If you’re a surfer based in Queensland, you are more than likely well acquainted with Thomas Surfboards, the shaping Co based on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast that produces some astounding modern surf craft.
In fact, regardless of your locale, you may have seen some of Thomas’s boards under the feet of Hawaiian surf siblings Coco and Mason Ho in the most recent STAB Electric Acid Board Test.
We tracked down Thomas for a quick chat about boards, the shaping industry, the Electric Acid experience and more.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got into shaping?
I grew up in the bush until I was twelve before moving to the Sunshine Coast. My uncle lived on the Gold Coast, and so my initial introduction to surfing came through him on school holidays. Once I was on the Sunshine Coast it just went from there. I got into shaping because, as a young kid, it was the cheapest way to experiment with new boards, and because the types of boards I wanted to try and ride weren’t really being made at the time, or at least nowhere locally. It made sense to have a go at it myself.
How have things been going during COVID? Generally, surf equipment has been selling pretty well, hasn’t it?
Yeah, COVID and all of the associated restrictions on travel has definitely led to a bit of a boom in the surf industry, especially for boards and surf hardware. People are not travelling, and instead spending money on toys like boards, bikes, gym stuff. I’m sure there’s a lot of new surfers buying stuff from those cheap surf shops, and half of them might stick at it and be chasing good boards down the line, which will probably help us stay busy for a while.
I guess the days of a shaper slugging it out in the bay alone are gone. Do you have a small team that works for you?
Yeah, the business has grown a lot over the last ten years from when it was only Jake and I in a little shed doing it all ourselves. I think we now have sixteen people working across the factory, in the office, in the retail shop, etc.
Tell us about how you fit into the shaping market. What’s your speciality?
I’m not too sure, just another shaper, ha ha. I guess we focus on the higher end of the market. We make quality boards that are built properly without cutting any corners. We try to make every board as high-quality as possible. As for specialties, I guess it all kind of kicked off with traditional longboards, which are still a big part of what we do. Although, it has been really fun and interesting getting into short boards of all different shapes and sizes, from traditional fishes through to high performance shortboards.
Are there any trends in what people are riding at the moment? What’s popular and what’s not?
People are riding anything and everything. It’s kind of cool that surfing is more diverse than ever. Most people now ride at least a couple of different types of boards depending on the conditions. The whole mid-length twin fin thing is defiantly a real fad at the moment.
How can a good surfboard help a surfer?
It depends. First they need to know what they want to get out of a new board.
What are some tips you can give people looking to order a custom board, or buy one off the rack?
Be honest about your ability and really think about the type of waves you’re going to be surfing in. The more info and the more honest you are with the shaper, or the person in-store selling you a board, the more chance you have of getting the right board for you.
What are some common errors people make when buying boards?
One error people make is buying a board that looks cool but doesn’t suit their ability, or buying something that is more advanced than their ability.
You managed second place in the recent STAB Electric Acid Surfboard Test with Coco and Mason Ho. Tell us about that experience.
Yeah, it was pretty cool. An expensive exercise! It was a little daunting being up against all the big shapers, but I was pretty stoked to end up near the top of the list. It’s rewarding to have your concepts tested by such good surfers in such good waves, and then receiving positive feedback from them.
All photos by Thomas Surfboards