Stab Magazine | The Cost of Making a Surfboard!

The Cost of Making a Surfboard!

Words by Ali Klinkenberg Being a young surfboard shaper is much like being a young doctor: nobody trusts you. And, starting a surfboard company’s like entering the tooth brush manufacturing game: You’re selling the same thing, but you’ve got to convince everyone to stop buying Colgate. So why, in JC’s name, would you try? Turns out […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Words by Ali Klinkenberg

Being a young surfboard shaper is much like being a young doctor: nobody trusts you. And, starting a surfboard company’s like entering the tooth brush manufacturing game: You’re selling the same thing, but you’ve got to convince everyone to stop buying Colgate. So why, in JC’s name, would you try? Turns out not everyone’s as defeatist and cynical as us, and Max Stewart, founder, CEO, art director, shaper, glasser and marketing manager of Eye Symmetry Surfboards Inc, is bringing handcrafted bespoke surfboards back into the stream of consciousness.

eye sym

Max Stewart looks like a 24-year-old from the Northern Beaches of Sydney (because he is!). However, after chatting with Max for a few minutes you realise that there’s a little more going on upstairs than with a number of his counterparts. “So, why would I buy one of your surfboards Max?” I joke as a conversation opener, expecting to catch him off guard. “I feel that as a shaper I’m able to enhance people’s enjoyment of surfing,” he replies. “And from a construction and manufacturing point I’ve always felt that I had an edge. Attention to quality and detail is something that comes naturally to me, and as a result I create one-off pieces that are unique and that people love and enjoy.” Jeez, now who’s off guard.

We’ve been programmed to believe in disposable commodities; The Apple biz model where things last for a year and then need to be replaced, and we’re strangely cool with that. Surfboards are the same, that’s just how it is, right? Well, Eye Symmetry hops to a slightly different beat. “Word of mouth and good rep is what my biz is based on, so longevity is an integral part of my business,” says Max, “I’ve even come up with my own unique way of laminating my boards so that they’re as light and durable as possible.’ “First up I exclusively use epoxy resin. It’s lighter and stronger, has slightly different flex patterns and keeps the boards super light. On top of that I’m using a nylon fibreglass which furthers the strength. And then I have my own patented EPS called ‘Magic Fibre Manufacturing.’ It’s an aramid fabric deck with a carbon strip bottom.”


Max shapes between six and eight boards per week, 24 to 30 a month, and they’re handmade, by him, start to finish. For a one-man-band, that’s a lot of productivity. “That’s Max maxed out,” he explains with a chuckle. The cost of surfboards is something that oft perplexes, but Max’s breakdown of what it costs him to make a board is rather sobering. “My blanks are a little it more expensive than the norm, so for a short board they’re from $85-$110. Then, taking into account the cost of rent in Sydney near the beach, and keeping the lights on, I’m looking at $500 a board. That’s without me paying myself anything.” Add the labour intensive nature of the shaping game to the stubborn nature of the surfboard market (its customers!) and being a young entrepreneur shaper doesn’t look quite as romantic. “The hardest thing about being young is just trying to establish yourself and persuade people to convert to your product. People generally want to buy, or invest, in something that they know and feel comfortable with.” Enter: Two time World Champion Tom Carroll, Eye Sym’s prized team rider.

“I’m in constant contact with Tom, and we’re constantly developing and bouncing ideas off each other. He’s got so much knowledge and he’s definitely helped me break into the market of the older guys. Trying to get them used to a new shaper is quite a feat.” And Tom’s not the only notable team rider on the roster. Hector Santamaria, the Puerto Rican live wire, is one of the stars of Max’s guerrilla marketing campaign. “Hector’s super underground and he’s just insane. At the moment I’m kind of managing his career, which is another job, but it’s super rewarding. I’m directing a feature film about him at the moment. He was just out staying with me for three months, so we nailed the Australian section.” So, you can add ‘Director’ to Max’s ever growing resume. “Oh, and I’m bringing out a clothing line later this year too.” What the future holds for Eye Symmetry is uncertain, but one thing you can guarantee, it’ll be meticulously manufactured, and have Max, the-one-man-band’s, fingerprints all over it.



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