Talkin' bout an evolution

We wanted to profile Matt Barrow. We are super proud that Matt is our Executive Shaper - a man dedicated to his family, surfing and shaping boards. CARVE asking a few questions - this man has his finger on the board making pulse - and there's some real interesting stuff in here.

Name? Matt Barrow
Age? 38 
Years shaping? 20
Brands shaped? 
Lots. Working in Oz from 97, I was taught the fundamentals of shaping by Gregg Brown at the Gash Factory, Torquay where the first Quiksilver boards were made. Sanding at Local Motion factory in Ballina and met Cleghorn, Gunter Rohn, Brian Ingham and Tony Cerff.  These guys really taught me the business of shaping.
Back in Europe I learnt production glassing from Mike Ryan which is fundamental to making great boards. As Pukas’s in-house shaper I worked with resident shapers Bruce Mckee and Peter Daniels and visiting ones such as Jeff Johnston, Brian Ingham, Peter Daniels, Steve Wilson, Gunter Rohn, Matt Biolos, Reno Abaleira, Milton Whilar, Darren Handley, Jed Noll, Pat Rawson and Luke Short – learned a lot more. And in 2001  I learnt how to use the DSD pre-shaping machine and CAD software (thanks to T & C head shaper Jeff Johnston - who has been a great mentor to me). I also had the opportunity to shape Rusty surfboards in Europe for 3 years.
From 2008 to the present been shaping “Matt Barrow Surfboards” in Spain for Soul Surfboards and Rip Curl along with Jeff Johnston Designs, Bear and Ce Ce Surfboards. I have probably shaped more than 15000 boards to date.
What was your biggest selling model (and dimensions) back then & what is your biggest selling model now?
Back THEN:  6’0 18 ¼ 2 ¼ RSQ shortboard. I had just started selling boards. They were a lot thinner and narrower then, remember Kelly Slater’s boards?
NOW: Biggest seller today is the Soul Stumpy: 5’11, 19 7/8”,  2 1/4” – it’s a fish with a shortboard rocker, triple winger, swallow tail. Goes real well.
What has been the biggest/ most influential change in surfboard design over the last twenty years?
More about evolution than revolution – surfers willing to try different ranges of boards; evolving the designs working with professional surfers and regular customers. I’ve been honoured to work with some of the best shapers in the world. People who have been so generous in sharing the knowledge. And we learn from each other, trying things out, seeing what works …. innovating. The range of boards people choose from has never been so big and its so much easier for surfers to choose a shape that works in the conditions they are going to surf in.
What cutting edge designs are you working on in 2014?
Its right across the range – building on last years models – all my boards see changes each year. And working with other shapers like Scott Crump to bring new shapes to the UK. It’s a really exciting time to be shaping. My new project is creating Endeavour Surf – we figured it was time to bring some new shapes and designs along with some well proven ones to the UK. I’m really stoked to be launching this now. Buy some boards!
How do you feel looking back on the development of the shaping programs and machines and the fuss they caused on launch?
I never really understood the reluctance to adopt the technology – and you can buy open source machines that will let you mill boards at home these days. It doesn’t take away the skill – its just that the designs are much closer to finished when the blanks are cut – I still finish them by hand to get exactly the finish my customers want – and I can make minor changes both at the finishing stage or quickly alter the dimensions on the CAD programme. It’s also a way to share designs and make boards under licence designed by other shapers but only if they trust you to finish them properly and respect their designs. It’s a way of shapers spreading their ideas. 
Would you go back to hand shaping or is computer design too advanced and accurate?
Because I finish them by hand I still have the feel of the boards – its true that the shapes need hands and eyes and maybe a bit of soul to create them completely in the first place – and then we can achieve consistency using CAD and CNC and hand finishing.
What would you see as the biggest development on the horizon the next twenty years?
We think that fin design is a big open space - and we are experimenting with some radical new ideas. That’s all I’m saying for now on the subject.
Do you see any new changes in materials or processes used over the next twenty years?
The thing about materials is that they need to be considered along with the board shapes. Stronger and lighter construction changes the flex and buoyancy of the board - so naturally the shapes that we have evolved over the past 50 years don't necessarily work with new materials. There are lots of options in construction but the shapes need to be developed to work with the new materials - and if you need to re-tool every time you change a design then the shapes are going to take a long time to catch up with what works now. There's a reason that professional surfers use glass and foam boards - they work real well.
We've been experimenting with 3D printing as a quick way to build components and test our new fin ideas - this works well - we can imagine that parts of the tail might be well suited to using such technology as a way of making shapes it would be hard to do in any other way. 
Manufacturing is in revolution at the moment – technology is becoming democratised and as it does it becomes available to allow shapers to develop their boards quickly without massive tooling costs. So we will start to see some real progress in board construction and shapes that can exploit the materials properly. 
But right now it just feels better working in glass and foam.