Hayden Cox – Haydenshapes Surfboards & Inventor of FiberFlex Technology

Hayden began his shaping career at the age of 15, in Mona Vale, Australia, where he gained experience and learnt the craftsmanship of hand shaping surfboards. Since 1996, Haydenshapes Surfboards has focused on designing innovative performance surfboards and surfboard constructions with quality and passion.

Hayden has recently signed a deal with the world’s largest distributor of surfboards, Global Surf Industries, which will see his innovative surfboard technology sold in 58 countries around the world.

Through the years of rapid technological growth, Hayden has always been an early adopter, leading him to create some innovative shapes and constructions that have been ridden and loved by the most elite surfers around the globe.

In the future, Haydenshapes plans to lead its own path of surfboard innovation and design. Through their passion and love of surfboards and surfing Hayden and the Haydenshapes team intend to experiment and develop their range of surfboards, to keep the stoke alive regardless of the generation.

Describe yourself in 3 words: Motivated, Curious, Passionate.

What is your life motto? Always give something a go. Don’t second guess, because you never know.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I started shaping boards when I was 15 but I was not thinking career, I was thinking just make some boards. Then I finished school and I was getting busy by then, I probably started thinking about it as a career when I was 20 years old. I’d say 10 years, depends what you call successful.

How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?  Shitloads. I’ve worked 7 days a week for I think almost 2 years straight. You might have a couple off here and there but probably consistently 60-70 hours a week. I love it all, just being involved in designing and building surfboards I really enjoy it so I don’t find it work to go and get dusty in the shaping bay, I just don’t get to do it enough. I’m able to do what I like to do in the business so a lot of it isn’t work and I love it.

What are the challenges in your line of work? Human resources, cash flow and growth. Managing cash flow through the higher growth times in the business. The other major one is probably managing every piece of your business puzzle to be firing at the same time. To make business successful, your marketing, your product, your factory, your customer service, your accounts all have to be in top gear at the same time and then you really feel success. When one is struggling or it’s not operating smoothly you get stressed out because you can feel it straight away it’s not operating right. The hardest is to get all those areas in sync in the working world.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Geez you make mistakes everyday you learn from. There’s been no major mistake every made. No crucial mistake where we’ve gone, argh, we should never do that again. We make little mistakes all the time. As long as you learn from the mistakes and be quick to learn.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? I’ve been given a lot… I didn’t listen to my mum which is probably the best; which was ‘don’t go into business in debt’. She told me not to go when I was about 22 before I got my own factory. I had my own surf shop and it didn’t quite work out with the person I got involved with and then I had about 20 grand debt and I thought I need to set up my own factory, this is what I need to do, I knew where I needed to go to but I had a bit of a debt. She said don’t start up with that debt and that was really good advice but I didn’t listen to her and it probably would’ve changed my mentality, maybe a lot moving forward.

Another, from Lee Pippard my patent attorney, he told me when I first got my patency, “treat them like an insurance policy that you never ever want to claim on. Just focus on your core part of your business and don’t worry about the surrounding people trying to rip you off. Even if you have that intellectual property that you may want to use one day and protect your own product but you’re going to get copied, so focus on your core business and everything else will fall into place – And that’s exactly what’s happened. I’ve been copied with the technology from a lot of different people but we just focus on what we do, and a lot of those people are now our customers. It’s way more powerful and more useful than taking a patent and taking someone to court.

In your mind, is formal training essential? Formal training definitely helps you depending on what area of the business you’re in. Some people have a natural ability to do the role they are in and that really excels them and you put formal training with them and that’s not going to agree with them. Although, I don’t agree with all formal areas of training out there, it might suit something and not other things. Training from the right people and coaching from the right people makes a difference, but going to university to do xyz might not be the right answer for you.

I think for younger people I think formal training gives them a path to follow, and gives you a starting point to start your career. It’s hard to find that little niche you like and I reckon everyone should try to find that little niche because you’re more passionate about it and will do it a lot better at it than at job that you’re doing because you do that job. If you love what you do you’ll do it so much better.

Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Getting a mentor, 100 per cent – it’s unreal. I’ve sometimes struggled to find mentors out there. In our industry, it’s a funny old little industry. Our industry needs to be formalised and get formal training and set up the industry that way and get recognised by the Australian Government and getting mentors in the industry would definitely make a big difference. It’s hard to find those key people because it’s a tricky industry. I’m self taught, I haven’t had a mentor for shaping or running the business, I’ve had people I’ve been inspired by but they’re not mentors because I’m a competitor to them.  I’m probably meant to be the mentor for my staff. For me, I work with people outside of my industry and get inspiration from them.

What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? To be a shaper I’d say start out in your own back yard, get some DVD’s and you learn some tips and tricks and go from there. Different story if you want to laminate. Approach a factory, offer two weeks work unpaid, show you can do good work and have good hand skills and generally most factories will take you on board. I know if someone came to me and did 2 weeks and did good work, showed good hand skills, we’d probably take them on. 

What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? Just don’t want to fail. There have been plenty of those times when you just cry and are as low as you’re going to get and what do you do? You just wake up the next day, go for a surf and then you realise we can do this somehow, we can work it out. You just have to step back from the situation from and realise it’s not the end of the world, it’s not really the end of the road, you can work on ways to move forward. 

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Nah you create your own opportunities for sure. People who go out there and put themselves in situations to try and create opportunities,  a lot of the time get knocked back on those but it opens up doors, which you would have never opened up before. Sometimes you feel that you’re lucky because of that and yeah, you are lucky because you got that opportunity; but it’s because you did something else to open up the door for that and so, you definitely create your own luck.

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