Rad Spotlight: Christiaan Bradley Surfboard Shaper

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Talking surfboard design with Euroglass shaper Christiaan Bradley

On a visit to the mecca of surfboard factories that is Euroglass in South West France back in June I was on the eye out for a new board. I the chance to speak to the man himself, Christiaan Bradley about surfboard design, what he’s currently working on and where he sees the industry going.

Oli Russell-Cowan Rad Season: Christiaan, thanks for the time. Where did it all begin and how did you get into shaping?

I got into shaping through my dad who shaped boards when I was younger. I grew up in Tasmania, and it wasn’t like in a place like Sydney where you could go to a surfboard factory and see it all happening. We didn’t have that in Tasmania. Having my dad who knew how to do that was kind of cool. You could see him work with resin, fiberglass, shaping plans. And it kind of got me into doing that but I was just repairing surfboards for my mates. That’s how it started off. I must’ve been 15, 16, 17, 18. I started doing repairs. So, I got into it like that.

Then when I went to the Gold Coast when I was 21 for a mate’s wedding another friend of his was working at Brothers Nielsen Surfboard Factory out there and he was laminating. So, I started for a month or so doing ding repairs there. And then I started foiling fins, you know, because it was still the year of fixed fins. I was making a set of fins to be glassed on. Then, I started sanding. And also, I was into the full end of the process making boards by then. I can glass, sand, kind of everything in that period. It kind of took me a year, a year and a half I got better and better. I did 4 years on the Gold Coast there working with a lot of those shapers like DHD boards done out of Brothers Nielsen. There were some really good shapers there.

And then, I went to Lennox Head. I lived there for four years and worked for Locomotion. I was sanding down there as well. So, I did a little bit of shaping every now and again but I was still sanding, mainly production sanding. And then, I came over here on holiday and worked at Pukas first off with Brian from Locomotion. Those guys where coming over here and working out of Pukas for that period.

He showed me how to finish off his pre-shapes because he had a lot of work in that time. So, I started preshaping preshapes. And, in 2002, I came to Euroglass and Belly said, “Start in April 2002.” So, I was sanding a little bit then. And then he got me to finish the Channel Islands Surfboards. So, guys on the shapers from California was over here. He showed me how to finish off the pre-shapes. After that, I went to California. I was working with Channel Islands. First three weeks training up on the different models. So they were showing me how to finish their designs. And so, I was the European shaper of Channel Islands.

So, you’ve been living in France now for what, 17 years?

Yeah. 17 I think.

How come you came to France?

Well, originally, I came to France just to surf, you know. It was a holiday surfing. I always get kind of nervous when I didn’t have work or anything. So, I ended up just going on a holiday, but coming straight back into work. And the job was fantastic. I was at that age with, yeah, shaping, learning to improve my skill, working with a company like Channel Islands was amazing. I decided to stick with it. Things were progressing really quickly. I ended up shaping for a lot of the pros. A lot of the Channel Islands team riders when they came here. And that progressed to working with Kelly. I built a lot of boards that, you know, started to win events and that was kind of addictive as well. And it was entertaining at that age. I was into my early 30s so I was kind of surfing a lot then. I really like it here you know.

“There’s good surf, the culture is amazing, people were cool, Spain’s just down the road and the mountains here. During winter you’re skiing in two hours. It’s only a two hour drive to the mountains.”

And there’s a lot of stuff you can do in Europe. I mean Australia is great. Tasmania is great but I would never get the opportunity there to do what I do here. It’s just one of those things.

Well, I ended up marrying a French girl and had two kids. Now, it’s kind of changed a little bit from what it was you know, it’s a bit more serious now.

Photo credit: WSL/ Laurent Masurel

Less surfing time maybe?

Right. Less surfing time. I have to really concentrate on the work, you know. Make sure the company’s progressing and we’re making money. There is that aspect of it. It’s not just the shaping and that side of it. It’s more about running what is Euroglass and keeping boards coming through and making sure we’re running at max capacity. So, I oversee a lot of the stuff that happens in Euroglass. The shaping, the sanding the production.

Where do you see most of the demand coming from? Is there like a particular model? What’s happening here at Euroglass or the industry as a whole?

I think the ultra-high-performance surfboard style might be shrinking a little in comparison to fuller volume more cruiser style surfboards. I think that hipster style is kind of coming in a bit. I think it’s because a lot of people who don’t have that ability can have fun on a surfboard and they are working out what sort of surfboard is fun for them to use.

Photo credit: Bradley Surfboards

And easier to paddle.

Yeah. Easier to paddle and they still turned great. A lot of people are more directed to those style of surfboards nowadays, but yeah, you still have your hardcore crew. And a lot of the younger people are enjoying high performance stuff. So, you’re getting that mix. I think there’s a lot more people enjoying surfing now and enjoying the craft of surfboards and having that ability to self-design, so to speak, your own surfboard by checking on the internet and thinking what you need and what volumes and what dimensions. People are able to test surfboards now. People come here they use boards to test. We have demo days. People are refining what they’re enjoying.

You’re shaping for quite a few of the guys on tour. Where is their feedback coming in and how are you working with them on new boards and new concepts? 

Mainly the last few years I was working with Leo a lot. Really, what we’re doing is just fine tuning what he rides mostly for different surf. Shortboards, competition boards, step ups. Basically that, and then some other boards they’re going to use elsewhere on heavy slabs or something like that.

“Leo gives me a lot of feedback on designs and what works. But we’re looking at something very specific in high performance, very high performance boards. But that does filter down to different levels of people’s abilities.”

So people see how Leo goes, and this has happened in the past. You know, what they see. “Oh, he’s riding those boards. I’ll give them a go. So sometimes, you know, you get a filter on effect with people will go, I’ll try a couple.” When the contest comes in August and September I’ll do a lot more for different guys than I normally do. But for the rest of the year, I’m kind of more focused on the team riders.

Jesse Mendez was a good guy. He tried some last year when the Quik Pro was on. And I just did him three of what I thought would work for him and they’re all good. So that was a good win, you know, to have him on the boards because he is a really good, fast, pretty cool surfer which is really good for me to see how the board performs.

I think for me to be able to choose what they should ride and what adjustments I should make to the surfboard. It’s easy for me now to design surfboards, you know. I know what I want in a surfboard and what they should be on. But the quicker I can kind of get to that starting point is a plus. Because then I don’t have to jump back and forth from different designs and then go the wrong way. It was good with Jesse to start off with three boards and they were spot on. So, it was good. It was good working with him. But yeah, those guys they are good feedback on those style of boards and a little bit of high performance grovel boards and step-up boards for heavy waves.

But no good really for an average standard boards that we would use. You’ve got to get feedback from the people who are going to be using those boards. A lot of the times your average client is a better form of feedback than the pro guys on certain models.

Leo Fioravanti on a mean one. Photo credit: Bradley Surfboards

Where would you see it going in terms of technology, surfboard design and progression? Will there be any new machines coming out?

With the machine process, we’re still building a product that’s only worth 600-700 euro. 700-800 Australian.

So, you don’t really need a multimillion-dollar machine. You’re basically just going to have something that’s more of a glorified hand plane. You don’t want to spend too much money because boards aren’t worth it. But as far as technology goes, I think, for me, nothing’s really changed in the last 40 years really. Yeah, there’s some moulded boards, there’s epoxy with carbon mix thing. I don’t think they’re that groundbreaking. Nothing really stands out to be fantastic to me.

But I think, and I hope there’s a more of a change towards eco-friendly products, which would be great. I think that will have to happen. I think the quicker that we get the boards an eco-friendly type product, the blank, the resins, the quicker we get that to feeling like a normal PU surfboard the better, you know, because everyone will change over to that. I think everyone, especially surfers are very skeptical. They are sheep you know; they follow along with whatever they see on the internet. I think that will happen. That’s what I’m kind of more excited about that the new technology. Because I think new technologies have come and then there’s nothing groundbreaking.

Everyone on the pro tour still rides the standard PU boards I hope to see change towards more eco-friendly stuff.

Photo credit: Bradley Surfboards

Are you guys working on anything like that at the moment or using substitutes to resin? What are we looking into?

We’ve been blasting some epoxy boards with eco-friendly resins. Bio-based resins. They were good. They’re good. I mean for the average surfer they’re fantastic. And I’m sure the pros will be onto it as well. They should be. I reckon. You can make it work. People adapt.

The Pros are use to this feeling of how these boards feel, you know. It’s hard to get them to change even just a little bit. I mean those guys are going to lead the change. I hope they make the effort. As soon as the products are more fine-tuned and they work because there’s a few little issues. But to me, they look great. I’ve seen a lot of different projects  and it’s a good way to go.

We’re cutting blanks every day and there’s a lot of excess stuff that just goes to landfill or burnt off or whatever happens to it. To me, it’s kind of upsetting. We’re not a super huge factory, but there’s factories in the world that we’re just churning out that shit and don’t have the consciousness that we have to take to the proper place.

What’s your thoughts on surfing in the Olympics next year? 

I think the Olympics is a great thing. I really like the idea. I’m there’s snowboarding and also skateboarding.

You’ve got the Winter Olympics. You got Summer Olympics. I know there’s a lot of people who talk about it saying, “Oh, it’s taken the soul out of what surfing is but whatever soul there was in surfing has gone along time ago. It’s more varied now, it’s open to everybody. Everybody has a different type of format nowadays. So, I think it’s great. Hopefully, for work wise as well.

Photo credit: International Surfing Association

What do you think of wave pools and how that affects board design?

I think wave pools are an extension of that I reckon. They kind of seem to be hand in hand. As far as Olympics and being held in countries that are  landlocked. Yeah. They’ll be able to have a consistent kind of halfpipe so to speak that everyone’s on the same playing field.

Wave pools are great I think for refined surfboards for sure. I mean if we could organize an event or a demo day where I turn up with a different surfboard and had a couple of different riders and they’ll fine tuning the different surfboards that I gave them to test. I think that’s fantastic. If I’ve got to do that at one point, I think I’ll jump at that. Just basic things with the surfboard. Wave pools, I think it’s a good thing as well. It takes a lot more people out of the water.

Photo credit: Cait Miers Photography

On a personal preference I’d rather watch an event in the water, in the ocean than watching the wave pool. I think it’s a bit of a novelty. But actually, the last one I didn’t watch. I’d watch just shorts of it. But yeah, I think it’s cool. At least one event a year. But I heard people saying it’s very boring to watch.

I think that it’s filtering the ultra-elite athlete, the best surfers from the average surfers. You can see a bit of a change. A bit of a difference between the very good surfers and the guys who are sort of kind of the back end.

Thanks for your time Christiaan

Find out more about what surfboard shapers have to say such as Simon Anderson and some of the best surfboard shapers in Portugal.

Feature image credit: Bradley Surfboards

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Oli Russell-Cowan

The concept for Rad Season came about when I was trekking around Latin America. I found it difficult to find cool events and festivals going on that were a bit different and had an element of adventure and general radness to them. I knew that there was always something rad worth going to somewhere in the world, but there was no single platform bringing them together for like-minded people. With over 15 years experience in international business development, spanning multiple industries including action sports, events, media, digital, ICT, travel and tourism, I decided to combine them all with Rad Season.

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