Walking into Pete Dwyer’s Osborne Park workshop, you couldn’t feel further from the ocean – heat rising off the bitumen, cars streaming down Scarborough Beach Road, direct sunlight saturating every warehouse and discount furniture showroom in sight. Then you turn a corner, beelining for the hole-in-the-wall occupied by Dwyer, and you see it – a salt-whipped 4WD with multiple boards stacked on top, more boards awaiting repair peeking through the roller door, and Dwyer himself, shoeless, salty-haired and welcoming in the way only someone who spends the majority of their time in the ocean can be.
Dwyer probably wouldn’t call himself a professional surfboard shaper, but he is perhaps a professional in the art of experimentation. His relationship with surfing and shaping boards starts with his father, who used to do ding repairs in the family’s back shed and eventually, sick of constantly buying new boards for his keen sons, started encouraging them to make their own.
“He went and bought us the raw materials for two or three boards – I probably made four for myself and they were all really bad,” Dwyer laughs. “But they got better quickly.”
Finding his stride in shaping boards for his mates over the last six years, Dwyer has developed a highly customised approach to his craft. “Every board that I make is different depending on who it’s going to be for, the way they surf, the waves they surf,” he says.
“I’ll make a board for somebody and then get to go surfing with them for a week, watch how they ride it, how it sits in the water, get their feedback, and then use that insight for the next board.”
Beyond an insatiable love of surfing, it’s this constant evolution and adaptation that seems to keep Dwyer interested in shaping – not just that of his own repertoire, but also that of surfboard shaping throughout the sport’s history.
“In the 60’s, they had a certain type of surfing that was considered the best and it was very different to what’s considered good surfing now. It was about how close you could ride to the pocket of the wave, how long you could stay in the pocket, all about nose riding, all about style.”
Dwyer says that much of his inspiration comes from the late 60’s, when shapers went through a “crazy experimental transformation” from big longboards to irregularly shaped and increasingly radical shortboards. “Learning about all of the design features shapers were playing with then – it’s interesting to revisit them now and explore them a bit more,” he says. “I take a lot of inspiration from the designs that got a little bit lost between longboarding and shortboarding.”
Of course, this means that the resulting boards might not always work on the water as planned. “My boards are nowhere near perfect,” Dwyer explains. “They’ve always got little blemishes in them. I kind of like the character that gives them – not that affects the quality – but just little signs that you know it’s handmade by one person.”
But with the end of his Osborne Park lease nearing and the need for a hiatus growing, Dwyer has a new endeavour in store – and it reflects a slight change in direction.
He’s just launched Moonshine Surfboards alongside fellow swell chaser Jack Medland, where the emphasis will be on creating more traditionally shaped boards for purchase at North Fremantle surf retailer Oceanstyle.
“They’re still experimental styles for me, they’ve just been done before in the 60’s,” Dwyer says. “It’s been good surfing and shaping a different style of board.”
Moonshine’s first run of boards were released in December, with an exhibition of the boys’ collection of what they dub “marine leisure vehicles” held at Oceanstyle the brand’s official welcoming. They’ve already sold out.
“We’ve got another batch coming,” Dwyer assures me.