Where Surfboards Are Born
It's like a chemistry lab in here. Or a Detroit automobile factory. But also kind of like an old surf dog’s garage. In other words, I’ve never seen anything like it.
Standing inside the Burford Blanks factory on the Gold Coast, there’s a lot to be taken in. Handmade machines sprawl across the concrete floor. Classic rock booms out of an dusty old stereo. Giant vats of foreign substances stand tall while old surf posters line the walls around them. The air is beaming with phantom traces of a thousand tales told, sometimes truthful, sometimes tall.
You get the sense that this place is sacred. This is where surfboards are born.
Darren Burford, the current keeper in a new generation of this family-owned business, is giving us the tour. The process is relatively simple. You take a little bit of this goo, a little bit of that goo and mix it all together. The concoction begins to expand rapidly, mushrooming its way out of the bucket. If you just sit there and let it, well, foam, the mixture would expand to enough to coat the entire floor of this joint. So you throw it into a mold and put some boundaries on all that expansion.
Hours later, it comes out in one solid piece. From there, it’s cut in half and glued back together with a stringer. Just like that, you’ve got yourself a blank.
The Burfords have been doing this since 1966 — they quite literally have it down to a science. Now, some things have changed since then. They’ve got nicer tools. Adopted a few new business practices. They’ve welcomed that constant tug of evolution. But, a lot hasn’t changed too. Namely: the heart and soul of this whole operation.
You can feel it. You can see it, too. Everyone working, while deeply involved in their tasks, seems to have that subtle, almost subconscious smile that comes from knowing all the joy that their work will someday provide. Everyone here surfs. They know that when their job is done, these blanks will be shaped, glassed, sanded, bought, sold and surfed. They know this is a source of bliss.
They claim to use a combination of substances, imagination and hard work to make blanks here. But, really, I think they make magic.
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