John Robertson, a.k.a. Robbo, is a born-and-bred shaper from the Surf Coast, and has been surfing the local breaks around Torquay and Jan Juc since he was 8. He first started shaping boards at the age of 14.
Robbo’s family home was located on The Esplanade in Torquay – only a stone-throw away from Fisho’s, which is where he first learned to surf. This area was, and still is ground-zero for Victorian surf culture. “I used to open my front curtain and the ocean was right there. 5 steps across the road and you were pretty much on the beach, so it was pretty hard not to be a surfer”.
As a youngster, Robbo attended Torquay Primary School. It was here he made strong connections, and ultimately sparked his love for surfing and surf culture. After school, Robbo and his mates would walk down the highway, and go into 3 different surfboard factories, offering his cleaning services for 5 bucks. It was part of growing up in Torquay.
Robbo’s Dad had a close friendship with Dennis Day, who was the founder of Strapper Surfboards. Through this connection, Robbo was lucky enough to be gifted Dennis’ hand-me-down Strapper boards to practice on. This naturally led to competing in surf contests for the local boardriders, and from there, Robbo just wanted to be a part of anything and everything surf.
This infatuation with boards and surfing continued to swell, and every day after school Robbo would walk through the Strapper shop, say g’day to the crew and see how his new board was coming along. “There was a stage where Stuart Darcy was working there, and he kinda harassed me into making my own board”. So with the help of Stuart, and Robbo’s boss Michael di Sciascio, shaped his very own craft, which he eventually took all the way to the Australian titles in South Oz, where he finished 7th.
Mid-way through year 11, Robbo was lucky enough to be offered a job by his boss (then and current), Michael, at Strapper Surf as a shaper. “It’s there if you want it, take it or leave it”, he was told. Next thing you know, and some 28 years later, Robbo is still working there and loving it. These days, you could say that shapers are usually known for moving from company to company as they refine their craft, but Robbo and Strapper are synonymous. The loyalty between the pair has lasted decades with some fond memories being shared. Everything at Strapper just clicked – “it’s a good thing, so why leave?”
Over the years, Robbo got the opportunity to shape some boards for some highly regarded surfers during the Bells contest. “It was the year that Willsy and Mick Fanning both made the final at Bells, I got to shape Willsy two boards that year and the following year, I got to do a couple for Mick”. Not to mention, other surf icons such as Martin Potter and Mark Matthews have ridden boards made by Robbo.
As someone who has lived and worked in Torquay all his life, it’s safe to say that John Robbo is a highly regarded and respected surfboard shaper of the iconic Surf Coast, representing Strapper Surf. His dedication and love for surfing and surf culture is unquestionable, along with his enthusiasm to get the best surfing performance out of every customer who approaches him. Robbo is a genuine bloke and is always up for a chat, so if you see him out around town, be sure to ask him about his flat-earth conspiracy theory. You won’t be disappointed.