Builders Q+A with Luke Daniels

Luke Daniels of Daniels Surfboards catches up with Vissla about surfboard design, his seachange from the erratic beachbreaks of Bronte to the clean walls of the NSW north coast and what it was like to shape his first board alongside his Dad and Grandpa.

For the people who don’t know much about Luke Daniels, what can you tell them?
I’m a guy who loves to surf and shape and that’s about it really.

How did you get into shaping?
Sheer curiosity really and wanting to ride something I’ve created. That’s what started it all.

Your Dad was a big influence on you also?
Huge influence really. He ripped back in the day and still rips now. He got me in the ocean early and has had a big input into how I shape my boards and the way I surf.

Your grandpa also learnt a few skills from Bob McTavish didn’t he?
My grandpa did a bit of shaping with Bob back in the day and a lot of the skills he learnt, he then passed onto me. It’s not like I’ve shaped with Bob or anything, but some of the skills he showed my grandpa – who was a draftsman – he then passed onto me. I actually shaped my very first board with my Dad and my Grandpa.

It seems like that’d be one of those memorable moments that’d stick in your mind forever. Am I right?
It was pretty memorable. I did it up at my Grandpa’s place with a pretty rudimentary setup with just a tarp and a few basic things, but it really began to spur me on from there.

And how did you grow from that moment?
It was a bit of a slow burn really. I think it was once I got my own space. When I was living in Bronte I didn’t have a huge amount of space, but then I moved into a unit that had a garage and all of a sudden I had this room I could shape in. That’s where it all began – I made some of my own, I made some for mates and locals and it all grew from that point.

You’re not making your standard high performance shortboards, what is it about those “outside-the-box” type boards that inspires you?
It’s a bit of a different type of surfing and having a bit more meat in the boards, which allows you to keep that flow up. After riding standard shortboards for so long, it felt good to ride some different equipment and try some different things and that’s what people who come to me want. They want something that’s a little different.

You’ve made the move from Bronte in Sydney’s east, up to the NSW north coast also?
Yeah, I grew up in Bronte and then moved up north a few years ago. The waves I get up north a quite different to the waves I used to surf in Bronte and I think that’s why I started shaping boards that were a little bit different. The average shortboard doesn’t go that great at Bronte, which is why I began play to around with what I was making. Then when I moved up the coast, I found there were cleaner waves and I could test boards out a lot more and refine things as well. Living up north has allowed to test some boards almost on the day I pick them up, where as at Bronte I may not have had the opportunity to ride a new board for two months and test it properly.

What’s inspiring you now?
I like to look at a few different areas. I’ve been looking at different stringer types and playing with flex. It has created a noticeable difference. There was one board I had that felt a bit thick and I wanted to thin it out a bit, so I stripped the glass off and put a ¾ stringer in there, surrounding it with some flexible flooring sealant and it had this whole different flex to it. There’s so many options with all the materials that are on offer.

Who is inspiring you now?
It’s hard to pinpoint one surfer, shaper or person but it’s just amazing to see all the different content people put together and put on the net. I think just surfing itself is inspiring. There’s a lot of experimental stuff happening at the moment and that is what’s exciting for me.
Instagram / @daniels_surfboards

Words and images: Ethan Smith