Nigel Annesley // Annesley Surfboards
He learnt his chops from the best in the biz, and still harbours great admiration for his past mentors, but Nigel Annesley is now spreading his own wings. He's built his own label - Annesley Surfboards - servicing core customers while also fitting out team riders both here and OS.
Busy times, no doubt about it, but Nigel still takes time out to experiment with new designs, appreciate others' handiwork, even answer questions when surf journalists come knocking.
Alex Mitcheson sat down with the Sunny Coast shaper for the latest Swellnet shaper interview.
Swellnet: When did you start surfing and how did you get into it?
Nigel Annesley: I started pretty early on, I think I was about four. It was through my old man, who as far as I know surfed his whole life. He began pushing me onto waves and I learned to ride the face quite quickly and was surfing by myself not long after.
As a family, we started going over to Bali quite regularly back then as well, with frequent trips to Byron Bay too. I was fortunate as a kid when I look back.
What was under your feet on your last great wave?
It was up here at Noosa not so long ago. I had one of my own 9’4” El Gato longboard models which is a high-performance orientated outline and was having so much fun out at Tea Tree Bay. It was literally two foot — but I just had such a blast.
Who or what inspired you to take up shaping?
My dad used to get boards back in the day from Greg Webber, because of that the first few boards I ever had were shaped by him. Fast forward a few years and I’d begun to work at a boatyard working on boats, doing a bit of carpentry and general building. It was at this time I decided I wanted to shape my own board. I took the blank down to the local glassing factory and they were on the lookout for a full-time sander with good experience. I wanted the job badly, however, they were after somebody that could jump straight in without any training. After chatting some more, they said I could sand my board and if I did a good enough job, they’d consider me. Guess I did, because afterwards they hired me!
So, for the next few years I was sanding some of the biggest names in surfboards during the day — like Simon Anderson and Greg Webber — whilst trying my hand at shaping after hours. It was Luke Short, who came up under Greg, who gave me my first full-time shaping gig.
After some time though I started drifting over to eventually end up working under Greg himself. To me Greg is an absolute genius. I would be sanding boards he’d made for the likes of Taj (Burrow) and Andy (Irons) and it would bring tears to my eyes. You don’t get the opportunity in life to meet many real geniuses, but for me, Greg is certainly one of those.
Word association time. When I say a word you say..?
Custom boards: Lucky
Wave pools: The future
Nineties outlines: Relevant
Twin fins: Fun
If you could rebadge any other board with your logo whose would it be?
A few years back, I came across a young Filipe Toledo whilst out at Lakey Peak. We were up in the tower there and got chatting and I began looking through his boards which most people know are shaped by Sharp Eye down in Tweed. They didn’t look too dissimilar to my shapes and Filipe was ripping at the time.
I think all in all they are probably one of the best brands out there at the moment for sure.
Hypothetically speaking, you find yourself drydocked whilst making a rock jump on a big swell, are you more inclined to sacrifice fibreglass or your flesh?
Oooh, depends what board! If it’s a magic board then I’m going to be trying my best to save it.
Argh, it’s a tough one. I can always repair them pretty easy as well. But those magic boards are the ones you have to look after…
If you were to define your shaping philosophy what would it be?
Heavily inspired by my mentor Greg Webber — the continual curve approach.
With my boards you’ll notice from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail it’s a continual curve, the hard edge and tail fades into your bottom tuck so it’s not catching essentially.
Other guys have a different approach, more along the lines of a tuck to an all of the sudden hard edge — however, there’s no right or wrong answer!
What’s the favourite board you’ve shaped?
Ah, there’s been a few. So many custom boards which would be impossible to mention them all. To keep it current though I might have to go with my model the Dead Slead. I’ve been riding one myself at 5’8” and in epoxy construction, and I just can’t get off it.
I've been surfing it for solidly for about a year now. It suits the majority of conditions we get up here on the Sunshine Coast.
What’s the most successful board you’ve shaped?
My S2 model. It’s been around a while now, but I’ve been constantly refining it.
Many years ago, a young Wade Carmichael approached me to make a board for him. I knocked one of these out for him and he got back to me and said it was hands down the best board he’d ever ridden. For a period, he’d order between 10 – 20 of them in one go, and he wanted them all the same; 6’1” x 19” x 2 5/16” S2 model rounded square tail. "Don’t change anything!" he’d say. He went on to have great success with it and won the Australian Juniors on that board.
Any words of wisdom you could give to surfers out there hellbent on finding the perfect board?
As an experienced shaper and having worked with and for some of the biggest names in the business, one thing I’d have to get across is what the pros are riding as opposed to what you come across in the rack is very different.
You can watch the pros and read all the reviews etcetera, but long story short — volume never lies. Dimensions can be deceiving as they don’t always tell you a board’s suitability for you, whereas volume in my eyes is key.
And finally, you can’t go past just getting it under your arm. You can really suss the vibe out of a board and how it feels when it’s in your hands — and more importantly under your feet. Patience doesn’t hurt either as it’s going to take you a few — or maybe a lifetime — to find the ones that click.
// ALEX MITCHESON