Dave is looking drawn and haggard. “I’ve been off work this whole week with bad stomach flu.” He says, leaning heavily on a table.“I’ve got a 40km trail-run on the weekend.” He mumbles defeatedly. Then with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he looks up and says, “But my wife is in Mozambique, so she can’t stop me from running it.”
DVG, as he’s become known, loves trail running as much as he loves crafting surfboards. “It’s like surfing used to be for me, with just 4 or 5 guys out. Trail running is all about the solitude for me.”
He started shaping big boards 16 years ago when he got a call from Ozzie pro surfer Paul Patterson, who asked him to shape two 9 footers for him. “Until then, I hadn’t shaped anything bigger than a 7’ 6”, so I was just guessing. I went and looked at some big wave guys boards and just tried to figure it out from there.” Patterson loved them and left the boards here. The local guys rode them and loved them too and so the orders came in. “I was just really lucky that Paul called me. It’s that simple.”
We met Dave in his Kommetjie factory, where Neil Webster was now peppering him with questions for the video piece he’s shooting. “Is your mindset different when you shape big boards?” He asks. “Everybody has a special bag of needs.” DVG answers slowly. “There’s a basic small board formula that works, but there’s no formula for big boards. Guys want to do stuff to push their personal limits, to live their dream and they want you to help them become supernatural and overcome their fear. They want you to give them confidence.” Webster nods and tugs at his prolific facial hair and asks, “Have big boards changed over the years?” Dave responds, “Well, it’s changing all the time. Guys are riding bigger and bigger waves. The riders are fitter, their needs on the wave are changing and we’re able to watch what other guys around the world are doing. But, it goes full circle ‘cause at the end of the day the boards need to be balanced. When they’re balanced, then guys can ride them better. They need to paddle through the water. There needs to be flow and ease through the water.”
“Ahhhh, ok that’s good.” says Webster, adjusting his scarf against icy air that’s sneaking in through a gap in the glass door behind him. “How important is feed back to you?” He says absentmindedly, still fiddling with his scarf.
“I’m not a big wave surfer, so feedback is everything to me.” Says Dave assertively. “I value it more than anything. In fact, bad feedback can be even better than good feedback. A ‘magic’ board is difficult to replicate perfectly, especially when I made it months or years ago. But with a bad board I can see what’s wrong immediately. It’s a physical thing. I feel like I can see my mistakes and learn from them.”
Both Webster and DVG have spent a lot of time with Greg Long over the years and so Webster knows the answer to his next question, but he asks it anyway. “What’s your relationship been with Greg Long and how has that affected your career?”
“Greg was 19 when he arrived here.” Laughs Dave. “He was just tagging along as Rusty’s kid brother. He’s an incredible guy. A real professional. When I shaped his boards he gave me a lot of freedom. He wasn’t too specific. He had faith in me to make boards for the waves he was surfing. Greg is probably the reason that I’ve been able to go and shape in the States and Europe over the years.” Dave rubs his chin and looks over at the sliding door that’s still guiltily leaking cold air into the room. Webster’s almost finished now. “What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned as a shaper Dave?” Webster asks.
He pauses for a long time, then answers thoughtfully. “It’s been hard for me to learn that I can’t make everybody happy. When I’ve tried to do that, I’ve ended up unhappy. I found that if I’m happy, then I’ll make other people happy too, by making them the right boards. I wish I could shape big boards for everyone. Believe me, there are some people I’ve tried very hard to please, but in the end its a personality thing and you can’t please everyone. It’s like a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, you’re not going to marry the first person you go out with.You go out with a few people. You’ve got to find someone who covers your needs. It’s the same with shapers and surfers I guess.”