Sea Change

Local shaper and surfer Andy Jordan is bound for a new life in Japan.

Andy Jordan is known for his form in the surf, his skills as a shaper and being an all-round great guy. We catch up with this legend of our surfing scene before he departs for Japan.

If you've grown up surfing in Mount Maunganui, or moved here as a surfer, you’ll be very aware
of the name Andy Jordan. You’ve either had one (or many) of his amazing boards or watched
him duck under the lip and perfectly weave through a heaving Matakana Island tube.

At 57 years old Andy, or 'Grommo' as he is more affectionately known, still out-surfs most crew
in the water. It's not uncommon to see him surf three sessions a day with the vigour of a
17 year old; he is the eternal grommet. He’d be the oldest guy still regularly surfing the Island
and, in many cases, setting the pace too.

His reputation as a surfboard shaper has seen him develop a loyal following of clients
nationwide who consistently order his proven shapes. Andy found a love for building boards
early on and decided to have a go at shaping a few at home while he was still at school, but
his dad banned him early on for ruining the garage when he attempted to glass one of them.

Not long after, in 1984, he worked for Impact Surfboards at Mount Maunganui under Jim Carney
and Neville Hill as a ding repair guy, then a sander, fin foiler, polisher as well as doing gloss and
filler coats. During 1985/86 Andy did a stint in Torquay for Strapper Surfboards, again on the production line. He returned in ’86 to work for Jim again at JC surfboards. This is where he
started to shape boards under Jim's eye and also use the knowledge gleaned from hours
spent watching other shapers in the Bay.

Around 1987, Andy and good friend Richard Peake bought the business from Jim and started Jordan/Peake surfboards. Andy was the shaper and Richard was the glasser — an on-and-off partnership that has lasted to this day. After two years, Andy moved on to work for High Voltage surfboards under Mike Murden, as a shaper, sander and fin foiler until he started the Jordan Surfboards label in 1996, again joining forces with Richard as his glasser.

"In a friendship that spans 40 years, Andy has influenced me both personally and professionally. His skills as a shaper and surfer have seen him become well respected in the NZ surf community. Andy’s inspired generations of young mounties to give surfing a go. His absence in the local surf scene will be sorely missed, as will his friendship and mentoring." 
Richard Peake

Although he didn't really chase it, Andy found competitive success with his surfing over the years
— travelling to Japan with our national team in 1990 to surf in the open division of the ISA World Surfing Games. He also won a national title in 2001 in the over-35 division, adding weight to his
ability to transfer his designs to a high performance scenario.

Andy attributes some of his shaping Influence to Ralph Blake from Gisborne and good friend
Rodney Dahlberg, who was once shaper to high-profile surfers like Mark Occhilupo and Joel Parkinson, and now Creed Mctaggart. Andy has spent a lot of time visiting Rod in Angourie,
Australia developing theories and visualising water flow; taking some Australian ideas and
designs but adapting the curvy boards to work in New Zealand's flatter waves.

After 36 years building boards in the Mount, Andy is moving to Japan with his wife, Keiko.

↑ Andy with his current quiver of boards, from 6'6 all the way down to 5'0.  

What was it like growing up in the Bay?

I grew up in Tauranga and the first time I noticed surfing was roughly 1975; I was about 12 years old and we went for a drive over to the Mount. I vividly remember my mum saying, "Look at all the surfers, they look like seals.” I was mesmerised. A surfboard was all I wanted for Christmas from that day.

Summer finally came around and I got a surfboard to share with my brother, Hugh. I would talk
my parents into driving me over to the beach until Hugh got a car, then we would head off after school or work. Eventually Hugh got a flat in the Mount and I would leave my board there and pushbike from Tauranga over the railway bridge.

I still remember my first brand-new custom board, it was a Greyseal 6ft wing pin, single fin. I worked so hard and saved my paper run money to buy that board — a whole $175! The Mount was pretty
cool back then, it was a tight-knit community and every spot had its crew, from Arataki, Clyde St,
Tay St all the way to Sutherland Ave and Main Beach.

How did the nickname ‘Grommo’ come about?

It was on the way to the national teams contest in Gisborne with a motley and intimidating crew
of surfers: Greg 'Spart' Rhodes, Cedric Bidios, Paul Bennett, Jeremy Williams etc. I was just a junior and Spart, who is a massive guy says, "Geez you’re a f*&ˆ$n little grommet,” and it stuck since then.

The countless hours spent in his shaping room are coming to an end.

Tell us about Jordan Surfboards

I started the label around 1996. I've shaped 7490 boards and counting; 5000 of those were handshapes until I moved onto the shaping machine. I'm proud to have built a successful business and I've always strived to give clients a great service and fast turnaround. I'm extremely thankful
for the opportunity to make boards for local and international surfers. It's pretty cool when a customer comes back and says, “Hey, that board went amazing!"

What’s the process developing/shaping new boards for people?

When a surfer comes in to order a new custom board my goal is to fit the right design to their
surfing, so there’s a few specific questions: height, weight, ability level, the type of waves they
want to surf. This gets a lot easier when you've worked with a certain person for a few years
and you can really fine-tune their equipment. Guys like Alex Dive, Clint Reid and Owen Barnes
have all helped me develop different designs and models.

How’s the scene changed from your younger days?

One thing I've noticed is the different groups of surfers now. Back in the early days we were all
on the same programme: we all surfed single fins, then we all surfed twins, then we all surfed thrusters. Nowadays, you have your performance guys, your longboard guys, your alternative
guys riding fishes, twins etc. I guess it's just all the old designs coming back into fashion and
being developed to perform even better than they used to with modern ideas. It's really cool
to see a lot more girls and young kids out surfing too. I love the dynamic in the water.

How is it to be still surfing at Matakana Island after 40 years?

I've travelled the world; Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Tahiti… the list goes on, but nothing beats a special session surfing at Matakana Island, It’s home and where I feel the most comfortable.
It does get a lot harder as I get older but I try to keep my body in shape as best I can. The growth
in crowds has changed things too, as it adds a certain sense of suffocation in the lineup — I like
to have a bit of space and time to choose my waves, and things are just a little more intense over
there now. But hey, that's just evolution, I'm not bitter at all. I’m very grateful to have surfed the
best years over there - my first session was back in 1978!

"Andy’s surfing talent needs no introduction
- he rips, always has, always will. He surfs
all types of boards and this is reflected in his understanding of all shapes/designs.
He’s become one of NZ’s finest shapers and his boards hold up anywhere in the world." 
Rodney Dahlberg
Why are you heading to Japan?

My wife Keiko is from Japan and after doing nine trips there, you could say I've fallen in love with the country. My kids have all grown up and left home [Andy has four daughters from his first wife, Jo, plus six grandkids] and I feel young again! It feels like the right time to move. We have built a small house on one of the southern islands of Japan in the Ryu chain. It has a subtropical climate, really fun waves and a lot of beautiful countryside. I'm looking forward to a slower pace of life.

"Andy has shaped my boards since I was 13. I can still vividly remember the first one and how stoked I was. He’s shaped me well over 50 amazing boards and certainly helped to develop my surfing. Andy’s not only a master of his craft, he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and he surfs more than anyone I know. It’s sad to see him go, but I’m sure we will see his face around in the years to come. His legacy as one of the greatest shapers in NZ will live on!" Alex Dive
"I’ve been lucky enough to have Andy shape my boards over the last 30 years. With decades of ever-changing design,
he’s adapted and shaped many magic boards for me. His surfing matches what he delivers out of the shaping bay
— a standout in all conditions." Owen Barnes
"My first-ever custom board at 15 was from Andy and I've had plenty since. I can distinctly remember pivotal moments
in my surfing development and the exact board he had made for me. Grommo's ability to surf with such
energy and skill at 57 will always be an inspiration to me!" Jereme Aubertin
Andy and Richard Peake with one of the last boards they'll build before Andy Leaves.
Andy is looking forward to a more relaxed life, and some good surf, in Japan.

Story published in issue 29 of Our Place magazine.

Story & photography by Jeremé Aubertin