Thomas Bexon: Surfboard Shaper
| IN GREAT SHAPE |
CURATOR BRISEIS ONFRAY | INTERVIEW WITH SURFBOARD SHAPER THOMAS BEXON (THOMAS SURFBOARDS) | PHOTOGRAPHY BEN OSBORNE | COUNTRY AUSTRALIA
HALFWAY ALONG THE EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA IS A WORLD-CLASS HOLIDAY destination. During summer, NOOSA HEADS is A bustLE OF LAID-BACK BEACH VIBES WITH A HINT OF Saint Tropez LIFESTYLE. POst summer, THE TROPICAL cyclone season LOOMS. NOt always PREDICTABLE, but responsible for brewing up AN IMPRESSIVE SWELL THAT TRANSFORMS NOOSA’S OCEAN PLAYGROUND INTO one of the best longboarding breaks IN THE WORLD.
LOCAL SURFER AND surfboard SHAPER THOMAS BEXON SHARES HIS TRUE-BLUE CONNECTION WITH NOOSA, AUSTRALIA’S WORLD-RENOWNED SURF CULTURE AND THE ART OF SHAPING SURFBOARDS FOR ALL WAlks AND WAves.
AND IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE RELEASE OF THIS INTERVIEW, THE Noosa FESTIVAL OF SurfING is underway. (2-10 March, 2019) some of the world’s best longboarders are in town. IT’s an ANNUAL event worth adding to the travel calendar.
AUSSIE SURF CULTURE HAS BEEN MAKING WAVES AROUND THE GLOBE SINCE THE ‘50s. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS STILL KEEPING THE GOOD VIBES ALIVE?
Australia has great waves, a great climate for surfing (which helps a lot) and Aussies in general are keen surfers and experimental in style. This country also has an admirable reputation for boundary-pushing shapers and designers.
WHERE AND WHEN DID THE TRADITION OF SURFBOARD SHAPING ORIGINATE?
I guess you can say surf culture originated with the traditional water men of ancient Hawaii. The concept of board riding then spread across the oceans to the surf beaches of California (US) and Australia.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP & WHERE DO YOU CALL HOME THESE DAYS?
I was born in Sydney but we moved to the ‘bush’ in Queensland when I was one. We relocated closer to the ocean, the Sunshine Coast, by the time I was 12 and I have been living in this region ever since.
ARE YOU COMPETING IN THE NOOSA FESTIVAL OF SURFING?
Sure am. I’m in the ‘Old Mal’ division and the ‘Teams Challenge’. Thomas Surfboards is also hosting the Noosa Festival of Surfing Opening Party on our premises, on 2 March 2019 from 6pm. All welcome.
IT’S SURPRISING HOW MANY NON-SURFERS STILL DO NOT KNOW THE PURPOSE OF A LONG OR SHORT BOARD. AS A SHAPER, GIVE US YOUR EASY EXPLANATION FOR AN INTRIGUED TOURIST OR LOCAL NOVICE?
I shape nearly as many short boards as I do longboards. My advice: ride the board that suits the waves. If it’s waist high ride a longboard. If it’s over head and hollow ride a shortboard. I have always been a big advocate for riding with the right type of board for the waves. It just makes sense.
YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY HANDY WITH YOUR FOOTWORK. WHERE AND WHEN DID YOU START SURFING, AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START SHAPING YOUR OWN SURFBOARDS?
I started surfing when I was about 12 years old. I shaped my first board when I was 15. At the time, there was no one locally that was making the types of boards that I wanted to ride: heavy single fin longboards, keel fishes and eggs etc. I was self-taught for the first few years but then I got a lot of helpful tips from various people along the way. I am still learning. I think when you think you know it all, you’re done. There’s always something to be learnt from other shapers and surfers.
YOU MUST HAVE A STEADY HAND TOO. ARE ALL YOUR BOARDS HANDMADE?
I used to make boards by hand but I have been using a shaping machine for a couple of years now. It’s the only way to keep up, otherwise there would be a six month wait on board orders and I would be shaping 80 hours a week. I still hand finish all boards and everything else is done by hand. The shaping machine just eliminates the first 70 per cent of the shaping which is the mindless, labour-intensive, physical part of the process. Using the shaping machine allows me to focus on the details and design. I can reproduce the perfect rocker, foils etc. time and time again.
STAMPING YOUR OWN STYLE ON EACH THOMAS SURFBOARD IS YOUR TRADEMARK. WHAT INSPIRES YOUR SHAPES, COLOURS AND ARTWORK/DESIGNS?
Everything around me. Surfing, architecture, cars, art, music. Everything that is design and art based is my inspiration.
AUSTRALIAN SHAPERS ARE SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD, MOSTLY KNOWN FOR A SIGNATURE STYLE OR SHAPE. WHAT MAKES A GOOD BOARD AND WHEN DOES A BOARD BECOME TOO OLD TO USE?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is up to personal opinion and taste for sure, but the fundamentals of what makes a good board are using good materials and not cutting corners in the build process. When a board starts to get too water logged and doesn’t float anymore, then you know it’s too old to use.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT BEING A BOARD SHAPER THAT YOU LOVE MOST?
Making a board and then riding it, finding it works just how I intended. Or seeing a friend ride one and have a blast. Seeing boards you’ve made get pushed to the limits in the desired realm of surfing. And getting positive feedback from customers is also rewarding.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A SURFBOARD, SAY A 9”2?
Hands on, about 12 hours with plenty of time in between each step also.
SURFING INSPIRES TRAVEL TOO. WHAT’S A FAVOURITE DESTINATION MEMORY FOR YOU?
Mexico, Japan, California, Indonesia and France. They are all good for different reasons. The waves, the culture and the people. But it’s hard to beat a little fishing village in west Java that we have visited a bunch of times, just for the waves, the friendly locals and the mushy shakes. That’s one surf I will never forget.
SHARE YOUR TOP TIP FOR TRAVELLING WITH A SURFBOARD?
Be prepared for dings! It is going to happen.
get on board with thomas
Noosa FESTIVAL OF SurfING (2-10 March, 2019)
SHIBUI PAPER PLANES no.5 | Published by SHIBUI & CO. ( First published in SHIBUI Issue 6, July 2018)