The surf industry has very much evolved from its underground and almost rebellious roots to a very marketable and commercialised industry. Yet amongst such an unforgiving and at times hostile environment, there are a few people that stay true to themselves and maintain a love for what they do. No one better personifies this than Mitchell Surman, owner and shaper of MS Surfboards. Hailing from Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, Mitch has been exposed to a fruitful surfing community from a young age. With a short stint as a travelling competitive surfer, it’s fair to say that his board and general surf knowledge far exceed his years. He’ll be the first one to tell you that the surfboard shaping industry is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, and based on the excitement that he shows when talking about his craft, it’s pretty easy to see where his heart is.
Looking at a brand new MS Surfboard, whether today or four years ago, you’d assume that Mitch had the best possible environment to hone his craft. Yet that assumption could not be further from the truth; the term ‘humble beginnings’ doesn’t even begin to describe the initial stages of MS. Beginning first as nothing more than a dream in the back of a tiny house in Moffat Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Mitch’s always been about the quality of his boards over the quantity. While he’s now in a larger and much more user-friendly factory, he still maintains the same mindset.
“I think being proud of what you are building is something that I really believe in. I think that’s why when we build boards with customers they come back and support us again, they know what they are buying is something that will last and they can be proud of. We also custom most boards so they change slightly to each person we take time with this to try and get the person we are building a board to on the right board that will help them progress.”
~Mitchell T. Surman
With nothing but a passion for the craft, Mitch (accompanied by the rest of the production team) has been able to build his brand into one of the most influential board manufacturers in the modern era. This is no better demonstrated than through the performance of his boards in the water—a combination of an ever-evolving shape and a perfectionist craftsman that is slowly changing the way that people look at board design. Drawing inspiration from modern-day innovators such as Robin Kegel (Gato Heroi) as well as legendary shapers in the likes of Kevin Platt and Hayden Kenny, Mitch’s boards celebrate everything that was explored in the 60s and 70s.
“Kevin Platt is that someone that I really look up to. In the way his boards look and ride – they are insane. By far one of the leaders in board progression through the ’60s; Hayden Kenny really made this happen, bringing the best shapers together at Hayden in the ’60s”
~Mitchell T. Surman
Having had the pleasure of spending a day in the shaping bay with Mitch, it’s easy to see why his craft is so greatly appreciated. So much care and precision is taken in every board. Everything from the roll of the bottom to the foil of the rails is checked scrupulously before he even begins the final brush over. Watching Mitch focus on the process is something to behold. Behind focused eyes, you can almost see the script of one million different steps taking place in his mind. Yet amongst what can only be described as one of the most intricate processes in the surfing world, there’s a certain relaxed feel in the bay, no frustration or hurriedness, simple moments of pure passion and focus. This love that Mitch shows extends far from just the shaping bay and into his life.
Since MS first started, Mitch has had a team that resembles more of a family than anything else. Long gone are the days of yesteryear where teams were more than just a group of people that rode the same brand of board. This kind of cohesion is what caused the massive progression of surfing in
the late 60s through teams such as Hayden and Keyo. So to see someone as young as Mitch embracing the idea of a family rather than just a group of good surfers, not only speaks lengths about his surfing community ideals, but it’s also a moment of nostalgia for most. This is no better highlighted than through the Noosa Festival of Surfing, a celebration of surfing itself. During this time Mitch opens his doors to a team that hails from all over the globe. Dinners, surf trips or even just morning coffee takes place with his small family.
“I think having a family rather than a ‘team’ is very important, creating a group of like-minded individuals and bringing them together with something like surfing and love for alternative surf crafts is amazing, Mitch has brought together a unique group of people from around the world, creating a family with love and passion, it’s exciting to say the least. For me, Mitch has shaped my boards for years now and has always supported my ideas and given me space to experiment with different boards, but he isn’t just my shaper he is a mentor, a teacher, a friend, and someone who has helped me throughout the past with anything I threw at him.”
It wouldn’t be out of place to see a congregation of 20 making the long trek to Noosa’s Tea Tree Bay with nothing but a smile and a board under their arm. In saying that, this family attitude is not only restricted to those that ride for him. Through Glass Coffee House and Surf Gallery, a cafe owned and operated by Mitch and his partner Brydie, he has been able to essentially extend his family further through the community. A true credit to this man is his innate ability to give everyone he meets as much time as they need. Whether that be talking about ordering a board from him, how his boards work, or even just general life, he will always find the time. The fact that he can find time to talk to everyone while running two separate businesses tells exactly the kind of character that Mitch is.
While he may be too humble to admit it, MS and more specifically Mitch himself is making an impact. Whether that is through his innovative board designs or through his approach of inclusion in the surf community, the impact is noticeable. The now iconic circle logo can be seen across the globe with the same common idea of quality, a feat that is not easy to achieve by any standards. To so many, Mitch is more than just a shaper; he’s a father to the groms, a long lost brother to the international team, and so much more. What I do know is that his approach to his craft and life in general is something for people to take note of. Through my personal experience, I can say that Mitch has taught me more than anyone else I have met.