Aloha! Welcome to the 16th episode of The Temple of Surf Podcast, today with us from Noosaville, Australia, Thomas Bexon, founder and shaper of Thomas Surfboards
Let's discover more about him, his future projects and much more!
You can find us in all major podcast platforms (Spotify, iTunes, YouTube,...), but if you prefer to read the interview, you can just see below.
Please forgive us of some mistakes as the software we are using is not always very precise.
TTOS: Hi Thomas and welcome to the show, where are you today?
I'm just sitting on the backyard or at home, having a glass of wine, just finished dinner, Sunrise Beach, which is just near Noosaville.
TTOS: How's it going in this time of coronavirus? I heard two days ago, I was with Tom Carroll, he told me that the things are opening up….
They're starting to slowly, slowly open some cafes and restaurants and stuff a little bit just for small amounts of people. Retail has been open for a couple of weeks. There are still some state borders closed, but we've been super lucky that we've been able to surf the whole time. Beaches were never closed….people weren't allowed to sit on the beach with an umbrella and sandbag, but they were allowed to go to the beach, go for a swim, surf, a walk, or you know, play with the kid, throw the ball for the dog and stuff the whole time….so we're so lucky that we didn't lose that. We've been quite fortunate.
TTOS: today we're gonna talk about surf, surfboards, of course shaping….
First question that I have for you is what is the most important thing in surfing in your opinion?
I guess enjoying it, If it's not enjoyable, then it's pretty frivolous exercise, same I think in making surfboards any aspect of it, If it's not enjoyable, then that's something wrong.
TTOS: do you remember your first surfboard?
Yeah, I remember the first surfboard I got was like a seven-foot pipe dream thruster.
TTOS: And you still have that surfboard?
Nah, I don't have that one….I don't know. I don't have any of the originals surfboards I was riding when I started…
I've got the first one I shaped. I've got the first probably I got number one and my number four and five and stuff.
I've got a few of those early ones, those are more important to me….
TTOS: when you shaped your first surfboard?
When I was 14 or 15 and it's like a seven-foot egg kind of thing. It would have been like 1998
TTOS: How have you seen your shaping evolving in all these years?
I hope I've gotten a bit better since then… a little bit more accurate.
It's just doing the same thing over and over again, it kind of becomes second nature and you get a lot more dialed in with it than what you were at the start for sure.
TTOS: I believe in continuous improvement, you are also looking at other shapers and what they do, or you are just focused on your own stuff?
I love any opportunity to see other shapers shape, cause it's really helpful for just picking up little techniques, little tricks, you know, different ways of doing something that might make the process more efficient or get a better result.
So yeah, it's great when you get that chance to see other guys shape.
Now we're pretty lucky, I think where we are with what people ride and what's out there now being used as a lot of generations of decades of different design and different styles and types of board.
In the staff I shape,now, I get to draw from all of that, you know, single fin, longboards, twin fins, thrusters, There's just, you know, the most comprehensive surfing encyclopedia of designs out there now to draw on and gain inspiration from. So it's kind of pretty endless possibilities
TTOS: Do you collect surfboards or you just have one or two and then that's it?
I'm definitely not like an avid collector, there are a lot of boards. I wish I hadn't sold over the years.
I don't go hunting boards to collect …. I've gotten a few of mine ones back when people have traded them in or, you know, a friend of a friend has one like number 15 and he's like… “Oh, I kind of wouldn't mind a new board. Do you want to trade it? “
I’ve gotten some of them back that way and I've got a few old ones and old ‘70 single fins and bits and pieces.
To be honest, a lot of it's just sort of happened in my shop…. people have brought it into the shop looking to sell it or something like that. I haven't really gone out hunting.
I prefer not to hold a whole bunch to myself cause a lot of them ones that are real nice, but they're not the right dimensions for me.
It is cool to have a ‘70 single fin but it needs to be four inches bigger and half an inch thicker for me to be able to ride it…. I don't really want to own stuff that I can't personally surf.
TTOS: Among all the surfboards that you have, is there one that has a very particular story or a very special meaning for you?
I've got a Malcolm Campbell bonzer that I got in Mexico….
It was like a crazy dude from California that went off the rails and owed a bunch of money and he needed money to get out of jail.
I grabbed that board off him. ...that was just an interesting way of getting a board…. just a really beautiful seven/six, five fins bonzer
TTOS: Boards are coming to you, that's your destiny…..even if you are in Mexico, these come into you, you don't have even to look for them…. J
In your career, so far, what is the greatest achievement or the thing that you are the most-proud of?
I don’t know, I guess it's just kind of nice that I've been able to make a living as it's a pretty tough industry, and be able to have a career and pay bills and have a family and do what I’m doing.
Is that rewarding to be able to do all that from your passion, being able to make surfboards and having a full time career.
Pretty rewarding. I think, because I guess there's a lot of people that shape surfboards that don't get that opportunity to make it their career and what they do everyday…..
TTOS: What do you think was your defining moment in your career, the one that really made you spin out of the big number of people that produce or shape surfboards even on the back of their yard or for their friends the one that made you become like Thomas Surfboard and you becoming like a reference and appreciated by the people. What was the defining moment of your career?
It's hard to pick any one moment, I guess just being sort of somewhat recognized as a longboard surfer, getting the chance to surf in a couple of “Duck Tape” events and doing that stuff.
I think that kind of helps, it shows the board you are riding on, then you get some good fans that also have been great surfers that ride your boards and have success in competitions or free surfing that are well-known for the way they surf.
That definitely helps as well, you know, definitely gets it out there more.
And then, almost suddenly, boards start showing up in magazines and photos in magazines and stuff like that, plus the whole social-media-thing…..once it sort of, you get a little ball rolling, it just kinda keeps going and going.
You get asked to do an interview and then you get asked to do two more interviews and you know, one thing sort of just seems to lead to another.
it's crazy…..It's something I never expected when I started making surfboards.
TTOS: in your opinion, what is the key thing in shaping?
The idea is what you've got in your head before you go to start to shape the board.
You know, if it's not right, then you're fighting a battle the whole way, but if you know the concept, the idea of the design of the board is good, then as long as you do your job and translate what you've got in your head, into the blank, then you end up with a good board
TTOS: You created a lot of surfboards for a lot of people. What was the craziest surfboard that you ever created?
I guess it's just trying new things the first time…. like the first couple of 12 footers I have shaped.
As you know, they're nothing new and people have been riding big boards for a long time, but the first time I'd shaped one of those…I remember that day.
Also is fun to remember the first time I did boards in different places…..I remember that time, I went to a shape a few boards on a runway in Berlin as part of a trade show with Deus.
That was pretty memorable…shaping surfboards on that old airfield in Berlin, nowhere near of any ocean…..
That was a pretty weird experience.. I would say to be honest, I don't even remember what I shaped when I was there, but I remember being there doing it.
TTOS: Let's talk about you as a surfer. What do you like to surf?
Today I rode a nine/nine spade shape, long board, like quite narrow, two plus one fins set up.
Just easy to ride, these days we've had pretty good waves…. it's nice having that longer board it's getting in early setting in line and just having that bit of extra time on your side, it's kind of suits me…
TTOS: Tell me about your future plans, what's next for Thomas surfboard?
Pretty much just keep doing what we're doing.
Making boards, doing the little bits and pieces on the side of the few tee shirts, few board shorts, kind of just keep capable, rolling, and doing what we're doing and enjoying it.
I think this is the first year I'm going to have a lot less travel, obviously, because of what's going on.
I'm sort of going to be based at home a lot more, I'm kind of looking forward to that little bit more time to surf and just enjoy it.
TTOS: you're going to continue also the collaboration with artists. I see you, you like to have arts on your surfboard, what you can tell me about it?
Yeah, definitely,we've been really lucky, just through the people we've met through surfing and the greatest surfing community, to meet a bunch of artists in Bali, where they have the gallery at Deus and in other places in California.
When those guys have traveled through Noosa, they would swing by and check out the shop and hang out and stuff.
I try to always keep a few just shapes, blank boards and when someone shows up…I’m pretty much just like, “Hey, if you want to paint a board, I've got a blank. If you want to scribble on it”
And you know, most of the time, all of the type of people and say: “yeah, sure”.
You know, it is just sort of been lucky, I guess, and it's just sort of happened.
Now we got little gallery section set up in the factory and all the boards or the ones that haven't sold yet with the art on them.
That's cool. It just adds a nice element and I think it kind of suits the types of boards that we do, you know, like you get influences from the art world and the colors you pick for a board or something.
It's cool to kind of blend them even more and get some of our favorite artists to do that stuff on a board. it's just really hard selling them know, cause you got these boards, that's like Thomas Campbell painted or one of Bob More painted and you're like… I don't want to sell these out. I wish I could just keep it for myself.
TTOS: We're going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes to your mind.
The best surf board that you ever ridden…
A Bobby Brown, 1966 model, stringerless, G&S .
TTOS: best shaper of all time….
Donald Takayama, Bob McTavish
TTOS: Your favorite song
A Modest Mouse song….
TTOS: your favorite surf spot.
TTOS: The best surfer of all time or your favorite one.
That'd be hard to pick one….Nat Young. Joel Tudor, Tom Curren, Kelly Slater, all amazing surfers.
TTOS: The last question is little bit unusual, but we ask everybody, we want to know…. your best relationship advice…
Smile and nod.
Recorded in June 2020