Back to the Future Shapes with Nev
Through the 80s and 90s shapers often did stints at overseas surf towns. They’d lock down for four weeks at Chiba, or Hossegor, or San Clemente, clock 15 hour days and punch out 300 boards for the local market. Wash the foam dust off with a run up the coast and then return home.
Some shapers still do it, but computer shaping has largely put an end to the shaping junket. Sending digital files to Chiba, or Hossegor, or San Clemente is cheaper and easier than a hands on trip.
Shortly, however, Nev Hyman will embark on just such a shaping stint. He’ll be head down in a shaping bay, crafting 300 boards with his bare hands. The only difference this time around is that there’ll be no travel - he’s shaping them all on the Gold Coast.
Munga Barry, Mysteries of the Deep, Burleigh Heads - photo McLeod, vehicle Nev
There’s some irony in Nev Hyman knuckling down in a shaping bay. Nev, you see, was instrumental in the rise of computer shaping machines. His goal way back then was to end the grunt work shapers had to endure. So why return to the grindstone?
“I just love the craft of making surfboards,” says Nev. “It’s something I’ve really missed.”
Yet the upcoming stint isn’t simple indulgence from the guy that created Firewire and more recently NevHouse. He’ll be shaping a heritage series of sorts; four Nev Future Shapes models from the period 1979 to 1989 belonging to four surfers who helped his label.
Each board will be totally handshaped using the exact same tools Nev had in the 80s. They’ll also be PU. “Another little bit of irony,” laughs Nev, who built Firewire as an eco alternative to PU/PE boards. Each board will be signed and numbered, they’ll have the old logos and they’ll also be sprayed and polished just as the originals would have been.
“There’ll be a Munga model, and Sunny Garcia, Christian Fletcher, and Peter Drouyn models - the latter being a twin wing swallow. Peter helped me in a very special way back in the early days,” says Nev.
Sunny Garcia aboard Nev Future Shapes
Nev admit that he’s going to charge a “good amount” for these boards, yet all the royalties will go to the surfers.
“Those four helped me launch my career,” explains Nev. “Each of them in their own way. There were many others of course, but those guys in particular.”
“And,” Nev continues, “don’t get me started, but they rode for Billabong and they got nothing in the float. That’s all I’m gonna say...”
What Nev will say is the boards are going to be a blast to ride. “With a flat deck and low rocker anyone can have fun on 80s boards. Younger guys can get an idea of what was happening then, older guys can feel all the volume again.”
Right now Nev is building the shaping bay, and he’s stretching the old shoulders in preparation for another tour of duty - a slightly different one to any he’s done in the past. Meanwhile, his son Jayden is building the website and getting the word out via Instagram, though they're still a few weeks from releasing the specifics.
I put it to Nev that this reminiscing is at odds with the tagline he sometimes used on his boards: Neva Look Back.
"Yeah, but you have to remember the other one I used," says Nev with a laugh. "Never say never."