Banjo Harfield - Banjo Surfboards
Banjo Harfield is a true character – a man with a great vision and that shines through in the craft he creates under his Banjo Surfboards label.
Banjo! Mate! Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Banjo Harfield and I’m 25. Banjo Surfboards started 5 years ago in December 2013 when I began designing, cutting, shaping and glassing all of my boards out of the 4D surfboards factory in Ocean Grove.
In September 2010, when I was 17 and still at school, my shaper Simon Forward (Fordy) offered me a job sweeping up and running the machines in his factory. That led me to learning the ins and outs of cutting surfboards on CNC machines, and how to design boards using 3D shaping software.
I was, and still am, heavily mentored by Ken Reimers (KR Surfboards), a Master and perfectionist in every aspect of surfboards, especially his computer design and shaping abilities. Almost everything I know now I owe to what KR has taught me over 8 years and his discipline to get everything perfect.
Prior to creating my own label in 2013, I was learning to glass and repair boards for Allan Rousel (Rousa) for a year, before Fordy built an area at 4D Surfboards for me to glass both his and my boards.
Since then I’ve progressed to designing and cutting my own surfboards and fins on the CNC, airbrushing artworks, hand-laminating and sanding a variety of resins.
What inspired you to start shaping?
I don’t really know what inspired me, probably just the feeling you get when you do a cutty! My Dad got my brother Gus and I into surfing when I was 11 or 12, and used to take us and all our mates surfing all over the Surf Coast in his bus. “The Gus Bus”. Gus and I surfed Ocean Grove and 13th Beach every day (before or after school), and were quite competitive against each other. Looking back, Gus definitely inspired me.
KR’s history and ability in the factory (and in the surf) inspires the hell out of me too because he’s so good at everything he does - working, surfing, fishing. Everything! Growing up around the factory, Fordy has also been inspiring because he tears the back out of every wave he gets, and he’s hands down the friendliest bloke I have ever met.
Lately, very long, in-depth discussions – better known as “board meetings” - with mates Darcy Day (Baby Surfboards) and Shyama Buttonshaw (Shyama Designs) always leave me super inspired to shape, as we are all on such different journeys in our surfing and shaping!
What’s the best thing about being a shaper?
I think the best thing about my job is that I can go surfing whenever I want, meaning I can generally score pretty good waves around home and fairly regularly, so I tend to get a bit spoilt. Over the years I have spent a bit of time away on surf trips around Australia, Indo and Mexico. Hunting good waves heavily influences my designs. Ultimately, I shape boards the way I want them to look. If someone wants a board from me, I will design it from one of the boards I am riding, and customize the size and volume to suit them and the way they surf, or the waves the like to surf.
What inspires the boards you shape?
I like to look at really clean, simple curves on boards. For example, rail tape-ups and pin lines, because they really accentuate the shape of the board. As for colour combos, I’ve got no idea what will look good, so I generally just make it up on the spot. Lately, I’ve been creating artwork on design programs, cutting and spraying stencils from Fordy’s vinyl cutter, which is good fun and in my opinion looks rad.
The traditional processes and waste associated with the production of surfboards is fucked. There are new materials always coming out that are supposedly more bio-degradable, although the steps required to turn them into a surfboard in my opinion aren’t a great deal better. The only true resolution to the problem I can see is through advancements in technology; 3D printers will soon be able to build seamless designs from start to finish, using completely different materials, with little-to-no waste at all. At the moment this technology is far too expensive and not feasible. But as it goes with all technology, in a few years’ time, it will become possible.
You make your own fins, how important is this in your ideation and shaping process?
Since making my own fin templates, I’ve been experimenting with a few different variations; thrusters, twins and quads. KR shaped me this twinny-style quad which performed amazing through turns, so I decided to shape one for myself and stumbled upon my all-time favorite board. It’s a 6’2” x 18 ½” x 2 3/8” swallow tail with a constant-curve rocker and twinny-style (bigger front fins with small rear fins out on the rail, with a tighter cluster) quad made from EPS and epoxy materials. This board is the first “magic” board I’ve made myself, as it carries so much speed and drive through turns and is also loose and maneuverable in all conditions that I’ve surfed it in. The epoxy construction adds to the lively, springy feeling, with adequate glass layering to bring weight and strength up. It doesn’t feel like most “lightweight, corky” epoxy boards. I’m completely sold on this fin configuration and I don’t think I will make anything else for myself... possibly ever.
If someone orders a board from you, what can they expect?
If someone comes to me for a board, they will get one of my boards. I’ve never made a board to please anyone but myself, and I intend on keeping it that way. I don’t see my label as a business, rather an extremely stimulating hobby which allows be to go surfing more often. All of my designs and ideas come from the experience I get out of riding my boards, and relating what I want to feel into the next design. The same goes for customers.
If you had a model that you wanted to ride forever, what would it be, and which local spot would it be at?
I could ride my quad setup forever; it’s always surprising me with limitless lines that can be drawn on a wave. But if I told you where I would surf it, I think I would have to kill you! Haha.
How do you feel about giving URBNSURF’s wave pool a go?
A wave pool seems like the ultimate testing ground, I’m sure it’s the same for every shaper. It may not resemble or feel exactly like a wave in the ocean, but the chance to ride a perfect wave over and over, to practice and repeat the same maneuvers, and feel how a board is performing is fundamental in advancing shapes and materials. I think the wave pool will be hell fun, and lead to making better surfboards, therefore I would most certainly, 200% be down to surf the pool!
Looking at footage of how the prototype Cove works and breaks in Spain, I would make a slightly flatter, shorter and wider version of my favourite twinny-style quad. Maybe 5’11” x 19” x 2 3/8” with a removable 1” keel on the tail for hold on my backhand. This design and fin configuration is the most versatile shape I’ve ever made, and not knowing exactly what the waves in the pool will be like, this is my best guess (and chance) at enjoying the experience to the fullest!