As you guys may know, there are many backyard shapers around the world. What is a backyard shaper if you don’t know? It’s someone who shapes surfboards DIY style in their own backyard and Thomas Bexon is one of those DIY backyard shapers. Starting in his garage at his mum’s house shaping boards and then in University he got a job at the Hayden Factory (No relation to Hayden Cox), which was one of Australia’s top factories in making longboards since the early 1960s. After University he started shaping full-time and started his own company Thomas Surfboards with his friend/glasser Jake Bowery. There really isn’t a lot of money in shaping boards, but getting to spread the stoke of surfing to the people who surf his boards is what’s the most gratifying. Now he shapes boards for surfers like Harrison Roach, Zye Norris and works with companies like Deus Ex Machina and The Critical Slide Society. He’s made it a long way from just starting off in his mum’s garage and his boards can be seen all over the world. Even in Taiwan there are a couple of his boards roaming around.
Who are you and where are you currently right now?
Thomas Bexon, back home in Noosa now after doing a shaping trip in France.
When and how did you start getting interested in surfing?
I started surfing when I was 12 or 13, my uncle got me into it, he lived at the Gold Coast while I still lived inland an hour or two but we would go visit him regularly and he would take me to the beach and get me in the water.
At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to surf for the rest of your life?
As soon as I started surfing I got the bug
How did you get interested in shaping surfboards? Still remember the first surfboard you shaped?
I had been riding old mals, boards from the mid 60’s and at the time no one in Australia was really making those kinds of boards and as a kid you don’t normally have much money to buy boards so I thought I’d try and make it myself.
When you started shaping did you have guys help you out? Or were you completely DIY backyard shaper?
I first started shaping in my mums garage, really DIY but then when I finished University I got a job at a surfboard factory so I got lots of tips on how to do things properly.
I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard shaping is on the body and after years of doing it, it just wears the body down. You think you’ll be doing it forever?
I think I’ll always shape boards, whether or not I do it forever as a job I don’t know, well just have to wait and see but I will always be making my own boards as long as I’m surfing that’s for sure.
The boards you shape are more logs, eggs, fishes and other types of boards other than a standard hi-performance thruster. What got you interested in shaping those styles of surfboards?
They were and still are the kinds of boards I ride so it just makes sense, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to be making boards that your not riding yourself.
Who are some of the people surfer/shaper that influence you?
Anyone that is doing really nice work, not just shapes but all parts of the process. Surfing wise I’ve always been a fan of the making it look easy and effortless approach to riding waves, and riding the right board for the conditions.
You went to University but at what point in your life did you just say “Fuck It” I’m going to start shaping for a living and when did you realize that it was becoming a reality?
Probably about half way through University I realized this probably isn’t for me, When I started working at a surfboard factory after University and people started wanting boards that I was making myself I guess I could see there might be something in it.
Can you tell me about Thomas Surfboards and how you met with glasser Jake Bowery? What were some of the ups and downs of starting to run your own business?
I meet Jake through a mutual friend when he moved from the United Kingdom to Noosa to work at Classic Malibu. Noosa is a small town so everyone working at the surfboard factories in town knows each other. The ups are being your own boss for sure and if the waves are good I’m going surfing, that’s why we do this, it’s not for the money that’s for sure. The downs are the amount of work, there’s so much time taken up with emails, phone calls and all the behind the scenes things that go with it.
Other than your own company. You also worked with The Critical Slide Society. Tell us more about the company and how your guys relationship start?
Yeah TCSS supports me with clothing etc. which is great, I first meet them through a friend who is a sales rep for them and been riding for them ever since.
You also shape for Deus Ex Machina and make boards for them. How did you meet the guys over there and start shaping for some of their riders like Harrison Roach, Zye Norris and Matt Cuddihy?
I actually first meet the Deus Ex Machina guys through The Critical Slide Society. I knew Harry, Matt and Zye well before they rode for Deus. They were all in Noosa so we would always be surfing and hanging together before they were on board with Deus.
What was your relationship with Hayden Cox from Hayden Surfboards back in the day?
Hayden in Queensland has nothing to do with Hayden Cox or Hayden Shapes, Hayden in Queensland has been around since the early 1960’s and through the 60’s was the factory making the best longboards in Australia, I spent a couple of years making my boards out of their factory in Maroochydore and have always stayed in contact with the guys there. Bob McTavish, who used to shape at Hayden in the 60’s actually suggested the idea to me that I should start shaping a few boards under the Hayden logo so I chatted to the guys there and we worked out a little arrangement and now that’s what is happening.
You hand-shape and also machine shape. Some people I’ve talked to are for either one but not both. How come you chose to use both?
Up until about a year or so ago it was all hand shaped, I then got one or two models scanned and put onto machine, I’m currently in the process of learning how to use the design software more not to design boards from scratch but just to be able to reproduce models that I know work really well with 100% accuracy. I have never tried to claim the hand shaped thing because I have never had a problem or been anti machine I just haven’t used it much but you get to a point when it just makes sense. Its just another tool that allows you to make board and when your reproducing models it makes sense to be getting them 100% the same every time. I’ve hand shaped over 5000 boards and will still be hand shaping boards till I physically cant but if can use the machine to reproduce magic models and not physically wreck my body and maybe have a little bit more time to surf why the fuck not.
Your glass jobs with Jake are beautiful. Who are some of your influences in terms of art?
The main inspiration for us is keeping ourselves interested; trying new things keeps the whole board building process inspiring.
You do a lot of custom orders, what’s the importance of the shaper/customer relationship and why should people try to get a custom board?
Pretty much everything we do is custom order, I think its good for people to get something that is made for them, we have models but you can make small tweaks, adjust dimensions etc. to hopefully make a board that does exactly what they want their board to do.
Heard of anything about the surf here in Taiwan?
Heard a bit and seen some photos, looks like it get pretty dam good, hopefully at some point I get the chance to go there and do some surfing.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Coffee, and some family time at home before heading into the shop, emails, phone calls shaping all that daily work stuff and hopefully surf if there is waves and if I can squeeze one in.
Can you tell us your current surfboard quiver and which board have you been riding the most recently?
Um I have too many boards for sure and I’m always changing what I’m on but at the moment I’m riding a 10 new faithful and I just shaped myself a new 6’8 2+1 egg that’s going to become a new model for sure, more performance orientated a lot of short board characteristics in an eggy outline.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Who knows. Hopefully stuff that people are into
Any last words for the Taiwanese reading this interview?
Thanks for taking the time to read this, stoked that people in Taiwan would want to read about some guy in Noosa shaping heavy logs and other stuff
Wanted to ask if you could describe “Old Faithful” board and some details about it. What type of waves does it work on, noseriding, influences in the board, etc.. And why you believe longboards should be ridden as single-fins.
I guess the old faithful is one of the more traditional longboards I do, rolled bottom, pinched rails, heavy. More built for pointwaves, its not made to be just a noserider although it does do that really well, especially deep in the pocket and in hollower waves.
Longboards just work better with one fin, if you want to hit the lip ride a smaller board that is made for it, that’s not what longboards are for.