They Mow Foam Dont They?


A little bit of history
about the shapers from
The Shire and beaches of Cronulla:

Garry Birdsall
Cronulla area shaping history:
Shaped for Norm Casey and Jackson Surfboards
1961 to 1964

As one of the first rising stars to emerge from the Cronulla area, Garry began learning the craft of shaping surfboards by shaping balsa boards for Norm Casey around 1960/61. This was when Norm Casey's factory was in Rockdale. Garry says that a balsa board would take him practically all day just to shape one board.

In those days in the early sixties, foam surfboard blanks were only being experimented with by surfboard builders and as foam became more popular, Garry soon found himself learning how to craft and shape foam surfboards.

Garry with his smooth
and casual '60s style
swinging a bottom
turn in 1967
From Norm Casey's Garry was lured over to the Northside by soon-to-be World Surfing Champion; Midget Farrelly with an offer to shape boards for Danny Keogh at Keyo Surfboards in Brookvale. The offer came complete with better money and the opportunity to be under the direct tutelage of Midget Farrelly. Midget had just come back from shaping with Phil Edwards at Hobie Surfboards in California and was considered to have the state-of-the-art knowledge and cutting edge techniques at the time.

So Garry moved across the Bridge and shaped at Keyos, producing four boards a day. After a successful stint at Keyos, Garry was then enticed back to the Southside to take up an offer shaping at Jackson Surfboards alongside Brian Jackson. This was around about the time of the World Titles in Manly, so around 1963/64. Maroubra resident, Gordon Merchant [future Billabong founder] would soon follow Garry into the shaping bay by shaping boards at Jackos.

Then Garry got a once-in-lifetime offer; to manufacture surfboards under his own name in Wollongong. So with Peter Clarke bank-rolling the new venture, Garry set up Garry Birdsall Surfboards in Fairy Meadow in late 1964 to become Wollongong's first ever surfboard maker.

From there Garry moved around the world, including 7 years in New Zealand, performing many other jobs within surfing and eventually settling into the role of becoming a surf clothing designer. He started his own very successful surf clothing company called San Michelle. He went on to become designer for surf wear giants Golden Breed and OP [Ocean Pacific].

Today in 2016, Garry has established himself as one of the world's leading surf artists and lives in Thirroul in Wollongong's northern suburbs. At age 74 he stills surfs and lives close to the ocean.

For more about Garry and to view is awesome and unique surf art check his website: Surfart


Colin Eagle

Cronulla area shaping history:
Shaped for Gordon & Smith Surfboards
1968 to 1974

Colin Eagle at
Sandshoes Reef '73.
Cover photo: by
Steve Core
Colin Eagle was a hot young, long blond-haired, natural foot surfer from Cronulla. He shaped at G&S from '68 to '74.

I worked with Col at G&S during the boom of the twin fins. Colin was another Cronulla surfer who decided to leave the city far behind in the early nineties by moving to the solitude of the far NSW North Coast. With a desire to be involved in surfing, Col opened the Cabarita Surf Shop in 1991.

In 2016, Col has owned and operated his Surf Shop for the past 25 years and at 64 yrs old, he still shapes boards under his own name. Call in anytime and you will still find Col behind the counter. There's no website - but worth a look if you're in the area @: 16 Coast Road, Cabarita, NSW. Ph: 02 6676 3151.

Photo left: As a still photographer, the first ever cover shot I ever snagged on Surfing World Magazine's cover was of Colin Eagle surfing Sandshoes Reef. Taken during the time that Col was a house shaper at G&S in Taren Point. It's the September 1973 issue and note the cover price of just $1.00. [click on the photo to enlarge it].


Michael Mackie

Cronulla area shaping history:
Shaped for Express Surfboards '86 and '86
Shaped for Emerald '86, '87 and until Apil '89

Michael learned the basic shaping skills under the masterful eye of 'the sultan of speed', pro surfer and master shaper/designer, Terry Fitzgerald. This took place in Brookvale at the Hot Buttered headquarters during Michael's days of being a Hot Buttered sponsored surfer and in '83 and '84.

Michael in the shaping bay in Ulladulla, NSW
This coincided with the time Michael was doing well on the ASP Pro Tour, including making the main event on his home turf during the Straight Talk Tyres Open in Cronulla in 1983.

Tired of the commute over the harbour bridge to the Northside, in '85 Michael took up and offer through good friend Craig Naylor, who was shaping and riding for Express Surfboards, to shape for Paul Armstrong at Express in Heathcote. Michael shaped at Express during '85 and '86.

Michael then switched camps down into Taren Point to shape at Emerald Surfboards during the Arnold Cohen ownership years. He shaped at Emerald from the end of '86 until April 1989.

Michael moved to the NSW South Coast and settled down in Ulladulla in May of 1989. He started up Southerly Change Surfboards. In 2016, he still manufactures his own boards under his own name and is deeply involved in experimental design to push the boundaries. He also is an enthusiastic snowboarder.

Check out Michael's innovative designs and cool website at: Mackie Surfboards


Alan Blyth

Cronulla area shaping history:
Shaped for Peter Clarke & Barons
1966 to 1969
Shaped for Gordon & Smith
1974 to 1977

Alan started his shaping career at Peter Clarke's in Taren Point 1966. To his parents despair, he left a promising job as a trainee draughtsman to take up an offer from Peter Clarke to learn to shape surf boards under the watchful eye of Keith Paull. I worked at Peter Clarke's in 1967 and got to know and work with Alan then. When Keith Paull left to shape at the new Peter Clarke factory in Brookvale, Alan became the head shaper for the Southside operation.

PT and Alan Blyth [right] in a early 70's G&S ad about a
research & design trip to Hawaii. Courtsey of the PT Collection.
He also shaped across the street at sister company, Baron Surfboards along with Frank Latta. In '69 Alan left Australian shores by boat for South Africa in search of Bruce Brown's beauties at Cape St Francis. Instead he ended up at Jeffreys Bay and coming in a respectable 3rd in the inaugural '69 Gunston 500 won by South African Gavin Rudolph.

Back in Australia by late '69 he shaped for Midget Farrelly Surfboards in Brookvale and then took off in an old VW Combi with Bruce Channon to make surfboards in Tasmania. In 1970 he was back in Brookvale shaping all the Nat Young Design surfboards at Keyos. Alan shaped the short board that Nat Young rode in the World Titles at Bells Beach in 1970. Then a shaping stint at Hutchinson Surfboards also in Brookvale and then a move across the Tasman to shape for Bob Davies in Auckland, New Zealand.

In '72 and '73 he moved to the South Coast and made Surfboards under his own name in Ulladulla. Then back to South Africa for another sojourn shaping at Mod Surfboards in Durban. Returning to Australia and back to The Shire, Alan took up a job at Gordon and Smith Surfboards in Caringbah. He shaped there until '77.

In '77 Alan and his wife Anne, moved to Crescent Head where he initially manufactured Surfboards with partner and former fellow ex-G&S employee, John Lewis. The boards were called Shady Mountain Shooters.

In 2016 Alan is 69, and for 29 years has lived in Crescent Head, he's a builder by trade, he still makes and shapes a few boards and he still surfs.


Steve Griffiths

Cronulla area shaping history:

Shaped for Gordon & Smith
1972 to 1978
Shaped for Emerald Surfboards
1976 to 1982

Steve Griffiths - Kurnell Point
[real name: Sutherland Point]

next break into the Botany Bay from 'Ours'
In Griffo's G&S days - early seventies.
Photo: Steve Core
It was at the very start of the seventies that Steve was taught to shape by Kurnell resident and Cronulla surfer, Bob Hansen, when Bob was making Hansen Surfboards at his brother's old Total branded Service Station/Garage which was in those days located on The Kingsway in Cronulla.

Griffo remembers back that his first ever custom surfboard that he ever ordered for himself was a Peter Clarke 5'2" twin fin shaped by the legendary Frank Latta.

Griffo took up an offer to shape at G&S and did a 6 year straight stretch shaping for the famous Taren Point based label. Over the years Steve has worked with and alongside many shapers, Steve reckons from a technical point of view, the best shaper he has ever worked with is Midget Farrelly.

Steve left G&S Surfboards and struck out on his own by starting up Emerald Surfboards in Taren Point in 1976. Emerald rose to be one of the area's prominent manufacturers backed up with a strong Team of local riders.

Emerald also opened their own retail surf shop in Laycock Avenue, Cronulla.

Griffo sold the Emerald surfboard operation to Arnold and Kathy Cohen in March 1982 and moved himself and his family to Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Black Widow were located at 16 Tandem Ave, Warana.  No website.


Terry 'Snake' Bishop

Cronulla area shaping history:
Shaped Peter Clarke's & Barons
1968 to 1969
Shaped for Gordon & Smith
1972 to 1987
Shaped for Force 9

Snake at G&S in 1978
My good friend, Graham 'Reno' Gillespie and I used to go over to Terry 'Snake' Bishop's parents place at Hurstville, when he lived at home with his parents and watch Snake shaping his first boards in his parent's garage - that was in 1966. Terry was an apprentice Butcher in Hurstville in those early days.

Snake mostly taught himself to shape, but says he learned a lot in the late sixties by watching John Monie at G&S and also watching and learning from John Rhodes in his factory on Woodfield Blvd in Caringbah located behind his John's brother's printing business.

Deciding to leave his chosen trade of a Butcher behind by trading a meat clever for a tar planer, Snake's first real shaping job was at Peter Clarke Surfboards in '68. He also did a few boards across the road at Barons during those dual ownership years. Then in '69 he and Ross Longbottom moved to the near South Coast to help start-up Mick Carabine Surfboards in Wollongong. Then back to G&S in '72 for a 15-year stint. Where he rose to be head shaper. Snake even shaped all of Occy's early boards - back in Occy's amateur surfing days.
Snake with Ross
Longbottom at G&S

Over the G&S years, Snake worked with many shapers, including the legendary Michael Peterson - who do a stint at G&S in the Summer of '79.

In the hay days of high production numbers and various models at G&S, Snake would spend sometimes seven days a week in the shaping bay to turn out around 50 boards a week. This earned the nickname of 'the machine' from his fellow shapers and workers. His record was 56 completely shaped blanks in one full, 7-day week of shaping. After shaping thousands of boards at G&S over 15 years Terry moved up the road and shaped for a stint at Force 9 for Jim Lucas.

In 2016 at 66 yrs old, 49 years after he first picked up a tar-planer to mow foam, Snake is still shaping at Mick Carabine Surfboards in Wollongong. Terry has lived in Corrimal, Wollongong for the past 46 years. No website.


Frank Latta

Frank outside Wallace Surfboards
showroom in Brookvale.

ad from Surf World Magazine.
Dave Wilson tells me that Frank was taught to shape by Floyd Smith at the old G&S factory on Taren Point Road. Franks' first shaping job was at Gordon Woods Surfboards in Brookvale. He was head-hunted from there by Dee Why Surf Shop owner, Ken 'Geronimo' Beaven back to the Southside to start up Baron Surfboards in Taren Point, in '67. Barons ran for about 2 years.

All of the sixties and the early seventies were Frank's golden years in the Cronulla area. Frank shaped for me for over a year at Steve Core Surfboards in '69 and '70. We kicked off by making our first production boards in John Rhodes' old factory in Woodfield Blvd in Taren Point before we moved into a brand new factory in 18 Box Road.

Through the seventies and eighties Frank shaped for quite a few surfboard labels. Following the sun, the surf and shaping opportunities, he lived in Noosa, Byron Bay, Brookvale and Brisbane. Too old to compete on the emerging Pro Tour of the mid-seventies, back out in the surf, Frank even won a few longboard contests aged in his 50's.

Frank moved his family to Bulli in 1991 and started shaping for John Skipp at Skipp Surfboards. That partnership lasted for over ten years before Frank moved to Macksville on the mid-North Coast. John Skipp said he never saw any shaper spend as much time with a customer as what Frank did.

Plagued by osteoarthritis in his hip, Latta felt he had to move on. His employer, John Skipp, said it was so sad to see him give away ''the work he loved''. When he moved to the mid north coast, Frank purchased a blueberry farm and resumed his interest in racing pigeons.

Frank passed away in August 2010 - see our tribute to him


It was Sandshoes surfer Graham ‘Reno’ Gillespie who gave Iain Buchanan his nickname of ‘Ratso’ – after the Dustin Hoffman character from the 1969 film 'Midnight Cowboy'. Iain was born in Christchurch, NZ and at the age of 16, in 1977, he left the beach breaks of New Brighton and headed for Australia, to find his fame and fortune in world surfing. He first took root in Maroochydore, then spent a year in Port Lincoln, SA. Iain wrote to every surfboard maker looking for a job and G&S responded with an offer. So Iain settled into Cronulla, where he also started at the bottom doing dings, sanding, polishing. His goal was a shaping apprenticeship.

Ratso hard at work as head judge
on the ASP's Euro Tour
He started shaping by purchasing 'second' blanks and having a go. House shaper, Terry 'Snake' Bishop, along with Gary Hughes, Richard Herbert, Greg Melhuish and Geoff Solness all offered advice and tips.

In the mid '80s along with good Cronulla mates Occy and Greeny, Ratso competed and travelled on the ASP World Tour. In his rookie year he made the world top ten ratings, posting healthy 5th’s and 9th’s. For a few brief moments in time, Iain sat in the number 2 position on the world ratings. He always carried and proudly flew the NZ flag at every international event he competed in.

Being a spirited Kiwi, Ratso has always considered New Zealand to be his real home. He always made sure he returned to NZ to defend his National titles. In 1987 Iain Buchanan won his fifth straight NZ Open Men’s National Title equalling Kiwi surfing legend, Wayne Parkes' record. Ratso went on to compete on the world tour finishing 34th overall – the highest a Kiwi has ever placed. In doing so Iain earned the Eddie Aikau award for the best newcomer

Iain owns the Lion Rock Surf Shop
at Piha Beach near Auckland, NZ
During his Cronulla days, Iain also worked at Cronulla Surf Design Surf Shop for Mark 'Bluey' Aprilovic, one of the original Cronulla Point guys. Iain says Bluey was a great support to him and his shaping career. Ratso stayed in Cronulla until 1990.

Returning to NZ, he shaped Hot Buttered Surfboards for well over a decade in Newmarket, Auckland, before deciding retailing and shaping would take a back seat to professional judging in 2000. In 2016, as the Head ASP Judge in Europe, he currently spends 7-8 months of the year on the road in Europe doing all the contests.

When he returns to land of the long white cloud for the Southern Hemi Summer, Ratso runs his own surf shop, Lion Rock Surf Shop, which is alongside the famous Piha Store at Auckland’s Phia Beach.

He still jumps into the shaping bay when he’s back at home in NZ, as well as shaping boards in England, Spain and Ireland.


Paul Armstrong
Express Surfboards
1978 until present...

Paul Armstrong founded Express Surfboards in 1978 and still owns operates the business in 2012. Paul started shaping and making surfboards as a true backyarder; at his parent's house in Engadine around 1978.

In the early days of teaching himself the fundamentals of shaping, for raw blanks, Paul used to cannibalise old long mals and strip them down of their fibreglass to salvage the valuable and meaty foam core. Long board collectors can wince now!

In 1984, he hung out the shingle for his own surfboard factory in Burns Road, Heathcote and started manufacturing surfboards and kneeboards. Paul has always been a keen kneeboarder and over the years he made quite a few kneeboards for local devotees as well as thousands of surfboards.

After a six-year run, Paul closed the Heathcote factory down in 1990 and took a full-time job with Qantas. Then in 2007, after a 13 year mini-career in Qantas' Freight property division, Paul resumed his love of using his craftsman's hands in manufacturing by going full circle again and re-opening a small surfboard factory in Taren Point.

In 2016, some thirty-eight years after Paul first fell in love with process of making surfboards, all Express Surfboards are still pure Custom made performance surfboards - the old sense of the word. Paul has no employees and usually produces a maximum of around five boards per week. Being an authentic veteran surfboard craftsman, Paul proudly accomplishes all the construction and fabrication work himself.

Paul proudly uses all Australian and American materials to build his boords and says; "you eon't find any Asian mass-produced surfboards in his showroom or anything made overseas with an Express logo on it".

For further info; click here for the Express Surfboards blogsite.
Or Express Surfboards on Facebook

Or call into the factory/mini showroom @: 136 Taren Point Road, Taren Point.
M: 0403 827 478


Peter 'Beatle' Collins
Peter Clarke Surfboards

Tide Turn by 'Beatle'
Sculpture by the Sea,
Bondi 2010,
 with the girls from Slam

niece Sam and Kelly

Old Peter Clarke Ad
featuring 'Beatle'.
The last shaper to ever shape surfboards at Peter Clarke's in Taren Point was Peter 'Beatle' Collins. Beatle also shaped for Full Flight Surfboards in Tilba, Tilba on the NSW South Coast.

These days in 2016, 'Beatle lives as a caretaker on a property in Bermagui [Editor's note; ironically that's where my Mum was born - Steve] on the far NSW South Coast. He has turned his artistic hand to sculpting.

"I now appreciate that most of my earlier life has also been preparing me to become a sculptor. All my occupations have developed my instinctive understanding of shapes, form, line, balance, rhythm and aesthetically shaping materials. Most of all I have a deep appreciation of the harmonious form and symmetry of shapes found in the natural world".
Peter's 'waves' sculptures were featured in Bondi's hugely popular, '2010 Sculpture By The Sea'. And outside the Sydney Museum for the Surf City Exhibition.

Firmly entrenched on the clean living, crisp air, far NSW South Coast, Peter Clarke's last ever shaper; Peter 'Beatle' Collins has a blog Click here to see it.


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