A little about Playa Zipolite, The Beach of the Dead . . .

Playa Zipolite, Oaxaca, Southern Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean. A little bit about my favorite little get-away on this small world of ours.

Zipolite, a sweaty 30-minute walk west from Puerto Angel, brings you to Playa Zipolite and another world. The feeling here is 1970's - Led Zep, Marley, and scruffy gringos.

A long, long time ago, Zipolite beach was usually visited by the Zapotecans...who made it a magical place. They came to visit Zipolite to meditate, or just to rest.

Recently, this beach has begun to receive day-trippers from Puerto Angel and Puerto Escondido, giving it a more TOURISTY feel than before.

Most people come here for the novelty of the nude beach, yoga, turtles, seafood, surf, meditation, vegetarians, discos, party, to get burnt by the sun, or to see how long they can stretch their skinny budget.

I post WWW Oaxaca, Mexico, Zipolite and areas nearby information. Also general budget, backpacker, surfer, off the beaten path, Mexico and beyond, information.

REMEMBER: Everyone is welcome at Zipolite.



Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ankle Deep in Foam with Bob McTavish Chris Hunt by Chris Hunt on 19th February 2016

Ankle Deep in Foam with Bob McTavish

Chris Hunt
by  on 

Bob McTavish is one of the industry's true 
workhorses. You can't deny, the man is a 
legend, whatever your definition and at 
71-years-old, he's still stoked to be in the 
shaping bay.
During a working holiday to the Basque Country, 
he constructed 180 boards in two weeks 
(a few of which you can check out here). 
Dusty, tired, and shaped out by his own 
admission – not that he let it show – 
we caught up with him after his final 
12 hour stint in the bay. Where better to start 
than right at the very start?

© 2016 - Aitor Molina // PUKAS SURF.
How did a career in shaping come about 
in the first place?
The first board, my father brought a 16ft 
oothpick, you know the hollow, wooden 
boards and I tried to surf that and hated it. 
So immediately I went home and shaped a 
hollow plywood bodyboard, about the 
standard size of a bodyboard today. About 4
0 inches long and about 20 inches wide. I w
as 12-years-old, so what started me was 
that I hated the existing equipment and 
wanted to make something better. The 
next one I made was when I was 15, in 1959. 
I got a balsa board for 10 pounds, tore 
the glass off and reshaped it and it 
went a lot better.
That's what's motivated me and it still motivates me today, to make boards that go better. Simple.
So I’ve always 
wanted to 
make boards 
go better, 
that's been 
my career 
all my 
life – to make surfboards go better and 
mainly through shaping but sometimes 
through technology. Yeah that's what's 
motivated me and it still motivates me 
today, to make boards that go better. 
Despite profound influence on 
shortboard design, your brand 
sits largely in the realm of 
wave riding. Is that a reflection 
of your own wave riding or 
something else?
It's partly that. It's that the 
shortboard market is so crowded 
and to my thinking it’s so boring. 
If it's a 16th of an inch or an 8th 
of an inch and that makes a 
difference, it's gotten too 
boring for me. Whereas in the 
alternative world you can make 
a huge range of equipment 
that's interesting and exciting. 
For example, in one day I shaped 
two a-symmetrics, one 5'7" and 
one 5'8". I’ve shaped a 6'8" bluebird 
from the '70s – 3 inches thick and 
25 wide and I shaped 9'3" Noosa '66 – 
3 inches thick with a roll bottom and 
egg rails – so that's a fun day.
While we're on the subject of 
a-symmetrics, what are your 
thoughts on those shapes 
we’re starting to see come back?
The first time I made an a-symmetric 
was in 1962 with Midget Farrelly 
with some change in the toe shape 
and the next time in '76, I made a 
board specific for Lennox Point. 
They were narrower on the forehand 
and broader and shorted on the 
backhand, so you get a generally faster 
Then we made a-symmetric tail 
boards in the '80s, and this time 
around, certainly watching Ryan 
Burch footage, meeting Ryan and 
talking with him and working 
with Thomas Campbell we’ve 
made a lot of a-symmetrics lately. 
I made one for Rasta and he’s 
just left a message that we wants a 
bunch more.
It's always been the reason that through your 
toes and ankles and knees and hips, you’ve 
got far more control on your forehand but 
less application of power. Whereas back
hand you’ve got less control but a very 
strong point under your heel. So 
working with those two features, 
yes I’m really enjoying making 
a-symmetrics and getting great 
successes using twin-fins forehand 
and something like a quad or a 
thruster on the backhand.
You were a big part of defining 
design of modern surfboard 
design, but where do you see 
the next innovations coming from?
Good question. We’re redoing a lot 
of late '60s and early '70s designs 
with the modern understanding of 
rocker and we’re getting some 
tremendous results. I always 
thought a thruster or a quad were 
the only boards that could take a 
high-line and maintain it up in the 
roof but the singles we're doing 
now are almost replicating thruster 
performance and it's got great appeal. 
It's a bit more cruisy, not as quite 
much drive but close and certainly 
taking singles into places they never 
could before. I think with the 
influence of people like Alex Knost 
and the Noosa young crew, like 
Harrison Roach – I’ve made boards 
for both of them this year and t
hey’re surfing them differently to 
how we surfed them in the '70s. 
It's got a broad appeal and a really 
attractive style of surfing. Much 
thicker boards with real different 
rails so they’re easy wave catchers, 
but they’re just very exciting boards 
and very good barrel riders.
So I think two things will happen, 
I think we’ll see a-symmetrics continue 
to grow, and world champion designs 
will take a lot of territory too. It's very 
exciting, both those things are very exciting.
In your opinion, what defines a 
good shaper amongst a crowded 
I always use the word designers, and 
shapers. Designers think of new things 
that improve shortboards and come 
up with them and establish them as a 
standard part of surfboard etiquette. 
So you’ve got your Simon Anderson, a 
guy you’ve probably never heard of 
called Vinnie Bryant from Kauai who 
did the first super hard down rail. It 
was a break through. Of course Al 
Merrick – I think Al was the first 
guy to correctly assemble all of the 
ingredients into a shortboard.
There are a thousand shapers that are more accurate than I am and guys who can churn out lots of shapes a day, but I haven’t much respect for them, 'cos machines can do that.
I think by 
'97 or '98 
Nate Bell 
had correctly 
put together 
the modern 
and of course 
it had shrunk 
a little, got 
some of the concave had changed 
a little bit, but he certainly 
introduced putting the power 
under your back-foot and releasing 
the power from your back-foot 
further back, after your back-foot. 
The stuff he made for Tom Curren 
was to me the first correct shortboard. 
So I really admire Al, but I think he’s 
slowed down a lot. I wish he’d keep going.
So it's all about innovation?
You know that shapers thing they 
hold in California where they 
copy a guy's shape? What's it 
called? Sacred Craft. Well I hope 
I never get invited [laughs]. ’Cos 
I’m not that accurate you know. 
There are a thousand shapers that a
re more accurate than I am and guys 
who can churn out lots of shapes a 
day, but I haven’t much respect for 
them, 'cos machines can do that. 
So it's designers that I admire and 
I’m always looking around. Ryan 
Burch is a brilliant designer right 
now. Not just because he’s doing 
a-symmetric but if you see his 
laminates and how he uses carbon 
wrapping around the rails to 
increase or decrease flex, he’s incredible. 
I think Ryan's a real brain – a really 
great designer.
Not that it's particularly viable, 
but in an ideal world would 
you see an industry without 
machines and purely hand-shaped 
boards, with love in each 
individual board?
I think it's highly impractical to 
go back to hand shapes, there's 
no doubt that a good program 
on a machine can produce a really 
well performing board of any genre 
if the program is beautifully developed.

© 2016 - Aitor Molina // PUKAS SURF.
Do you think something is lost in the process?
Hmmmm, yes. There are a lot of people who call themselves board makers when they’ve got no idea. There are very prominent shapers who have never picked up an electric plane in their life, and they wouldn’t really know about rocker and they’re very famous. They might make boards for guys on the tour, but they don’t really know how they’re putting their rockers together, because it's just off a file that they've been handed and they just kept playing with it. But the general public doesn’t know that, it's getting very watered down, 'cos there's so much smoke and mirrors in the industry now. But that's why we don’t go into modern shortboards is because they’re all the same. You overlay them and there's an 8th of an inch here and there and it's just boring. There's no inspiration at all. So yeah there is a lack of inspiration at the moment and that's a bit of a shame.
I'd be planing and he’d just be covered in dust, you could just see two little black nostrils in the dust and that's all you could see of him and he was fine.
So looking forward, how do you think shapers can be more sustainable and environmentally considered in their approach?
I’m sure we're gonna end up with good green resins before long. I don’t think that’ll be too hard. The things we’ve done so far is we’ve had an acetone recycler made, so we’re not throwing out goofy acetone. Another thing is we order only the toughest stringers. Unless it's a really sick board which won’t snap. We’re very anti-snap because the quickest way to reduce landfill issues is to make boards that last longer. In our retro game we're free to produce boards with lots of volume and lots of glass quite often, so our snappage rate is way, way, way down to the standard shortboard.

© 2016 - Aitor Molina // PUKAS SURF.
So that's the first simple contribution, to make boards that don’t break – boards that last for years. We try to make each board an heirloom. We only do 25 a week in Australia and each one is produced with love and care and customised, so after you’ve surfed on it for five or ten years and your kids learned to surf on it or whatever, you can de-wax it and put it on the wall and be proud of it, 'cos it's still a piece of art. Good stringers make a difference and good glassing, but then back into materials, acetone recycling one, looking for green resins, ready ready ready, green foams gonna be a bit tougher. Although there's effort, the foams a little weak, a little spongey but it could happen, it should happen.
My wife was up on the lighthouse at Byron last week and there were big schools of pilchards and the bronze whalers, big sharks, were just carving through them.
Glass is not that dirty a product. Within the industry itself the cleanliness issues aren’t that serious. Hey I’m 71 and I’ve shaped 50 to 60 thousand boards and I don’t wear a mask when I’m sanding. I wear glasses now and it fogs up my glasses. I only wear a mask when I’m planing cos there's so much dust in the air then.
My dog died when he was 14, I got the vet to analyse his lungs and he was clean. He slept in the foam dust. Literally I'd be planing and he’d just be covered in dust, you could just see two little black nostrils in the dust and that's all you could see of him and he was fine. It’s pretty clear that polyurethane dust is a neutral product, you slog it out. So the shaping, not an issue, same with the styrene fumes, it quits your body in 24 hours. Barry Bennet, from Bennett foam, he’s 83 and he’s blowing foam everyday. Him and I are like the coal mine canaries you know and we’re very healthy.

© 2016 - Aitor Molina // PUKAS SURF.
After all the shark attacks this year, what's the mood like in Australia?
The mood is actually quite scary. There's a lot of guys that've barely surfed during the winter. I was lucky in that I got away to the Maldives and Bali and had a lot of waves. My mates that I usually call up to go surfing with are like hmm, maybe I won’t. It's scary everyone's hanging together in crowds. I mean Lennox point’s still crowded and the Pass and some of the other good banks in town are still crowded but everyone feels safe in a crowd.
Same with great whites, there were a lot of them around. Quite often we'd keep a shark spotter on the rocks at The Pass.
We get about 20,000 whales passing through every year and a third of them are dropping a calf, there's so many placentas floating about that I think the call is out right across the Pacific. It was whale placenta feast time and they were rolling up in vast numbers.
Literally every surfer is trying to hang with the crowds, which is really strange 'cos that's the one thing we’re all into is solo surfing and hunting uncrowded waves. Now we're thinking hmmm I might just go surf the regulars – reduce the odds. Far out, it's weird.

© 2016 - Aitor Molina // PUKAS SURF.
My wife was up on the lighthouse at Byron and there were big schools of pilchards and the bronze whalers – big sharks – were just carving through them. That used to be standard conduct back in the ‘60s. Same with great whites, there were a lot of them around. Quite often we'd keep a shark spotter on the rocks at The Pass, but then there were a few attacks in the '60s too, but there were far less surfers of course. But it's like the '60s again, like a cycle.
We haven’t seen the bronze whalers carving through the pilchards for about 10, 15, 20 years. It used to be an annual event. It was scary, before leg ropes, you’d fall off in amongst a school of pilchards and then you could body surf a six inch ripple. But yeah it's getting scary again.
(*interview conducted in August 2015)
Check out the McTavish boards we have in stock here, including a few he hand-shaped during his time in the Pukas factory in the Basque Country.

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