A restless creativity: Hayden Cox

Stu Nettle
Design Outline

There was a period in time, and it doesn't feel that long ago, maybe just after the turn of the century, when surfboard design felt stagnant. Like it had reached a conclusion of sorts, a perfect form, and so it ceased moving forward. And surfboard designers said as much in their interviews, that progression from now on would be incremental, or that it was centred on external things like fins.

But they couldn't have been more wrong.

Because just a few years later, board design, and more particularly board manufacture, exploded. Under the influence of shapers such as Hayden Cox, but also Nev Hyman and Bert Burger, the idea of the surfboard was reimagined. Those shapers, and a handful of others, disassembled the traditional surfboard and began putting it back together in new and imaginative ways, and they used different materials, introduced unique manufacturing processes.

Hayden, who started the eponymous Haydenshapes label, mixes clever design with sharp marketing. He's never been afraid to include radical features in his boards - for instance, three of his models have sidecut rails - and though he's had great success with boards such as the Shred Sled and Hypto Krypto his eyes are always fixed further down the line looking for the next development in design or production.

A restless creative, Swellnet recently spent some time with Hayden to talk over his latest ideas.

The PE-C Stringer

The wooden stringer concept hasn't changed in fifty years. Recently, I looked at what could be improved on a stringer, and it was the lifespan of the flex pattern. That's one of the key things that our FutureFlex board does really well: it maintains its flex pattern for a lot longer than a board with traditional wooden stringer and polyester resin. Customers tell me all the time about their old FutureFlex's. "The board is still going great!"

So I applied that type of thinking to a wooden centreline stringer. I wanted to, firstly, reduce the weight of the stringer, and secondly, improve the flex while maintaining flexural memory a lot longer. The PE-C stringer is made from a high density foam, however it's not the foam that controls flex, but the carbon fibres on each side of it. That's what creates the flex. The foam is just the substrate.


Comparisons to FutureFlex

FutureFlex allows less rail line, with the carbon rails bringing it back to shape very fast, which gives those boards projection and a certain lively feeling under your feet. However, a centreline flex pattern works differently; it twists torsionally around the stringer. Say you lean on your toe side, then it will twist around the stringer rather than along the board. Also, it has a softer feel than the FutureFlex, so to get a board to maintain its memory, you've got to build a stringer that will really withstand that torsional twist, and be stiff enough to match what wooden stringers do already.

The materials we're using in the boards: carbon fibre, epoxy resins, and composite foams, create a flex pattern which is very similar to boards with a wooden stringer. But by using carbon, the flex response is faster, and the material lasts longer, probably three to four times longer in its flexural lifespan of the product - and it's also half the weight.

Consistency

I hear pro surfers talk about magic boards say, "I got a hundred boards this year and only one of them was a magic one." And that's because the shape came out just right, the glass job was done well, the edge was put on beautifully, it was sanded nicely, and the stringer in the middle was a nice piece of wood: all of them variables in the board-building process, and the better you can control each individual variable, the more consistent your boards are gonna be.

So they're the things I've really focused on: choice of materials, the manufacturing processes, and quality control. It's a huge part of giving people boards they really love. 

Beyond black and white

You know, I've never stopped building wooden stringer, polyurethane foam boards. Never went out there and said, "Hey, FutureFlex replaces the centre stringer board." I just brought out something new that worked, that I thought people would like, and subsequently those boards soaked up a big portion of our sales. So most people identify our brand with black-railed boards. And yeah, it is a big brand identifier, it stands out, you can see one a mile away down the beach. But that wasn't a consideration in the design process, it was just a byproduct of that process.

I start all my designs thinking about performance and functionality, and only later on do I try to refine and finesse the visual appeal of the board. Of course, looks are important; a board can go great but look terrible and people just won't be interested in it. So I put a lot of thought and process into that last 5%, which is the aesthetics of the board, and try to curate that and make it work with the brand. But there's no law to it. There are no rules that we have to follow.

Hayden's long-time team rider and irrepressible style pilot, Craig Anderson (Photo Respondek)

License check

I've got no plans to licence the PE-C stringer at this stage. I feel like, what we were able to do with FutureFlex [which was licensed] was show commercial success of a concept, bring it to market, and prove that it had a place in modern board building. That there was a way to do it on a custom board. Most modern epoxy boards, they're built using a similar set of materials as FutureFlex, but back when I launched it the brands didn't have the knowhow or the access to materials. It wasn't part of their repertoire.

The new materials are now made by Colan Fibreglass, but they weren't producing those materials when I designed FutureFlex. If the byproduct of me designing that technology and succesfully bringing it to market has inspired all the other brands to go out and release a carbon fibre solution, then that's a great thing. What it means though is that there's no real need to licence it anymore, because shapers are able to design their own carbon/EPS core board, using their own weaves and layup configurations.

Polyester no...

I haven't made a polyester resin board since I launched FutureFlex. I instantly changed over from polyester resin to epoxy resin on all my boards - whether they be PU foam or EPS foam. I'm a big believer in epoxy resins as one of the best resin systems to use on surfboards. There are benefits for health, the factory doesn't stink, benefits on the lamination side, there are a lot of things there.

...but everything else goes

I'm open to all other components, like wooden stringers, composite stringers, polyurethane foam, EPS foam, a whole heap of other foams which I occasionally build boards out of but haven't put on the market. I imagine 70-80% of centre-stringer boards will have the PE-C but I'll never disregard wooden stringers. I'm always open.

The long march to sustainability

I'm at stage one of learning about being more environmentally friendly as a manufacturer. I'm learning, and questioning, about the materials that are available and the impact they actually have in the production process. For instance, is recycled EPS foam actually more beneficial for the environment? It takes more power to create it and it's a costly process to recycle the foam and return it into another blank, so it costs more and uses more power than virgin EPS, but it does save on landfill. So, there's all these for and against arguments that I'm learning about.

A couple of things that I believe in, and I know 100% that they make a big difference. One is making your product last longer. It's the most environmental thing that you can do. Make a board that's going to last five years versus two, and you've saved an extra one and a half boards going into the marketplace and a whole heap of materials and power and water waste. And look, there's people out there who'll go, "I got one of Hayden's boards and I snapped it." Yes, that can happen - happens to every bloody shaper. But our boards are holding up, and we've got supporting data through platforms like Awayco to prove that. Through them we know exactly how many times that a board is being surfed and what the state of the board is. Our boards are going great.

That's probably the most environmentally friendly way that I can make an impact at this point in time; design a product that's going to stay underneath people's feet for longer. Another one is, our factory in Mona Vale is now 80% powered on solar, and we've been starting to implement ways to reuse more of the byproduct. That concept is really at ground zero, but an example is that we're using all the offcuts of fibreglass, laminating them into glass panels, and hand-foiling fins out of it. So rather than putting that waste into landfill, we're reusing it, and I feel like there's some really great ideas there to continue doing that. Firewire did a great example of that, of up-cycling their EPS foam wastage and make it into little blocks that you can use to build things like pathways.

From rubbish to resource: making recycled fins from the Haydenshapes waste stream

I feel that these concepts would be great if they were industry wide. That way we could make an impact as an industry, rather than just one or two brands. If say, we could work with Future Fins or FCS, and they develop a fin - and I've pitched this to them - that uses all our offcuts of masking tape and resin and glass fibre, and mill it down and then mould a fin, an entry-level fin that still surfs good, that's helping every surfboard manufacturer reduce their footprint in this industry. That would be just one way to tackle the environmental side of things as an industry.

Two to tango

It's one thing for manufacturers to be environmentally friendly, another to have customers pay for it. Yet it feels to me like there's a bit more acceptance to pay a hundred bucks extra or whatever it costs for manufacturers to make better boards. Firewire are doing an amazing job in this regard, like using wool in the lamination and other initiatives. They've got lots of cool and creative ideas, and they're a brand that has really flown the flag for environmentally sustainable boards. I'm sure they've learned a lot over the years about what their actual impact is. Now I'm going down that path too, but following my own sort of personal interest in design ideas.

Experiments

I've built boards without any fibreglass, just purely basalt and flax, using bio-epoxy resin and recycled EPS foam. I've got a programme now with the first ten coming through. That's a construction which surfs really good under my feet, but the challenge right now is that they're all black. Commercially, that would wipe out 90% of my customers.

I've also played around with a completely different set of materials to see what is achievable both at the manufacturing level and also commercially. Maybe we could release that to our global audience?

Hayden's Eco Twin - right ingredients, wrong colour, for now

Timelines

Like all of my design projects, there's no timeline. When I land on something I'm super psyched with I have to run through some considerations. One, I have to understand what impact it has. Two, it has to surf really good. And three, we have to be able to build it at a mass level. Servicing twenty customers a year doesn't really make that much of an impact. It needs to be that all our retail partners are able to get access to it, they can sell it, and they can educate their customers about it. That's where the impact really starts to take effect.

Making the surf industry great again

We've got eight apprentices in the Australian factory at Mona Vale. The apprenticeship programme got turned on almost two years ago and we started hiring apprentices and began a training programme. It's really exciting, but it also soaks up a lot of time for a lot of people, training people up and teaching them how we build our boards. Then again, it's future-proofing the Haydenshapes brand, 'cause it's really hard to find enough board builders who are passionate and want to stay in the industry and build boards in a modern way. 

With eighteen manufacturing staff, eight of whom are apprentices, Haydenshapes is kicking the domestic board industry back to life

One of the big things I've learned is that the most successful manufacturing businesses have the best training programmes in place. For example, Audi has their own apprenticeship programme, and they're very proud of it. They teach mechanics how to work on Audi cars in the Audi way, and that's the level of pride that I have about the Haydenshapes apprenticeship programme.

It's really cool to see the guys progress. It can be a headache, but it's an important investment and teaching other people how to build boards is something we really doing enjoy,

Surftech

Those boards are made under license at the Cobra factory. My relationship with Cobra started nine years ago now, and I've always managed the quality, the materials, and how my boards have been built there. All that's happened is the distribution has changed. The manufacturing partnership hasn't changed, but the distribution changed from GSI to Surftech. Essentially just the sales force and the distribution force.

It means that there's now eight models in the marketplace as well, rather than two. So that's a really exciting thing, and it includes our Hypto Krypto Future Flex softboard...

A parabolic rail softboard

I designed that thing when I was living in Bondi. Made myself one and it went so damn good! It's got the carbon frame inside the soft board so it rides like a legit surfboard, but it's soft. The rail shapes are perfect, really nice bottom tucks. It's more positioned as a board for the family, maybe your kid's going to ride it 80% of the time, but parents can jump on it too. Throw it in the back of the car and it won't get dented and dinged, but it rides amazing. 

The Hypto Krypto softboard

Plus Gromflex technology!

I've always felt that to progress as a surfer, you need good boards to progress on. If you're on a board which is hard for a good surfer to bottom turn, how the hell is a beginner going to bottom turn on it? A product needs to be designed in a certain way to allow surfers to progress, and still have that level of performance to them. It's another tech that I'm really excited about. Gromflex technology integrates a flex design for surfers 40 kilos and below, which has been exciting to bring to market.

Much more than a team mascot, Oscar Langbourne is stress testing Hayden's new tech (Photo Respondek)

It's a combination of carbon and urethane stringer, and it has flex response for the 35 - 40 kilo kid. One that's starting to go top to bottom. Not for the entry level kid, but one that's riding boardriders and winning his heats. Oscar Langbourne has been riding it and loving how it feels, and he's a great case of someone who still rides a 4'10" short board. The flex is feeling really in synch with his weight and his height and the size boards and he's riding.

Comments

abc-od's picture
abc-od's picture
abc-od commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 1:29pm

I disagree about the colour. Black boards look sick, I even had a mixed matt and gloss twin of his some years back. Big brand, but I always like what he does.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 4:15pm

We found one of the 10% then :D

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 6:01am

I agree that they look great. The only issue I have with them is that they get farken' hot in the sun. You have to be super careful where you leave them lying round. Not an insurmountable challenge I agree, but a bit too much of a hassle for me at any rate.

GODS QUAD's picture
GODS QUAD's picture
GODS QUAD commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 9:13am

Agree; they look farken sick, but have fun trying to wax that thing up in the height of summer. Learnt that the hard way... 3 times!

Sam Mozaffari's picture
Sam Mozaffari's picture
Sam Mozaffari commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 11:30am

could just use front deck grip I guess

Blue Blue Room's picture
Blue Blue Room's picture
Blue Blue Room commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 3:58pm

Thinking black, second life maybe convert to a rooftop solar panel
Just drill out the plug for the input
PV's could be laid under the current matt
Rocker would be make solar absorption much greater over the period of the day

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 4:14pm

Good read, i like his mindset.

But wouldn't quicker rebound of stringer just mean a stiffer less absorbing board, the chatter thing EPS/epoxy can sometimes have.

Going off those Instagram time lapse experiment things Stunet posted the other day.

Hastoes's picture
Hastoes's picture
Hastoes commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 4:42pm

I'd go a black board for sure

aj

Hastoes's picture
Hastoes's picture
Hastoes commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 4:47pm

Bought a board from the firewire sale just last week. Got it for a song and a dance $375 , id say a great deal of them were on sale cause they'd yellowed a little . Not bad considering they retail for $980

aj

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 5:06pm

A neighbour and his mate did the same snapping up FW bargains
Unfortunately His mates FW snapped that morning in its first and only surf

Hastoes's picture
Hastoes's picture
Hastoes commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 5:14pm

spewing !! had two FW's snap on me (not the same year thank fuck) within six months of purchase before.
Goes to show no matter how durable these different constructions are reported to be, they have a breaking point. Worse year I ever had, was breaking 3 Pu's in 12 months .

aj

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 8:29pm

Hey Hastoes

Where? When? Was the FireWire sale?

Cheers

Hastoes's picture
Hastoes's picture
Hastoes commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 8:43pm

Last Friday and Saturday @ Currumbin factory

aj

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 10:17pm

Thx

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 12:23am

I have a 96, it is wonderful.

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 8:04pm

"A couple of things that I believe in, and I know 100% that they make a big difference. One is making your product last longer. It's the most environmental thing that you can do. Make a board that's going to last five years versus two, and you've saved an extra one and a half boards going into the marketplace and a whole heap of materials and power and water waste."

This is hilariously rich coming from a businessman who also said this in an interview earlier this year about some board he chose to mass produce in Thailand:

"The first 700 boards that they produced, I wasn't happy with the quality and I had to force them to destroy every one of those boards," Cox said.

"As sad as it is to destroy close to half-a-million dollars worth of product...if I didn't get that right I was going to be a failure.”

https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/why-entrepreneur-destroyed-500000-stoc...

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 10:17am

Sounds like he obviously forgot the truth.....W T F..............
ding dong.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 12:02pm

Tough gig being a green-minded businessman.

Treat the board destruction as a philosophical exercise. What would you have done? What price your green credentials, if swamping the market with inferior product meant you went out of business?

And full disclosure for those with suspicious minds: The above article isn't advertorial, no money or product changed hands, no ad spend negotiated, I simply like Hayden's nous when it comes to surfboards the same way I like other shapers who occasionally appear on Swellnet.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 2:09pm

bad luck he couldnt make them a 'cleanskin' like they do in the wine industry & sell them cheap or donate to the needy.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 3:52pm

Or donate them to Peter Schroff.

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 4:38pm

No, it's only tough to be an honest businessman.

onetimeonly

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 31 Jul 2019 at 8:18pm

I'm really not sure the durability argument stacks up.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 12:25am

It would be interesting to know if others buy less boards after buying more durable boards?

But i have to say i don't buy less boards than i did when only riding pu/pe, my buy rate is about the same, i just have way more boards.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 6:20am

I like timber stringers.

dewhurst's picture
dewhurst's picture
dewhurst commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 7:38am

My Hypto is easily the longest lasting board I've owned, even though its slipped to a backup board only. I went through a year where I surfed it nearly every day, and did two OS trips, and it held up well.

Also on Awayco....best thing ever to test new boards.

SurferSam's picture
SurferSam's picture
SurferSam commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 11:33am

I have the holy grail and it’s up there with the best board I have ridden. Which is kinda strange coz I hated the hypto. I like Hayden’s PE boards best wooden stringer with epoxy over PU they last well. He probably should of stayed away from the cobra factory but he’s prob also making lots of $ out of it. Reckon that new stringer he’s spruiking looks the goods

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Sunday, 4 Aug 2019 at 10:39pm

Those HK's look like an ironing board and an incredibly raw, crappy finish. Some people seem to love them I reckon they are a barge. The HG is better but it seemed to have a really complex bottom which didn't work in all waves. After looking at what the WCT guys ride you wonder if keeping it simple but well executed isn't a better way to go. The HK's are certainly really simple, but so is an ironing board and I don't want to surf it.

eel's picture
eel's picture
eel commented Sunday, 11 Aug 2019 at 1:37pm

Agreed. I reckon Hayden's templates are fucking terrible. And the future flex looks gash too, particularly as they yellow. I see less and less of them these days. Use to see hyptos everywhere now I barely see any. The fad seems to be dying on the northern beaches

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 4:36pm

Usual surf industry snake oil. Protection for workers in Third World countries - zero. Enviromental and waste guidelines - zero. Mark up - more than zero. I don't care if people want to make money, just have the common courtesy to say it without all the smoke and mirrors.

onetimeonly

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 1 Aug 2019 at 9:09pm

To be fair you can't paint all business in developing countries with the same brush, i don't know how the cobra factory treats its workers or deals with environmental disposal aspects etc.

But just because there is lack of regulations in developing countries doesn't mean all companies exploit this for example we all know Nev is passionate in that area and from all reports firewire workers are paid well above award wage with very good work conditions and all environmental and waste disposal are done to a highest standard possible.

I know they were even aiming to get certified with the fair trade thing or something similar.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 2 Aug 2019 at 1:57pm

I find Hayden's take on epoxys agreeable, and all the info on new materials interesting, however it did read a bit like advertorial. I now know that Audi has an apprenticeship system...

PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan commented Saturday, 3 Aug 2019 at 8:19pm

I'm not sure how much all of their boards are "overshaped" but having been in the Mona Vale factory and witnessed the amount of raw foam that comes away during shaping , wow , makes my Surfblanks "pinks" look natures little rainbows.
Making a regular shortboard , I would be lucky to fill a lunchbag with the foam waste .
Laminated with CLR epoxy , 5 years is not unusual,

theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep commented Tuesday, 6 Aug 2019 at 7:18pm

Destroy 700 that wouldn’t have lasted anyway and let all future boards have a good rep and last longer. No brainer. Smart ballsy decision.

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie commented Sunday, 11 Aug 2019 at 12:35pm

G'day Stunet,

I assumed this was a paid piece. I appreciate and trust your clarification.

It's actually pretty cool. If you do something different enough and good enough, you'll feature it! Impartial and growth positive.

Cheers

Billie

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 8 Oct 2019 at 1:14pm

I missed this comment so apologies for the late reply.

No, it wasn't a paid piece, nor were any products or promises exchanged for us running it on Swellnet.

I think Hayden is an original thinker, he changed the way surfboards were constructed in the same way Simon changed the number of fins we used, so because of his influence on the industry I think Hayden's is a voice that deserves to be heard.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 8 Oct 2019 at 1:06pm

Hayden weaving cloth offcuts, that would otherwise have gone to landfill, into a new laminate: