Con­struc­tion Zone

For­mer tour surfer Shaun Cans­dell gets ready to take his shap­ing to the next level.

Tracks - - Arrows - By Kirk Ow­ers

One of the things that makes surf­ing closer to an art-form than a sport is the surf­board it­self. Back in the day many of the world’s best hand crafted their own boards and rode them to glory. The big names from the world tour be­came the big names in surf­boards: Mark Richards, Michael Peter­son, Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch, Si­mon An­der­son, Terry Fitzger­ald. The pro surfer/shaper model has faded now that the tour has be­come more de­mand­ing and its ath­lete’s much wealth­ier. You just don’t hear of pros shap­ing their own surf­boards any more.

Mul­loway’s Shaun Cans­dell has long been at­tracted to mow­ing foam. It’s in his bones, ge­net­ics or where ever the shap­ing urge lives. Even be­fore he qual­i­fied for the world tour he was dab­bling in foam and resin. “The first proper board I shaped was when I was 16. I didn’t have a shed or any­thing, so I just set it up in the back­yard. I didn’t have any tem­plates ei­ther, so I used a hand plane and went to town on it. It was a fun ex­pe­ri­ence and it turned out all right in the end. Even be­fore that one I was mak­ing lit­tle hand boards to muck around on,” he says.

Many con­sider Cans­dell one of the most gifted and stylish surfers of his gen­er­a­tion. His time on tour was rel­a­tively brief but he did man­age to fin­ish sec­ond in Fiji, giv­ing the world a glimpse of his true po­ten­tial. Shaun says that even when he was on tour, he was knock­ing out back­yard shapes at home. “I’d come back home and if I had a month off I’d make a board from scratch us­ing a hand plane and glass it my­self.”

Shaun never rode his own boards on tour, but he was known for be­ing very at­ten­tive to what he was rid­ing – even sand­ing back boards while on boat trips. Over the years he’s rid­den shapes by JR, JS, Gunter Rohn, Rod Dahlberg and Luke Short and learnt about de­sign by be­ing a test pilot for them and find­ing out what works in what con­di­tions and why.

Af­ter learn­ing to shape by hand and teach­ing him­self to sand and glass Cans­dell now uses a shap­ing ma­chine and is get­ting his boards ex­pertly glassed up in Yamba. “I’m very grate­ful for the help and men­tor­ing I’ve had from guys like Nick Popes, Rod Dahlberg, Luke Short and Woody Jack over the years. Us­ing a shap­ing ma­chine has been good too. I love how you can make re­ally sub­tle changes – even down to one mm. You couldn’t do that with a hand­shape.”

Per­haps the big­gest hur­dle that ev­ery shaper must clear is mak­ing surf­boards fi­nan­cially vi­able. Cans has three kids to pro­vide for so he’s still work­ing a day job and treat­ing shap­ing as a side­line for now. “I’ve been work­ing in con­struc­tion for three years now. The hours are five to five, so I don’t get much time to surf. I feel like I’ve barely surfed for three years.”

Cans is up­beat about do­ing less con­struc­tion and more shap­ing and surf­ing in the fu­ture. “I’m in the process of set­ting up a shap­ing bay at Wool­go­olga at the mo­ment and then we want to open up a shop in the fu­ture,” he says. While most of his boards are su­per high per­for­mance, he wants to get into retro-in­flu­enced shapes and to learn how to air-brush art­work on his boards. The thrill of cre­ation is ev­i­dent when he de­scribes rid­ing one of his own boards.

“It’s like that buzz you get when you surf on a brand-new board but ten-fold.”

Shaun Cans­dell shap­ing a fu­ture be­yond pro surf­ing. Photo: Dun­can Mac­far­lane

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