All posts by freshfish

Shaping Thoughts, Feelings and Memories

When asked to shape a custom board, I run through the above process.

It’s a real privilege, one I will never tire of.

I met Jeff, a fellow kneeboard surfer from New Jersey, a place where one can get excellent surf. We met in Nicaragua and spoke for an hour.., hours… about design, shapes and theories. Time drifts by when talking surfing and boards.

Continue reading Shaping Thoughts, Feelings and Memories

KH – One of a Kind

KH Dbah Tuberider Photo: Peter Crawford

1976, Dee Why Beach, NSW

I was watching this young guy carve up a shorey at Dee Why in the Final qualifying event for The O’Neill Pro Kneeboard contest. He won the event from a skinny young fella from Maroubra. His name: Ken Horton; the skinny bloke: David Parkes. They have been friends ever since, as a matter of fact we all have after I met them both that day on the beach.

What I found amazing was Ken Horton’s beautiful style: flow, grace and power; positioning himself in the pocket; never far from the power source; lovely to watch. Why was it amazing? Ken was 16 years old, yet he looked like he had been surfing that way for years. 

Class Act

Kneeboard contest surfing was tough stuff in the ‘70s. Australia had 6-man heats, every surfer wanting to win; no quarter asked; none given. That stylish, 16 year old surfer from Mona Vale was up against hard-core grizzlies. And he came through because of his natural ability and style. 

Making the Final of the O’Neill Kneeboard Pro, KH went on to represent his State many times.

Different Boards

In school, KH was an athlete, the type of guy who could run all day and never give up; the type of guy you want on your team. He learnt to surf big, powerful waves as a grommet, following the older crew around to ‘Rock Pool’, the grunty right-hander and big lefts at outside Mona Vale. He can tube ride with the best of them, probably better.

His boards were unique and still are. He has stayed faithful to his beliefs in what works for him, because he knows exactly what does work for him.

KH has contributed so much to the progression of kneeboard surfing, maybe more than he even knows. The balance, power and speed enveloped in his beautiful style has had only a positive effect on us all. He has influenced many a kneeboard rider. In the ‘70s there were individuals that shaped all of us individually and who helped lift the standard of kneeboard surfing. KH is one of those Influencers. He is One of A Kind, a gem, a rare gem.

My memories with KH are precious to me. Listening to George Benson’s album, “Breezin” before we went surfing together; him laughing at me balancing peas on a knife whilst eating his wonderful mum’s Sunday roast; the insane tubes he got in Victoria when he came to stay. KH has had that many barrels his eyes look like 2 spinning green-blue tubes with the sun reflecting off the roof! And he has this totally surf-stoked demeanor – always happy and smiling. 

In summary, glean what you can from many; become your own person; develop your own, unique style. Give credit back to the ones who have helped shape your style.

In a small way, this is a thank you to Ken for being that unique, inspiring, One of A Kind.


Champions Choice

This is a short story about choices.

We all have to make them.

In 2002 Jamie McHugh asked me to shape his boards. So what? Many have. But Jamie had been with the one shaper for over 10 years, so it was a gamble.

That morning Jamie and I had talked endlessly about board design. There wasn’t much more to discuss, we’d dissected every point, every angle, every theory of board shape.

Finally, I suggested, “Here’s my board, take it out for a day’s surfing, then you decide.” Jamie was surprised, but I had full confidence in my shape. It was a double flyer, rounded pin, 4 belly channels, 2 half moons and 2 clinkers in the bottom. Rolled vee through nose and tail, glassed-in tri fins, 5’9 x 24 x 21/2. It went great for me.

But I’m just 5’9 and Jamie stands at almost 6’6. I remember thinking it would be too small for him. But, like any good chef, confident that, after one taste of his gourmet creation you’ll have to order a plate, I believed in the board. I thought, he might just feel enough difference to want to taste more.

At the end of that day, Jamie returned, my board tucked under his arm. Sunburnt, surfed-out. With a huge smile on his face, Jamie’s first words were:

‘I’ll take two of ‘em!”

Choice made.

I shaped him a 5’9 and a 5’11 and, that very year he claimed the Phillip Island Kneeboard Classic Title in some of the best waves seen in the history of the competition.

Jamie had been surfing in The Classic for 20 years and had never won the Title before… needless to say, victory was sweet. Not only Jamie. It’s a great feeling for the shaper when victory is on one of your boards.

Check out Jamie in the archive footage from the 2002 PIKC Pro. He looks like he is enjoying himself. Many winners have said over the years that that is the winning formula, relax, loosen up, have fun.

But this story is not about winning contests.

Jamie had his own unique surfing style that he kept faith in, never wavering in his self-belief, he has represented his State and country in kneeboard surfingYet that consistency didn’t make him complacent when it came to trying something new. To his credit, Jamie realized sometimes you have to try avant-garde, ignoring what-ifs. For his willingness to go beyond his comfort zone, to stretch himself, try something different, he made the right choice.

Sixteen years later, he’s still happy with that choice. That’s how long I’ve been shaping boards now for Mr. McHugh. Not my oldest client, he’d have to go on for 40+ years to catch that title, but a satisfied customer makes any shaper’s day.

Video footage thanks to Danny Eldred, Gaz Lanham.
Surfer Jamie Mc Hugh
Smiling man Simon Chipper
Little girl my daughter Isabel with her dog Silky

Phillip Island 2002 Surf Comp from Malakai Luke on Vimeo.

Stay on the rails

Stay on the rails ….an obvious but sometimes overlooked component of ur kneeboard. The rail shape comes in a variety of choices egg, blocky, blade, chine, foiled, even thru out. Time and thought has been put in with hours of research and development to come to a good all-round rail. Today’s surfers are spoilt, the hard work has been done – can a rail get any better? So what u can do is use it to ur advantage. Bury it, roll it and release it with a fury to set ur whole ride up. Drive off it, feel it, understand what happens if u shift ur weight forward or back, use ur rail to stall and then lean forward to release…. Continue reading Stay on the rails

story behind my decal

My first shapers decal was the boy on the dolphin in the crest of a wave. I always felt what a great experience it would be to kneel on our dolphin friends back and fly through the waves, or shape kb’s that would do what a dolphin does. So dreams are for free. I had a model called the dolphin drive (The dolphin board)… And years later I lived in a street called “Dolphin Drive… Continue reading story behind my decal

Stinger Era

This photo was taken in 1976, this is my faithful old dog Katie who lived till she was 17. My EJ in the background with Aloha roof racks, they were excellent. The boards all Stingers with the classic concave V chine rails no step bottoms on these (I kept breaking them in half). The outside boards were mine. The one in the middle I shaped for Dallas Smith who was a member of the QLD state team in 1975… Continue reading Stinger Era

NL shaping and sharing

Forty-six years ago I endeavoured to try and shape my first surfboard out of an old one I had peeled the glass off. This was a common practice in those days. I didn't realise then that all these years later I would still be doing what I fell in love with way back then. To shape a board, then actually ride it in the surf to me was, and still is, a fantastic feeling. I'm glad to say I still enjoy it now as much as I did then.  I didn't really know what I was doing when I first started, I just tried. And I learnt...or basically felt my way through it. It was a time of trial and error and thinking 'I wonder if this would work', 'I wonder if that will work' and it was exciting, thinking and waiting and then feeling those new sensations as you finally got your craft into the water. For me, shaping is all about sharing. "You received free...give free..." I love sharing my knowledge and if I can inspire the love of kneeboarding I'm stoked. For this first blog post I couldn't say it better than an email I received today from a friend, Denis...

Continue reading NL shaping and sharing

rounded square tail

5’10” x  23″ x  2  1/2″   this classic plan shape has a slight double-concave that starts at the front of the knee, runs length of shin and then forms a vee through the tail. It has fixed fins, with flexi tips but also can be just as happy with FCS or Future Fin Systems. Glassed with a 6 oz bottom and 6 x 4 oz deck for strength and durability also glossed and pollished.

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