Other than the development of the wetsuit, RIP Jack O’Neill, the progression to the modern day surf board has had the most profound effect on the surfing world. Instead of just solely having the wooden long boards as ridden by Hawaiian royalty of old, we now have a whole range of boards. This has allowed for different styles of surfing to develop and incorporate the airs and turns now associated with pro surfing.
Hand making board is very much a skilled craft and one such shaper is Simon Day of FitzRoy Surf Co. Based in the North East of England and co founded by David Haigh, they are doing what they love and now offer a range of boards as well as clothing and accessories. The name FitzRoy comes from the weather forecasting area located off the south west coast of France, which itself is named after Robert FitzRoy who not only captained HMS Beagle on Charles Darwin’s voyage, but also as a pioneering meteorologist started the use of the word “forecast”.
A huge thank you to Simon for agreeing to be interviewed, looking forward to making a trip up to the North East and to visit the workshop at some point!
What made you decide to set up Fitzroy Surf Co and what do find most rewarding?
I was working for a big corporate company for just over 3 years. It was a good job but it came with a lot of sacrifices. Once my daughter was born it changed the way I approached life, nothing was more important to me than to spend time with the ones I love. A childhood friend, David Haigh was going through some similar thought processes. All we wanted to do was surf and spend more time with loved ones but work was ”stopping us”. So we put our heads together to create a brand that would support our passion whilst delivering a message of protecting what we love…Fitzroy was born!
How did you get into shaping?
I was lucky enough to have a Dad that liked to get his hands involved with projects. When I was a little grom I remember him shaping canoes, snowboards, surf fins the lot, so I always had an interest towards watching these designs and materials come to life. Being able to surf for other brands helped me develop not only my surfing but the personal gain of surfing altered boards to get me on a better part of the wave.
Whilst travelling I’d pop into factories asking for tours to see the magic which I still do today as it’s always good to continue learning. The last inspirations came from the local shapers around my home town. Great people, shapers and surfers, the North East holds some pretty amazing people.
What is your local break and how often do you get to surf? What is unique to North East surfing compared with the rest of the country?
My local break is directly opposite my house. A small town called Blyth which is where World Surfing champion Martin Potter was born. I grew up here and the wave on its day can be fast and a real fun shore break.
How often do I get in…? If there’s a wave….I get in! 1ft slop or perfect peelers I am totally addicted and with it being 30 steps from my front door I can jump in pretty much whenever possible. It’s been my whole life and I’m lucky I have such an understanding wife ha! The North East can be cold, dark and uninviting…I love it. On it’s day though it is beautiful and holds the most stunning coastline.
If you could shape a board for one surfer who would it be and what do you think they would want?
It has to be Kelly Slater as he is so critical with his boards and holds so much knowledge about a wave, the movement and the connection with the board. I’d say he would ask for a board to win the tour with ha….no pressure ey. Other than him I’d say Rob Machado as he is always pushing traditional shapes whilst pushing a different line and he would want anything he could get his hands on especially a fish with a quad set up.
Where do you think surfing is as a sport/lifestyle in the UK and what would you like to change?
Surfing has grown so much since I started. It is amazing to see how far it has come and still developing in new generations. It’s clear that we are only going to get bigger in the sport industry with the Olympics its very exciting.
Changes we need to make..we MUST educated the surfers and non surfers about the effects of plastic and pollution is having everywhere. With more people coming into the sport the more voices we have to get the message across. Organisations like The Plastic Project, Two minute Beach Clean, Surfers Against Sewage are constantly working with communities trying to spread the word as this is a global issue and it won’t stop itself…spread the word and GET INVOLVED!!
What are your feelings about surfing being in the Olympics and do you think it will help your business?
Surfing in the Olympics is crazy I mean who would of thought it would happen!? It is fantastic as growing up it was seen a sport for drop outs and not seen as a profession. It opens so many opportunities for people and athletes. It will only grow the industry and I hope Fitzroy are a part of that change.
Who would you most like to paddle out with and what would we be cooking afterwards?
Gerry Lopez, Kelly Slater, Dave Grohl and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson…could you imagine haha! We would have some fresh fish, a few beers and share some amazing stories I bet.
What’s your favourite place to eat and, if we are paying, what are you having?
My favourite place to eat is out of our campervan with friends and family. Doesn’t matter what is cooking, I normally get stuck in but my wife makes an amazing roast dinner so I’d have two plates of that please.
How would you rate your cooking skills and what’s your signature dish?
Not many people know this but I used to be a chef and I do love cooking but saying that I’d say I’m just average. My favourite dish to cook is chicken Fajitas, it can be filled with spices, veg, sweet potato fries. It’s a great family meal.
Do you have any food guilty pleasures?
PANCAKES!! Pancake day is more than one day a year for me…I can’t help it, they’re ssooo good!!!
Is there a dish you have always wanted to try?
There are so many dishes out there but after spending time in The Maldives I would love to try more curry dishes.
Tyne and Wear