David Verrall - Diverse Surfboards

When did you get your first surfboard?
In the rubbish dump. I started making them first, I got a kerosene fridge door and stripped the tin off it and used the piece of foam from the middle and paddled around on that ‘til I had no nipples. That was when I was about 10. When I was about 12 I found a single fin in the dump that was about 1977/78 when single fins were still all the go. It had no fin at all, so I took it to school and made a fin in woodwork and dad helped me glass it on at home.

We moved inland for a while away from the sea, it wasn’t until I was about 18 that I went back on holidays to the beach and bought a second hand surfboard off the rack and went surfing. That was it, I started driving down to the coast every weekend even though it was a 3-4 hour drive. Eventually I got myself into a situation when I could leave the work I was doing and got enough work to survive down the coast so I could surf all the time.

What is it you love about surfing?
Never ending challenge, having fun. I don’t really look at the competitive side of things.

Do you have one wave that you’ve caught that stands out in your mind?
I can remember some classic surfing moments in the early stages. Like duck diving into a sunrise, or seeing a mate catch a wave in front of you and get barrelled, those sort of memories are the ones that stay with you. Even surfing in Currumbin and seeing the planes fly over. Then there was my first surf trip to Indo and surfing waves that no one has surfed before in Lombok and Java. Surfing those amazing breaks to myself and not being able to tell anyone about it because no one new about it!

What sort of education did you have?
I left school at 15 and did an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic, I did that for 4 years and in between I was doing part time work as a photographer in a studio and for motorcycle racing magazines. That’s what got me to the coast, freelance photography.

Was that in Surf Photography?
There was no way I was going to get into surf photography here, it was a full on competitive scene. It was back in the day that it was single shot, you had to get it right, I could do that – there just wasn’t the money in it.

I worked from 11 to 2 for a spare parts shop, and that paid my rent. I went surfing the rest of the time.

My next-door neighbour worked in a board factory and he needed someone to do leg rope plugs in the afternoon, they paid a dollar a plug and there was about100 boards a week. He said come down each afternoon spend an hour or so. So I did that, and in the first week they started offering me more work. “Do you want to make fins?” they said, so I started making fins and it went from there. I liked it because it was the same as surfing, it was ever evolving, I could never be the best, I could never know everything.

That was at New Line, it was a big glassing factory. We glassed Jim Banks, Nevs, Christian Fletcher, McTavish, Thornton Fallander, Zappa etc. We did 100-150 a week, all the famous brands.

How did you move from there into Shaping?
I was only at New Line for a year and I wanted to have a hack for myself, I borrowed someone’s tools. Within the first half a dozen boards I bought a planer just started making for myself.

I never shaped for another label or brand, other than I did 6 boards for Hot Stuff. I was already up to 10 a week and I was ready to move out on my own. The Hot Stuff ones went straight out the door, but his other shapers that were involved all had a big whinge so I didn’t get to keep going with that, so I just worked on my own label.

How many boards are you doing a week?
Actually less than I was 3-4 years ago, 60-70% of my work 4 years ago was export, but the strong Aussie Dollar has really put a stop to that, instead of doing 40 a week, I’m probably doing 25. I’ve really had to work hard on the Australian market, I’ve opened a shop on the Gold Coast so I could really be in front of the market with my boards and sell a lot there. But my overseas stuff has really suffered. I now Fly in Fly out to Bali making boards there with all Aussie materials too..

Art has always played a large role in your work, do you do the art yourself or do you source that from others?
I’ve always been the major part of the artwork on my boards. I’ve had people that have worked for me here and there that have had a bit of a go, but my art has carried through across the brand. There were innovations that I started right out in the early days with printed graphics under the glass, I started working with another guy who’s dad had the printer and we just started playing with it – I was offering that to the market close to 15 years ago, it’s pretty common place now.

How’s your Modern Vintage brand going?
It sells well being a premium board, which most of my work is now. Its for the market that want that revisited shape from yesteryear. They are made to a fashion colour wise and the graphics are all made to suit today’s trends and fashion. As much as I don’t like to succumb to fashion, it also helps the bank balance.

What’s the Dynocore boards all about?
They are the major share of my market. Dynocore is a tougher, stronger, lighter board. I got really deep into materials and material science and I just kept searching until I found materials that were really flexible and really tough. I was looking for something that rode as good or better than a PU, but was tougher and stronger than a really heavy glass job. That’s what I got with Dynocore, it’s continually evolving and getting better and better. They surf so good but they last a long long time.

Whats the lifespan of a Dynocore?
The oldest ones are around 3 years old and still firing, the customers still love em. I’ve definitely done myself a disservice in a lot of ways as people don’t need another board because that one goes really well and doesn't wear out. I kind of bank on them getting bored with the shape and improving their surfing and they want to get a more advanced board and change their style.

Are you still hands on the in the shaping bay?
I design all my boards on the software. I design using Shape3D software, I cut 90% of the boards myself on the machine so they come out exactly how I want them. The shapes 95% finished after machining, so it doesn’t take very much to finish them off. I do them and The guy that taught me to shape at the glassing factory 20 odd years ago now finishes some shapes off for me too, I’m pretty confident he knows what he’s doing. I still check on him and stir him up a bit!

What do you do on a day to day basis?
Designing new boards, cutting boards, creating artwork, liaising with customers, watching what’s going on. Trying to feel the pulse of what’s happening. Spending sometime in my retail shop, plus in the shops that I deal with. I’m hands on with the customers so I can understand what they want. I do the web design and development for my site as well, so that takes up time.

Do you have any words of advice to anyone looking to get into the shaping industry?
It’s become easier and easier to create a board. It’s how you communicate with your customers and how you learn what does what that’s important. You can buy a blank from Burfords and just glass it and it’ll go really good, but when a customer tells you it’s a little slow off the top, or it slides out on a bottom turn you need to know what to do next to fix it and what you need to do on the next shape to reproduce it.

If you want to get in the industry, sure work in a surf shop, work in a surfboard factory, learn. It was 5 years in the factory before I left and did my own thing. I still then really knew nothing, it probably took me 5 more years before I really knew mostly what I was doing. Before that I was just making shapes!

What do you like most about your job?
Creating new things and the happy smiles from my customers. The feedback I get. The ongoing innovation, and every day is not the same.

Don’t follow fashion, follow function.

Where can we find you online? 

Web: www.diversesurf.com.au
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Diverse-Surfboards/107446019282847
Instagram: instagram.com/diversesurf
Twitter: twitter.com/diversesurf
Linkedin: au.linkedin.com/in/diversesurf


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Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on June 10, 2013
Categories: Interviews