Checking In w/ Hayden Cox – Vissla AU
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Checking In w/ Hayden Cox

It’s been a big year in the life of Creator & Innovator, Hayden Cox. As if becoming new parents wasn’t enough of a change - Hayden and Danielle also renovated their home, put together a purpose-built surfboard factory in Australia and launched a brand new model in the Holy Grail while signing a new team rider in the process.

We caught up with Hayden to see how he’s traveling after the last 12 months and get a few insights into the big projects they have taken on in 2017.

Q. It's been a big year for you guys, first up - how has becoming parents been for you?
Definitely the coolest thing so far.

Q. You also finished renovating your home just in time for baby to come home!
For the most part, however there are still things we are working on but without any deadlines. It’s fun chipping away at it and giving yourself breathing space to change your mind on some ideas. We do that a fair bit!

Q. What are your fav design elements of the house? Did you take inspiration from anyone/anywhere in particular?
I love the openness of it and the general flow. Being close to the water is nice too. I personally like a more minimalist approach, lots of clean lines, neutral colours etc. There was no inspiration from anywhere in particular. The art side of things is pretty cool because there are personal connections to each one whether it be from a friend or something we have commissioned to have made. I have art from Thomas Campbell and Ozzie Wright, which I like a lot. There are also some boards from different projects I’ve worked on that I’ve hung up.

Q. You also recently fitted out a brand new factory from scratch... what was behind the move/upgrade?
I was living in LA and floating between our custom factories there and in Sydney every 8 weeks for nearly 5 years solid. I had to take a step back and really evaluate how productive it was and how thin I was spreading myself in terms of workload. It was really cool to establish a footprint on ground in the US so I decided to keep our office, warehouse and sales team and move the manufacturing back to Australia and consolidate. The US is a strongest market now. Our custom program (40% of our sales) is now made and shipped globally from Australia. Our GSI / Thailand manufacturing is still the same and business as usual. It was the whole ‘work smarter not harder’ thing to be honest. Building boards is so technical – especially on the custom side where there is artwork, fin options, custom specs as well as R&D on new models. Then there’s hiring and training new staff etc. We moved our Sydney factory into a space triple the size. Some of my American manufacturing team made the move over as well. In 20 years, I can say that our custom manufacturing has never been tighter or more solid.

Q. Have you made any cosmetic changes to how you set up the space/work areas?
Definitely. I have brought so many more things in house now… Decals, board prints, CNC cutting, moulding, screen printing etc. We outsource very little now. It’s pretty cool actually. The layout has great flow and we are no longer busting at the seams… I have a space outside my office where I build and design all types of stuff – sometimes surfboard related, sometimes not. It’s a bit of a surfboard factory / science lab these days.

Q. Tell us about the new model, the Holy Grail. What makes it special and where does it fit into the Haydenshapes family?
The Holy Grail design is one that very much speaks to the Haydenshapes brand DNA and my personal passions as a shaper from both a performance and visual standpoint. The concept began to evolve when I was exploring the use of rail line curvature to affect a board’s performance when surfing on your rail line. I initially created a big wave version, a 9’6” x 22” x 4.” and the challenge was to create a board that could ride the fastest on the horizontal plane but also have the ability to carve and turn when on rail. From a shapers perspective, it’s extremely difficult to blend the two and still create a great performing product. This model design has been refined over the last 3 years and blends this style of inverted side cut curvature into the back third of the board. It’s the everyday performance board for speed, flow and has the highest level of sensitivity off the back foot.

Q. You also teamed up with Dion Agius who alongside like Craig Anderson and Creed McTaggert, looks like a great fit with the team?
Working with Dion has been great. It’s a relationship that really kind of came together organically and when it did, people were like “why did that take so long to happen? Finally! (Laughs) He is a seamless and natural fit for the brand and shares a very similar aesthetic and passion for design and creating art in all types of forms. We are really into what he does and I’m personally stoked to be shaping boards for him. Our team is pretty tight. From a shaping perspective, I’ve got such a great crew of surfers who influence me creatively. Everyone brings a unique voice to what we do.

Q. Are you still splitting your time between Venice and the northern beaches of Sydney?
Actually I’ve done a lot of travel recently on the work from but it has been all over the place – NZ, Europe, USA, Australia. My base is very much in Sydney, but our brand is global and still growing. My trips are pretty structured now and I don’t like being away for too long. I’m very connected to my team in LA by phone, email, Skype. You can run a business from anywhere in the world these days thanks to smart phones and the Internet.

Q.What is your view on the current state of the surfboard category?
It’s also more exciting now than ever. Not many people know that FutureFlex is 10 years old this year. It wasn’t until around 3-4 years ago that the market was really ready to embrace innovative technology in the surfboard space and I think the Hypto Krypto FutureFlex really helped break down that barrier. It definitely spurred a carbon fiber trend in terms of materials. There isn’t a brand out there now who isn’t either releasing or working with new constructions and tech. I love seeing our industry evolve and grow.

Q. Wavepools. Yes or no?
Why not? I’m open to it. Nothing will ever replace the ocean and the feeling you get being out there catching whatever nature serves up to you at that moment.

Q. And finally, what does 'innovation' mean to you?
Innovation is ultimately an ‘inventive step forward’ and a design that solves a problem (s). For me personally it starts with the mindset. Innovating thinking can be implemented across the board in everything that you do from start to finish. This is definitely a big part of the Haydenshapes brand and how I like to approach things… It’s not just about patents and IP – although, they do play their part in some instances. Some ideas are worth protecting.

Interview: Brad Bricknell
Photos: Chris Wilson | INDOEK