|Another work of art from the hand of Adrian Phillips.|
Adrian Phillips is one of the nicest guys you could meet, he's also one of the best surfboard shapers in the country. Combining a huge wealth of experience and knowledge with a grommet's enthusiasm he continually produces top-quality boards for his Fluid Juice label. He very kindly took a break from the shaping bay to answer a few questions...
Where did you grow up?
South coast of Cornwall.
When did you start surfing and what got you interested in it?
12 yrs old and my school had a surf club.
I know you trained as an electrician, so what prompted you to start shaping surfboards?
I started repairing my own and my friends boards and it was a natural progression.
Did you learn or apprentice with anyone as a shaper?
Back then you just had to have a go and learn from everywhere you could. Shaping methods were closely guarded secrets.
Can you tell us a bit about the origins of Fluid Juice?
Initially I just shaped my own boards and then friends starting asking for boards and the circle got wider and wider.
I believe you spent some time shaping in Australia as well - who was that with?
Midget Farrelly and Chris Miller.
You've been at The Old Airfield for ever, making boards in the traditional way, yet you are continually tweaking things to improve and progress how you work - is that part of your success?
Surfboard evolution moves forward on a daily basis.
I know you have a full order book nowadays, but it can't always have been easy, did you ever have to diversify or go back to running electric cable to make ends meet?
I haven’t been short of orders for thirty years.
Do you think that there will always be a place for the custom surfboard shaper?
Yes, even more so as more surfers realise the difference it makes. Why have a stock shape that is at best dated and at worst not right for you when you can actually play a part in the design process yourself. Surfing is an amazing thing to do and a custom board just makes it even better.
|Finishing touches in the shaping bay.|
Shapers are being recognised as true crafstmen now, with some commanding huge prices - what's your view on the £1000 hand-shaped board?
Boards are too cheap for the work that goes into them but on the plus side the low price enables us to keep changing and progressing. A £1000 board isn’t worth £1000 when its performance is out of date.
With virtually unlimited acess to boards - is it possible for you to have a favourite board?
A favourite board should only be temporary, as you never know how good the next one might be. I use all of our prototypes and demo boards which are totally up-to-date, proven shapes so at any one time I usually have at least 15 favourite boards.
How often do you get in the water?
Every day if possible. Whatever the conditions, there’s always a board that will make it fun.
Do you manage to get away, and do you have a favourite surf destination?
I try to get some warm water each winter. It’s hard to beat Hawaii and it’s become a regular trip over the last few years. There’s almost always good surf, a huge range of waves, plenty of challenge, loads of history and it’s probably the best place to stay aware of cutting edge board design.
|Adrian Phillips testing boards at Rocky Point, Hawaii.|
Any music playing in the factory - if so what's on today?
Listening to the birds outside today but I must admit Pink Floyd, Led Zep and all that old hippy stuff is my kind of thing although you can’t beat silence for concentration.
Right, let's get on to the nitty gritty stuff - how many boards have you shaped?
I’m on 8500 or thereabouts at the moment although it’s not totally accurate as I didn’t used to number them.
What does a normal day involve?
Go surfing first is my favourite, then work. Or if the surf's going to be better later, work first, surf later. Work is usually shaping first with a fresh mind then business later.
|Working, surfing - it's all the same to Adrian.|
After so many boards how do you maintain your enthusiasm?
The more you learn about board design the better the results so it just gets more interesting and more exciting.
Can you talk us through your approach to shaping?
I ask the customer questions until between us we’ve worked out what to make and then I stop talking and concentrate on making them the best board I possibly can.
As a designer you are aiming to create both form and function - along with taking into account a fluid environment (surf conditions) and individual customer requirements (skill level etc) how do you balance these factors?
I use all my knowledge on every board to put all the factors together and remain open minded and keep learning.
What advice do you give people looking for their 'perfect' board?
Work from current and previous boards, trust your own experience and talk to a shaper who is open minded, experienced and listens.
What's your view of the current state of board design?
Right now is the best time there’s ever been in board design. Loads of knowledge, high levels of surfing performance, computer technology giving shapers complete design freedom and complete design control and the main drive is for everyone to have fun in the waves and surf however they like, which after all is what it’s all about.
And being at the sharp end (so to speak) do you see any trends or cycles?
Openmindedness. It’s all about having fun in the sea.
|"I’ve never been bored at work."|
Are there any particular shapes or styles that really interest you?
All aspects of design are relevant to all boards.
Are there any other shapers that you admire?
Too many to mention. Almost everyone is putting in a lot of effort to put smiles on other people’s faces.
Where do you find your personal inspiration?
In the surf and in loads of positive feedback.
What do you love about being a surfboard shaper / designer?
I’ve never been bored at work.
The next board and what’s the surf looking like for tomorrow?
Photos from various sources. Screengrabs courtesy of WoodhouseTV.