Nick Carroll On: Shaping's CT

1 Mar 2018 5 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Thomas Bexon, Mike Psillakis and Parrish Byrne amongst the action at the fascinating Vissla Shaping Bay.

Thomas Bexon, Mike Psillakis and Parrish Byrne amongst the action at the fascinating Vissla Shaping Bay.

The Vissla Sydney Surf Pro has a totally unexpected attraction.

Manly, Tuesday, 10.30am: It’s a glossy sort of day. Four feet and super clean, wedging lefts and fading rights. Probably the best North Steyne has been for a contest since, I dunno, 1978?

QS hotshots are feeding on both sides of the contest zone, while in the middle, four girls at a time are trying to time the slightly wonky sets.

This is a very different scene to the old Australian Open. That event always seemed to me to be a bit overweight. Music? Skating? Art? Giant construction blocking out sun? What wasn’t there? In fact, what was? You could never quite tell why it was there.

The Vissla Sydney Pro is stripped back by comparison. You can actually walk along the promenade and look out and see the ocean.

Part of the event mission is to re-focus on surfing, and partly to that end, Vissla has had a very unusual structure built down the southern end of the site.

It’s a very large rectangular box made of PlexiGlass and recycled ply. And if you go down there over the next few days, you’ll see one of around two dozen men inside it, scratching away at a fresh, uncut blank. The actual process of making a surfboard.

Welcome to the Vissla Shaping Bay.

When CW visited today, the bay was hosting Thomas Bexon of Noosa Heads. Thomas was outlining a Fish. Miked-up to an exterior speaker, he kept the small but avid group of spectators informed at every step. “I use a fin template for the swallows,” he said, doing exactly that. “No logic behind it, it just looks right.”

Mike Psillakis, the very bespoke shaper from just around the corner in Brookvale, was waiting his turn. We asked if he was nervous. Nah, I’m alright,” he said, then he turned to Wes Berg, Parko’s ex-trainer, who is running the shapers’ show. “There’s too much light!”

“I can put some shade on it if you like,” offered Wes.

Mike grinned. “The less you see, the quicker you shape.”

Public shaping is a rare thing. The only other place it occurs is at the Boardroom trade show in California, where six invited shapers try to replicate some other shaper’s masterwork.

But that’s a competition. This is an alternative to competition. This is something to watch between killer heats, when they happen.

Psillakis claimed to be nerve-free, but he did seem a little edgy. He had a 6’2” Dion blank from which he planned to cut something a bit Fishy. “Gonna use a sander to cut the deck,” he said. “Way faster.”

Above our heads gently flapped a series of placard style posters featuring the shaping lineup to come. It’s way bigger and gnarlier than you might expect. The Sydney Pro might be a QS but as far as shaping talent is concerned, this is CT. Chris Garrett, Hayden Cox, Wayne Lynch, Gunther Rohn, Terry Richardson, Darren Handley, Malcolm Campbell, Parrish Byrne, Luke Short, Stuart Campbell, Jason Rodd, and that’s just the half of it.

What the hell are they gonna shape?

I like this. The surf’s gonna have some good moments in coming days, there’ll be surf stars, but this’ll help. It’s not skating, it’s not music, but it is art.

The Vissla Sydney Surf Pro is on from 26 February until 4 March at Manly Beach.

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