Asher Pacey's Got A New Man In The Shaping Bay And A Quiver To Show For It
Album's Matt Parker just added the world's most marketable surfer to his roster of alternative converts.
Last month, we got word that Asher Pacey—Australian Alt-Left design icon, tiny fish enthusiast, and surfer in possession of what many industry insiders consider to be one of the most valuable and influential styles, personalities, and approaches in the game—was parting ways with longtime shaper, Darren Handley.
Asher being one of alternative surfboard design's most widely beloved stylists, the tiny twin fins and quads DH put under his feet went on to be Best Sellers, and some of the most popular models in surf shops from the Gold Coast to Newport. Asher's surfing on them earned him a comfortable spot on the RVCA team earlier this year.
The Australian moving to a new board company is big news, as a savvy enough shaper could build an empire around Pacey's surfing on a wide array of equipment, and we'll bet that's just what he and his new shaper, Album Surfboards' Matt Parker, plan to do.
While watching Chippa Wilson’s new Epokhe part in Hossegor last month, we caught up with Asher and his new beau in the shaping bay. To celebrate the union, Parker and Pacey spent their honeymoon in France with fellow Album convert Josh Kerr, testing boards, filming, and generally having a hell time.
Asher Pacey and Matt Parker in Album Surfboards' San Clemente shaping bay.
Asher in honeymoon mode in Hossegor.
Stab: Looks like you boys have the setup in Hossegor. Nice way to start off a working relationship, a few nights on the town, some moules frites, a fresh first batch of boards...
It’s fair to say that, Asher, you're one of maybe five guys who seem to move the needle as far as alternative design goes—you, Rasta, Dane, Torren, and maybe Burch? But you were once a dyed-in-the-wool hi-fi guy*. What tipped the scales in favor of a more expressive, experimental path?
Asher: Reflecting on my own journey in terms of boards, I always had a bit of a liking for a short/wide board of some sort in the hi-fi quiver.
From there I found quads had a certain feel that seemed right. The actual point of transition to a twin probably came when I had the privilege of riding an MR during a board test. The board itself was way too big for me but I could feel its magic.
Matt and Asher, what alt. boards first really rang cherries for you?
Matt: The Tom Curren footage on that little Tommy Peterson fireball fish really resonated with me. I think I was 17 or 18 at the time. It just made so much sense! How fast and fluid he was... And to be able to see what was possible with an unexpected design.
It’s funny because that board looks like a pretty standard board nowadays, but in the mid-nineties, it was a wild one.
Asher: The first one DH made for me of a similar concept clicked right away, and from that point I honestly had no interest in going back to a performance shortboard at all.
After that it was on a trip to the Maldives, when Bryce [Young] was kind enough to let me try his little 4’10 Burch fish, that I realised the sensation of gliding with minimal effort and carrying speed through dead sections was something I really enjoyed. It made surfing so much fun. I was hooked.
Asher in San Clemente with some fresh Album fishies.
Asher, your work with DHD has resulted in some really successful commercial alt designs. You can't paddle out anywhere without running into someone on a spicy little Darren twin. What was it like working with such a relentlessly high-performance shaper like DH on more user-friendly equipment?
Asher: After getting the first twinny dialled in with DH, we had some great years refining a few outlines that worked really well. Credit to him for giving me the time, and it was no doubt exciting for both of us to try avenues that were not so familiar.
At the end of the day, I was just stoked to be riding boards that I loved, and from that I’d have to say it translated into an opportunity for me to carve out a bit of a niche [within professional surfing] and continue to do what I most enjoy.
Asher getting slob-y in France.
Asher with his loud and proud Album additions.
Matt, you've sort of blown up the last few years, and that seems to be the result of two things: Your outside influence coming from the design world, and pushing the brand's aesthetic to really interesting places; and your ability to convince guys like Kerrzy or Eric Geiselman or Filipe into riding something really, really different. Is there a philosophy behind that?
Matt: Yeah, for sure.
I do really love to add art and color to boards. I can't help myself. But I think my point of view on how boards ought to look is a little different. Having the freedom to just do whatever we want aesthetically has allowed me to draw some attention to the designs and shapes.
And then when [Josh Kerr, Eric G., Filipe Toledo] jump on one, they come to the realization that the boards are made to go fast and are just too much fun.
It's really interesting to see what pro surfers choose to ride when they're not forced into a box. They'll always go with the option that's more fun, and in my opinion it actually raises their performance and enjoyment level. Kerrzy has been a perfect example of this. Just loving life, riding whatever he wants and having more fun and surfing as good as he ever has.
The thought of having Asher able to ride all these different kinds of shapes, to play around and experiment, it has me so excited. My head is spinning. I can barely sleep at night [laughs].
"I’ve got a crazy quiver at hand already and seemingly not enough hours in a day to try them all, so I’m really going to have to spend more time in the water than usual to get a greater understanding of the design and function." - Asher Pacey
So how did this glorious union come about?
Matt: Besides Asher being my favorite surfer to watch over the last decade, he and I have had mutual friends for a long time, and then of course he and Josh Kerr go way way back. It was always a dream to get a couple boards under his feet, and I think the timing and opportunity just made sense. Lots of fun times ahead!
Asher: This next chapter is a fresh and exciting time in my life. For a long time now, I’ve appreciated the aesthetics of Matt’s boards, and after getting to spend some time with him it’s clear to me that he is a great listener and very receptive to input or ideas.
"Always a dream to get a couple boards under Asher's feet and I think the timing and opportunity just made sense." - Album Surfboards Matt Parker.
While there will never be a shortage of surfers grabbing whatever tiny twinny Asher throws under his feet, I think people will be very interested in some of the more left-field outlines and ideas you guys cook up. What boards are you dying to see under Asher's feet, Matt? Asher, what from Matt's lineup are you most excited about playing around with?
Matt: Of course we're dialing in a little fish range for him, all twinnies, his go-to quiver staples—some traditional and some more progressive.
But then we have all sorts of other things in the works. In the first real batch, we made him shapes from 4'9" to 7'2" and everything in between! Lots of twin-fin variations, and also a range of asymmetricals that I cannot wait to see him on.
I've shaped him a stretched out 6'0" step up twin fin fish, for an upcoming trip to Morocco in November, which should be all-time in some swell on those points.
In the next couple months we'll have a few different models available for the public to order.
Asher: I’ve got a crazy quiver at hand already and seemingly not enough hours in a day to try them all, so I’m really going to have to spend more time in the water than usual to get a greater understanding of the design and function. At the end of the day, having a varied quiver is a privilege and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to work closely with Matt on some beautiful boards that might allow me to try different lines on a wave.
"At the end of the day, having a varied quiver is a privilege and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to work closely with Matt on some beautiful boards that might allow me to try different lines on a wave." - Asher Pacey
What's the plan for the year? Kerrzy and Asher's Excellent Adventure?
Matt: [Laughs] Yes!
Half the time in France this week we spent talking about where we're going to be going in the next year or two, and we're already getting some dates and locations locked in. We'll be doing a lot of filming, board testing and should have all sorts of fun edits coming out quite often!
Asher: There’s so much R&D ahead of us, but I think the first port of call is locking in some highly functional boards in the 4’10-5’5 range and also getting a few magic carpet step-ups sussed out too. What he’s done for me so far is amazing so I’m just genuinely excited to go surf. My immediate plans are to get some decent clips locked in for the upcoming Snapt 4 project, as well as working on more of a long-term project with [Snapt Director/Overlord] Logan Dulien, which won’t have a time frame but depend on when we can gather enough worthy content.
"There’s so much R&D ahead of us, but I think the first port of call is locking in some highly functional boards in the 4’10-5’5 range and also getting a few magic carpet step-ups sussed out too." - Asher Pacey