Chris Chong - Misfit Shapes
When and where did you start surfing?
I grew up in Coffs Harbour and was fortunate to live pretty much on the beach. I used to go down the beach with the family when I was younger then started surfing when I was about 10 or 11. I started working at the local surf school when I was about 15.
What do you love most about surfing?
For me surfing is a release, and a time to just get in the water and enjoy myself. To have a good time and get away from everything else that goes in in life. I enjoy being able to use something that is a natural thing. It’s simply a matter of picking up a board and paddling out into the elements.
What is your favourite Surf Spot?
Locally - Crescent head and Mor any of the epic beach breaks up in the Coffs Area.
Do you have a most memorable wave or session?
10 years ago huge north swell that was probably stimulated by a cyclone brought some huge swell into Coffs, we made it out the back at McCauleys where it was holding up well with these huge 10-12 foot clean faced waves.
What is your go-to board at the moment?
It’s a 5’4 Misfit Dope-Machine diamond tail hybrid. It’s great in the small stuff and still performs in big stuff. It’s really fun and fast.
Have you done much surf travel?
Dad is from Indonesia so he used to take us there when we were young, then as I got older I realized these places were good surf spots. I’ve surfed a lot in Indo, done heaps of charters around the bottom end up to the Mentawai’s and Telo. I’ve done all over the U.S, Mexico, and went to Chile 2 years ago. 4000 km of coastline there and there’s probably about 100km that’s been discovered in terms of surf. Crazy place.
What kind of education have you had?
I have a Degree in music and business. I played in bands when I was younger and moved to Sydney to do the degree in my early 20’s.
How did you get started in the surf industry?
I worked at Surfection while I was studying then went on to manage a store then manage a cluster of stores then Surfection was acquired by Quicksilver and I went on to manage a lot of their Sydney stores. I was then approached by Insight to become their national sales manager, so I went and worked for those guys in 2007 for 3 years until we started Sugar Mill and everything.
How did Sugar Mill get started and what was it all about?
I’d been drawing up a concept for retail model with a friend of mine Stuart Bates. We had this idea of a counter-culture spirited surf store that reflected that from the brands we carried and the experience the customers got when they walked into the store. At the time I was also planning on teaming up with Dave Howell at Misfit and didn’t think it was all going to happen at once but it did, so we found a good spot in Narrabeen and decided to go all out and open a retail showroom, factory and shaping bays, as well as a little café too.
We closed down in about November last year we couldn’t negotiate a feasible lease, the land lord allowed us to break the lease and move out because we didn’t want to continue paying the rents and overheads for a location that large. At the time we had some offers to move the different parts of the business, we had a new location pop up in Newport for the café, and our existing glassers in Mona Vale had a tenant occupying the bottom level of their factory who was moving out. So at the end of it all it was purely a business decision to close. We’d love to do another store eventually but Misfit has taken off even just over the last 12 months so we’re all hands on deck at the moment and it’s great.
Tell us a little bit about Misfit?
Essentially it’s Dave and myself, along with a junior designer. Dave takes care of all production and design associated with the manufacturing while I look over all our art direction and creative output as well as brand management, marketing and sales etc. After being at insight I wanted to come to market with a brand that had everything from great sales service through to marketing campaigns. The plan was to roll it out as a brand rather than just a shaper in a factory somewhere waiting for people to come to him.
So will you be entering the apparel market?
We’ve tested the market with bits of clothing, we have so much great art at our disposal so it’s only natural that we do something like that. We released a clothing range last summer that did really well, and we’ll have some more tee’s out this summer, but we really just want to make good surfboards at the moment and focus on building from there.
How do you guys go about acquiring artist involvement?
It is a unique fit, the guys we get riding our boards are pretty great artists themselves so a lot of the content comes from those guys. This year we’ve started aligning ourselves with a couple of international artists. We’ve recently just launched an artist support program and creative projects banner called Mad Minds, which is the same name as our studio/office in Mona Vale. So that’s just kind of our banner that a lot of our stuff will sit under, from clothing to other collaborations. We just supported a music festival in Cronulla Sounds of the Suburbs where we had a live art installation.
Tell us a little bit about Misfit Aid?
About 3 years we partnered up with Jeff Ryan, who had a long history in aid and development. We’ve always had a desire and a heart to give back in any shape in form, and it almost fell into our lap that we had a lot of skilled guys getting our boards and working with us so all year we found ourselves flying around the world helping rebuild homes destroyed by natural disasters and it’s just kind of snowballed from there. We had our AGM last night and now have a team of about 8 in house people plus a growing volunteer and supporter base outside that. We’re close now to achieving Australian Tax Deductibility, which is only given to 4 organisations a year. We’re hoping this is our year because that’s what we really need now to achieve major fundraising. We received our Australian Charitable status last year, and earlier this year we won the Spirit award at the Australian Surfing awards. But the thing we’re most stoked about is that we’re changing lives and helping to assist other organisations. Misfit Aid is kind of the heart of the company. Also, 50% of the profits from our café go to Misfit aid for projects.
What do you love most about your job?
The most fulfilling work is what we do with Misfit Aid, but I love being involved in making great surfboards and I love managing the art direction, watching products come to life, managing wholesale accounts and dealing with customers. This year we’ve just taken on a Japanese distributor and we’re in process of taking on a U.S distributor, so it’s kind of exciting working with a brand that a few years ago was just a little shaping bay in Brookvale. It’s exciting and really fulfilling and great seeing all this hard work and determination pay off.
Who or what inspires the work you do?
I enjoyed the years that I worked at insight, I’m devastated to see the position those guys are in at the moment but they kind of lead the way as one of the first youthful progressive art driven brands and were really influential for a lot of guys. There are some really progressive brands popping up that we love, we recently collaborated with some guys called Ourcaste who are doing some cool things in the States. In terms of shaping we love what the big brands do like Channel Islands and Lost, there’s a reason that they make as many boards as they do but there are a whole fleet of other young talented guys making unique boards as well so we’re inspired by a lot of those guys too.
Where can we find you online?
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Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on October 2, 2013
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