Chris Evans | Date 29/10/17
Owen Thomas is a surfer, farmer, metal head and shredder, husband, dad and all round bloody champion, and after releasing his own brand of surf wax and deck grips he’s now keen to add backyard shaper to that list too! Owen spoke to Quipmo about what it’s like being a surfer in WA’s south and what inspired him to pick up a plane and have a crack at what many think about after having been in the water all day and then necking a few beers but very few follow through on.
The big man throwing buckets at Bingan
#1 With a young family, a farm, a love for making music, and a bit of time in the water, how on earth do you find time to make wax & deck grips and how on earth are you finding time to shape boards?
I don’t! Well a bit of time management I suppose. I’m not really a sit in front of the TV type guy-usually if I do it’s Netflix and chill-so I choose to spend my off work time creating stuff, mostly at night. Because I have a flexible job and I’m my own boss essentially, I can sometimes squeeze in the odd bit of sanding at work while I wait for the mixer (food processor for the cattle feedlot) to do its thing. Sometimes at night I can’t be bothered getting dirty-or staying dirty-so I do music. Other nights if I’m in the mood I do shaping or make a wax batch. Bear in mind this stuff is super duper low level stuff, I have like two shops that stock wax and due to the ‘nature’ of the wax it’s a niche market if you will, part souvenir, part Eco friendly. Add to this I’m not exactly a perfectionist, maybe an imperfect perfectionist where I’ll rush stuff, then critique the bag outs of it after!
#2 Aside from a love of surfing, what inspired you to make wax / deck grips and also get into shaping?
The wax thing came from ordering some custom wax bars for our wedding, we then decided it’d be cool to stock some in Bremer for the hell of it with Native Dog on them. The supplier shut down or something so I gave the beeswax route a go, had some pretty dodgy brews and even put them out there-wasn’t a good idea! But I think I have it pretty sorted now, we have a warm and cold water brew. I’ve always wanted to shape a board, so I ordered a few machine blanks from shapers and glassed them, they turned out ok-a little heavy tho. Glassing is a whole Other craft. After that I got onto Swaylocks forum (amazing resource for any budding shapers) and saw some of the amazing backyard shapes dudes are knocking out with EPS (expanded polystyrene). Totally different methods of whittling the blank down than conventional poly boards and a lot cheaper. Also using epoxy resin is awesome because you have a lot more time to work the resin. Still rough as buggery and only two complete handshapes in, but learning so much every time. I figure I can hone the craft on the cheap stuff then when I wanna invest in the good stuff it’ll be a lot less stressful.
#3 How did you start off and how are you finding the shaping journey so far? And #4 What shaping set up did you start with?
As I said, started off glassing a few machine shapes. Went ok but a tad heavy. After a bit of research I realised I could do EPS and epoxy, less toxic and smelly plus a fair bit cheaper because the foam and epoxy is easy to find and on swaylocks dudes have been making boards out of household/hardware style stuff for years. The first true handshape was a twinny, I used templates from blending curves and cut my blank from a square block of foam. Pretty wonky looking shape as the EPS I used was super low density-soft and hard to work with. The thing went pretty awesome but was flawed by the light glass job and no stringer so I creased it first surf, fixed it and creased again after a few weeks of solid thrashing. I cut the rocker from templates made from Ply and used a Hotwire bow I made, some fishing trace wire hooked up to a car battery. Made some shaping stands out of scrap steel from the farm. That and a big of sanding paper and blocks and good to go.
#5 How many boards have you made so far and how have you found them in the water?
So I’ve glassed 4, and handshaped two. The first one is ok, needs a bigger wave to get going, a semi step up type thing, I think the finboxes didn’t have enough cant angle, along with a diamond tail makes it a lil stiff. Second was actually a damaged blank, part of the nose was snapped off/crushed so I tried to re shape the nose, looked pretty horrible but was a bit looser than the previous-same blank. First EPS handshape was the twinny, went awesome! So loose and fast but not strong enough. Second handshape was a 6’0 sorta high performance board, but I added a stronger and a balsa wood deck for strength. Prob too much weight. Goes good in solid beachies and paddles well, but the rails are way too knifey. The third one is gonna be full wood covered but with a light glass job, it’s a stumpy short board and I’m trying to copy the rails of an existing board. that’s the struggle with surfboards it’s a lance between strength, weight and performance.
5’9x20x2 ½ with extra snazzy custom tote bag inlays that Owen’s friend designed with photos of flotsam from Cocos island
#6 Any thoughts / tips for anyone looking at having a crack at a blank themselves?
Definitely get onto swaylocks forums. Some insane builds and ideas for backyard shaping. You don’t have to go buy a blank from old mate local shaper, you can buy a block of EPS from a building supplier. Hang on tho, it’s a full on nerdy wormhole once you dive in!
A dude I met living in the cocos islands, Russell, put me onto swaylocks. Due to the geographical location it’s super expensive to get traditional materials to the island, and swaylocks is what got him onto using EPS and materials without the specific premium markup of traditional surfboard materials.
Owen ensuring that the next generation of Thomas’ share the froth!
#7 Talking now about music, you’ve played in a number of great local WA bands, growing up what surf flick’s soundtrack inspired you most and why?
Bands were fun, but a bit conflicting on surf life. If I was to be in any band it’d be Parkway Drive. They play heavy music and surf the world. Pretty amazing. Surf flicks, prob green iguana, bunyip dreaming, gripping stuff 2(Aussie rock and just sick tunes) and some of the early Taylor Steele had wicked punk tracks from Pennywise, NOFX and millencolin
#8 I haven’t seen the remake of Point Break … and don’t really think I want to, but has it inspired you to release a new Point Breakdown ep?
The new point break sucked-as expected. Zero substance in terms of dialogue. Basically just a Hollywood extreme sports video. How can you possibly top those Classic one liners from the original?! I don’t think movies are made with that in mind at all these days. Yeah it inspired me to write another song but not with any of the garbage they call a script from the new one!!
#9 You’re clearly a creative guy and are prepared to just have a crack at things, have you always been like this?
I think so? Sometimes being involved or keen to try so many things can lead to the detriment of the other but hey, if you’re having fun doing it and learning stuff then who cares?! Better to create and give stuff a go than to sit around and waste your life watching TV. Although it is good to chill every once in a while.
#10 You’ve obviously been back down in Bremer Bay for some time now, do you think part of the charm of being out of the city is that you end up getting to focus more on things you’re passionate about like family, surf, music, wax, deck grips, shaping etc?
Definitely way less distractions. It’s not a raging social night life down here, especially with kids. So most of that stuff is at the beach surfing, camping, free diving or just going to someone’s place for dinner. Plenty of time to tinker on little projects.
And on that note … just like offering tips on how to get the little people on their way for bath time …
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