Pit Crew: Darren Handley's Handling of Tour Stars

Paula Lehman

Mick Fanning (AUS) is your 2015 Hurley Pro Champion. Mick Fanning's magic board from Darren Handley, the MF Duck's Nuts, has won him countless events and three World Titles. - WSL / Kenneth Morris

You'd think when you have a track record like that of shaper Darren Handley, the founder of DHD Surfboards, you could pretty much coast. The Australian craftsman has made winning whips for multiple World Champions, elite pros, and some of the best up-and-comers in the sport. He latest all star is 2016 CT rookie Jack Freestone. We caught up with Handley to find out about his relationships old and new, to find out how he keeps the job fresh.

Jack Freestone surfs during Round 1 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in Australia on Saturday February 28, 2015. Jack Freestone sporting the DH logo during the 2015 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. The partnership with Darren Handley continues as Freestone embarks on his rookie season on the Championship Tour. - WSL / Simon Williams

PL: How does your relationship with Freestone compare to your relationship with Mick Fanning?
DH: Mick was a little bastard when he was young but they need to be because they need to be selfish. They need to want more boards and want the best out of me. To be a champion you need to be like that. Mick was like that as a kid and now he's come back and we're helping each other make better boards and he surfs with my junior team. I think once I break through those barriers with Jack, his relationship and mine will be the same.

PL: What's your secret to success with surfers like Freestone, Fanning and six-time World Champ Steph Gilmore?
DH: I just give them what they need. If they ask, I'm there for the advice and when I come to events we can talk about how that board did at this event for next year. It's all learning for me as well.

Shaping for the Stars
This time last year, Darren Handley spoke about his relationship with boards, surfing and surfers.

PL: What are you learning while watching them?
DH: I'm learning how that board and how that surfer performed on that given day and what were the elements that made him perform better or not perform. So I'm actually learning about the athlete, his or her attitude how they won or how they lost. All I can do is take that to the shaping bay.

Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) does a hack in Round 4. Stephanie Gilmore performs a signature fins-free hack on one of her typical boards from DHD boards at the Roxy Pro France. - WSL / Poullenot/Aquashot

PL: What did you learn from Fanning?
DH: When Mick was young I was showing him how shaping works, concaves and fins and what everything does, because I was a surfer. But what he's doing in the water, I don't understand that, so he brings that back to me and tells me, "change this" or "try this" or "do that," so we have a lot of experimenting to go to the next level.

Watch Mick Fanning's "next level" and Jack Freestone's CT debut at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast live daily starting March 10 local time.