There was a 12 year-old Australian young boy who liked to spend school holidays and weekend trips with his uncle. They both would go together to the Gold Coast for surfing and spend time together. They were able to spend even more time together when the boy moved to Sunshine Coast when he was about 13/14 years old. That was when he started really stepping all the time and, surely, surfing kicked right away. He felt passionate about surfing, yes, but his heart and curiosity was strongly drawn by surfboard handcrafting. After some years as a surfer he felt the need to explore if he was capable of making the surfboards he used to watch in surfing movies and such. And indeed, try he did.
He conquered his mom’s garage and would try to do what he saw on surfing videos hoping that the resulted board would actually work …, and it did!
This curious and passionate kid is Thomas Bexon.
| Thomas 'Doc' Bexon, The Rad Shaper
The first 20 surfboards that he made were done in his mother’s garage. Can you imagine a 14 year-old boy shaping his own boards in his mom’s garage trying to make what he saw about boards on TV work? Well, he got a lot of experience like that and he considers himself lucky to have started at such a young age building and learning the basics of surfboards.
Thomas Bexon. Pic credit short film by Rare Visuals.
A Youngster's Drive & Passion for Surfboards Handcrafting
While he was studying for Social Work and working as a chef in a local Maroochydore Café, he would be still making his own boards. At the end, skipping work was the result when trying to shape the boards for friends and keen followers. There was no doubt when it came to working on social working, the cafe or shaping boards: Thomas established himself as a full-time shaper. In his own words: "It’s more fun making surfboards than dealing with problems”.
This kid had drive and passion, and when something feels that strong since being a youngster, it is pretty difficult to deny it. That is how his shaping career took off at his mom’s garage to what it is today. When you love your work so much drawing a separation between work from the enjoyment side of it, it’s a challenge. In Bexon's words, if he won the lottery, he would still be doing what he does but instead of working 60 hours a week, he would work for 30 hours so he would be able to spend more time with his family: “It definitely puts a strain in your personal relationships because you have to spend so much time at work.”
| Boring? No. Living it Out of the Norm
Thomas Bexon has no doubt about it: he's not fond of ‘boring’ surfboards, as he calls them. He likes to shape surfboards that are challenging but still will help you progress in your surfing. He started shaping his own boards because he wanted to create “a certain kind of board to perform a certain kind of way for a certain kind of waves”. The certain kind of boards that people he admired, like Joel Tudor, where riding and could not find anywhere.
Clips from HANDCRAFTED: Thomas Bexon, short film by Mick Soiza.
"A Certain Kind of Board to Perform a Certain Kind of Way for a Certain Kind of Waves"
The mid 60's have been a big influence on Thomas Bexon in terms of surfboard making because a crazy progression in surfing history was happening then: Hayden, McTavish and Keyo, you name it.
In the last decades Thomas is confident and happy about how his longboards perform when it comes to logging, stall-turns trim and good old-fashioned nose riding. The key element for him is the shape of the board, particularly the rolled bottoms, and not the size what makes them stand out. He also is shaping twinnies, mini-simmons, performance quads, hulls and eggs.
| Jake 'Cut Lap' Bowrey, The Glasser
“Working and collaborating with someone, you end up with something better than what you would build yourself”–Thomas Bexon.
Thomas met his partner Jake Bowrey while surfing a couple of years before they decided to take a leap and start working together. They had a lot of things in common, being one of them the fact that they both worked for the surf industry and always ended up talking about surfboards, as well as day-dreaming about all the stuff they could do together someday. Well, they sure hit it off pretty well and it ended up happening.
Bowrey was not very into working in a surfing factory glassing and just doing what someone else wanted. The key factor for 'the big change' was his wife! She saw a chalkboard sign in Noosa Heads that said: “Shed for rent.” That was it. Jack left his pretty well paid job and said: “Let’s do it.” And they did.
Inspiration Nurtured by Teamwork & Effort
| Thomas Surfboards, a Great Team Combo for Finely-Crafted Surfboards
The dream for crafting handmade surfboards for a diverse range of surfers began in a shed and a credit card Bexon had with six grand limit on it. They did it all using that card; paying it off bit by bit and using it, kind of in a loop. It ended up working.
Once Bexon and Bowrey teamed-up, the started working in a very symbiotic way that puts style and inspiring new designs into the hand-shaped surfboard world.
Thomas goes next door to Jake’s room after each board is shaped. A couple of heads bouncing ideas between each other as oppose to just being alone with one’s thoughts, definitely makes a big difference.
The art side of things is something that really inspires this team. The abstractness and effects that can be done with colors is wild and Jake is amazing at what he does with the resin. While keeping it interesting for them, they have been able to come up with unique results rather than just the run-of-the-mill sort of thing.
By living and staying out of the norm this combo really tries to keep themselves inspired while continuing perfecting their skills to create particular surfboards.
“Hopefully, I will never get sick of shaping and I really love doing it and I will do it until I’m old and I cannot do it anymore” –Bexon.
Friends and team riders have been the ones giving input to Thomas over the years and have been a great help to keep polishing the designs types demanded by surfers. Years of testing and shaping has giving him not only the experience but also the wisdom to give us some advice:
· Buying a surfboard that suits your surfing now is a mistake. Look ahead instead, not where you are at the present.
· The only secret to surf progression that has helped Thomas Bexon is the love of surfing and the eagerness to surf whenever the opportunity was there.
· Using good materials and not cutting corners in the building process are the basics of what makes a good board.
| The Art Side of Things Infused Into Surfboards
Thomas Bexon puts a bit of him on each hand-shaped board. For him is not just a board that comes out with a serial number. A board has personality and it’s its own character like no other.
“The board has that slight imperfection that makes the board magic compared to one that is totally perfect but lifeless. I think that, in the other side, that is the perfect board because there’s always something that could make it a little bit better” -Bexon.
"There's Always Room to Make Surfboards a Bit Better"
Tomas Bexon Photographed by Nathan Oldfield