I would start by telling you about a perfect couple of days of logging but that would merely be setting the scene and a different story, one that will not be told by me, no. What I want to talk about was an individual whose boards I stumbled across during those 2 days.
Every once in a while, for board geeks like me, you discover a craft that is put together with so much attention to detail and with such functionally in mind that you feel like you have to tell someone else about it. It is literally that good that you want to share it, to show other folks how it can improve their day. Now imagine being someone that can make those boards. How does that feel? Well I don't know so I thought I would ask the man that made the best board I have ridden this year.
Mitch Surman makes logs for a living, the boards are staggeringly good and he clearly charges too little for his time, he has agreed to answer a few of my carefully chosen questions.
SB: Hey Mitch, where were you born, where did you grow up surfing?
Mitch : I’m an Australian from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I was born in Nambour Hospital. I live about 15 minutes away from Nambour in a place called Alexandra headlands where I grew up surfing from about the age of six.
SB: When did you first start surfing? Why?
Mitch: I started at the age of about six on the front of my dads board. I was super keen to start as my family and extended family all did it and it looked like fun.
SB: What made you make the transition between performance longboards and traditional logs?
Mitch: I grew up surrounded by some of the best performance longboard surfers in the world. At first I only really rode shortboards but thought I would give the longer boards a go. I went in a few contest and it was fun so I kept at it. Unfortunately however, the competitive side of the performance longboarding was what I started to really dislike in this scene. Too many people took it to seriously and just wanted to win. Surfing too me isn't about winning, its about having a good time.
A lot of my mates who were riding single fins were always having fun, enjoying the waves with no expectation, just taking it as it comes, and I wanted to do that also, so I started riding logs. Now I'm having more fun then ever. I'm embracing the history of the sport and trying to bring it back to life. You do what makes you happy, and doing what I'm doing does, so I will keep at it.
SB: Your boards are sublime to ride, what is the secret to building incredible boards?
Mitch: I think the secret to building boards is to be humble, innovative and realise that there is still so much that can be learned. Progression is a big thing in shaping and I think always moving forward and being creative with your shapes is what you need to do. I have so much respect for the shapers from the 60’s. They were making some of the best boards you will still see to this day, they were thinking outside of the square each and every time they entered the shaping bay. Surfing today wouldn't be where it is currently with out that and that approach is something I admire.
I make boards for my team riders and myself to test and then when we are happy with the design we sell to the public. For me, experimentation and collaboration with my team riders is what helps me with my board building. I also think it's important to surf your own product, I'm my harshest critic when it comes to development. The feed back from my team is also invaluable. Thanks to all our team, you're amazing.
SB: Do you think there is a a different vibe between logging and performance longboarding?
Mitch: yeah for sure, there always will be as each style is a completly different approach to surfing. No way is right or wrong, it is what it is and what a surfer prefers shouldn't be judged by another. We should just be celebrating the love of the ocean and how lucky we are to be able to be surfing in it.
SB: Do you surf other boards too? What is you favourite board to ride?
Mitch: I have always ridden all types of boards. I like all boards as they are all suited to various conditions and are challenging in their own way, each board has a sweet spot and its so satisfying when you figure it out. I recently made a spoon surfboard which i really love. I've been riding heaps and think that there will be more to come.
SB: Can you remember the first board you shaped, have you still got it?
Mitch yep a 9.4 single fin, it was so bad but i still have it. Shit-house but funny to look back at. Even that one had a sweet spot, hard to find but its there.
SB: Where is your favourite place to surf in the world?
Mitch: Noosa is great. It's an epic testing ground for new models, i love it. I also don’t mind America, Bingin in Bali and Portugal is not to bad either.
SB: What is your favourite part of shaping a board for someone?
Mitch: I love building custom boards, they are always fun. It is so rad to see the stoke on their face when they see it for the first time and even better when you go for a surf with them and they're ripping.
SB: What shapers to you look up to?
Mitch: I have thousands of people that I look up to in shaping. However the main god’s I admire are Kevin Platt, George Greenough, Bob Mctavish, Don Burford, Wayne Lynch, Ed Hooper... the list can keep going but you will get over it. Google these names though, your mind will be blown away at the amazing talent.
A little footage of Mitch making the most of some pretty perfect looking little waves.
SB: How can we get our hands on your boards if we want a custom shape?
Mitch: There are a few ways to get in contact with me: social media (facebook and instagram) is always handy, my email (mss[email protected]), at our cafe in Maroochydore, Glass Coffee House and Surf Gallery, if you're ever around the bluff at alex, I'm always out there, or if you're in Figeria Da Foz, contact Eurico Goncalves, he's a legend and is in charge of the epic festival, Gliding Barnacles. I'll hopefully be back there for that next year, can't wait.
Thanks guys you're great.
SB: Its refreshing to meet someone that is truly as talented at riding surfboards as he is building them. Not only is Mitch enviable in his skills but he seems to have a wisdom beyond his years and a very easy nature. I wonder if legends of the shaping past where heralded as much in their own time as they are now. I like to think not. I also like to think that I have just had a conversation with a shaping legend of the future past. Thanks for the chat Mitch.