A family outing.
Mozart’s Requiem blasts through the tinny speakers of our ten-seater bright green Juicy rental as we fly round the corners of a wet gravel track. 2X World Champion Tom Carroll is in the driver’s seat, piloting the vehicle at the speed that you’d imagine he would, and in the back, scattered between a mountain of boards and camera gear, are Sydney photographers Chris Grundy and Alex Brunton, South Coast filmer Max Zappas, Eye Symmetry surfboards CEO, shaper and mastermind Max Stewart, myself, and a young surfer from the Central Coast named Oscar Langburne. Zappas and Oscar are taking the piss out of each other at a million miles an hour, the stream of consciousness punctuated with Oscar’s Woody Woodpeckesque laugh, Tom’s delivering a Yoda-style lesson on the properties of local honey being able to counteract the hayfever that Chris has been suffering from since our arrival, and the rest of us are sitting taking in the stunning New Zealand scenery. We’re here to document the latest annual Eye Symmetry artist collab, which this year features the bespoke artwork of Californian artist Mad Steeze. Part professional operation, part National Lampoon’s Vacation; a most wonderful blend.
This now annual project is an exercise in brand identity for the Eye Symmetry family—and family really is the best description of the gaggle hurtling round bends in a bright green and purple machine. The gent with his hand on the metaphorical wheel of the company, Max, looks at the whole surfboard slightly different than most, believing in the surfboard as a usable piece of art rather than a disposible comoddity, and showcasing this is more or less the ethos of the annual trip. In the van are nine boards—four for Oscar and five for Tom, and they’re honestly some of the most visually striking surfboards that I’ve seen. The colours are rich and each print compliments the model for which it was created perfectly. The idea is to shoot the pop of the colour of the boards against the oily water and black sand of New Zealand’s west coast, with Tom and Oscar representing the two bookends of the modern surfing spectrum.
The Mad Symmetry boards come in three flavours, and between them have every kind of condition imaginable covered. The Turtle Twin (middle) is a modern take on the keel fin fish, updated to combine manoeuvrability with speed through flat sections. Oscar put the twin through its paces as a slopey black sand beachbreak to spectacular effect, (the slow-mo footage of which you can see in the clip below). The Lucid Eye (left) is your everyday go to hi-performance shortboard but with a few features that’ve been refined through countless hours of r and d. The Six Feet (uh, right) is where Tom Carroll comes into his own. A refined blend of the designs that Max, Tom, and iconic Californian shaper Pat Rawson have worked together to produce—the step up was the go to for Tom when the difficult-to-surf Raglan started to hit the double overhead mark. The boards were put to work at points, beachies and river mouths over the two weeks of the trip, and it’s safe to say that they worked just fine. Max leaves little to be desired when it comes to the attention to detail with his boards, and I was amazed to find out that he’d made all the boards for Tom and Osc—start to finish as he laminates and glasses them too—in just over a week.
One of the truly unique things about the trip was the age difference between the two surfers, and the shared characteristics that it amplified. Tom Carroll’s been continually travelling since the age of 16 and it’s reflected in his Qantas gold status and his ability to go with the flow in any situation. An education earned on the road is as valuable (perhaps more so) than any you’ll achieve in the traditional sense. That’s not to say that staying in school is a waste of time, it’s just that the things that you learn on the road are far more applicable to real life. Like how to effectively crash on a couch, and not get stressed out if the waves aren’t good, or if you’re hungry and everyone’s taking too long to get ready, and they’re things that at the tender age of 14 Oscar, with a little guidance from sensei Tom, is starting to master. It’s not often that you’ll find seven males with ages ranging from the age of 14-to-55 travelling in unison and having the amount of fun that we had, but that’s the special thing about this little surfboard company. There’s no end of ways to spend the time that you’re gifted in this increasingly maddening world, and having spent time with Tom, Oscar and the rest of the gang, I couldn’t help thinking that surfing must be one of the most enlightening and worthwhile ways imaginable to dwindle away the hours; it sure made me re-evaluate my desk-bound existence when I was back at work the next week.