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!”
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 surfing. Yet 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.