Beau Foster Spends Five Days In The Bay With Maurice Cole
A craft for enthusiasm.
Why did I reach out to Maurice? Because I was really fucken over everything I was riding. I felt the boards weren’t suiting what I was trying to do, which was go fast and hold rail. I didn’t know what was wrong but I definitely knew I didn’t know enough.
One of my older brothers had one of Maurice’s boards. I learnt to surf on it and I remember losing it a few years down the track. I sort of had it in mind to one day get another of his boards but I never thought I’d be able to ‘cos I never heard of the bloke all through the early 2000’s. I never thought I’d be able to order one of them but I always liked the look of ‘em. Taj and Margo were my favourite surfers, and they rode his boards.
I talked to him on the phone about getting one and we rambled on for 30 or 40 minutes. He was telling me all these stories about surfing up in the Northwest back in the day. I was all ears. I wanted to listen to everything he had to say. I semi-explained something half-arsed, rambled it off, something about a 6’3” and spoke to him twice more before going to see him. I just remember him saying on a later phone call, “I’ve reshaped your board!
Beau Foster connected with Maurice Cole in search of boards with more speed and drive. MC shaped him two crafts, which he took to Fiji for a proper test drive. Clearly, they ticked the speed box.
It’s gonna go fast!” I was pissing myself. I got there five or six months later. I drove my car down there from Byron. I didn’t really know what I was doing, had no plan. I rocked up at his chook shed just as he was walking up the road. It’s about a football field long and he’s in a quarter of it on this big property, which is an old wreckage yard with rusty old barrels and a port-a-loo that’s open all the time.
You walk into his bay and it’s like walking into a museum. There was a couple of old Curren boards, some old Occy boards - even one that might’ve been buried in France that time when Occy was off his head and put his boards under the sand so he didn’t have to take them home. They ended up getting mulched by a beach-cleaning tractor. All the boards Maurice had stored were over 20 years old, at least. Old single fins he used to ride in the 70s and these old flex-tail single fins that were kinda mind-blowing.
"Walking into his bay is like walking into a museum," says Beau.
It was a pretty wild thing to see, for someone my age. I was taken aback the whole time, even when I was hanging out there talking to Maurice. Everything he was saying was relevant! I mean, obviously. He’s been shaping boards for over 40 years. We were talking stories about Curren and how he made him a 7’8” and an 8’2”, both Hawaii boards, with the light green rails and the pintail. He made the cutback board from Backdoor and for the majority of that footage in Searching For Tom Curren. He also made a lot of boards Curren was riding the year he won the World Title, from the trials. They were hanging in France together a lot around then. If you look closely, there’s Merrick logos all over those boards with the tiniest MC Teddy Bear logo on the tails.
He’s actually just released this book about the reverse-vee and its got all this history in it and other stuff, like the time he went to jail for three years when he was 21. He won the State Title just before he got put away and they tried to strip him of the title. Then in two years he was shaping out of a bay in the jail and I think they even let him go surf the National Titles! Crazy stuff. I can’t even imagine being 21 and having to deal with that shit.
When you talk to Maurice about surfboard design you end up with a lesson in hydrodynamics. The man builds his boards for speed because who doesn't like to float fast?
I was asking him about all the time he did in France in the late 80s and 90s, too. I guess he used to be a DJ in France. When he shapes, he listens to this sci fi 90’s electronic dance music, just cranks it. He didn’t tell me too much about those days apart from saying it was a good old time. You knew it was a good time. I heard a rumour that one of the old MC logos is a pill shape. Another rumour about a rave cave he used to have in his place in Margs. If you watch Teddy Bear’s Picnic, you’ll see the cave.
Talking boards, we were on about speed a lot. He was saying how everyone’s making boards that are not necessarily going faster. Or doing anything that much crazier. His whole thing is that he just wants to go faster and faster. Why should we be going slower? People are designing boards with carbon in them and he’s ranting on about how he was using carbon in the 70s and flex-tails in the 80s and 90s. Now everyone is going ‘carbon, carbon, carbon.’
It’s funny listening to that because what the fuck do I know about that, y’know? I’m a third of his age. He just kept saying, “I wanna go faster and faster and faster!” He showed me a board with an inch of single concave in the bottom and hard edge all the way up to the nose. He reckoned every time he went out at Rincon and Winki people would get in his way and he’d just fucken run ‘em over and rip his fins out. So he put this crazy-arse hard foam in around where the fin box goes, so he doesn’t rip his fins out anymore and he reckons the board goes that fast. It was interesting shit. I didn’t have much of a clue but when I got on the boards everything made sense.
"I've reshaped your board. It's gonna go fast!"
He made two boards for me. The 6’3” was the most unique I’ve ever seen. It had a risen deck that was 2’1/2” thick but the rails were only 2’3/8” thick, so paddling the thing was incredible. Then he made me a 6’0”x 18’3/4” moon-tail, with a pretty deep single concave on the bottom, which he said was for going fast. It kinda opened my mind to surfboards. I didn’t necessarily know what it was I was riding, because when I got down there I had a look at the board and it had a really deep single throughout the whole thing and I’d never ridden anything like that. Then he also had me ride these fins that had a 20mm base and were really drivey.
We went down to test them out at Johanna. It was four foot, really fucken howling offshore, bumpy, and fucken weird, ‘cos it was chattery with all the wind coming up the face, but it was also really good. The blue 6’0”, I didn’t really know how I felt about the board. I was psyched on the aesthetics immediately but didn’t know exactly what it would do once under my feet. At the start I was standing too far forward so I couldn’t get much pivot with my back foot. I was kinda catching ‘cos my back foot was too far up. I found moving and relying on the fins more and letting the board take its speed, not necessarily pumping as much, but drawing cleaner lines, helped. Once I did that, it felt like every turn was transitioning into each other - not two-stage cutbacks or two-stage bottom turns. Each turn was flowing and I wasn’t necessarily losing speed, I was bogging less. He gave me another two boards that were just hanging around the bay. One had a little extra single-concave in it and hard edge up the board. It felt so fucken sick. I did a cutback and it felt like one of the best boards I’d ever ridden. It was so different to what I was riding. It wasn’t forgiving but as long as you didn’t fuck up, it’d just keep going. It just felt right.
Beau and ‘The Teddy Bear’ talk board design in MC’s shaping bay in rural Victoria; and the pupil putting the new weapons to test in some South Pacific juice.
As a shaper, he’s obviously really critical on fin placement, but he has some pretty interesting ideas. These special boxes he uses allow him to adjust the fins, so if you wanna go fast, he puts the fins way up and you get more drift, you’re sliding out more. And then you move them back, they were so drivey, almost too stiff. Moving the fins around was one of the craziest feelings too. It’s so noticeable. I’d never thought so much about fin placement or at least to an extent where you move your fins into an asymmetric position just for a right. I did that at Winki and I could completely feel that it worked.
I went to see MC clear-headed and just wanting to listen and I left so inspired. I was so psyched on surfing. Maybe at the time I was a bit stale, which is understandable with surfing because if you’re riding the same shit all the time it can be a bit bland. Everything he was talking about was so relevant. I hadn’t heard shit like that before or ridden boards like that before. A generic surfer going down to Bondi with his new Chinese pop out from the shop doesn’t know anything about Maurice Cole. But that’s fine, ‘cos Tom Curren and the best shapers in the world do.
That rashguard though.