I first met Murray years ago on a boat trip to the Mentawais, where I badgered him into fixing a ding on my board. Asking a surfboard sharper of Muzzah’s renown to fix a ding is rather like asking Michelangelo to repair a broken bathroom tile. But he graciously helped. On the Kupang to Flores trip, I did not ask him to fix any dings, although I might have if I’d brought a board (as you recall, post shoulder surgeries, I was only swimming)
During the Kupang trip, Murray shared something he’d written a while back, which I thought interesting enough to share on this blog (with his permission), which is today’s post:
SUNBUM (just to be clear to any copy and pasters, that this is copyrighted by Murray Bourton — written with the same stylishness as his boards are shaped)
To get things into perspective from the start, I am sitting on my balcony during a cold late autumnish night peering up at the three quarter moon which is radiating such a glow on this relatively still night (no wind, I know I am a surfer). I am aware that I am in darkness knowing another hemisphere is drenched in sunlight and somewhere surfers are getting shacked off their nuts. But not here; it is night! It is July the 10 /2007and here on the Goldy we have a good run of southerly swell but the crowds and the rips have been gruelling. To add insult I have mixed a red with a Corona which I think is almost as creative a mix as the old THC which I might add- I have been sworn off for the last 10 years…okay the last five!
Okay where were we…yeah, I look up and I see the suns radiation bouncing off the moon, and as I said realize the light and warmth that at this moment I am missing- has indeed encouraged some Euro or Seppo on the other side of the planet, to paddle out and surf to his heart’s content. Alas! The sun is God! No wonder the Egyptians worshipped it like they did. The sun is day, the sun is warmth and without it the lifestyle that I have led the last 57 years would never have been considered. I left Vico in 1970 when the icy south westerlies dimmed my lust for the sea. The point is; I followed the sun. Yes I could have built and lived in a house with artificial heating and survived that dreadful winter, but I chose not to, because instinctively I needed that vitamin D. I look up again and I see all that D just radiating off the moon and think to myself how that glow has guided my life, as it has others I expect, but mine, probably more so.
I shape and design surfboards for a living and in a global economy I am told that there are not more than a million and a quarter real serious surfers on this planet (according to the last global blank sales) to whom my skills would bare relevance. I am okay with that statistic, even though I would not like to be in the water with them all at one time, I would however like to get around their heads with my designs. With the internet that may be now possible since traditional media was too costly; a humble surfboard company could never advertise around the six o’clock news, but now Google search engines could expose the shaper to his market without sending him bankrupt in the process.
Back to the relevance of the sun and moon that inspired this drunken rant. I am sorry but this is where it gets political. With summer and lots of sun comes the apparel thing i.e. shorts, shirts or cooler clothing to deal with the heat. Think of this; what better vehicle than the beach, sun and the act of surfing, to launch a summer clothing brand. Well we all know how well they did and as an old Ozzie would say, Good on E’m.
Without having to give you good people a history lesson I hope, it is safe to say that the actual surfboard itself is what really underwrites the culture of surfing! Without this thing that could be stood on and powered by freaks of nature; namely waves, the whole culture could never or would never have existed. The whole surf apparel industry was thus born from the desire to look like one belonged to that club, and so a T shirt and board short became the symbol of your identity. You either looked like a surfer or you looked like something else. I remember in my own case I was a fashion victim to the ultra casualness and I might add scruffiness of George Greenough, whose influence to this day I support as an excuse for my slobbishness. My wife has never heard of the guy and just thinks I am a poor dresser, so I know how powerful this wanting to be a part of the tribe can be.
Now mid-2007, it has become painfully obvious the tribe has now out grown itself, call it corporate greed or simply just too many shirts and shorts on hangers, whatever, but what it really means is there are too many in the club that have no salt in their veins. You have only to turn on your telly any night of the week these days and there is some skin head drenched in tatts from head to toe being bundled into a paddy wagon for more often than not glassing some poor bastard in a night club, and you can guarantee he will be wearing one of the big three! I am sorry, but do you really want to be in the same tribe? I don’t think so! Middle Australia having never surfed are representing us and our values. We are the real sun worshippers who thrive in the waves and can only be determined with a blood salt count or a measure up of that board in the garage. Ten foot six and you’re out. (I live to close to the Currumbin Alley).
JUMP FORWARD 7 YEARS- 2014
I am not sure when I wrote this chapter above, but it must have been around the time I was passed over as a shaper for one of the big three, (thankfully now looking back) during the time when they were at the top of their game and their share price was going through the roof. Perhaps I felt at the time irrelevant to them because of my age or that I was beginning to get over the young gimmie generation that expected me to live on a third world income in order to keep up with their throw away play things! No team- no marketability was the mantra then, but hopefully in the future a good living in this business may still be possible without being father xmas.
It was that long ago, so whatever the reason for my dire rant is really not that important as I now read back on it, What is important though, is that the sun is still shining, but it is not still shining on the big three. This is not really a cause for celebration, but after reading Phil Jarret’s book (salts and suits) on the way over in the plane to Bali where I am currently working, I feel my thoughts somehow vindicated. The greed that went down and the soul that was lost in the effort to sell the look to land lovers was extraordinary when you now see where it all ended up. The saying “every dog has his day” certainly rings true?
Come 2014 the surfboard industry is nevertheless still actually thriving, and why should it not, it has underwrote the culture since there was one! We could never have tapped into a market that never existed for our product – say in Dubai or somewhere stupid, because there were no surfers there, so our market was relatively static, as I said about 1.25 mill give or take, and that’s not counting that fricken Sup thing that has now become a plague on our shores.
We seriously went perilously close during those heady days ourselves, of being swallowed up by that corporate greed. When it appeared that for billboard sake the big three were hell bent on turning the surfboard into a marketing tool and were promising us the world if we signed up. What truly saved us was that corporate logo on the nose (the nose being once a location of our own brand decal) that they demanded, and were also in the same position on all their pro team riders boards. Their marketing departments foolishly believed that the logos on all there stock boards should be the same! The basic fact that most board customers who paid full retail were of intermediate standard and most were unwilling to paddle out into the line-up badged up like a pro when it was obvious they could not lay a decent rail turn. Consequently they did not buy them, and as the GFC loomed the bean counters in the corporations were all too ready and waiting to cut away the dead wood. We were saved and all thanks must go to our customers!
The wheel has turned, the sun is still shining and the market has opened up from the tunnel vision of a market dominated by pro signature models that should have been sold with a free snorkel rather than a free grip. To be a shaper now during this new creative design renaissance is a breath of fresh air. Thanks to free surfers like Rasta, Donavon, Ozzie and many others it became cool to be riding something other than a pro needle, in fact it became more functional since these boards more suited the skill set of the major part of the market.
This seismic shift is now reflected in retail board inventories where the needles are outnumbered 4 to 1. The creative juices are now flowing more than ever now the market has opened its arms to the alternatives. Tommo’s shovel nose Firewire lays testament to how open armed the market now really is, and free thinking shapers on smart programs are now almost pushing into the ridiculous, but out of that ridiculousness there will be a much greater chance of another breakthrough than there ever would have been if we had have stayed micro focussed on the whims of our pedantic athletes.
For me yes, the sun is still shining particularly as I finally finish this rant on a boat somewhere along the equator. I am just so glad that our DNA as shapers and surfers never got meddled with by the suits and that those that shape and surf will do it for the same reason I did which was purely lifestyle, coz there ain’t no better one out there that I know of?