Now…This: Hayden Cox On The Future Of Haydenshapes, Sustainability, And ‘These Violent Delights’
After 23 years, Hayden Cox is still pushing the boundaries of surfboard design.
Haydenshapes just released These Violent Delights, a surf film starring Craig Anderson and the HS team on a chartered trip to lesser known region in Indonesia. Filmed by Dav Fox, Blake Myers, and creatively directed by Dion Agius, the 17-minute opus slides in late as one of our favoured films of 2019.
Typically Dion would be a centrepiece to the film itself, but after busting his ankle prior to takeoff his role was switched to director. He still managed to sneak the odd tube while nursing his ankle, but the majority of his trip was spent behind the lens.
While Hayden Cox, the mastermind behind Haydenshapes, had to stay home from the trip to take care of his two-year old daughter, he still played an integral part in piecing together the film; most pertinently, organising his eclectic team for an eight day boat trip. Furthermore, 23-years after its inception, Haydenshapes surfboards is still at the pinnacle of board design; not only in their approach to shaping itself, but the technology employed, and aesthetic detail evident in every board.
Just over a decade ago Haydenshapes released their Future Flex technology; today, those carbon wrapped rails are epochal and have played a big part in the popularity of all their board models and the ubiquitous adoption of carbon fibres throughout the industry at large. In 2020, Hayden isn’t resting on his laurels, he’s continuing to push out new board models as well as aiming to transition Haydenshapes to a more sustainable business.
On Friday afternoon—shortly after Italo Ferreira won his maiden World Title—we spoke about all of the above and more. Below is a truncated version of that conversation.
Mr. Hayden Cox, the man behind Haydenshapes both eponymously and creatively.
Stab: Hayden! What’s been happening? How was the film premiere last week?
Hayden Cox: The premiere was really fun. It was really cool to come together with like-minded people—like Chippa, Dion, and Respondek. It was a lot less stressful than I expected as well. It was a great way to finish up the year premiering our film, These Violent Delights, from the trip the team did to Indonesia earlier in the year.
Tell us a little bit about how it was put together.
Well, Dion actually injured his ankle before the trip, but decided to go anyway and creatively direct it. He shot a bunch of photos, 16mm, and it meant we had another angle for some of the footage. Then when he was home he jumped in the editing bay [note: in this case, Dion’s reception-less home in Tasmania] with Blake Myers to put it all together.
For me the film isn’t your typical surf film. In many aspects it’s a little more artistic; it’s from the lens of Dion and how he saw the eight day boat trip. The trip was just one of those boat trips where you go and score in Indo with your mates and the film tries to portray all of that. Unfortunately the whole team couldn’t come along, but we had Craig Anderson, Dylan Graves, Jake Kelley, Micky Clarke, and Oscar Langburne. Benjamin Howard, one of Craig’s Former riders came along as well.
It was sick because everyone on the trip got to surf waves they hadn’t surfed before. They went to a part of Indonesia that’s rarely surfed, and as every surfer knows, we love to surf new waves, particularly when they’re as pumping as the waves were here.
Was there any reason behind the Shakespeare quote [from Romeo and Juliet] in the title?
Nah, actually that was a complete fluke. Dion came up with it for the title—he had it written down somewhere—and then googled what it was a reference to. We were both pretty surprised when we realised it came from a Shakespeare play.
How did Dion convince you to let him go even though he was landlocked?
[laughs] Dion didn’t need to convince me, I wanted him to go. The first words out of my mouth when he said he was injured was, ‘I hope you’re still going’. I know what Dion is like behind the camera, he’s such a pleasure to work with. He’s full of ideas, and super energetic whether he’s surfing or behind the scenes. He’s never afraid to try something new and chase a vision, and that’s what he’s done here.
One of my favourite parts of the film is the little interludes of photo collages between sections. Dion shot a whole bunch of film on the trip so it was nice to have those dispersed throughout the film. My other favourite section is where Craig is pushing his single fin on those late drops. Just the way he used the front rail of that board is truly unique.
All the boys had a go on the new board I designed with Dion we’re releasing next year called ‘The Raven’.
It’s a swallow tail, shortboard performance model. It’s still good all round—as most boards are required to be these days—but it’s definitely got a spark to it, Jake [Kelley] was doing some really sharp, tight precise turns on it during the trip.
It’s good to have multiple people on it too, I guess you don’t want to release a board which just suits a single surfer.
Yeah, certainly. I actually feel like Dion’s boards usually suit the average surfer. Dion likes a little bit of extra width in his boards.
Since he joined the team, the challenge I’ve always faced is managing a wider board [better for airs] while still allowing it to have performance and the ability to lay down a rail carve.
I feel like we’ve got one more tweak to go with the board—we’ve been working on it for two years—and then we’re ready to release it. I can get a little over the top with boards in that way.
I know what you’ve been like on previous Stab In The Darks—shaping up to seven or eight boards in quick succession and overanalysing.
[Laughs] Like last year with Mick I ended up going slightly too thin because I didn’t want it to feel too buoyant with an EPS core. Then when he surfed it he said he could’ve done with a little more foam.
But it’s those sorts of minor differences that turn a great board to a truly special one. With all the boards we release I want to ensure they’re in that special category.
I make sure to surf the boards myself, get the whole team on them, and a few special customers try them out as well so I can get significant feedback.
So when can we expect it?
We’re going to release a film with Dion along with the board’s release. That should be coming out between March and May next year.
It’s Haydenshapes 23rd year now. After been at the forefront of design for so long what can we expect in the future? Well, at least in 2020?
I guess as we’ve done over the last two decades what keeps us going is the desire to challenge ourselves. Whether that be the shapes, designs, or coming up with a new tech like we did with FutureFlex. Learning how to work with carbon fibres, EPS foams, and epoxy resins was a huge challenge but that’s something that kept me going.
In 2020, we have two really cool projects we’ve been working towards. The first is a collaboration I’ve been working on with Daniel Arsham who does a lot of sculpture and architectural work. The first piece we worked on was the entirely clear resin board which we launched over in London. It was hand sculpted out of resin and it really fits in with other work Daniel has done with resin.
In addition we have a number of boards we’re going to release in collaboration with Daniel as well as a number of little surf accessories and non-surf related products. We’re also working on a film piece to coincide with that, which should be launching around mid year.
It’s been a huge challenge learning new production techniques and trying to achieve the creative idea that we originally envisioned. But working with Daniel has been something I’ve always wanted to do—I’ve always appreciated his art—and it’s great to be releasing work with him.
Product testing is one of the more enjoyable (and leisurely) parts of the job of a shaper.
What’s the second major plan for the year?
That would be the upcycling technology. We’ve been working on developing fibreglass cloth, which is a part of my goal to make Haydenshapes more sustainable as a whole. We run off 85% solar with our manufacturing here in Mona Vale [Sydney], but we’re still a long way from being an entirely sustainable company.
I’ve been researching a lot over the last few years what it means to be sustainable and figuring out what’s possible from a surfboard shaping to be more sustainable. So, one of the recent concepts we’ve been working on is upcycling our wasted materials.
I was inspired by this idea when I went on a tour of a watch factory in Switzerland and noticed how they captured their offcut precious metals when using they’re CNC machines and how these offcuts would be regenerated by melting them back down. This got me thinking about all the surfboard foam and carbon fire we throw into waste, which turns out to be around 30% of the material, it can even be up to 50% with foam.
I gave Colan a call—a company we worked with to build our Future Flex tech—and told them my idea about reusing and aerating these offcuts to re-weave these into a new fabric we could laminate a board with. Within a few weeks we’d made the first board which an epoxy bio-resin all wrapped in cloth made from offcuts. It isn’t launched yet, but one of the first boards we made using this process is a Hypto Krypto twin model.
How far along has it come since then?
We definitely have a few things we need to refine, you know, how to upcycle commercial amounts of offcuts, as well as refine the material itself. That’s what we’re working on right now with Colan.
I want to make this a technology which is open to the whole industry as well. That way we can take all our offcuts of carbon fibre and reweave a cloth out of it to wrap around new boards.
It does however have a different flex to Future Flex or the materials other companies are using. All these different carbon weaves have different flex patterns, of course, but this upcycled cloth has less of a distinct flex pattern than what is typically used on boards Instead of being unidirectional, its flex is more ‘random’ than your typical carbon fibre weaved cloths. It still has springback and feels natural, but it doesn’t feel distinctly unique—if that makes sense.
So is that why you think it suits a twin-fin more?
Yeah, it suits those fish, twin models where you’re trimming across the face and drawing nice smooth lines. They’re not as light as some of the performance constructions, but it doesn’t reduce having fun and the board still has a performance nature.
How much have you cut your wastage by using these method?
We’re probably down to about 1-2% of glass and carbon fibre wastage now from what used to be 30%.
That’s pretty significant. It’s great you’re planning to share this tech as well with the wider industry.
Well when you’re talking sustainability that’s the point, you want to make an impact. If the whole industry started using this is would make a significant impact.
The same goes for for bio-resin. If the whole industry started using it, then demand would increase and the price would come down and everyone would win out. It however requires everyone to make the transition, and without that, companies that do use these newer, more sustainable materials often have to increase their sale price to counter the added cost. If there was large-scale investment these costs would be reduced—it’s simple economies of scale.
There’s a long way we have to go though in terms of building sustainable boards while maintaining performance—there’s no point going and riding a board that surf likes shit. At the moment, surfing is highly dependent upon petroleum based foams and we’re incredibly efficient at producing boards in this way. Unfortunately, we can’t just change that overnight.
What inspires me about that though is trying to start working on alternatives, and maybe that’ll take a decade, but like any industry this will happen over time. Think about when Simon Anderson started making the first thrusters and now we’re all surfing them; that wasn’t as revolutionary in terms of materials, but it was a big shift in perspective. Once everyone gets on the bandwagon we’ll really start to see some progression in terms of sustainability.
First we need to find the alternative raw materials that we can use, and then there’s the additional challenge of changing perspectives and habits within the industry. It’s not as simple as getting people to suddenly adopt a new material, because the majority of us are going to have no idea how to build a board with those materials.
It’s a challenge but it’s achievable, on a bigger scale it has to be achievable in terms of climate change.
Yeah it’s certainly possible. Think about years ago when disposing of rubbish was just placing it in a bin, then came the transition to recycling. Initially this seemed confusing, and there was of course a bit of friction, but today it’s simply second nature to organise your waste in terms of what is recyclable and what isn’t. Those sorts of initiatives are only going to go further along.
Midway through the Holy Grail crafting process shortly after its public release.
Alright, I’ll move onto the little, more innocuous questions we punch out every week.
First one is what was your favourite surf film from the year?
Ooo, has to be Craig’s film. That last section where he rides the yellow single fin is so sick. A single fin is generally a pretty sluggish board but Craig just seems to surf them so well. Plus, the soundtrack was really sick.
Ando works his arse off so it was sick to see him release that and it receive the accolades it deserves.
Who would be your favourite surf filmmaker?
Back in the day it would be Taylor Steele, 100 percent. He brought so much enjoyment to so many people through his films.
For me at this point though its honestly probably Dion. That’s partially bias cause I work with him, but he’s unique, creative, and in my eyes creating something different; he has a different take on things. That’s why for 2019 Dion would have to be my favourite.
How do you see wavepools fitting into surf culture, they’re becoming more ubiquitous by the year.
For me wavepools are just an extension of the normal sort of novelty waves you can surf. I rode the one in Melbourne and that was so much fun. By no means are those waves the size that you get in Indo in a decent swell, but in terms of being able to turn up, have fun, and shred 40 waves in a few hours it’s pretty damn convenient.
They 100 percent have their place and the technology is just going to continue getting better. For me, they’re just another spot on the surf map to tick off.
Yeah, people complaining about them don’t have to surf them. It isn’t as if the ocean suddenly won’t be an option.
Moving away from surfing a little, do you think the positives or negatives triumph for social media?
I think the negatives shine through.
What would they be?
Mostly anxiety. Every day, crew are caught up with people on trips, doing something important, and it makes you question what you’re doing.
I do love the inspiration you can get from it and I think there’s a tonne of positives, but to me that might be outweighed by the negatives. It is there though and it’s not going anywhere, you just need to participate in moderation. It’s sort of like drinking a beer, just don’t over do it [laughs]…
Well then we do use it all the time for the company…
I guess [Stab and Haydenshapes] are both pretty reliant on it, we shouldn’t bag it too much [laughs].
What would be your favourite hobby outside of surfing?
I’m quite into architecture and looking into designs as well as the building process itself. My mum was involved in designing homes and now that’s something that both my wife and I enjoy.
Typically if I have any spare time though I go surfing or take the kids surfing.
Do you have a favourite book?
Actually the last book I read was called Talking To Your Daughter About The Economy by Yanis Varoufakis and I really enjoyed that. It explained in layman’s terms how market based societies evolved and where they can go to. It was really easy to read and it’s based on conversations he had with his daughter about the economy and how it functions in basic terms.
That’s sort of all of my crappy little questions. Enjoy the few weeks off over the Christmas break Hayden and all the best to you and the family!
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