Where did Panda come from?
I came up with Panda 10 years ago. Skulls and tractors etc. were the big thing on boards and i was kinda taking the piss. Pandas are an awkward clumsy animal kinda like myself.
How long have you been shaping?
I have been shaping 10 years.
What is your favorite board to shape?
At the moment I'm really into twinzers. I've been playing with a shape that allows you to cruise and have fun, but if there is a section you can still really open up and get lots of performance out of it. Twinzers are really fast and have kinda been forgotten about.
What shapers do you look up to?
I look up to Luke Short (LSD), James Cheal (Chilli), Simon Anderson.
Julian Wilson gave you good feedback on Stab Mag in the dark anonymous board demo. What type of board did you build for that?
For the Stab in the Dark comp i made my full high performance short board that i know works in good waves, it's very whippy, surfs tight in the pocket and surfs very well top to bottom. Since it was going to be ridden in W.A. I knew it would work pretty well. The board was my B2 Model, it has a lot of rocker and is continuous throughout the board. It's also pretty narrow and foiled compared to most boards these days. I also shaped a round tail on it because that's just what I like riding on those types of boards and it did prove to be a good point of difference.
How has your experience been moving Panda to the U.S?
So far very positive, it was a long transition. A lot of the surf industry is based here and all my team riders are here, so for growing the brand it was a no brainer and so far everyone has been very welcoming. I feel like people are much more open to trying new boards here where as in Australia they aren't.
Have you had a shaping mentor?
I have had a few mentors. When i first started, a guy called Sean Wilde took me under his wing and showed me a lot. Funny thing is he was taught over here in the US by Robert August and a few local guys here in the OC that are still here making boards and now I'm here working alongside a few of them. I've also had Steve Zoeller as a mentor. He was Simon Anderson's business partner in Energy Surfboards and his glasser. Steve glassed that famous first thruster! Steve has taught me a lot whether it be glassing or shaping and has always been there to bounce ideas off.
Do you experiment much with shaping?
When I get time I do, but not as much as I'd like to. It can be an expensive hobby! I spend a lot of time refining and working on my shapes. The best is when I get mates coming in that want to try something completely different that allows me to try out my new ideas.
Who would you love to see on your boards?
Someone like Taj who I grew up watching pretty much on repeat every afternoon before going for a surf. Or someone like Ryan Burch or Tyler Warren that rides different and weird crafts and that can adapt to different shapes and draw new lines. They would be more interesting to me as a shaper.
Any big plans for Panda in the near future?
We plan to just keep stirring the pot and having fun for now, then maybe global dominance.
Any advice for new shapers?
You have to be good at taking criticism and using it to move forward. It also has to be one of the hardest industries to make it in so just have fun with it. The best part is riding something you created.
Interview and photos by Kenny Hurtado