If we had a company tag- line here at Surf Bunker it would be: 'there are many different surfboards for different people and in different conditions'. It is our belief that progress comes through experimentation, imagination and mistakes. We believe in the hand built approach and taking into account new materials, construction techniques while remaining true to the realism of producing vehicles for 'everyday surfers'.
Imagine then how I felt when I found a board builder that seemed to offer all of these things, that was born out of an idea that we, as surfers, were being hoodwinked by the 'one size fits all' of the corporate surf industry. Jay Jackson of Sadhana Surfboards believes in making surfboards with his hands and to the highest possible quality. Sadhana make their own fins, think outside the box as regards to design and incorporate your choice of construction.
The Definition of Sadhana : Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. It is the foundation of all spiritual endeavor. Sadhana is your personal, individual spiritual effort. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve the purpose of life.
Obviously we wanted find out more, which is when I found out that Jay and his gloriously perfect set-up was about as geographically far away from me as he could get. South Island of New Zealand to be exact. With the wonders of today's communications network and using something called the Internet I was able to ask Jay the questions I wanted.
SB: Hey Jay, thanks a lot for your time. It looks like you guys have the perfect set up in a little bit of Paradise, how did that come to be?
Jay: I grew up in Sydney, Australia, and as soon as I saved enough money and finished school, headed to Europe. 10 years of living and checking out various corners of the world, I get back to Sydney and realise pretty quick that this isn't where I'm going to hang up my hat. So my partner and I fly to NZ for a 10 day campervan trip and do a quick lap around the South Island. Gobsmacked by the beauty of the place, we reach day 8 of our trip, find a flat to rent in Christchurch, and buy some second hand furniture from an op shop. And that was 10 years ago.
SB: It looks like you guys shape all sorts of boards for all sorts of people, is that a particular shape that you are more 'proud' of?
Jay: Not a particular shape as such, but maybe the boards that start from a concept; a board for a certain season of the year for example, or wave approach, and then build it and refine it over a period of time. When a board model makes a connection with an audience, is the moment that you’ve done your job.
SB: Do you still make all of your boards totally by hand? No shaping machine? What do you see as the benefits of that?
Jay: Job security!! I’m still shaping everything by hand. I reckon a couple of thousand boards down I’m still learning my craft. But realistically it’s coming to a point where there’ll be very few ‘shapers’ soon, that can actually ‘shape’ a surfboard. Relying only on board files means you’ve got to have access to a machine, whether you own one or hire it out, and that means CASH. It means you are always reliant on someone else as well. Access to a CNC down this part of the world is scarce as well, so you have to factor in transport costs to get this done. I design a lot of shapes on computer, so I’m lucky I’ve got both board files on hand, and the ability to mow a slab of foam in the backyard if I want to.
SB: When the journey a started for Sadhana in 1997 did you ever think it would become as big as it has?
Jay: Nah not really! I kind of thought I’d be doing it out of a farm shed picking chicken feathers out of hot coats! In’97, the thought of shaping the same 6’2 shortboard over and over again , and buzzing endless FCS plugs into boards was horrifying – and still is. Around the late 90’s there was a bit of a revolt against the corporate, ‘3 to the beach’ mentality, so timing was pretty good. I’m lucky that other people thought so too, and have taken to what we’ve set up.
SB: How is the surf on the South Island, what is the best time of year to visit for a tourist wanting waves?
Jay: The waves on the South island are a drawcard for anybody who surfs. Mellow logging rollers, grinding A-frame beachies , river mouths, heavy slabs and 4 of the country’s best point breaks. It’s always golden somewhere. Any time can be good, but like most places autumn (late Feb – June) can really turn on. All you need is wheels, a lot of rubber (water’s pretty cold here) and a slow pace, and you’ll kill it!
SB: I love the look of your 'Schooner' model, a low rocker performance single fin. It looks like I need to test it out. How much would one cost with all the extras and how long would I have to wait? Do you ship to Europe?
Jay: The Schooner is a flyer! A 6 channel Schooner with resin tints and fin is NZ$1200. Typically, wait times are about 4 – 6 weeks.
There’s been plenty of Sadhana’s make a European trip over the years, but it’s always accompanied by someone on an aeroplane. We do orders via email, but the problem with overseas is the freight costs getting them out of NZ. We’re just that little bit further away. But I would love to get some orders into Europe. Maybe get 4 mates together and keep the cost down!
SB: I see that you guys also make your own fins which can be a messy job. Do you follow templates of your own for them or copy old templates?
Jay: Making fins is dusty, noisy, messy and oddly satisfying. I’ve got a mix of templates that I have designed, as well as copied from classic boards, and modified. Once upon a time, every board shop had a fin foiler – a mystical wizard of sorts, because you needed fins. Now you just buy ‘em from China.
SB: What are your thoughts on Epoxy vs Poly and EPS vs PU? Your personal preference for shaping and for surfing?
Jay: Both constructions have their place in a quiver for sure. A wider hybrid style board in EPS, can feel like a rocket in 2 foot slop, while on the other hand, a corky epoxy would be awful dropping a 15ft face in a stiff offshore. It’s a bit of a yin and yang thing, they both have positive attributes, in the right conditions.
I think the huge advances in Epoxy resins and laminates over the last few years is really exciting. The flexibility properties in Epoxy have really changed the way you look at how a surfboard performs under load.
From a hand-shaping point of view, Urethane blanks are much nicer to shape and finish. EPS can get a bit sticky under the plane. If you lined up a stringerless carbon Epoxy board, next to a balsa stringered, hand polished PU log, I know which one would make me drool every time!
SB: More than some words right there from a man who just seems to make sense. I think that every shaper should be able to explain things as Jay just has, sometimes we (as consumers) get lost in the jargon of new 'space aged construction' and the tag lines that go along with it. Jay makes awesome looking boards the way you want them, and for normal people.
If you are lucky enough to live nearish to the South Island of NZ, then ordering a Sadhana board shaped by Jay would have to be a no-brainer. For the likes of us Europe based surfers, that opportunity will be the icing on the cake, which will be baked in the form of an rather extensive surf trip to what sounds like paradise.
Great thanks to Jay for his time, and may the hand-shaped approach live long and prosper.