Interview: Coby Perkovich Shapes Boards, And He's Been Quite Busy
He's been shaping his own boards for years, but now his brand, Systm 101, is verging on a full-time job.
If the name Coby Perkovich rings a bell it's probably because of his well rounded aerial repertoire, steady stream of clips, and recent spot in Stab High Melbourne (which was stillborn thanks to the pandemic). Although we've mentioned it before, you mightn't be aware that he runs his own board company, Systm 101.
For years Coby has been crafting and riding his own boards – while selling a few on the side – this year he's ramped up his presence and production."This is the busiest I've been." Coby said in regards to the last few months. "I max out at around 11 orders per week, and I've been near that for a while."
This uptick in production isn't just applicable to Coby either, in fact, despite the surf industry at large languishing more so than ever these past three months, board builders and wetsuits makers have seen increases in their revenue these past few months. While money ain't always there to purchase new clothes to suit the latest trends, surfers will always have money to spend on the bare essentials – surfboards and neoprene.
Anyway, back to Coby.
Systm is essentially just him. From the Instagram inbox, to the ordering of blanks, sanding of channels, and glass job, Coby is the man the entire way. He isn't shaping every board via hand anymore – it isn't feasible at a larger scale – but this near-one man operation is highly commendable.
When I have him a call he'd just returned from getting a new laptop. Dan Scott broke the screen on his old one a few years back and Coby has been using an external monitor ever since. Now that he's working on a website for the brand, a new laptop was sort of a necessity.
Coby testing his equipment.
Stab: How've you been up there anyway mate? It's been a while.
Coby Perkovich: The usual really. Working a bunch and trying to get a surf in where I can. Nothing really changed too much up here [in relation to Covid] for me. Hospitality closed for a little there, but nothing impacted me too much.
So works been busy?
Honestly with the pandemic, it's the busiest I've been. I have the same returning customers, but of late I've been getting DM's about shipping boards to places around Oz. Then I've been pushing it [on social media] too which helps.
Because I do everything too I max out at around 11 orders a week. I've been making a few boards for friends like Robbie [Rickard] and Benny [Howard] so I can get feedback from guys who surf entirely different than I do too.
So you're doing everything from start to finish?
Yeah. My brother helps me laminate a few boards here or there, but other than that it's all me from the blank to putting the plug in. Then I'm trying to build a website as well, but I'm having some help with that.
I like being able to make everyone's board though. I know every board that's going out and I know it's too my standard. I'd rather that than potentially have someone in sanding boards or whatever and not really caring.
Guaranteed not to snap clean in half, even if by the off chance you're jumping this high.
Sounds much harder than my equivalent of being on the tools - being on a computer.
[laughs] At the moment I'm doing seven days a week. I had the day off today because I ran out of resin yesterday.
I go in early and try to knock off around 2 or 3pm so I can surf in the arvo, but I know if put in the effort now it's more likely to pay dividends in the long run.
What's the turn around time then?
It's usually around two weeks.
Oh fuck, that's fast.
I don't want to keep people waiting around too long. That's why I keep the orders to around 11 per week.
It doesn't really take that long to make a surfboard. But when you have a backlog, that's when you end up waiting two months or more for a board.
The Systm 1.0.1. The most high performance in Mr. Perkovich's range.
Where is your factory?
Just a small little factory in Burleigh. We do everything there though, including the glassing.
I think we should reiterate that you're full HP. Not some sort of alternative shaper.
[laughs] yeah, like I could make a log, and do some high performance twin-fins, but I'm not chasing that sort of angle.
I don't think there's many young shapers who focus on high-performance boards, around this area anyway. It's hard when the market is so flooded with your JS, DHD, Pyzel and whatever too. I think there's less incentive for younger guys to start shaping those boards.
Is there less margin for error as well, compared to say a twin or fun-board sort of shape?
There's more room for error for sure with boards with full rails, more volume, and boards that are designed to more cruise on. When it's HP stuff, really good surfers can tell the difference in board weight, flex, and the most minor variations.
Even a quarter-inch difference in you tail width makes a huge difference. Even when you're copying a board the exact same with a machine, there's always going to be noticeable differences. You can make five boards that are supposedly the same dims and specs and you can still feel a difference; lamination won't be the same, the sanding won't be the same, and even the blanks have some variance.
From left to right: The twin, Burner, Code 3, and 1.0.1
Are you still shaping a few by hand?
A couple, but i'm shaping most by machine now. I learned everything via hand-shaping though, and that's what I would recommend to anyone starting.
Do you think there's any downside to machine shaping?
I'm all for it really. There is a positive association attached to scrubbing foam or whatever, but once you're trying to really refine boards I think machine shaping is the way to go both with precision, being able to reproduce a board, or actually run a business where you can make boards relatively quickly.
It takes a long time to use those cutting softwares though. It took me a long time to be even able to replicate a board I'd shaped by hand. It probably took me 30 times to make something close to what I had in mind. It's a whole different beast, but it isn't as simple as plugging in dimensions and printing out a board.
At the moment, you've got what, five board models?
Yeah, I'll run through them real quick. [Coby fired this over text, he doesn't regurgitate board stats like this.]
1.0.1 - High performance Shortboard
The most popular seller
Increased entry rocker with lower tail rocker, single to deep double between the fins for lift - fuller rails to give turns added drive blah blah blah.
A toned back version of the 1.0.1
Lower entry rocker extra tail lift.
Mellowed out concaves and put the tail with a wider tail block for still good waves but for not super hollow right pockets.
Small wave performance.
Curvy outlines nose to tail
Flyers to pull in the tail for tighter turns, deep single to double
Probably the most performancy hybrid shit you could find.
Again made to surf like your short board, not super flat like a usual twin fin. Nose entry for tight top to bottom surfing,
Board up from the burner
Forward volume under the chest and foot but still refined nose so you don’t catch when doing cuttys.
Big sweet spot in the tail for added volume under the foot without making it too thick.
And how much does a custom start at?
They start around $650 AUD. I don't have many overheads like other staff and carbon-tech or something, so I can still make enough by selling boards at that price. If people want to add art, colours, glass in fins, or whatever it goes up a little, but it's always going to be cheaper than buying a stock HP board off the rack.