Re­boot­ing a brand that was once syn­ony­mous with world cham­pi­ons from Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches .

Tracks - - Regulars - By Alex Work­man

Be­com­ing the cus­to­dian of a pow­er­house surf­board la­bel is no easy task. Es­pe­cially one with the legacy of Aloha Surf­boards. Founded in 1978 by Greg Clough, on Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches, Aloha was Aus­tralian made, chan­nelled Hawai­ian spirit and fea­tured a curled edge logo that brought to mind the magic of Aladdin’s lamp. Back then Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches were rapidly be­com­ing the epi­cen­tre of world surf­ing with more world cham­pi­ons and pro surfers based and liv­ing on the wave-rich, 25km stretch of coast than any­where else in Aus­tralia (and prob­a­bly the world). The re­fined shapes of Clough be­came syn­ony­mous with elite surf­ing in the 80s and 90s as Bar­ton Lynch, Damian Hard­man and Pam Bur­ridge all claimed world ti­tles with Aloha shapes be­neath their feet.

After more than three decades at the helm, steer­ing the brand through the surf­board in­dus­try’s volatile land­scape, Clough parted ways, sell­ing Aloha in 2003 to Ni­cola Penn, part-owner of the NRL club the Manly Sea Ea­gles with hus­band Scott Penn. Since then Aloha has been re­birthed with the brand now based in By­ron Bay and spear­headed by head shaper Jonno Cole. At 37, Cole has had over 25 years ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing re­fined his skills along­side By­ron­based shapers Bob McTav­ish, Paul Hutchin­son and Simon Jones.

At Aloha Cole pro­duces a her­itage line of cus­toms out of his Ewings­dale shap­ing bay as well as de­sign­ing a range of mod­els that are both PU and epoxy. “I love boards where you mind surf them the mo­ment you glance at them,” he says, tak­ing a break from lam­i­nat­ing a clas­sic twin fin. De­spite the brand split­ting it­self with a line of boards mass pro­duced over­seas and dis­trib­uted through com­pany, The Surf­board Agency, Aloha has main­tained an au­then­tic con­nec­tion to its roots thanks to a shaper firmly fo­cused on rais­ing the bar and craft­ing surf­boards de­signed for max­i­mum fun.

When did you first get in­ter­ested in surf­board de­sign?

I went to school with Hay­den Cox of Hay­den­shapes and I re­mem­ber there was a few of us at school who would talk about boards and board de­sign. I made a scrap­book when I was 16 or 17 and I had cut out all the tech­ni­cal stuff about con­caves and fins and shapes and com­piled it all in this lit­tle scrap­book. We started with dings. Me and a mate would ab­so­lutely de­stroy all the ding re­pairs we were try­ing to do. We would al­ways just buy beat up boards, make them wa­ter tight and go surf them.

Can you re­mem­ber the first board you shaped?

I’ve still got it. It was a lit­tle swal­low tail thruster. It ac­tu­ally went well. Well, I made it go well be­cause I was so into it but it was a pretty pig­gish shape. I just got a bit of wood to get the curve and then out­lined that and flipped it. It was pretty ar­chaic. One of my mates, Jamie Per­row, his dad, Nigel Per­row, let me shape it in his shap­ing bay and he showed me what I had to do. He let me watch him shape a few boards and then I shaped that. I did my first dozen boards with him and he would come in from the house and give me lit­tle point­ers and bits of pieces.

By­ron Bay has al­ways been a hot­bed for shapers. Bob McTav­ish, the Sky Surf­boards crew, Mad­dog surf­boards back in the day; there’s al­ways been a bit of an in­sti­tu­tion there. Who were some of the char­ac­ters and peo­ple who were an in­flu­ence on you?

Well I re­mem­ber Jim Banks used to come through and he would run a dis­cern­ing eye over my shapes some­times. Brett Munro as well and I did some work next door for Tony and Squir­rell, Paul Hutchin­son and Simon Jones. Those guys were good to work with and in­flu­enced me a lot. Also to have Bob McTav­ish to talk about shapes and his son Ben, who is also a re­ally fantastic crafts­man as well.

Now you’ve be­come the prin­ci­pal shaper of Aloha surf­boards. Can you tell me how that op­por­tu­nity came about?

It came from Kurt Hen­son, he’s some­one who I did labour­ing work with in Syd­ney be­fore I moved up here. I think he was sav­ing for a surf trip and we just got chat­ting about surf­ing. Then I bumped into him up here. He’s a re­ally good surfer and was al­ways in­ter­ested in what I was surf­ing so we’d talk about surf­board de­sign. Then he just put it to me in 2015 if I was in­ter­ested in do­ing some work for Aloha. He had the op­por­tu­nity to take over with his brand The Surf­board Agency and they wanted a shaper and designer on board to de­velop it.

You’re not start­ing from scratch when you be­come the prin­ci­pal shaper for an iconic brand such as Aloha. How does that sit with you? Do you feel the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion, ex­cite­ment or a mix of both?

I was in­cred­i­bly flat­tered when they came to me with it and then daunted not know­ing the scope or scale of it, know­ing it was such a well known in­ter­na­tional brand. But it’s been a slow build and that’s the way I like to do things. I look after the cus­tom stuff in Aus­tralia and it’s been re­ally fun de­vel­op­ing dif­fer­ent mod­els for them.

It was a pow­er­house brand dur­ing that pe­riod of the 80s and 90s. Guys like Dooma Hard­man, Bar­ton Lynch, and Shane Pow­ell were on them – Aloha was the brand. How much of that have you dug into from the back cat­a­logue or found through be­ing brought into the fold?

Well I’ve wanted to keep a lot of that alive. We’ve de­vel­oped a her­itage range, which is separate from the shop stock that are cus­tom or­der only. There’s a twin fin, sin­gle fin which can have chan­nels or a panel vee and then a 90s thruster which is like a late 80s or 90s thruster, which is like a step-up, or to be rid­den as a slightly longer board. I wanted to bor­row from a lot of those old de­signs but not repli­cate them. I think there’s been im­prove­ments in boards so you can make them lighter, tuck the edges more and make them more crispy and high per­for­mance by bor­row­ing from some of the older styles of it. When I started with the brand they gave me all the ar­chive lo­gos, a whole cabi­net worth, of ev­ery logo from back in the day. I spent about two weeks ri­fling through them look­ing at the

out­ra­geous ones and ba­sic ones. I’ve tried to in­cor­po­rate them into the mod­els as well.

How has the cus­tomer base re­sponded to this new in­car­na­tion of the brand? Have they warmed to cer­tain eras or are cer­tain shapes get­ting re­quested?

It’s been a slow roll but the 90s thruster step-up has been a pop­u­lar board. Even from peo­ple or­der­ing them lo­cally. At the same time there’s been a surge of in­ter­est in the twin fin de­sign so they’ve been pop­u­lar aswell.

Twin fins have even ex­ploded across the whole east coast of Aus­tralia. Why do you think there’s been this push to re­visit the twinny?

I think nov­elty plays highly into surf­ing and if you can have a board that’s got a novel ap­proach, it suits the waves and you don’t have to spend weeks work­ing it out I think that helps. And I think be­cause we had such a crummy sum­mer of waves and we haven’t had big swells over win­ter, it’s been chest to head high for about a year now and it feels so per­fect for the twinny.

I find surfers or at least the ones that I know, are nos­tal­gic by na­ture. I guess that’s quite a pos­i­tive thing for a brand like Aloha when you’ve got this her­itage line that you’re talk­ing about. Why do you think we are so caught up with nos­tal­gia be­ing surfers in 2019 look­ing back at shapes from the 70s, 80s and 90s?

It’s funny. I’ve even ques­tioned that my­self. For a while I was mak­ing a lot of 60s Pigs for Rhythm­sticks and I was think­ing why am I even nos­tal­gic about an era I wasn’t even born in. I think with the Aloha stuff I just re­mem­ber it so I’m nos­tal­gic to that pe­riod be­cause that’s when I first got hooked on surf­ing and re­mem­ber see­ing guys fly­ing through a lineup on them and see­ing pros at the time rid­ing them. It just sort of em­beds it­self in you. And when­ever you look back at the past it al­ways looks rosier as well. Surf­ing is such a dy­namic thing and such an en­gag­ing sport. When guys get hooked on surf­ing ev­ery­thing in their life just falls by the way­side. You look back at sec­tions of your life, favourite boards and if there’s a brand at­tached to it then there’s a fond­ness for them. Aloha had a large sta­ble of team rid­ers when Greg Clough was the cus­to­dian of the brand. Is that some­thing you are plan­ning to de­velop once again? It would be fun. From a busi­ness sense hav­ing team rid­ers doesn’t re­ally do any­thing be­cause you’ve got to put all their boards to the front of the queue and they usu­ally don’t re­spect how much work and ef­fort goes into it. And it doesn’t re­ally equate to sales, it’s pretty much just give­aways un­less they’re Parko or Fan­ning or a re­ally mar­ketable char­ac­ter. But I think on more of a personal level it would be great to work with some red hot surfers so you can see your de­signs put through their paces and surfed the way you’d love to surf them and to have a re­la­tion­ship with them so you can tune them up. Feed­back is a lot of the sat­is­fac­tion. No one would get into board mak­ing for the money side of it. Even sell­ing it it’s hard to make money out of it. The whole in­dus­try is pretty tight. But one of the joys of mak­ing boards is hav­ing them come out just the way you want it and see­ing them surfed well.

I know you men­tioned Greg sold Aloha to the Penn fam­ily. But has he had any in­flu­ence or has there ever been an op­por­tu­nity for you to con­nect with him?

I’d jump at an op­por­tu­nity to… Even just to meet him would be great. But as far as I know he’s washed his hands of it now.

What is your am­bi­tion with the brand Aloha and where would you like to take it?

I’d love it to be a long jour­ney with them. Al­ready I’m stoked with what we’ve pro­duced and the whole­sale range that is avail­able to the shops I think are great. Ev­ery model is a fantastic board that’s been tested and per­forms well. Half the rea­son I got into boards is be­cause of the life­style and I just want to live a surf­ing life and have it sup­ported by a brand I en­joy and am proud of. That’s sort of my short and long term goals. To surf as much as I can and keep mak­ing boards that are bet­ter.


Jonno Cole is the shaper spear­head­ing the re­vival of Aloha surf­boards. Work­man


Main: Bar­ton Lynch un­leash­ing in the 80s. In­set: Aloha surf­boards founder, Greg Clough, along­side a rack of dream-rides. Nolanan

Photo: Photo: Photo:

Main: Alo­has now and then. all won world ti­tles on Alo­has. In­set Top: Pam Bur­ridge (pic­tured) Bar­ton Lynch and Damian Hard­man In­set Bot­tom: One let­ter de­liv­ers in­stant recog­ni­tion for an iconic brand. Work­man Nolan Work­man

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