This leading board shaper has a very simple and practical approach to surfing: ‘Some is better than none.’ Ruakaka isn’t a surfing mecca, but Roger has developed boards that don’t require perfect waves. So it’s all about just having fun. Roger stayed in Ruakaka because he didn’t need anything else and didn’t want anything else, and this simple approach to life carries across to his surfing. ‘It doesn’t matter what size wave it is, just get out there and have some fun.’
By the time Roger turned 25 he had been making surfboards for half his life and had just built his factory, which his company, Surfline, still works out of today.
Surfline makes between 200 and 250 surfboards a year — a relatively low number but it reflects the time spent individualising each board. From extensive consultation to custom-built stringers, the company’s attention to detail and genuine love for the boards is first-rate. ‘We start with polyurethane blanks, blown to a density which best suits the purpose of the end user. Then we custom glue with the appropriate timber stringers, glassing with polyester resins to a strength-to-weight ratio, which again speaks to the best interests of the end user.’ The company’s website proclaims: ‘At Surfline, surfboards are cherished as objects of performance art, designed to give the best rides of your life, as well as the pleasure of owning a beautiful handcrafted surfboard.’
Roger’s commitment to creating amazing boards also means, though, that he spends less time surfing than he used to, and his time on the water is now spent riding experimental boards, assessing what works and what doesn’t. ‘I’m still having a great time out there riding waves, but I know I’m thinking about it on a completely different level to everyone else.’
Roger doesn’t believe in following the rules as a shaper and loves the challenge of designing different boards, currently designing finless boards. He hasn’t ridden a board with fins for the past four years, and everything he rides now is ‘way out of the box’. ‘The direction boards themselves are heading in is so exciting. We have really only just scratched the surface with board design.’
Roger was approached by Barkers menswear to help the company create an authentic surfing clothes range to celebrate the history of surfing in the north, and Roger Hall’s boards in particular. ‘It was a real honour to be asked to collaborate with Barkers. They were keen to try to make their clothing line relevant, and it felt like massive recognition for my board shaping and involvement in the surf world. To be approached by people outside of surfers — that was really cool.’ Roger’s boards can also now be found for sale in the new Takapuna Barkers store, which has an authentic surf theme to it.
‘Surfing is uplifting. It’s exciting. The surfboard itself is the interface between you and the waves. Surfboards allow you to stand on water and ride waves — they are very special things.
‘Surfing provides direction and focus. It’s good for you physically, and it’s good for you mentally. The ocean is an awesome place to play and it sets you up for a really good life. It’s a great way to meet people and to explore your own country.’
It has been the best thing for Roger. ‘I’ve got so much out of it. I just can’t imagine not being a surfer, not to have surfing in my life.’
Extract from Surfers: A kiwi lifestyle by Jo Caird and Paula George, published by Bateman, RRP $39.99, Release Date Early October 2015