Name: Blake Peters
Field: Surfboard Shaper
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Background, where you’re from, etc
Well I’ve lived on Sydney’s Northern Beaches my whole life, spending most of my time surfing around Mona Vale. My family roots are in sailing, running right back to my Great Grand Father who had one of the first houses on Paradise Beach in Avalon in the early 1900’s. They always had boats. My dad was Australian champ as a kid but got into surfing so that ruined things for him. My dad always surfed so I was always hanging at the beach as a young kid, I cant remember not having some sort of board under my arm but I really got serious around 8-9 years old.
How did you get your start in the surfboard industry? Was it something that you had always wanted to do or something that you fell into?
When i was a grom, I was surfed obsessed, so when it came time to look for a job, I wasnt really looking for anything other than something to do with surfing. I got a job with this ding repair guy up at Collaroy Plateau and that’s where I learnt alot of the basics and where I began mucking around with foam and fiber glass. I was about 16 at the time.
Then when I finished school I decided to study marketing, the course specialised in the surfing industry and I worked at a few of the big companies but it was when I walked into Luke Shorts factory in Mona Vale to buy some spare resin to fix my boards that he offered me a job. Luke and I had been talking in Wicks surf shop one day while I was working there
and he remembered me and was looking for someone to run his showroom and do a few bits and pieces around the factory.
That’s where it all started for me… I worked for Luke on and off for about 2 years between study and travel. After a solid stint over seas, I came back and Luke had moved but Sean Wilde and Damien Merry were still there and I had decided while I was away that I really wanted to learn how to shape. They showed me what I needed and then I got the chance to start a little business doing dings and making some boards for friends. Soon enough, the boards became my main priority and the rest is history.
Who are some of your inspirations?
My biggest inspiration was Luke Short, I’ve also always looked up to Chilli, Steve Zoeller, Sean Wilde, Pete Daniels and Mark Gnech. They are all guys I’ve been around since I started.
How did Panda come into existence?
I never wanted to call my boards Blake Peters Shapes, it’s just the same as every other guy out there shaping. I wanted something I could build a brand around that was catchy, fun and interesting and for some reason I chose Panda and it stuck!
Did you find it hard making a name for yourself in what is quite a
YES! It’s so hard and I still feel like I’m really trying to forge a name in the industry after almost 9 years. I dont feel i’m there just yet but i’m definitely on my way. It’s extremely hard trying to differentiate yourself from the other brands.
How did the US come into the fold? Was it always a part of the plan for Panda?
The US happened because i’ve been making boards for Ford Archbold for the last 3 years and he is the one that lured me there. I went over a few years ago while a mate was working there for a few months. I hung out, made some boards and just sussed the place out. I went back the next year, did the same thing but something clicked in my head and I decided to come back 1 month later to do the summer. Now I’ve done 2 full summers and the brand is really starting to kick over there.
I’ve noticed lately, and I’m sure it has been happening for a while, that young Aussie’s are really killing it in their respective fields over here in the US. The carefree, no bullshit, forward thinking attitude of Aussies in the States
seems to really go well here. What are your thoughts on this?
I find that people in the US do generally really like the Aussies and if you’re nice to them and show respect and have a carefree fun attitude it takes you a long way over there. I found that in my field, the market was begging for something fresh over there, but also with a bigger market it’s easier to grow a brand and get more awareness. I also feel that what is
going on over here with surfboards is a lot more creative and definitely has a much different look which the Americans are loving. It’s the land of opportunities with so much more going on over there and if you can tap into something you’re likely to succeed.
How did you hook up with Ford Archbold? He seems like a perfect fit for what you have going on. You’re both up-and-comers in your field and both seem to be willing to try things a little different from the status quo, which seems to be the easiest way to get noticed in the surf industry these days.
Ford was out here is Aus about 4 years ago and I just hit him up about boards and we hung out and surfed. A year later, he came back and had really liked the first boards, so we did some more and he really liked them and got a whole bunch of coverage on them so we decided to make it official and he joined the team. Since then, we have experimented with alot of
different stuff and his approach to surfing has totally changed. He wont touch a normal shortboard these days which has pushed me to think outside the box. It seems like the weirder we go with shapes and combine strange ideas of his the more people notice and like what I’m doing. Gone are the days of building a surfboard company based purely on plain
white high performance weapons, no one cares!
What do you see as the next big thing in surfboard design? This could be actual shape, design or material.
Right now I don’t think materials will change too much, it’s been pretty much the same for the last 40 years, just a few tweaks and different processes. I think there will be some design changes but nothing too major. Look at how much the shapes have changed in the last 5 years! It will just continue to evolve….
With carbon neutral, green everything, being the on trend words in the world at the moment, have you looked into any eco friendly materials or approaches? It seems that, at the moment, if you go eco, the performance level of the board drops a
I have looked into using epoxy resin made from tree sap and a few different things but they didnt look as good. If customers weren’t so concerned with how white their board was and the cost, then we could make a really eco friendly board. I think you can make a board still perform really well being eco friendly, I just dont think there is a real want for it as much as I would prefer to be doing it. In saying that, I’m now at a stage in my career where I want to try new materials and play with different ways of making boards.
If a young wannabe shaper asked your advice on getting started, what would be your best advice? For someone not closely related to an existing shaper, it might seem a bit daunting because its not something that is easily available or
I would say buy a planer and a blank and have a go. It’s really the only way. Go to your local shaper and ask if they can show you some basics to get started. A shaper is only going to show you so much, none of them tend to want to give away too much. Its all trial and error. You pretty much have to teach yourself. If you hang around your shaper enough, you never know, he might give you the start you need. In the US, there are some places teaching shaping now which is cool but
there isn’t anything like that here in Aus.
Any last words?
Dont be affraid to try something new. Get off the marketing hype surrounding the big brands, because when it comes down to it, your local shaper can probably make boards as good, or better!