Vern Jackson has had the good fortune of spending vast amounts of time surfing and shaping on both the North and South Coasts of New South Wales. The variety of waves he has been exposed to and his understanding of surfing’s modern tech advances have made him one of the most highly renowned shapers South of Sydney. While fine tuning his high performance shortboards and producing guns for the local hell men are his main priority, he is also working on a top secret project with “some other people”. Exciting times indeed…
SW: So tell us a bit about your influences going from the South Coast and getting into shaping around Byron.
VJ: I started shaping myself down at Moruya when I was about 15. When I was 21 I moved to Byron and I knew Phil Murray from some trips to Bali that I had done, so I shared his shaping bay at (Warren) Cornish’s where he was working. This was over 15 years ago, we were in a little factory out behind Mad Dog. I had only shaped a couple of hundred boards before I moved there. Phil and Dennis Anderson, who shaped longboards there, were really fast hand shapers so they taught me how to hand shape. Because they popped out heaps of boards it was a good chance to get in there and just mow as much foam as possible. I went from doing one board a week to doing about five a day.
After that baptism of fire you headed back down to Ulladulla. Did you find there was a big difference shaping boards for the South Coast as opposed to the North?
Yeah I came back down here and set up my own company. Boards that worked well here and places like Indo didn’t really work well at spots like Lennox. On a big face like Lennox you needed flatter curves so it took me a while to realise that the boards had to change compared to what I was making. But that’s how it is. You go to any area and have to work out what boards work for those particular breaks. I guess that’s how you develop as a shaper.
Being from the South Coast you obviously have a lot of experience shaping big wave boards. Are you more focussed on that side of things as opposed to the little, chunky boards we are seeing more and more of?
A couple of years ago guys were ordering 7’6"s then last year it was 8’6"s and now it’s 9’6"s. The paddle in thing is coming back, everyone’s getting this he-man thing about them. No one is towing anymore and everyone is talking big boards, so I’m doing plenty of them. But I don’t want to lose focus on the high performance thing. A lot of people are concentrating on shorter, fatter things just because that’s where the market is going, but I want to keep on the high performance side of things, focusing on performance shortboards and performance guns.
I saw on your website that you are working with a shaping machine. Is that helping you produce better quality boards?
Yeah, I’ve just got a new APS machine, which has put a new light on things. I can refine boards a lot more. The boards are coming out a lot better. They look a lot better and all the guys are really happy with them, and the machine definitely helps in replicating and fine tuning boards. It’s a lot easier to fine tune things compared to hand shaping.
What about the future? Have you got anything new you are working on?
We’re working on a few things at the moment that I’m not really allowed to talk about (laughs). Some pretty big things that I’m doing with some other people. There is something in the pipeline that might be really big! We’re working on fins and then a surfboard to go with it, but that’s really all I can say.
Sounds pretty exciting.
Yeah, definitely, and materials are a big thing at the moment. I guess EPS boards are becoming quite big, and we are seeing better performance from them. The pros seem to be getting onto the epoxies a bit more. They might get half a dozen boards and often there will be one or two epoxy-styros thrown in. I think styro boards are really taking off. Styros with a stringer in them seem to be going really well. I think they’re the best performing boards at the moment, weight and durability wise. I’m doing a lot of them and they are starting to take over my factory (laughs). – Steve Nicholson