Being based in Brisbane Craig Rees has the Gold Coast, the Sunny Coast, Byron Bay and the Stradbroke Islands all within a couple hours of his shaping bay at Primitive surfboards. These influences and his willingness to get in the water with his customers whenever possible make him one of the more accessible shapers in South East Queensland. With a strong understanding of the fundamentals of shaping and a willingness to embrace the technological advances in surfboard manufacturing Reesy will no doubt be in the mix as surfing continues morphing its way into deep into the 21st century.
SW: So, tell us a little bit about your influences in shaping. Being based in Brisbane you obviously get the best of the Sunny and Gold Coasts?
CR: Like a lot of people I just started out doing it as a hobby. I was just doing boards for myself and my friends and then it just grew from there. The shaping evolved as Primitive Surf evolved to the point that we are now doing about 600 boards a year. In 95 we started the retail shop and it all developed from there to where it is now.
Did you develop your shaping yourself or were you working with other guys?
I developed myself, but I’ve always watched good shapers over the years. I was always influenced by the shapers from the Gold Coast. Guys like Murray Bourton, Darren Handley and JS, not that I worked with them but their influences were strong. I always preferred the Gold Coast shapes to the Sunshine Coast and going back a few years they were quite different.
Do you spend most of your time on the Gold Coast when you surf?
I like to move around, I love the variety. I’ll surf the Gold Coast one day, the next day the Sunshine Coast, the next I’m at the islands or Byron Bay. It’s hard because you have to do the drive but that can be half the fun, you know. It’s like going on a road trip all the time. If you’re travelling in the car you always make the effort to surf.
With your varied experiences from all those areas what are you finding interesting in shaping at the moment?
If you look back 15 years the standard shortboard was the main thing you would shape. But now things have gone a bit shorter, a bit wider, and over the years that has become a bigger percentage of what the customer wants and a bigger percentage of what works for them. We have so many different boards now in our range that are shorter and wider and all the variations within that range.
Is that variety becoming more of a challenge compared to shaping those shortboards of 15 years ago?
It’s better for the customer. They can get a board that just goes better for the average surfer. Those boards that are a bit shorter and wider just go a lot better for the average guy. I think I’m pretty good at getting information out of a customer and working out what is best for them, which is the most important part.
You guys offer test boards and demo days to your customers. Do you find that helps in putting people on the board most suited to them?
We do that and we’re involved with a boardriders and we do surf comps so there are a lot of different ways we get to be at the beach and in the water surfing with our customers and that really helps to bridge that gap. Giving them opportunity to test boards cuts out a lot of variables. They will try a board that suits them and just decide to drop it an inch or change a small part of it which makes things a lot easier for us.
What about the future of shaping. Are you involved in computer shaping?
Yeah, we use a profiling machine like most people. I hand shaped thousands of boards but at the moment the profiling machine is the best way to go, especially from a time point of view. You get a more consistent board. You can make minor adjustments and changes that helps to get the right board under someone’s feet.
The computers obviously make a huge difference but you obviously need that hand shaping experience to understand the intricacies of a board and how it will work.
Yeah, absolutely, we were one of the last ones to change over. You need to have that knowledge of how a planer works and how to rip into a blank. Every shaper should have that background and there is the whole argument of whether people should have access to shaping machines if they haven’t really developed with a planer.
Definitely, and what are you enjoying seeing in the world of shaping at the moment?
I think there is so much diversity out there at the moment. There was a real retro movement five years ago which is still around. The standard shortboard is still a popular option, and you still have all those things in between. There is so much diversity and I think that is really exciting. You don’t have to be pigeon holed into one little area. If you can find the board that gives you the most fun then that’s a win for everyone. – Steve Nicholson