Two of the biggest shapers in world bodyboarding visited The Bodyboard-Depot this summer and the team of staff were there to grill them about all things bodyboarding.
The fast fire questions came from Rachel Ponsford, Warrick Murphy and Rob Barber. The answers were from Mez and Dan. Read on!
How long have you both been shaping and how did you both get in to it?
I started working on the factory floor in 1990 for Broady International in New Zealand. The company was owned Rick Broderson, one of Tom Morey's original shapers from California, and we they made boards for BZ, HB, O & E and others. My dad actually mentioned that there was a bodyboard factory up the road from our house. So when I heard this I straight away rode up there on my bike and begged for a job. From sweeping floors I proceeded to work my way up within the company. At the end of 1992 I moved to Australia to work for Rheopaipo where I ended up running the company at 19 years old. I was shaping boards for Eppo and Ben Holland but I have to admit I really had no clue what I w
as doing. In 1994 I went to work for Toobs and that's where I actually learnt how to shape a board. Buzz Morasca opened my eyes to what shaping really was and I started to learn about templates, tension-loaded lamination and material construction and how to build a board to suit a riders needs and wants. In 1995 I found myself in Hawaii shaping boards for the Toobs team; Roach, Kyle Maligro, jack Lindholm and Manny Vargas. This was an amazing year of discovery where the boards I shaped one day, were ridden at places like Pipe & Off The Wall a day later. Unfortunately I was struggling to get my green card that's required to stay in Hawaii, so I decided to move back to Australia. When I got back I was digging trenches and laying bricks on work sites so I called Buzz and asked if I could buy the custom shaping equipment and left over materials from Hawaii. He was down with that and in 1996 I opened up my own factory on the Central Coast of Australia and called it Mez Boards. This was a dream come true for me and we started shaping for Toobs Australia, Quiksilver Q-boards, and Mez Customs. Aside from Aussie legend Steve "Bullet" Mackenzie, we were also making boards for a bunch kids who would go on to dominate the sport for over a decade including Ben Player, Ryan Hardy, Andre Botha and Damien King. Around this time I started placing my shaping logo; the little Mez man, halfway up on the on the bottom of the boards so when the guys were inverting and doing rolls everyone would see it. It's pretty common nowadays but that's how it started.
How did you come to set up a factory in Indonesia?
After our first successful summer of shaping in Australia, it got to winter and everything stopped. I hadn't thought that far ahead and we nearly went under. Luckily the customs were taking off and that got us through that first winter. Making boards is one thing but I soon realised my business partner at the time had no idea how to run the office side of things. Unfortunately things started to go sour and I basically ended up going back to Broady in NZ in 1999 with my tail between my legs. That’s were I met Dan who had been working on the production line for a couple of years. Things were good in NZ for a little while, we scored the Morey contract and the factory was humming. About this time BZ had started to move their low end production to China. This effectively halved the cost of entry level PE boards which was a death blow for virtually all of the factories in NZ, Australia and the US. We simply couldn't compete with the low cost of labour in China. It was a case of sink or swim and Rick decided to move the factory to Indonesia. Dan and I relocated to a random place called Surabaya where we have worked and lived now for 13 years. Kind of bizarre thinking about it now. I had been asked to head up production and choose someone to come with me. We were on a massive night out and I asked Dan if he wanted to come, split second decisions and we soon headed off to open up shop.
In the last 10 years what have been the biggest changes in bodyboard design and materials?
With Dow stopping the manufacturing of their PE cores and the demise of extruded PP, it forced us to develop and build composite cores that could keep up with the level of riding that the IBA tour had ushered in. This was actually a very stressful time for us, production wise. Extruded PP was actually used in the US as insulation and when the financial crisis hit, the housing industry virtually stopped, forcing Pactiv to close the extruded PP line down. We basically had to start from scratch again, learning how to work with beaded PP which is a lot different to working with extruded.
3D was the first composite core we made. It wasn’t an advancement. We were simply trying to build a core that preformed similar to the good PE before Dow shut down. During the process of trial and error we began to figure out other cores and it really opened our eyes to the possibilities, eventually leading us to the Parabolic core a few years later.
The Parabolic core really started the wheels turning in terms of functional design. Yes it made for an expensive board, but it works really well. I also think it helped to fire up the bodyboard industry, especially board wise, to start thinking outside the box. Mitch (Rawlins) came out soon after with his Torsion stringers and then Pride with Radial Flex. Jarrod (Gibson) developed Skintech and we are currently working with French brand; Sniper and also the Hubb brothers to help develop both companies new core composites.
Shaping with the CNC machines (Computer Numerical Controller) has been another major advancement. The machines allow us to continually reproduce templates with accuracy and consistency. We now have thousands of templates loaded up and each company we build boards for has it's own unique collection of templates. Boards can look similar to the untrained eye but when you analyse the templates up close you can easily see the differences.
Of the pro’s that you work with and have worked with, who is the most dialed in to the way that their boards work?
They are all different, there are a few that are really particular with it and others who are really relaxed. Hardy was fairly particular with his shapes where as Mike's boards are cut with the CNC. You hear it all the time but Mike does actually ride stock shapes. Amaury is another who is very particular; he loves trying different cores and shapes on a regular basis, quite drastically as well. Nose thickness, width and contours are just a few of the changes he makes.
Who are your favourite riders and why?
No one person in particular, it’s always good to see guys riding your boards doing good stuff and pushing the limits. You always kind of back the ones you shape for but at the same time respect the other guys out there pushing. It’s a difficult one, Ben Player for instance, I have been making boards for him since he was about 16. There is a connection with him and a friendship that has formed over years. Jake is pushing hard at the moment and trying various things. You get stoked for their achievements in bodyboarding. Mike is amazing to build boards for because he is my childhood hero. I just feel privileged to work with so many unique guys Our situation lets us achieve this.
What do you think of the bodyboard scene in the UK?
We actually didn't know much about the scene here before this trip to be honest. You never get the chance to living on the other side of the world. We see a bit on the web etc and knew about Danny Wall, Jack Johns and the riders we shape boards for. It's been great for us to spend a few days in the UK and meet the crew. It gives us an idea of where our boards end up, and what you guys deal with in terms of surfing conditions. You are a core bunch of guys. Where as in Australia it is very mainstream, guys here have got to be more dedicated because the sport is underground and the conditions are harsher. We are very spoilt in Australia and Indonesia. From what we've heard, the UK is far less consistent compared to other places, but you guys are keen to hit what you can when you can. It's freezing here too so you have to be hard core to deal with that.
What’s on the horizon for NMD and VS in the future?
Well as we have shown you guys today, we have helped developed the worlds first functioning interchangeable stringer system and it is set for release in 2015. You will be able to ride one board in multiple water temperatures and conditions which will open up a whole new world of flex customisation.
Check out the NMD and VS Ranges HERE