Neal Purchase Jnr - Shaper/ Graphic Designer

When did you start surfing?
When I was about 6 or 7. I didn’t start surfing religiously until I was about 12. I was riding my dad’s boards but he never gave me a brand new board, just some second hand ones.

What do you love about surfing?
It’s just natural to me. It’s refreshing for the mind and a fun thing to do. 

How often do you surf these days?
I try to get out 3-4 days a week. That’s the benefit of working for yourself.

Were you always going to be a shaper?
I was more into graphic design in the early years. I left school in year 11 and went to work at Print 'n' wear working in screen printing etc. Meanwhile, my Dad was shaping so I would be there scoping around wanting to get involved. Being a surfer I think everybody gets the inclination to make his or her own board. Watching my dad work as a production shaper turned me off shaping a little bit back then, so I pursued the Graphic Design path. I started working with Billabong in the Art room at around 16.

How did you get into shaping?
In my early 20’s I decided to start shaping. I started a business with dad. He was hand-planing and roughing them out then I would finish them off. I did that for a while, and then went back to graphic Design. In about 2005 though, dad stopped shaping after he broke his collarbone, which affected a nerve holding up his diaphragm, so I basically took over operations there and from then on I’ve found myself doing both. Over the last 7 years I’ve built up the shaping business to be something that I can afford to do 95% of the time.

You were a co – founder of Rhythm, how did that come about?
In about 2002 I started Rhythm with 2 other guys, about 6 months later we got Jamal Grey involved and some investors which made it a pretty fast growing company. Within 2 years it was turning over a lot of money. I was basically designing the Graphics while Jamal was designing the fits and patterns. After a while I opted out and went back to shaping then in about 2008 I went back to Rhythm as a Graphic designer.  The good thing about the graphic design gig is that it fits in with the shaping schedule. The deal I have with Rhythm now is as an Ambassador so if I have designs I can take them in whenever.  The Surfboard shaping industry is so fickle. I’ve been lucky to be on a steady increase from about 2006. I do about 10 boards a week, 98% customs. There was a huge gap in the market back in the early 2000’s for custom boards and I’m a huge fan of family business and small business so I’m very passionate about what I do.

Will you ever get involved in another clothing brand?
The world doesn’t need another clothing label (laughs) and I don’t need to be involved with one. I’m looking at creating a few tee’s and maybe some boardshorts for the shaping brand but that’s about it. The most creative outlet I’ve found has been shaping.

Will you keep shaping for the years to come?
I’ll never stop shaping. I’m at my peak at the moment, I don’t want to do more than 10 boards a week because it becomes a headache and the attention to detail wouldn’t be as great. I make enough money for me, plus I have downtime to pursue my other interests.

Do you use templates?
Yeah I use template. I was lucky that I had a lot of dads old templates and even luckier that a lot of mine fit in to dads templates. I’m more satisfied with handshaping boards to specific lengths because you have more control over the properties of the board. I don’t condemn machines, but there are a lot of factors that come into play right from the start that handshaping places greater emphasis on. I find the shaping process interesting as a surfer. I can be out there on a board and know exactly why it’s doing what it is. Lucky for me, my dad taught me the foundations, but there are a lot of shapers out there with very limited knowledge of hydrodynamics.

Do you have any advice for any budding shapers out there?
It would be great for every surfer to try shaping at some stage in order to see what’s involved in the process. My Daughter’s boyfriend is actually coming in for work experience in a couple of weeks and he’s keen to be a shaper. I’m not going to try and push him into it because it is a lifestyle choice and there is a lot involved regarding marketing and the business side of things.

 Where can we find you online?



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Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on April 2, 2014
Categories: Interviews