The robots are coming. By 2025 up to 40% of Aussie jobs could be performed by machines, drones or fiendishly clever Apps, according to a recent, eye-popping statistic. Machines, of course, have been replacing surfboard industry jobs for some time and while they look certain to dominate there has been some pushback. The endangered hand-shaper continues to service a dedicated niche who prefer their surf craft custom designed and man-made. And in an increasingly automated world, products that are organic, authentic and handmade should only gain in value. 

South Coast shaper, Jed Done, is banking on hand-shapes holding value and appeal. This summer he and his wife Patricia plan to open a surfboard store at Pambula on the NSW far south coast and stock it exclusively with boutique hand-shapes. There’ll be no big brand fashion, no bikinis, trucker caps, grip pads or all the peripheral rubbish that make surf shops both profitable and tacky.  “It’ll mainly be surfboards but we’ll stock a few things like organic wax, hemp board bags and we’re hoping to get a wetsuit company on board. So, pretty core orientated,” says Done.

Done is no stranger to beating his own path. Best known for shaping alternative craft under his Bush Rat label, he’s worked with Derek Hynd on a signature fish and has had the likes of Tom Curren, Buttons and Dave Rastovich ride his experimental flex tail designs. Flex is a passion which dates back to Done’s shaping roots in Sydney, where he came into the orbit of eccentric kneeboarder and flex guru, Peter Berry. Berry passed away this year but at least some of his ideas and non-conformist approach have been passed on to Done (via mutual friend, Neil Cameron). “He was mad but he was just a full genius. He looked at boards in a different way to anyone else,” enthuses Done. 

You won’t find any of Berry’s teardrop-shaped, knife-edged, aluminium-handled kneeboards on the racks at Switchfoot Board Store when it opens its doors in December. But there’ll be all sorts of rad designs: rolled bottom logs, modern twinnies, a school of fish, resin-tints galore, flex-tail quads and Done’s version of Tomo’s Sci—Fi model. Most will be under his new label, Jed Done Surfboards, but there are plans to get other shapers involved.

“Once we get established I’d like to invite different hand-shapers to come down to build boards like they do in specialized stores in the USA and the Deus Factory in Bali. The plan is to build a glass-walled shaping bay inside the shop so you can watch the boards getting shaped and so I don’t have to sit on my arse waiting for customers to turn up.”

It’s an ambitious venture given that Pambula is so far from any surf population hub. But ambition and hard work are traits Done possesses in spades. Currently he’s finishing building a few houses including his own, a three-storey bush mansion shaped like a breaking wave. Once that’s finally done he’ll move out with his wife, son and baby daughter and start mowing foam. They’ll live in a borrowed van until the shop gets established and, all things going well, Done might get back in the water by 2020.