"By The Sea" with Marcus Hyett
Continuing our Gage Roads Summer Surf Coast series we get down and dirty in Marcus Hyett’s shaping shed to hear about growing up in the wildest parts of Victoria, learning to shape from one of the greats, and an unbreakable connection with the ocean that’s led to a career making surfboards. Marcus is a young shaper from Torquay who we also featured last year at our sold out Behind The Shaper event in Melbourne. This time catching up, it's in his converted garage packed to the rafters with shaping gear and who knows how many boards. It’s an absolute pleasure we get to bring to you some details into the life of a kick ass local shaper making waves with new ideas around board design as well as the sustainability of surfboard production in what has been quite a wasteful part of our lives for most surfers. Here’s our shaping shed chat…
SV: Who did you learn your craft off? Or self taught?
Marcus: I taught myself to physically shape a surfboard at home on my own and had shaped five fairly respectable (I still think) surfboards before I came into contact with Maurice Cole. He needed a sander and I needed help. I spent the next 4 years with him building his boards and learning to hand shape under his watchful eye. Not how to physically shape and how to use tools, but how to look at a board, and the complex relationships between curves as well as a lot of theory on hydrodynamics.
SV: What inspired you to get into surfing?
Marcus: I was surfing before I can remember, I grew up in Port Campbell and if the sun was out we were at the beach. My dad was, and still is, a mad keen surfer and made damn sure his children would be too and I’m very thankful for that. I love and appreciate surfing today more than I ever have.
SV: What was it like growing up in Port Campbell?
Marcus: You couldn’t really ask for a better place to grow up as a young keen surfer. We had tiny waves in the bay to learn on, then a nice easy left point behind the pier to hone our skills on once we were old enough. The point basically broke 365 days a year, albeit mostly pretty bloody average. But it was never crowded, just you and your mates, and we pretty much surfed it every night after school if it was rideable. We also had a lot of other very good waves all around us when the conditions were right. But the winters were long and cold and there really were very few surfers at school in football-obsessed Timboon.
SV: Port Campbell is known for some pretty gnarly surf. Has there ever been a time when you feel like the ocean has played a part in who you are as a person today?
Marcus: I guess maybe it has because I make boards for a living now and maybe my understanding of all sorts of waves has helped me to be successful. My world now revolves around surfboards, surfing, and the ocean, so I guess it has played a part in shaping my career (pardon the pun) and lifestyle. Growing up down there has taught me to be very respectful of the ocean and its power.
SV: What does it mean to you to be able to say you have lived your entire life by the sea?
Marcus: I guess we take it for granted, but I can’t imagine it any other way. If I have to be inland for more than a day or stuck in a city on a sunny day I get very antsy and am not a nice person to be around. I need to know what the ocean is doing, even if I can’t surf, just seeing the ocean helps me relax and focus.
SV: Is there a certain shaper that you take inspiration from on the Surf Coast?
Marcus: The guys I take great inspiration from are the true craftsmen. The guys that can handshape with their eyes closed, and do it so fast and so perfect with such beautiful curves. Cory Graham and Greg Brown are names that come to mind, incredible craftsmen. I also really respect guys that can do it all, making their boards from start to finish on their own, which I really enjoy doing.
SV: From your gram, high performance bullets seem to be the pinnacle of your shaping. What brought about this style?
Marcus: Yes, the majority of the boards I am making are around the 6ft mark, either high performance shortboards and a lot of stepdown fun boards. Growing up I always rode a shortboard and so did all my mates so this was what I was predominantly shaping when I began. I also had a quad fin fish that I had won shaped by Eiji Shiomoto that I rode a lot in the years leading up to beginning shaping which was one of the first boards I attempted to recreate. It really sent me down a rabbit hole of small fun quads, and then twin fins when they came back into popularity. The step down fun boards are all about exactly that, fun. It’s hard to have a bad surf on one, and they are what I usually ride. They’re flat and fast and have a bit more volume, but with the right curves and fin positions you can make them turn like a shortboard and actually hold in fairly large surf. I don’t like to pigeon hole myself though, I pride myself on being able to make any surfboard you can come up with. My website (hydrotheorysurf.com) currently has 13 models and this is mainly due to the fact that I like to surf a lot of different stuff.
SV: And the artworks, dude. Seriously good shit. Explain the concept behind the board art.
Marcus: The colour work on the boards has really just evolved from what people have ordered and I guess has almost turned into a bit of a style of my own. Once people realized I would do anything they asked, the colours and combinations started coming thick and fast. Mainly resin tints, that’s definitely my strength. I would go months without doing a clear board. It was a big draw card for people. I’ve never really been much of an ‘artist’, I certainly can’t do anything too complex with my airbrush but I am pretty handy with a roll of tape and pride myself on my pinlines and cut laps, I’m a professional sticky taper.
SV: Is there anything we can do as surfboard lovers, to reduce environmental impact from shaping boards? Where do you see this issue in the next few years and how can we resolve the problem?
Marcus: Every surfboard, at some stage in its life is going to end up in landfill. An environmentally sustainable surfboard is one that lasts a lifetime and is not snapped or beat to death and replaced every 6 months. People know that they are made from nasty petrochemicals but what they don’t see is the waste their production generates.
What we need to do is make surfboards that last a lot longer and reduce the toxic waste they create in the process. I’ve recently adopted a construction method from some shapers up north which I think achieves both of these objectives and am now producing SustainSurf Certified Ecoboards which use basically no resin, no fiberglass and require no finish sanding. They are simply an EPS core (still not a very green core, but with some recycled content, now up to 70%, it is an improvement on traditional polyurethane) sealed with water resistant Paulownia timber skins top and bottom which are vacuum bagged to contort to the rocker and the contours of your core. They have a cork rail and a water-based varnish finish. I have been surfing my first prototype for months and it has shown absolutely no signs of wear and tear. The waste generated by these boards only comes from the shaping of the core, and the Paulownia and Cork offcuts which go in my green bin. The durability of a board completely encased in timber and featuring a twin parabolic stringer is obviously far superior, weight is the same. The issue is the added labor and material cost involved driving up the price.
There are without doubt more environmentally sustainable ways to make a modern surfboard.
SV: What is your favourite board you have ever shaped?
Marcus: My first board I shaped was a 5’10 quad fin chambered Paulownia timber fish, it took me over 6 months to build and it sank first surf out Winkipop as water seeped through my joins. I was able to dry it out and ended up glassing it to be safe and did have some fun sessions on it but it was way too heavy to be practical. But it lit the spark and I’ve never looked back. I’ll keep it forever.
SV: Are your shapes designed off of your love for surfing or purely just shaping to a client?
Marcus: Every board I offer has been designed, tested, and refined my myself purely to cater to my needs and desire to try everything and have a board for all types of conditions. Fortunately they have also appealed to others. The exception to this is the tow boards and guns which have been for friends hell bent on riding big waves.
SV: If you had a model of yours that you wanted to ride forever, what would it be and which local spot would it be at?
Marcus: On the Surf Coast my favorite wave is low tide Bells Bowl. The board I would ride forever would be my Chakra Twin, it is such a versatile little board.
SV: We loved our recent sessions at the URBNSURF wave pool late last year. What boards did you bring over the two days of shredding?
Marcus: Such a fun couple of days! Thanks for having us down. Over the two days, I rode a mix between my Kickboard twin keel fish, my Rehab 2+1 twin and the step down swallow tail shortboard I designed for the Behind The Shaper series called the Little Jerry.
SV: Well that was bloody good. Thanks so much for your time and hope you’re knocking off with a coupla tins soon.
Marcus: Thanks for having me.