I like to think of myself as being reasonably attached to the surfing barometer, actively educating myself on anything I expect to be big, or fashionable, or innovative or in demand. Not because I want to jump on a bandwagon, but because I like knowing things and being able to engage in conversation with most people on most things and have a genuine contribution to the conversation. My first experience with Hayden Cox, the magic man behind Haydenshapes is a perfect example of this.
I can still remember the first time I ever saw a Haydenshapes Surfboard. It was at North Narrabeen, and there was a young kid surfing and he was ripping. Now I’m not trying to imply that he was ripping because of the board, but it gave the board immediate credibility – more than enough for me to take notice and do a little research into the brand – who was HS?
My research led me to a young man of equal age, living in the same part of the world, shaping boards from Mona Vale. It was a Thursday afternoon, I was a walk off the street customer with no idea what board I wanted, or more importantly needed. Hayden greeted me immediately with a smile, and after I moved passed my jealously at his Hollywood charisma and looks, it became immediately clear was I was dealing with someone who had an undeniable desire to develop beyond a surfboard shaper and into a craftsman.
He told me firsthand about the young grommet who was prepared to sacrifice his high school holidays to work for free in a Mona Vale shaping bay to learn the craft, he told me about all his favourite local waves to surf, he told me about his Friday night at the local pub, in fact we talked about everything other than surfboards…but then something clicked. I picked up a board and asked a question about the rocker, and everything changed. Hayden was in the zone, he was in his element, he looked at the surfboard like it was Christmas morning. It was clear that board was destined for someone just like me, a guy who walked in without knowing what he wanted, and would in 2-4 weeks return and pick up exactly the board he needed. It was as if Hayden could actually see the first wave that board would ride, how the water would flow over it, how it would turn, how it would hold in a pocket and how that customer would feel packing it back of the car after its first session.
I was sold, plus I had a brand new man crush. I bought my very first HS on the spot. I wish I got him to sign it.
Now the surfboard shaping world is a melting pot of ideas and opinions and new technologies and large personalities. And what I most respect about Hayden is that it has always been about the craft. You won’t read fiery Instagram updates, or opinionated magazines interviews. His boards do the talking, and right now the Hayden Shapes Musical is reaching fever pitch.. One board in particular, a design which Hayden himself may very well say best defines his success as a shaper to date is the Hypto Krypto. If you think you haven’t seen one of these boards around, I can almost guarantee you are mistaken. These boards are as we speak bringing stoke to people such as Craig Anderson and Creed McTaggart, they are bringing stoke to that local ripper you were sure was destined for bigger things, the weekend warriors you try to avoid and fathers, brothers, uncles, aunties and anyone who only gets to surf once a fortnight. My point is this board design has found a way to appeal to all of us. And if you somehow have avoided seeing one of these beautiful creatures, you most certainly would not have missed one of the million attempts from other shapers to replicate the design that first hit our shelves 6 years ago.
Now as a thanks to Hayden for bringing all this stoke, the least you can do is vote for the Hypto Krypto in “Surfboard of the Year” Competition hosted by the Surf & Boardsports Industry Association SBIA). Vote Here. We voted, and the reason we voted is because for a board design, untouched for 6 years to only be getting the level of acknowledgement it deserves now is a phenomenal achievement. What does that tell you? It tells us that after 6 years of shifts in popular boards design in the industry that this design has held its spot, is becoming generational while remaining current and fantastic and deserving of a spot in your quiver.
We were fortunate enough to have a chat with my man crush, and speak about all things Haydenshapes and Hypto Krypto. Have a read, then do the right thing and vote…go on…do it…get on the bandwagon.
Dan from SurfStitch: So 2014 has started with a bang, loads of great media stories and some great surfing from your team riders – does 2014 have a special feeling about it for you?
Hayden Cox: It sure has, I’m so grateful for the positive vibes right now. We have some exciting new models to launch globally this year, some cool collaborations that are in the pipeline, and just some fun days surfing will be in the mix too - already had one amazing trip to Mexico this year!
D: So on the media stories, it seems your business successes are now well recognised outside of the surf industry in Australian and globally, how has that satisfaction differed from a write up in a respected surf mag?
H: Editorial pieces whether being within the surf industry or outside are always exciting! It is fun doing pieces outside of the surf industry, because you reach the wider audience, many of whom don’t normally have much knowledge about surfboards and and the business as such. The surboard business is pretty fickle and behind every shaper, there is generally a pretty interesting story attached.
D: Has the business side of things taken you out of the shaping bay much? What’s the split of your time between the office and the bay these days?
H: It has yes, but shaping is still my favourite thing to do… I now run the business with my fiance Danielle, who has a strong background in marketing and branding, but also helps steer the business side of things too. I have only every really worked for myself, so that has really helped develop and grow internally as well as externally. I spend about 25% of my time in the shaping bay, 25% of my time in manufacturing and the rest across the rest of the business.
D: Has it been difficult to look to other shapers for inspiration when the direction you have taken has been so unique? Have there been any shapers that have most influenced the way you see the art of shaping?
H: I am always looking at board design and other shapers. I love what they all do, and definitely get excited about many different boards. I do however get a lot of inspiration from outside of the industry. This comes from just keeping my eyes open to design and innovation when you come across it, or working with engineers, designers and suppliers on various projects.
D: For me growing up as a kid Channel Islands was the only “brand” that I felt crossed country borders and appealed to every surfer. I always looked at them on a rack and said to myself – imagine if Al actually shaped this himself. And I was thinking, your brand is up there now – everyone knows and respects your craft, so it begs the question; how many boards are you personally shaping these days, and can your average punter get their hands on an original?
H: I personally shape all my team boards, some customers boards and boards for friends and family. My goals as a surfboard designer and manufacturer is to deliver a board of the same quality whether I have personally built the board or not – not just shaping the board, but laminating and sanding it too. I work very closely with my three manufacturing plants to all have the same tools and procedures and methods to build the boards. The replication process and the quality control of this process is key, and I spend a lot of time in setting this process up. We also ship the same set of materials around the world to each manufacturing plant so every customer gets the same board regardless of where it is built. I personally ride a lot of boards that I don’t shape, laminate or sand, and enjoy riding them as much as I would with one of my own creations.
D: So lets get to the point, the Hypto Krypto, it seems to be the board that has gained the most market penetration and social awareness for you. Do you feel it is the design that best represents your quest as a shaper?
H: The Hypto Krypto is a very versatile shape for a large range of surfers ability and needs. You can ride the Hypto Krypto in your local beach breaks, to some of the most amazing point breaks in the world. This versatility has lead this model to gain the most penetration in the market. My quest as a shaper is do design performance surfboards with innovation and quality, for surfers who want to have fun riding waves to the best of their ability.
D: 6 years on from its first launch, has the design changed much since then?
H: Not at all. It hasn’t changed from day dot.
D: Is it safe to say that Craig Ando has been your best Hypto advocate? What is it about his surfing that has made his such a perfect canvas to work with?
H: It has been amazing to watch Craig Anderson do his thing on the Hypto Krypto. He inspires all of us to ride waves with grace, style and performance and the Hypto Krypto allows Ando to approach a wave surfing how he naturally wants to surf. I feel that this model allows most surfers to find that sweet spot easily and just ride a wave without thinking.
D: We see him jump between the futureflex and the PU Hypto – can you easily explain to a punter when he should go one or the other?
H: Ando only rides the Hypto Krypto in FutureFlex. The PU boards that you are seeing him ride are other models, and that is built in our PE technology, which is Polyurethene Core with Epoxy Laminate.
D: Congratulations from everyone at SurfStitch Hayden as we hear the Hypto Krypto, 6 years after creation has been nominated for Surfboard of the year – how does that feel? Is it extra special that it’s happened 6 years after production started, meaning the design is almost reaching that “timeless” status?
H: Thank you! It is great to have so much support from everyone out there from retailers like SurfStitch to customers riding the boards out there every day. It is kinda ironic that a board model that was designed 6 years ago is now reaching it’s potential in the market place.
D: If there was any surfer in the world you could work with on board design outside of your current team, who would it be and why?
H: Kelly I bet he would know so much about how a board is designed and how that feels under his feet. That awareness and knowledge is so valuable to improving design.
D: So what’s next for you? Did you think we will ever get to see you back in Australia full time?
H: Of course! I love living over here in LA at this point. It is motivating, exciting and challenging all at the same time. Home though is always home, and the northern beaches as well as the rest of Australia is something special. I will definitely be back at some point, but for now we will be back and forth a lot.