Gold Coast local and self-titled ‘purveyor of salty sleds’, Grant Newby handcrafts the slickest boards for his business, Surfboards by Grant Newby. Much like Grant himself, his company is down-to-earth and does what it says on the tin, and after working with him to complete the finishing touches on the surfboard signage of our qtQT Cabins – we suggest he adds ‘artist’ to his list of titles. We asked Grant to share his story, creative process and favourite surf spots.
Q: You’ve always been close to the water. Tell us about your love for the ocean and how it informs your craft?
I grew up in Dargaville – a river-based town in New Zealand – and have always had a love of the ocean, fishing and surfing. My dad built our family launch and we spent most of our holidays down the Kaipara Harbour on it. The West Coast beaches were only 12 km away where we learnt to surf. We camped and fished for trout on the Kai Iwi Lakes as kids.
Q: Sounds like an idyllic childhood. How did you become interested in making surfboards?
The first surfboard I ever made was a hollow wooden board some 15 years ago. I’ve always been good with my hands and love nutting things out. I spent 28 years working in advertising but a few years ago changed tack and turned my hobby into a full-time job. I love designing boards on my computer and using different materials to build boards. Wood, cork, flax, basalt and of course traditional materials as well.
I started a Wooden Surfboard Day here on the Gold Coast and an accompanying blog. The blog has attracted some 1.8 million visits over time as a resource of the different processes and methods I have used to build boards. We’re all limited by time, money, tools and space to build a board at home. There are many challenges you face along the way. But if you love your surfing and you build a board yourself there is not a more rewarding experience for a surfer than to paddle in on that first wave. You have just joined a very small group of people who surf on boards made by their own hands. Very special!
Q: You’re very involved in the surf community, both locally and abroad. Tell us about the events you’ve founded over the years?
I was in Oceanside, California in 2006 to attend what was the 4th annual Fish Fry, a celebration of the Fish surfboard designed by Steve Lis in San Diego many years ago. After heading back to Australia, I contacted the US organisers and asked if I could bring the event to Australia. The Alley Fish Fry was born in 2007. It ran for 10 years as a non-competitive, non-commercial gathering of like-minded people who surfed Fish surfboards. We had guest speakers and people came from all over the world to meet in the park for the day to talk and surf.
I started a similar event for people who build and surf wooden boards, which ran for 11 years here on the Gold Coast. I helped establish the European version in Spain in 2019 at Playa de Berria, Cantabria. We had people from all over the northern hemisphere attend and it was so good to put faces to names of people who had sent me questions over the years through my blog.
I’m also an advisor and board member of Wave Changer, a not for profit organisation dedicated to embracing a more sustainable and innovative surf industry.
Q: Lastly, what are your favourite local surf spots?
There is never a bad day to surf and there are very few bad places to surf. You just have to have an open mind and look at the opportunity at hand. My go to spot on the Gold Coast is Currumbin Alley. It’s a point break and river mouth combination that always has something to offer. Inside the Pass at Byron Bay can be pretty special as well. Yes, we have crowds, but who doesn’t? You learn patience and deal with it. It’s the social side and community of surfing that is a great part of why I love surfing as much as anything.
Visit qtQT atop QT Gold Coast and admire Grant’s handiwork for yourself.
Interviewed by Kirsten Nagel