I pretty much cruised through high school. In about ninth grade I worked out I didn’t have to do homework and I would still pass. When it came time to go to uni and I got my scores back from the SATs, I pretty much couldn’t go to uni in America. My only options were either uni abroad, or community college.
I was always interested in making boards, trying to fix dings and stuff, and I saw an ad for Surf Science at ECU in a surf mag one day. Well, it wasn’t even an ad, just this picture of some guy getting shacked and it said something like, “Surf Science, only a stones throw away”. So I googled it. The American dollar was really good at the time so when I applied and got in, off I went. I’m not sure they knew what my high school scores meant…
I met Rory Bean one night at a party and we were talking about making boards, he reckoned he could get me a job with Beany so I cruised in to see him the next day. “Nuh”, he said point blank, “But try Bam”. Every day for the next three weeks I would come and see Bam and he would just say, “Maybe tomorrow”. Then one day I caught them just before they went surfing and Charlie just told me to clean the factory. They came back while I was still cleaning and Bam was stoked I was taking the initiative. That was pretty much it after that.
I reckon I worked at The Factory for six months before Bam would even let me use quey. I’d spend 15 minutes mixing it up when he would just take it from me saying it was terrible. Maybe I’m exaggerating… But I reckon I cleaned the factory for months before I even started on dings. That’s also how I got the name AWOL. At the start Bam would just say to me, “Come in whenever”, so the next day if the surf was pumping I’d surf all day then go back home, chill out on the couch and do some uni work. There was one week where I just didn’t come in at all and when I finally walked back in Bam ripped in to me. “Where the fuck have you been?” and Zak was all, “AWOL Ash” in his American accent. I got called AWOL from then.
I started with dings, learnt how to finish them off till I could do them all myself. Then Bam would teach me little things like edging and filler coats. I’d watch YouTube videos on how to do stuff and Zak or Oggy would give me little snippets. Now I work with all stages of the board with AWOL manufacturing and run my own shaping business with AWOL custom.
Having shapers that are always in the water is a really cool thing about WA. When you’re out there and you see someone do a sick turn then you can talk right there with them about what they’re looking for with their surfing. When you see someone riding your board in the water you’re getting interactive feedback. I love getting feedback.
It will be interesting to see if in the future there is another magic number. Right now it’s volume and that’s a good way of putting your surfboard into a numerical sense for people to gauge, but with hydrodynamics, there’s so much more. When you take lift and how much water is moving over a surface into account, maybe boards will end up having a ‘lift’ number.
Going surfing is the best way to get excited about new things. After all, if you’re not going surfing, why are you making surfboards? That’s the whole reason we’re doing it.