Delft, a collection of ten artworks and a single artist proof – the sleek, 1975 white Pipeline Gun as shaped by Spider Murphy in its original, unadorned form. Ten artists and designers were tapped to create artwork for ten new Pipeline Guns, and asked to work within the theme of Delftware, limiting their palettes to the cobalt hues which gave this 16th Century Dutch style of pottery its distinctive appearance.

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The Delft Portfolio

This project was inspired by an encounter between Dutchmann's founder, Gavin Rooke and master surfboard craftsman, Spider Murphy in Durban in 2012. A spritely 70 years old, who continues to shape new boards every day, Spider introduced Gavin to the 1975 Pipeline Gun – a unique 7'10" surfboard that led Shaun Tomson to win the 1975 Hawaii Masters and reshaped the future of surfing across the globe.

The story of its making, and the skill, dedication and imagination invested in that making, spurred an idea to showcase Spider's work by collaborating with a select group of artists and designers to create a new series of objects.

Richard Hart

Richard Hart

Michael McGarry

Michael McGarry

Frances Goodman

Frances Goodman

Jonathan Barnbrook

Jonathan Barnbrook

Gustav Greffrath

Gustav Greffrath

Asha Zero

Asha Zero

Olivier Schildt

Olivier Schildt

Anton Kannemeyer

Anton Kannemeyer

Givan Lötz

Givan Lötz

Roelof Petrus Van Wyk

Roelof Van Wyk

The Shaping

Each board in the series starts with a moulded blank – a block of polyurethane foam with a wooden strip, or 'stringer', glued down the centre. The board is milled down to the exact measurements of Shaun Tomson's 1975 Pipeline Gun, before being shaped, planed and sanded by Spider until it is as smooth and symmetrical as possible. The shaped blank is then encased in fibreglass roving and resin, smoothed by hand and then polished.

shaping

The Fin

The traditionally laminated and custom handmade fin is permanently installed on the board using fibreglass roving and resin. Each fin is handcrafted by Maisch, the small, family-run business on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal who supplied the 1975 original and to this day continue to hand-shape surfboard fins. Each fin takes approximately 5 hours of skilled labour and comprise 6oz of Hexcel glass and C.S.M. Combo using high grade resin.

fin

The Artwork

Once the fin is installed, the surfboard is handed over to the artist, who works directly on its surface. Once completed, the artwork is sealed with an additional layer of resin before the entire board is polished to a high gloss finish. Several of the artists who created artwork for Delft provided digital files which were printed onto a fiberglass-like cloth in Australia by Inlayz, before being laid onto the board and sealed.

artwork

The Master
Spider Murphy

Since shaping his first board in 1963, Spider Murphy has become one of the world's most influential and prolific surfboard makers. A master craftsman with over of 45 years of shaping experience, he has worked with some of surfing's legends to create boards that have redefined the limits of surfing, all from his shaping bay in Durban, South Africa. As Spider says, "This is where the curve of today was developed."

artwork

How did you first start surfing?

At school we were all junior lifesavers or cadets at Brighton Beach and we learned to surf on 'Dumper' boards. My grandfather bought me a little wooden 'Dumper' board and I tried it out and thought, "Wow, this is great." The older lifesavers would arrive on their longboards and catch quite large waves. Some had foam boards, some wooden, some fiberglass… they would wipe out and roll all the way to the beach. We would run and grab their boards, run away and catch a couple of waves before they got to us.

When was that?

That was in the early 60s. The boards were so big and we were only kids. We wanted to surf, but we wanted to surf boards our size. So I ended up going to a refrigeration company and buying 3 foot blocks of Styrofoam, putting them together and shaping an 8' x 6' out of them. I had no tools, so I got my mom's bread knife, drew out a pattern and cut the shape out like that. Straightened it out with some sandpaper and did all the rails [the edges of the board] with a cheese grater – it's all I could find. I bought some epoxy resin, some cloth, blasted it, put some colour on… two days later I was surfing. That's how I got into it and then eventually I started making a couple of boards for friends and it slowly picked up and I started shaping. I got a trade as a carpenter just to learn the tools, but eventually I was making so many boards I had to resign.

How did you learn to shape surfboards?

I watched one or two people shape along the way, but mostly it was me, waking up at 2 o' clock in the morning, taking a block of foam and shaping it down. I put photographs of surfers on the wall, looking at the flow of the water coming off the board and imagining the water flowing across the board, round the board, going in all directions. The whole time, you're shaping that board to fit to wherever the surfers want to go. They give us the information and tell us what they're looking for and we adjust accordingly.

What makes a good board?

First, it must have a good plain shape. The 'rock' of it must flow. If you run your hands down the rails, they should flow evenly. If something pops out or if the one side is thicker than the other – that shows that the shaper hasn't had his heart in it. I can tell a good board from a bad one straightaway. Just by looking.

What makes one shaper different from another?

Everyone has their own style. It's in the way they finish their noses off, the rail shape they use and the plan shape as well. I can look at boards from around the world and I can see, I don't have to look at the label, I know who did it just by the look of it. America, Australia, Hawaii – they all have their own styles because of the different breaks [waves]. We actually picked up on those styles when we were young shapers. Mike Diffenderfer [an influential shaper from California] was my hero because he did these beautiful curves. I just liked the way he shaped. He wouldn't use a template. He'd draw out the shape and cut it with a saw. He'd be shaping from the heart, you know, he was a true artist.

What makes for a good shaper?

The top shapers work hard and they put their heart into it. They don't really worry about the money too much. They do the best job they can and everything else just flows from that. At the moment, Al Merrick is the top shaper. He has the best surfers in the world. All the guys come to him. That's why he's the best, because he gets such good feedback from the riders and they tell him what is and isn't good, and he adjusts the whole time.

So the relationship between the shaper and the surfer is really important? Tell me more about your relationship with South African Surfing Word Champion, Shaun Tomson, and the board you made for him, the Pipeline Gun, how did that come about? Because when Shaun took the 'Pipe Masters' in 1975 and the World Championship title in 1977 that's what made your name, right?

That board was total instinct. Shaun was very fired up at that age and we would go back and forth about the designs. "How wide should we make the tail? How much rock should be put in?" There were no boundaries – just go. So, that made me totally freak and that's probably why that board happened.

So your shape responded to his style of surfing?

Ja, it actually changed surfing because it gave the guys the ability to surf back-handed in the tube, way back in the barrel, which is the way Shaun surfed. All the legends were running for cover basically, because they couldn't do that.

And you're still working on new shapes? Trying to make better boards?

We're trying to make the boards faster and as maneuverable as possible. We're finding that making them even shorter is helps the surfers accelerate even faster. And I'm also putting a bit of volume on the nose for paddling and then gouging off the tail thickness. I'm lucky you know, the beach is my backyard. I can make a board, run down, surf it, run back again, adjust it. I have hardcore surfers and my team surfers too and they jump on the boards and give me feedback.

What inspires you to keep shaping?

You know, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a rockstar or a racing-car driver or something like that. But they were all too greasy. I found surfing so cleansing. When you feel a bit down, you just run, jump in the ocean, paddle out and go surf. Come back and you feel like a new person. It's such an amazing sport. To see young kids and the way their eyes just light up when they see the surfboards – they can't wait to get to the beach – I know the feeling and I just enjoy giving that to them.

Are you still excited by what you do?

I'm always designing new shapes and testing them myself. I'm mixing all my experience and the new technology together, which is amazing. It's very exciting for me. Basically it feels like a hobby. It's work, but it's not really work.

What do you think about what artists and designers do with the boards?

I think it's amazing. It's so refreshing to see how they come out… so different from each other. It's very inspiring. In the 70s, with Shaun Tomson and the 'pink banana' I made for him, everyone wanted those boards with the red frame. Then an artist comes along and does something different and you look at the board from a different angle. People look for something different. They like to see what comes out of different artists. The artwork is part of the board. It's the first thing that hits you when you look at a board, so it makes a big impact.

How do you feel about your boards being exhibited at an art fair?

Geez, very privileged. It's nice to have the boards seen as an art form of course. There are lots of reasons for that –the beautiful curves and the flows and finishes and colour. You know, one little thing can make the whole surfboard look bad. All those things have got to be right. So, ja no, I think it's amazing.

Order Online

The Delft boards are available to purchase from $1,500 depending on selection and availability…

Richard Hart

Richard Hart

Michael McGarry

Michael McGarry

Frances Goodman

Frances Goodman

Jonathan Barnbrook

Jonathan Barnbrook

Gustav Greffrath

Gustav Greffrath

Asha Zero

Asha Zero

Olivier Schildt

Olivier Schildt

Anton Kannemeyer

Anton Kannemeyer

Givan Lötz

Givan Lötz

Roelof Petrus Van Wyk

Roelof Van Wyk

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