Herring and Webber ride again
Nearly three decades after he led the world rankings, setting the pace against an eleven-time champ in the making, Shane Herring is again working with shaper Greg Webber.
The nature of their relationship has changed, of course. No longer are they conspiring to change the surfing world. This time 'round, their goals are slightly more modest. It's not simply a surfer/shaper relationship anymore either, as clever design isn't the only goal here. Redemption is also a part of the package.
Greg recently chatted to Swellnet about the boards they're making and also his relationship with Herring.
Swellnet: Word is you're again working with Shane Herring and a few other people on a new board. Could you explain what's been happening?
Greg Webber: Yep. It's a Shane Herring surfboard - so the branding is Herring - and the team is Justin Crawford and Jimmy Young-Whitforde who both live nearby Shane and can connect with him on a mental level. So they're kind of managing that side.
Justin's more managing the branding and the advertising and marketing, while Jimmy is...I guess you'd call him my protege. We've been working together on experimental boards for eight or so years, and he's also a very good finish shaper and can pretty much copy my rail.
So that's the group.
What is the end goal with the boards? One-off boards, or are they going into production?
Yeah, that's the aim. For sure. They're going to start by doing customs and then approach different retailers. That's the first way. But if it has any traction, then there's a chance that we could introduce it into one of the larger global distributors' range.
You're talking about GSI or Slater Designs, is that right?
Yeah, that kind of level. Anyone that's doing hundreds and hundreds of boards a week. That level, and distributed over 500 stores around the world. So, that's a big jump and you've got to validate it as a saleable item.
He's going to need some good surfers in his quarter, guys that will ride the board and show it works. Have you thought who that might be?
No, have you got any ideas?
Robbo comes to mind.
Yeah, for sure. He's the best example because he surfed basically every experiment that I've done in the last ten years. So he can prove it and validate it.
The other group would be the guys at Byron that are part of the market, anyway, you know what I mean? The style of surfer who rides low rocker, flat little things. However, this is not just a flat platform, even though Shane wants to have the rocker very low, like 3 1/2 inch nose and 1 5/8 tail, it will still be compared to that style of board but with a definite in-the-pocket performance capacity. You've got to be able to rip on the thing.
It's funny you say that because one of the ongoing criticisms about the Banana board and probably the reason that it wasn't saleable second time around, is that it was just too high performance. The average surfer couldn't get their head around it and make it work.
Just quickly, who did you ever hear that from?
Comments on forums, reading what people's perception was, whether it was based in reality or not. People felt it was too finely tuned.
I've had feedback from guys - obviously that's going to be positive, otherwise they wouldn't give me the feedback - but these are average surfers saying that they've done some of the best turns of their life on that board.
Okay, well, I'll put it to you, Greg. Why wasn't the Banana more popular the second time around?
It got destroyed at the shops, and other shapers resented the attention that that model got. And the fact that it represented something, which is a high-performance board for bowly waves. So it got criticised quite cleverly by grumpy shapers, basically. They were saying, "Mate that thing's unridable, they slow down, they've got no drive."
No-one attacks the flat-rockered fish, because it's got a set function, and everyone knows that board does not go in bowly, hollow waves. But it doesn't get abandoned because of that. Yet for some reason the reverse doesn't hold true. That's a funny aspect of it.
Also, there's a personal reaction by many shapers to the Banana, because I'm the only person that's connected to that. And they don't like that.
I don't want to press the point here, but I've ridden the Banana quite a bit, and I could do some good turns, but I didn't find it a forgiving or an 'all round' board. The fact that it could do these top 5% turns meant that it didn't go so well at other times. Especially when it was in ordinary East Coast surf.
But that's what I'm saying. It's not designed for ordinary waves!
[phone line goes dead]
Did you just hang up on me, Greg..?
No, no. I'm not even touching the phone. It's sitting on a box of tissues, I'm not even holding the thing.
Okay. Look, well we'll move on, Bananas to Beans...
No, no, no, I want to finish that point because you highlighted a good thing: you said it didn't go well in standard waves. So someone has a couple of funny surfs in dud waves, which it's not designed for, and then they throw the board away as a concept.
The Banana is made for four to five foot, hollow, beautiful waves, which is only a few times in the year when the waves are cranking and all of a sudden you're doing turns tight under the tube. The Banana isn't designed for junky waves and shouldn't be judged in them either - the same way the flat-rockered fish isn't judged in hollow, high-performance waves.
Okay...the current board, the Baked Bean, what sort of waves is it intended for?
Beachies and standard flatter stuff. Not 'flatter' like Malibu or whatever, typical East Coast surf.
It's still got a bit of rocker. About 4 inches and 2 1/4 in the tail on a 5'8". It will just be a flat-sided vee bottom. It's like the Diamond - which is a double concave - which I've made hundreds and hundreds of, and people love the rocker exactly as it is, which is not dead flat. It doesn't have a straight deck and a nose flip, it's just slightly curved throughout the whole thing, but not a lot of rocker. So that's what I used as the guide, because I've had such a broad range of surfer ride that thing.
So that's what the Baked Bean will be close to.
What size should people ride. From memory Shane's original Bean was 5'8", two inches shorter than his standard shortboard of the day.
I think it was 5'6"
Well, there you go, four inches shorter.
There's so much nose sawn off, there's no way I only took two inches off.
OK, so it'll be the same again? A snub nose that's ridden a few inches shorter than your standard shortboard?
OK, I want to ask you about your relationship with Shane. Have you kept in contact with him over the years?
No, not at all until recently when we met up for the first time in, shit, I don't know...could be fifteen years.
And how was that?
It was funny actually, it was really nice to see each other. It's like he would have a concept of Greg Webber that is to do with the Banana and pro surfing, someone connected to all that, and there'll be a tainted feeling of failing. Which has totally transformed his life. You know what I mean?
So, maybe, I'm a bit of a problem mentally, especially if you use the word Banana in relation to Greg Webber.
Yet what I see with him, and have realised moreso since I made his boards and watched him change, is that he's a good person who just didn't deal with the attention. Which is a very Australian kind of thing. There's no ego allowed. Especially back then, I think we've evolved a little bit and become slightly more American since.
Americans are better designed to deal with success because they are told from a young age, "Man, you could be the best at this." And you'll notice I used an American accent for extra effect.
Thanks for that.
That's what they've heard since they were kids. What do you think Kelly's heard? "You're going to be the world champ." Over and over. That believability helps them.
It's starting to infect our culture as well.
It is, we've gone a bit more American and I think that's healthy in a way. We can deal with the ego side in the way that Americans do, being able to say to someone, "Mate, you ripped. You're doing unreal. Keep up the good work." As against this deconstructing horror that the person's going to think too highly of themselves.
But at the same time, we can't forget that that's a really valuable thing. It's what stops us having much of a class system. You know, you can have someone working on the roadside, then an engineer next to the guy, and then a lawyer in a suit, looking at the hole that's being dug by some guy on an excavator. All side by side. I think we can't ignore that it has been a great benefit to this country.
Just that when it comes to being famous and attracting attention, that's when you really need young people to be groomed in dealing with all that attention.
Okay. So where's Shane at now? How do you think he's traveling?
Quite well, I think from what I heard. He's not overweight and he could quite easily get back in the water if the right board is made for him.
The only problem is there's such a psychosis in relation to the past that he becomes very stubborn about certain things. He can't look at the surfboard design itself as an inanimate object, one that has to match the needs or wants of the market. He can't be objective. So that's where Justin can manage things.
There are a few overlaps here between Michael Peterson and Shane, in the sense that they were gifted surfers who went off the rails with health issues. It always felt like a big loss that MP never surfed again. How do you think people are going to respond when they see Shane in the water?
Personally, I would like to think there is a lot of goodwill out there and people would simply love to see him surf, irrespective of his current skill level. Like, don't compare him to the surfer he once was, just see him for who he is now.
I think anyone would look at it the way you were saying, because too many years have past. But you know, irrespective of the damage he might've done to himself, there's still talent on the inside. So I think it would be great, as you're suggesting, to see him on an open face, like at Lennox at four to five foot, on a Baked Bean doing beautiful, big round turns.
That's what my objective is: to get the guy on a board that makes him go, "Shit, this thing's easy to ride, but I'm doing turns." That's currency for the bloody soul that is, or the heart or whatever it is...it's the thing that's so valuable in surfing. Everyone knows that if you just get two or three turns done in one surf then you're transformed and your whole day is better.
So what stage is the project up to?
Right now it's just working out where it's going to be retailed, that's all. And I'm going to go back to Justin, who's really good at this stuff, to see what our plan will be in terms of wholesalers.
It won't be long.