another board but to me it was a masterpiece.

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(Board on the left shaped at Gunthers)

 

This is the story of one of the gentleman of the surfboard shaping industry.

 

South Africa – The Early Days

 

Gunther started shaping his own boards back in 1972 in his hometown of Cape

Town. A lot of his friends in his surfing group started shaping their own boards.

His peer group of Piers Pittard, Johnny Paarman and Tich Paul were also shaping

and refining their skills.

 

“I remember Paul Joske was over in South Africa at the time surfing and shaping

and he commented on my first shaping attempt saying it wasn’t bad for a first

attempt”.

 

Upon shaping his second board Gunther came crashing back to earth, stating that

the board was an absolute piece of shit.

 

Gunther came over to Australia in August of 1973. This was long before Indonesia

was the top place for Aussie surfers. South Africa was the other ‘go to’ surf destination.

He’d been told so much about the Australian lifestyle and surf. The Unites States was

another option but in South Africa at the time, getting any job at will, was difficult.

In South Africa the black workers did the unqualified work, so for many white South

Africans, had to get more qualified type of work which wasn’t always that easy if you

left a job. Australia was a different prospect during this period as you could do

labouring or similar jobs.

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He decided to start his travels by emigrating to Australia so he paid my own way

and therefore wasn’t obliged to stay if it didn’t work out.

 

Australia – A New Land

 

Arriving in a new country can be a daunting prospect for anyone. A visit to the

McCoy Surfboard Factory in Brookvale paid off. A young Gunther full of confidence

told them he wanted to shape, however Peter Lawrence, who was the head shaper

for McCoys at the time, gave him a shot and told him that there was no way he

could shape, but offered him a job pin lining and finish coating.

 

“This was a punt in itself on his part, but I thank him for placing some trust in me

and I took to it with gusto”.

 

Gunther loved doing multiple pin lines, a design where a few pin lines are placed

and painted next to each other. While there, Gunther started shaping a few of his

own boards and learnt more about the process and skills required. This was a

chance to begin and develop his own iconic style.

 

Rohn had the chance of moving to the Central Coast of New South Wales with

Geoff and his company, McCoy Surfboards, when they decided to move the factory

to Avoca but after having gone to Cactus Beach, located on the edge of the Nullarbor

in South Australia with friends soon after he arrived, he was too keen to travel up

the East Coast of Australia, also to see some South African mates of his who were

in Noosa at the time. With the opportunity to hang there for a while, he declined

the offer to McCoys.

 

After spending three months spending time with his friends from South Africa,

he decided that Noosa was not for him. After all he was still used to the surf of

Cape Town however the waves on the points at Noosa had great shape, and

although he considered the waves good, they were too soft and with Winter having

just arrived, they weren’t getting any decent swells.

 

While Gunther had some good days at Sunshine Beach, his friend Tony Cerff,

who came over on the same ship as Gunther, advised him there was a fairly

rapidly growing surf industry in Byron Bay. Cerff was working for Warren Cornish,

laminating Bob McTavish and Warren Cornish Surfboards, so Gunther headed

south and helped him with the fin and filler coatings.

 

“I remember Michael Petersen also shaped some boards for Warren Cornish but

at the time, I continued to shaping my own but there was some substantial names

in the surf industry there at the time”.

 

After a short while a shaping job came up at SOL Surfboards in Ballina,when a

Californian shaper, by the name of John Scott went back to Santa Cruz. SOL

Surfboards was owned by John “Keggsy” McKeag, a sign writer from Cronulla.

John looked at Gunthers board and figured it looked presentable enough to give

him a job. Once again he also helped finish coat and pin line the boards.

 

Around 1975 a local, by the name of Lindsey Grant, indicated to Gunther, that he

wanted to start making boards. Lindsey knew how to glass boards and ‘Keggsy’

wasn’t keen to continue his operation, so he started up and got Gunther to shape them.

 

“I named the boards ‘Free Flight’ after the company that sponsored me at one stage

back in South Africa. We got a bit of a production line going and the label was

becoming known as a legitimate brand”.

 

As a shaper, Gunther got a decent rhythm going and the boards were looking ok by

his own opinion. Phil Myers was sanding boards and starting to shape his own as

well. By 1978, Rohn started getting itchy feet again, and along with his future wife

Sue and 2 year old daughter Melanie in tow, set off to Bali enroute to England to see

his parents, who had moved from South Africa and ended up in Bournemouth.

Gunther had an idea, which was really a grand plan, the idea to end up in surfing’s

‘Mecca’, Hawaii.

 

While Gunther and his young family were in Bali, the American Quicksilver crew

were also over there. This crew included the legendary Jeff Hakman, surfer and

Co-founder of Quicksilver USA, Bob McKnight and a surfing friend from South

Africa, John Winship, who was living in California. Something that immediately

stuck out for Rohn was the fact they were all surfing McCoys.

IMG_0114

 

On a day surfing Padang Padang and it was loosely decided between the crew that

Geoff McCoy himself was going to approach Gunther to shape for him in California.

McCoy was at this stage the ‘go to man’ for boards. His designs were the most cutting

edge of the time, and at the infancy of pro surfing, most of professionals wanted to

be on one of his boards.

 

Heading Stateside

 

After seeing his parents in Bournemouth and arriving in California, sure enough

there was a job for on offer at McCoys. The job came just in time,as the Rohn’s were

almost broke. Gunther was working for a McCoy franchisee and shaper, a fellow

by the name of Greg Pautsh.

 

It was approaching Winter and things were a bit slow. The shop had only been

going for a few months, so luckily Gunther also found some extra work, shaping

for Rick James in San Clemente.

 

“Rick was a classic, a really great guy. He also manufactured Herbie Fletcher

surfboards and I got to know Herbie pretty well too and it’s interesting that the

building is now the main Lost showroom”.

 

By the time summer of 1979 was approaching, McCoy’s got really busy so Rohn

stopped working for Rick. This was around the time his own shaping was really

starting to take off.
The goal however was still Hawaii. At the end of August to the beginning of

September, Gunther was off. He was burnt out out and time to start the next

chapter in his life.

 

Hawaii

 

There was no master plan to speak of when Gunther Rohn landed in Hawaii,

he just knew that it was the place he needed to be and that he wanted to continue

shaping. After a while Jack Shipley of Lightning Bolt was good enough to give

him a start and he shaped a few ‘Bolts’ for the shop in Honolulu.

 

An opportunity to ghost a few surfboards for Randi Rarick eventuated. Ghosting

which basically means shaping under someone else’s name, wasn’t easy in those

days, as the boards had to be shaped ‘Rarick’ style off the blank.

 

“I’m stoked to say, he was pleased with my work”.

 

Gunther also worked with Mike McNeil, shaping the boards and then after he

completed the lamination process and they were sanded, Rohn would pin line

and finish coat them. The boards they did were called Star Bolts,with glitter thrown

in the resin pin lined bolts. Many of those boards were for surfers like Rory Russell

and Jackie Dunn, who Gunther stayed next to, when he was living with Mike and

Billena Willis.

 

Surfboards were made in a shed up Pukea Rd, a location that looked straight onto

the legendary surf break, Pipeline. The crew would be working and checking Pipe

and as soon as it came on. Gunther would be able to test some of his designs, as

he was surfing it together with a few of the aficionados of the day like Rory ,Jackie,

Bruce Hansel and Doug ‘the Roach’ Brown before the rest everyone caught on and

got onto it an hour or so later.

 

In what may seem funny for the time, the pipe master Gerry Lopez was somewhere

else for those months. After only four months on the ‘Rock’ that is Hawaii, he felt

that he had enough.

 

“It’s a bit small and closes in on you. There were so many things happening on

the land and I was very close to it. Sue and Mel were back in Australia and I

just wanted to get back”.

 

Gunther made a lot of good friends, absolutely surfed his brains out, sometimes

within an inch of his life and knew someday, he would be back. The time spent

in Hawaii would make Gunther a well rounded surfer and shaper. He got home

on Christmas Eve to a thriving shaping scene.

 

Back to Australia 

 

Back in Australia there was big things happening, an amazing time. Free Flight

was full on into six channel Col Smith boards.

 

“It started soon after I had left Australia. Phil was doing a really good job and

the brand was growing. I did a few flat bottoms but all the shops and public seemed

to want off Free Flight at the time was channels”.

IMG_0253

 

Paul Neilsen was good enough to give Gunther a job and he started shaping boards

for Brothers Neilsen. Going up to Burleigh Heads for three days at a time meant he

could do a few boards for Burleigh Heads Surf Co. whilst he was there.

 

Back to Byron

 

About a year or so later in 1981, Jet Surfboards started up in Byron Bay. Dennis

Anderson and Peter Dewar were at the helm. It really was a ‘state of the art factory’.

There were a fair few shapers at Jet which included the likes of Tony Cerff, Bruno

Buzzolan and Dennis Anderson himself. Luckily for Gunther he got a job shaping

at Jet too. This was a time where the multi-fin surfboards were becoming popular.

 

Frank Latta entered the picture a bit later to the Jet Surfboards family and made

the Simon Anderson Thrusters. Gunther shaped his own boards and also did

the Nat Young Models.

 

“Now while Nat’s designs looked a bit unrefined,they worked so well! They

were a double concave vee through the bottom and single fin with 2 outrigger

fins. I made myself one and I think to this day, it was one of the best boards I

ever owned. I still use a similar bottom on my wider short boards these days,

but make it a double concave running into a concave vee. The boards are

very fast and have immense drive”.

 

Town & Country

 

By 1983 things started to go a bit pear shaped at Jet Surfboards. Gunther found

himself in limbo for awhile, doing the odd shaping job but this would be the year

Nigel Perrow got the licence for the iconic Town & Country Surf in Australia.

Town & Country, based at Lennox Head on the north coast of New South Wales

was becoming a big label in surfboard manufacturing. Martin Potter was a big

name still associated with Town & Country even to this day, even though he left

3 years later to join Glen Minami at Blue Hawaii. His boards with the green and

yellow sprays were instantly recognisable.

 

“Town & Country’s Hawaiian contingent at the time consisted of legends in the

sport like Dane Kealoha, Larry Bertleman, Louis Ferreira and this was very

powerful crew. Nigel offered me a job. Nigel,Tony Cerff, Nev Hyman and myself

were the shapers. Bruno Buzzolan joined later and remains there to this day”.

 

Before things picked up, Gunther went back to South Africa for 3 months to work

for Lisle Coney at Country Rhythm Surfboards, located at Margate on the South Coast

of Durban. This would be a great opportunity after ten years to see all his old friends.

Along with wife Sue, Mel and new family addition Ollie, Gunther drove down to Cape

Town via great surf stops in East London, which included the odd stay in Jefferies

Bay with friends.

IMG_3645

 

Country Rhythm at this time, were doing a lot of boards including the Simon Anderson

Thruster. Anderson who visited South Africa to surf the Gunston 500 contest, visited

Country Rhythm for a few days to overseeing things went surfing with Gunther, something

any shaper would dream of.

 

As Gunther remembers, “We got some great waves on the South Coast and I can tell you,

I surfed a lot during that 3 month stint”.

 

When a surfed out Rohn got back to Australia, things at Town & Country were in

full swing. The next 6 years were busy times. Town & Country had an assembled

an incredible team.

 

“Shaping boards for Martin Potter and Kingsley Looker was great opportunity

and experience”.

 

Gunther got David ‘Davo’ Davidson and Rod Kerr on board and in 1985, Nick Wood

and Kingsley Looker had joined his team of riders but the biggest moment was about

to come.

 

“My biggest moment in the industry to that stage, came when Nick Wood won Bells

1986, at the age of 16 on one of my boards. This was a defining moment for me as a

shaper and set me well on the way to shaping a lot of boards for other pro surfers

on the tour.”.

 

Town & Country was riding a wave of success and had surfers like Shaun Munro,

Rod Brimms as well as locals Craig Holley and Steve Smith.

 

Gunther also travelled to France in 1988 to produce Town & Country boards for

Maurice Cole in the Rip Curl factory.

 

”It was a great experience going to Hossegor, France so early in the piece. Great beach

break barrels, uncrowded waves and the area was totally unspoilt compared to today”.

 

Considering himself very fortunate in this regard, Gunther was one of the first shapers

in Hossegor to shape up to 8 boards a day, something that he did  for 3 years and,

through circumstance, in 1991 ended up working for Pukas Surfboards across the

border in the Basque country.

 

“I got to know Miguel Aspiroz and Enigo Letamendia from their trips to Maurice

to get advice on manufacturing, and our relationship remains to this day”.

 

Local Motion

 

In 1992 after nine years at Town & Country, Gunther went out on his own. Carl Birch

of Cheetah swimwear had acquired the licence for Local Motion Surfboards, a brand

which was getting real powerful in the market place, and offered him the opportunity

to make the surfboards or give the brand to Allan Byrne. Gunther had a big decision

to make, either he went out on his own and start his own label or there would be two

new players in the game if he didn’t accept . It was a great opportunity and he appreciated

the offer and accepted it gracefully.

 

 

Sunny Garcia was on board as a Team Rider at Local Motion as well, which was great,

as Gunther had already been working with him at Town & Country, who gave him the

opportunity to go back to Hawaii and shape. He also got to go to Japan, working for CHP

and then exporting boards over there and there were others like Tony Moniz. Gunther had

assembled a very strong team in Australia too, with Shaun Munro sweeping all before

him in junior competitions. Included in this mix was Darren O’Rafferty, Tom Whitaker,

Trent Munro and Lee Winkler. Later he would get Shaun Cansdell, who was touted to

be the next big thing. Gunther was instrumental with Calvin Maeda of Local Motion,

to get John Shimooka on board as a team rider when he made his comeback to competitive

surfing and then qualified for the ASP World Tour.  Vetea ‘Poto’ David also joined the team.

It’s quite astonishing the from 1992 till now Gunther put 8 surfers on the World

Championship Tour, including Jake Patterson.

 

“I recently spoke to Simon Anderson, who is one of my good  friends in the industry

and he didn’t think anyone else in Australia had put that many surfers onto the pro tour”.

 

Gunther continued to go to Hawaii to shape in summers as well as most winters. He’d

make his Local Motion boards and then stay for the Haleiwa contest before heading

back to Australia for the Christmas rush.

 

Sunny and Gunther’s relationship extended past Local Motion with Garcia ending up

surfing for Pukas Surfboards for a long time. In 2000, Garcia became the ASP World

Champion and one can only think that a one Gunther Rohn had a big hand in that.

Gunther in fact stayed in Hawaii after the Pipe Pro that year to celebrate with him

 

nd the people from Pukas, as he worked for them just about every year.

 

With the 2000 Olympics in Australia that year, he figured the Xmas rush wouldn’t be

the same as previous years as some in the industry figured everyone would have spent

their money and sadly this proved to be right.

 

“Local Motion in Hawaii basically dropped the ball, yet I still do the label on

request”.

 

Surfboards shaped with the Gunther Rohn signature are now mainly GR Shapes

and Designs or Gunther Rohn Surfboards, located in Ballina on the North Coast of NSW.

 

Gunther Rohn looks back at his time shaping and can pinpoint some of the biggest

moments in surfing’s history, which you can do this if you were there.

 

“Besides the short board revolution of 1967 and 1968, the biggest design breakthrough

was Simon’s thruster. Like a lot of us, Simon found it hard to surf twin fins.

He took Geoff McCoy’s Lazor Zap and basically put three fins in it and the rest

they say is history. It worked a treat. Lots of speed, drive and very manouvreable.

Everything you’d want in a board. What I liked about it too, was the credit Simon

gave to the people around him who also had input, unlike some others who tended

to take all the credit for themselves”.

 

When asked how he’d like to be remembered when he hangs up the planer, he sums

it up without hesitation, “That I did everything with integrity and honesty”.

 

Q & A with Gunther Rohn

 

Craig Tonks:: What’s the biggest change with shaping since you started and how

do you approach design?

 

Gunther Rohn:: My ideas and concepts come from everything I’ve learnt since I

started shaping surfboards back in 1972. I use the old concepts with the new all the

time depending what I shape. I mix and match. We have a Retro model, like the

Town & Country the author has, and all I change is make the roll through the

bottom a concave Vee to make it faster. I use vees a lot in wider boards. One thing

that will never come back,is the ‘S’ deck. Goes totally against the foil. Totally flawed

in my mind. Heavy vee and low entry like the Tracker model won’t be back either as

I don’t think it actually tracked. Fin systems were a big breakthrough as you can

change fins and get a different feel.

 

CT:: Is there one surfer who could convey the riding aspects of a board to assist design?

 

GR:: Kelly Slater is very good at conveying the riding aspects of a board and so is Shane Wehner.

They understand the different design concepts of a board and what makes a surfboard tick.

Shane helped a lot there, surfing for me for years as a team rider.You can add Matt Griggs

to that list, he could really articulate how a board performed.

 

CT:: Do you have anyone you’d think of as a mentor?

 

GR:: As far as a mentor goes, I’ve got to be honest,but I don’t really have one. I am mainly

self taught. Tony Cerff,who worked with me at Town & Country, then came over to me at

Local Motion, knows a hell of a lot about board design and theory and really knows how to

use a planer, but I never really hung in a shaping bay with anyone for hours on end.

Brian Ingham,whose worked with me for years,and I are a lot rougher with a planer and

we rely a lot more on the surform, but we get the job done. I would have to count Geoff

McCoy as a mentor. He helped me so much in my formative years, giving me the opportunity

and teaching me about his board designs and shaping them. He taught me a hell of a lot, but

after California and the advent of the Lazor Zap in 1980,we went in different directions.

 

CT::How important is junior development to surfing in Australia?

 

GR:: Junior development is of the utmost importance. They are our future professional

surfers to carry the flag. It sounds like we might be lagging, because a year or two ago

Surfing Australia went to Brazil and they were blown away how far ahead Brazil was in

their training methods. This has to be addressed and we need sponsors for a better

junior circuit, so this has to be looked at without further delay, as this is the country’s

professional surfing future at steak. It’s very difficult to get a rating for the WQS tour

these days.

 

CT:: Many collectors are after Gunther Rohn boards from the 80’s, do you have many?

 

GR:: I don’t even have any decent ones, but I’m starting to collect some of my history

now. I sold off way too many to get money for the next board or team board I’d have

to make. I keep a fair few of my own boards these days and have a few old team

boards of Sunny’s and others.

 

Craig Tonks

 

Simon Anderson

Gunta is a great bloke and a valued and highly skilled member of the board making industry in Australia. He has worked with many of the top surfers locally and from around the world and continues to offer custom made quality shapes with a personal touch. He has the ability to produce boards for the individual whether at pro level on down to average ability surfers, from grommets just starting out to older guys at the end of their surfing days who need help in a different way. There is not a lot of board makers with the skill level, experience and knowledge of board performance to cover the broad spectrum of surfer needs in a variety of surf conditions. Gunta is definitely a shaper ranked highly amongst the best in our industry. Gunta is one of my board making heroes.

 

Matt Hoy

Gunta is such a great bloke and makes awesome boards.

 

Phil Myers

Gunther is passionate and hard working, which people really don’t appreciate. Not only that, he is a great shaper.