Photographer: Tom Pearsall
Venue: White Elephant Beach Cafe (Barefoot Beach Weddings)
Mat Manners is a name synonymous with surfing in Margaret River. Young or old every keen surfer has seen the crown of his logo on boards in every lineup. We recently caught up with Matt in his shaping factory to find out a little more about where this stalwart of the surfing community came from.
After a childhood of down south trips Mat’s natural progression led him to a life revolved around surfing. At age 16 he was fixing boards at one of WA’s original surfing institutions, Murray Smith Surf Shop in Scarborough. It only took a year of keen apprenticeship before Mat started shaping his own boards and spending equal time in the states South West, experiencing world class, uncrowded waves.
Decades later a brand recognizable around the world is still being perfected right here in Margaret River. Like any craft, shaping surfboards has taken massive technological leaps in recent years and rather than taking away from the artisanal nature Mat has utilized it to make more and more deliberate adjustments in his boards.
This finesse and understanding that a craft is never truly mastered see Matconsistently at the forefront of modern shaping; with some of the most radically barreled locals, Dino Adrian, Rohan Annesley and son Shaun Manners riding his shapes, it’s plain to see they work. Amazingly. Mat's in-house, top of the range shaping machine allows him to perfect and modify the smallest of changes in each tried and tested model with your specific surfboard dimensions recorded online for when you return to order a new stick.
I'm polishing glasses at the bar I work at when my phone buzzes in my pocket. I pull it out and their is a message from good mate and frothing goofy footer Luke Sarranah, it reads simply "NAMIBIA?".. I laugh to myself and put the phone back in my pocket, "tell him he's dreaming" I think. But.. the seed is planted. It only takes an hour to start to sprout. I float the idea of going to Africa, with two days notice, with my boss, and he's cool as "yeh we can cover you, do it man!".
Now it's a possible reality, I call Luke and get the details and we start frantically working out the logistics of travel and accommodation not to mention how to get to the wave and whether this is a legit swell.
Next minute (seemingly) we are beginning our 24 hour flight to Namibia. We arrive in an environment similar to the Iraq oil fields in the movie 'Jarhead'. Nothing. Just sandy desert to the horizon in every direction and oil pistons jacking away without even a plant as witness. We have officially arrived in Mad Max country, thank god our Saffa' mates are on their way from Cape Town.
The next eight days are an absolute blur.. riding brown serpents for kilometres in Skeleton Bay; stumbling across colonies of seals appearing out of the oppressive mist that shrouds aforementioned bay; being first responders to a car roll over in the absolute middle of nowhere; forced off the road by a convoy of black SUV's; camping in prehistoric river beds under the most vivid sky imaginable, drinking, eating and story telling with hilarious companions and fighting off the mysterious (and most likely imagined) Desert Hyena in the pitch dark of night.
We got lost, found, bogged, tired, happy, sleepless, frightened, brave and above all unexplainably stoked. While we fortunately didn't contract Malaria, Africa did get under our skin and there is a whole world of unfinished adventures there..
Thanks to the legends at Camera Electronic for keeping me supplied with the tools I need, Von Boards for not creasing in testing conditions, Adelio for keeping us warm in the frigid waters of Skeleton Bay, Axiom for the threads, support and inspiration and People of the Salt for their salty tees! Without you guys the road would be that much lonelier!
Get on to the topic of surfing and Lane Alver’s passion for his craft is obvious. His eyes glaze over as he recounts days spent in Murray Smiths shop as a kid which, surprising to himself, didn’t bloom into a shaping career until decades later.
It took over 20 years of hard yards in the surf industry at venues like the iconic Cordingley’s surfboard shop in Scarborough for Lane to finally realise his higher calling. After handling countless surfboards in the shops Lanes eyes and fingers had been unknowingly soaking up the subtleties of rail and rocker. At a relatively late age he decided to bite the bullet and get started on his new-found obsession. By 2000 LAD Surfboards (later to morph into Alver Shapes) was conceived and a hobby was starting to evolve into a new career and a new lifestyle; one totally revolving around the ocean and his family. Everything was on track as the savings and plans associated with the new business reached production levels. The dream was a fingertip away.
23rd of November, 2011 is a day that was literally seared into Margaret River’s history. It was also a day that turned the Alver Surfboard Company’s plans into ashes. The Alver family lost the majority of their house in the notorious fires of 2011 that swept through Prevelly and the surrounds, and years worth of accumulated notes, templates, tools, surfboards and dimensions literally went up in smoke. This was a blessing in disguise for Lanes surfboard shaping career. Although he is adverse to most technologies, he’d fortunately entered his notes into a software program, which in turn streamlined his processes and reduced waste and time to a minimum. Alver Surfboards was back on track.
Today the care and craftsmanship of Lanes surfboards can be witnessed up and down the Southwest under the feet of hundreds of surfers. With the utmost respect for the established shapers of the region Alver is keen to express his position as the new guy on the block, owing the surviving passion within him to the mentorship of the local crew as well as old hands, Matt Manners, Al Bean, Dave Mcauley, Mark Ogram and Murray Smith to name a few.
By Tom Pearsall, Driftwood Photography
I had the pleasure of shooting two amazing humans who have dedicated themselves to each other and now to another.. a new baby boy!
As a celebration I thought I'd post some images from a freezing day in June.. Thanks for braving the cold guys, I wish you all the best with your new family!!