The “Day in the Life” series gives us a glimpse into the working lives of the people we don’t often see or think about, but who play an important role in keeping our community running.
Forty years ago, an art student with a hidden talent for mathematics and a passion for the surf carved out a neat career for himself as a surfboard shaper.
Graham Huddleston, or ‘Hud’ as he is known, is a local legend on the surfing scene.
Hud taught himself the craft of board shaping in his backyard to help pay for art school in 1975 and 1,500 boards later, he shows no sign of slowing down.
Since he set up Hud Surf Designs 20 years ago, a constant stream of local orders and repair jobs has kept him busy in the workshop five and a half days a week.
Every one of Hud’s boards is designed and built for the surfer. The pencil marks on the foam core are evidence of the detailed calculations that take into account the surfer’s height, weight, age and ability.
Hud makes about two or three boards a week, each one taking more than eight hours of meticulous work. “Some of the big factories are pumping out 200 to 300 boards each week, but none of them are custom-built for the individual surfer,” Hud said.
But it’s more than that. Hud reckons those mass produced boards have lost some of their soul.
And the surfers are feeling that too, with a big resurgence in demand for hand-shaped boards happening amongst the long-time surfers and grommets alike.
Hud hasn’t found a need to advertise his wares. “The best marketing happens by word of mouth out on the waves.”
Once the rail shape and curvature are profiled, he gets into his breathing apparatus ready for his least favourite task – the fibreglassing.
Hud taps into his natural creativity as he chats with customers about their chosen artwork. “I’m currently working on a board for a coffee enthusiast that is coloured with real coffee grounds in the resin.”
The final steps involve transferring the artwork, coating the board in resin, then sanding it back.
As the industry evolved, Hud has stayed away from computer-assisted design and manufacturing – and he’s paid the price of working with the heavy electric planer for so many years. Regular chiropractic and acupuncture treatments help, as does a cold longneck at the end of a taxing day on the tools.
Hud has worked with some of the big names on the surfing circuit, including Mick Campbell, who was No. 2 in the world in 1998, Wayne Morrison, Mick Cain, and Matt Banting.
He was never lured by the bright lights or big bucks though, spending all bar three of his 59 years in Port Macquarie. He’s seen the town and beaches get busier every year, so Hud is reluctant to fess up about his favourite surf break, preferring to keep it to himself on the odd occasion he can step out of the workshop long enough to catch some waves.
5:30am – Up and at it, always an early riser
8:00am – Swing by Bel’s Bakery for my morning coffee and sandwich to take to work
8:30am – Arrive at the workshop, continue with some calculations for a new board
10:00am – Use the electric planer to profile the board; this is the best bit
1:00pm – Bite of lunch, then back to it
2:00pm – Now for my least favourite part, the fibreglass
3:00pm – Chat with a walk-in customer about specs and artwork for his order
4:00pm – Look after some business tasks like banking and paying rent
5:30pm – Close up the workshop and head home for a coldie
Interview by Michelle Newman from www.newmancommunications.com.au