By Luke Horlin-Smith.
We talk with Mark Benson, shaper of Mr. Damage surfboards, at his factory in Port Elliot on the South Coast of South Australia.
How long have you been shaping? And who gave you the start?
I have been shaping now for almost thirty years. I think it was around 1988 that I started a 3yr apprenticeship with Sid Willmot at the old Wild Catz Surfboard factory here in Port Elliot.
Where did Mr. Damage come from?
Back in the 80's Sid Wilmott shaped under his main brand Wild Catz and also Mr. Damage surfboards. I always liked the name, Mr. Damage and I thought the name lends itself well to ding repairs which was always going to be a major part of the business. So when I set-up this factory I asked Sid if he would let me re-launch the brand and he was stoked to give me permission.
You spent some time on the Goldy shaping alongside legends like Darren Handley, Simon Anderson and Murray Burton. How was this time?
My years working at the Base surfboard factory on the Goldy was great.
I worked with a lot of great shapers during this time. I spent time ghost shaping boards for DHD, JS, Stuart and Xanadu. All these guy's had different approaches to shaping. I just tried to learn something from each of them.
Were you also shaping your own boards on the Gold Coast? And did any Pro's ride your boards?
Yes I was shaping my own boards and sending some back to customers in South Australia.
Shane Bevan rode my boards when he won the Surf Fest Pro (1997) at Newcastle. Shane then went on to qualify for the CT that year riding my boards. I also shaped a few boards for Jay Phillips and some other pro's when they rolled into the Goldy for the tour events.
Your surfboard factory is located in Pt. Elliot on the SA South Coast. How is the business going since setting up here?
It has been steadily ticking over and slowly building. The ding repair's are always there and help with cash flow as the new board orders pick up leading into the summer.
I am planning on shaping a few more alternative boards this summer with all the shops full of major label standard white with carbon sock boards. It's all looking a little boring. I am excited about shaping a few more high end boards. Single, Twins and Logs with resin tints and polishes.
What is your favourite board to shape?
I am enjoying shaping classic single fins and I like the challenge of the odd six channel step-up. But I really just love shaping boards for customers who appreciate good quality boards.
What shapers do you look up to?
Darren Handley always, he is a great shaper. And he has had big influence on my shaping. I also like what Phil Myers is doing with his Free Flight 6 to 8 channel boards.
Have you had a shaping mentor?
From the start, Sid Willmott has always been there for me. Darren Handley has helped me out a lot, along with Jason Stevenson (JS Surfboards). And Stuart Smith (Stuart Surfboards) who I am always speaking with about what's happening and the latest board trends.
Do you experiment much with shaping?
Yes I do from time to time. Lately I have been shaping a few single and twin fins and playing around fin placements and nose, tail outlines.
Any big plans for Mr.Damage in the near future?
Just keep growing the business and have more boards in stock. Also to design a few models to suit the local waves.
Any advice for new shapers?
Get a job in a surfboard factory. Work hard, ask plenty of questions and keep at it. Or ask if you can buy a blank and shape a few boards at your local factory. Sanding boards is a good place to start. Do some off the machine and clean up the rails and then try and hand shape a board.
Contact Mark at Mr. Damage Surfboards, 44 Hill St. Port Elliot, SA 5212. M:0416199764