The Fiji Pro saw some of the most exciting performances of the season, including mind-blowing drops from event winner Owen Wright. The young Australian cemented his place in surf history with not one, but two perfect heats in the same event. With his win in Fiji, Wright jumped three spots on the Jeep Leaderboard to No. 3 in the world.
As the Aussie heads to Stop No. 6 on the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, the J-Bay Open, he carries the momentum of his best season start since 2011, when he finished 3rd overall. His shaper, Jason Stevenson of JS Industries, checked in to discuss what made Wright's performance so perfect and what their recent journey together has been like.
World Surf League: Can you tell us what model board Owen was riding in the Final? How does that compare to his normal shortboard? How do the changes affect board performance?
Jason Stevenson: Owen was riding a 6'4 1/2 x 19 3/16 x 2 1/2 31.5 L, Forget Me Not model in round-pin. There's a lot of difference in this style of board compared to his normal shortboard; not only is it and 1 1/2 longer but it also has a lot of design changes in outline, rocker, concaves and rail volumes.
The outlines are super clean, no breaks or hips, rocker is increased but still a smooth continuous rocker to fit the wave's curve. The concave is a subtle single to double, as the wave itself has all the power to generate the speed. [The] rails are slightly refined so they slice like a hot knife through butter! You can tell by the hacks he was doing on 8-to-10-foot waves.
WSL: A lot of surfers have gone to quad fins in waves like Cloudbreak, but Owen stuck with the thruster. What helped him make that choice?
JS: Quads are great for tube riding but aren't as good when you turn super hard off the bottom to the top combo like Owen does. He also likes to surf the wave at its speed, and not be going so fast that he's missing the sections that he wants to throw those giant hacks.
WSL: You started shaping for Owen last year -- what has the shaper/surfer development process been like? Can you tell us about your process when beginning to work with a new athlete?
JS: I'd always wanted to make Owen boards, so after he came back from injury and I heard he was trying a heap of shapers' boards I called him up and said I'd make him a couple to try. We just hit it off straight away. Both goofyfooters for starters, so we have that in common. Plus he's a super cool, humble guy who's easy to deal with.
We went surfing a fair bit together in that first few months and I was riding a bunch of his boards with him, just getting a feel for what he was liking before Snapper started, and we made it happen pretty quickly. I have had years of [experience] building boards for bigger guys, so I used some of that design DNA as well as what I thought he would like and here we are now -- winning events!
It's no different to all the guys who ride for me. They're all good humans.
WSL: What's been the best part about shaping for Owen so far?
JS: Owen himself -- we've become good mates and we go surf when he's around -- picking up boards, have a few beers, talk story and just have fun doing what we do and it works. It's no different to all the guys who ride for me, they're all good humans. No princesses or to hard-to-deal-with [surfers], just all good guys who happen to be the best surfers in the world.
WSL: We recently caught up with Jon Pyzel on Sally Fitzgibbons' winning board from Fiji and he talked a lot about volume and rail refinement. How does that play into the boards you make for Owen?
JS: Every guy is unique from their body type to the style they surf, so there's a lot of difference in the volumes to suit each individual. The model DNA is there -- rocker, concaves, outlines and so on -- but the rails and the rail volumes are customized to suit each guy and their weight and the way they surf.
WSL: What's been the most challenging part about shaping for him?
JS: Trying to keep his boards in one piece...the guy's a big human who does big hacks, big airs, pulls into as big a barrel as you can put him in, so that's the challenge. Look at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro contest, it's 8-to-10 foot and he's trying to smash the s--t out of it. Going upside down on his backhand on a 6'6 when other guys are riding 6'8 and bigger. We have had a good run lately, he broke a shortboard in Fiji, but we've changed our formula a little bit so fingers crossed.
WSL: He just jumped into 3rd place on the rankings. From your perspective, what does he need to do in order to win a World Title?
JS: Just be Owen Wright and let it happen.