My first board (that wasn't a second hand bunged up water bed) was a pristine 6'0, glassed in fin, channel bottom thruster, complete with a salmon pink deck spray to a deep navy resin tint underside. The board was made by Jamie Gair, Shearwater Surfboards, Fish Creek; 832424 the phone number still reads on the deck. I surfed this flashy little board until I could afford by my own pro stick revolution style weapon that I purchased from Trigger Brothers Frankston. Any board that was thin, had every sticker placed perfectly and looked sharp was my go. Unfortunately I couldn't surf those boards like my over knee board short wearing heroes of the time did.
My 21st birthday was fast approaching and mum said she wanted to get me a gift that would last. I suggested an indo sojourn with my good buddy at the time, but mum wasn't into that. She wanted something with more meaning and with soul.
My history with the Oke Surfboards Braeside factory goes something like this.
I had seen crew riding Oke boards, mostly performance shortys and that was about all of my Oke knowledge. A couple of log riding mates had suggested I drop in and see that factory for myself and look at something different.
I remember my first encounter so vividly, the strong resin smell, the radio crackling far off in the background, the light cover of foam on everything you touched, the boards that looked like pieces of art rather than commercial selling tools and most memorable of all was the good vibing, loud laughing Chok. Chok introduced himself, shook my hand and asked me what I was after. I honestly had no idea what I wanted, but I did know I wanted to hold, touch and examine every single board in the factory. Chok left me to my own devices and off I went exploring. After an hour or so, Chok came back out from the magic door between storeroom and shaping bay with a 'find anything you like'? My mind took over and I started to talk in terms that I had never considered before - 'I want a log. A log like what my uncle taught me how to ride on, square tail, big glassed in fin, wooden tail block, white deck, Coola Cordial resin tint green for the rest. How big? No idea. But make it big and fast and be able to trim in the tightest pockets'. After my out of body verbal diarrhoea, Chok came back with an order form, some rough dimensions of what he was thinking and said to go away and think about anything in particular I want from the board in terms of just nose riding or a combo of nose and turns and come back with a deposit.
The weirdest thing is that I was never in the headspace to have ordered that board. I skate, I surf short boards and I like punk rock, not cruising or being mellow (20 year old me talking) I think what made me look differently at surfing at that moment was the mix of boards that were all painstakingly crafted right there in the factory. 9'6 logs. 8'0 mid lengths, bulbous Takayama style 7'2 single fins, quads, fat nosed fishes and everything in between. All I wanted from that moment on was what my uncle had taught me to ride on, a 9'4, square tail, wooden tail block, single fin with the Coola Cordial tint!
A lengthy discussion with mum, a phone call of reassurance from a mate and off I charged to the Oke Surfboard factory in Braeside with my new found custom surfboard shaping enthusiasm. I am not going to bore you with the stories of me going in every day to watch the master at work, but let's just say I was an annoying 20 year old eager to learn. What I did learn from my daily visits is that the other Oke boys in Dan and Rory both have an incredible skill set that had been honed from years and years of factory life. Rory has become such an incredible shaper over the 12 years I have known him. Rory now shapes everything for me, even with my lack of technical jargon he can decipher the shit that comes out of my mouth and makes it work somehow! Dan also has this knack of making me open my wallet to put something down on a new board that I totally don't need. If he ever stops glassing boards he could start selling ice to Eskimo's or whatever that saying is.
After a couple of weeks of patiently waiting, on a beer filled Friday night, I was presented with my 9’4 hand shaped, square tail, glassed in single fin, with wooden tail block, Coola Cordial Green resin tint, super flat deck with a big fat arse that can handle a bit of juice in the wave and to my surprise my name inscribed on the stinger.
We surfed in everything! Every condition you can imagine, we went there! I treated her like a princess when she needed ding repair and a fresh coat but rough and mean when the conditions called for it. You name it, we surfed it. But after 10 years of loving service she was snapped clean in half on a thumping shorey that was only suitable for short boards. After I came to grips with the fact that I wasn't going to repair her, she became the pride of the house, hung for all to see, and before you get all board nazi on me, she is hung in two pieces using an invisible rack system.
The Oke Surfboards story for me and my brothers doesn't stop there. We have had made a 5’9 Gem, 6’6 Ellipse, 7’0 Fun board, 7’2 Mini Nose rider, 7’6 Big Fras Fish, 9’6 Trad Log and the list I’m sure will continue! Every board is made with customer/shaper communication, honest feedback of rider ability and board requirements.
As the great Molly Meldrum would say ‘Do yourself a favour’ and go and see the gang at Oke Surfboards, pick up a board and support local business.