AEG Shaper Series: Neal Purchase Junior
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF DANE PETERSON AND HIS SPIFFY NEW WEBSITE.
Want to know a couple of interesting facts about Neal Purchase Jnr? One, he hasn’t ridden a modern thruster in over ten years. Two, he is widely regarded as one of the best tube riders in Queensland, a place where earning such a title means you have been seriously, seriously barrelled. These two facts are the reason why so many people are looking to Neal’s open minded design theories in order to take their surfing into the future. NPJ has been working more and more on his shaping over the past half dozen years and we will no doubt all benefit from what he is doing in the shaping bay and in the water.
SW: So tell us about how you got into shaping?
NPJ: My dad’s been a shaper since 1968 or something like that. I was always hanging around the bay on the weekends and after school, just playing in the foam. I started shaping a few boards in my early twenties but then I got a bit lazy. Dad was already shaping so I just got him to keep shaping my boards. Then when he stopped around 2005 I took it on, mainly shaping for myself and my friends.
Are you looking to expand the business?
It’s small but it’s growing naturally, probably growing a lot more than I would like it to. I’m spending a lot of time shaping boards for other people, but it is really satisfying. I’m just not sure how far I want it to go.
What boards are you finding the most satisfying to shape?
I’m enjoying shaping off these early eighties type of blanks with a flat deck. It’s got a really nice rocker, a nice transitional rocker from single fins to thrusters. I’m shaping a lot of customs out of those and doing some for myself. Those blanks really suit the two plus one, which is a single fin with two side fins. I can do single fins out of them and fatter quads. Having that flatter deck and the distribution of foam into low rails is just really stable and gives good paddling power.
Your boards really focus on style in the water. Are current shapers focussing too much on performance?
That’s always the thing, trying to find that balance between performance and ride-ability, as well as having to consider paddling and ease of being in the ocean. The modern boards are so refined and what the modern shapers are doing is really good, but the focus has gone back a little bit to something that is user friendly, which is great because we aren’t all Mick Fanning athletes. That’s why I started shaping, I wanted something that was user friendly but that still offered a level of performance. I’m not doing aerials but you still want to be able to push the board really hard and have speed, manoeuvrability and drive, all those good things.
Is it refreshing to see young guys being interested by the older theories of design?
Yeah I think it’s really good to see those younger guys interested in that transitional period from ’65 to ’69.
Do you find any inspiration in the current high performance boards, even though they are quite different to what you are shaping?
I don’t like no-nose surfboards. My noses tend to be around 14 to 15 inches wide. I haven’t ridden thrusters for ten years or so but I think the concaves with the right rockers going into a slight vee are really good and that’s something I’ve been doing. The reason I started shaping was because there was nothing modern out there that I really liked, but it’s changing now and people are definitely going slightly wider and finding new dimensions that work.
Will we ever find that perfect middle ground between old and new?
What is the perfect board? You know, it depends on your moods and that’s why having a quiver is good, just having that diversity of shapes. They’re a bit like women. They’re all great and they’ve all got something to offer you. For me personally, I have a twin fin based quad which I’m really using as my go to board. We’ve got waves which are generally pretty small and the quads get your speed up really nicely.
What direction do you see yourself taking over the next few years as far as design is concerned?
Just refining everything really. I’m always testing and working on rocker variations, you know. It’s just an excuse to shape a few boards for myself and go and do some R and D. – Steve Nicholson