With the passing of MP it was only fit that Bells would turn it on for us this Easter. Five days straight of surfing and some of the most nail biting heats we have seen for a long time. Bells is notorious for dishing out spectacular clashes and the Mick Fanning and Slater final is sure to go down as one of the greatest in history. It was a great result for the DHD team, Mick Fanning putting his first win on the board and Sally Fitzgibbons going back to back in an all DHD final against Steph Gilmore. The first two events are critical for Darren Handley as it allows him to witness firsthand the team riding their new equipment and sets them up for the year. DH was down at Bells catching the action and hanging out with his team. We catch up with him and get a rundown of the event from the eyes of the shaper.
Providing a chair for the champ, DH brings Mick in.
Q: What an amazing event for the DHD team, give us a rundown from your seat DH
DH: Yeah, it was a great event and a great tribute to MP. I was really stoked with all the team’s efforts and how their equipment was looking under their feet. Bell’s is always a great testing ground, it has so much ground swell power, it always wants to bump you off the wave and it really tests the team’s surfing and their boards.
Q: How about that final of Mick’s?
DH: It was amazing and nerve racking. If Slater is getting a perfect 10 and losing you know you have a heat on your hands. Mick had been surfing really well for the entire event and was hungry for that Bell. Mick kept his cool stayed calm and surfed hard. Mick kept his cool, stayed calm, and surfed hard. Those three turns on that wave were just what he needed. He was precise and connected his turns perfectly. Sitting there was not easy—Slater is capable of anything, but I felt this was Mick’s year at Bells, he was so focused throughout the event.
Q: How have you and Mick prepared for Bells?
DH: It has been a long time since Mick last rang that Bell and losing so closely to Parko last year, we didn’t want a repeat of that this year. We got really busy over the Summer months and set Snapper and Bells in our sights. We have really been focused on his Ducks Nuts model for those good competition days. Basically we pulled his quiver into three really tight models the ‘Ducks Nuts, Sweet Spot and Eager Beaver’ and just kept tweaking them running into the events. At this stage in the year we are really happy with them. You can see it in Mick’s surfing, he is confident with his equipment and that translates in his turns. Mick is really focused and good at giving feedback, this allows us to really finetune the designs and make boards for specific conditions and locations.
Q: Sally and Steph the DHD duo, sitting on the fence for that one?
DH: Yeah what a position to be in, both final surfers on your boards. I did have to sit on the fence for that one. Sally and Steph have a great rivalry going, they are great friends and Steph has been a great inspiration for Sally. It was an awesome effort to win Bells back to back and a great final to watch, the two of them are really pumped for this year and they just keep pushing one another. Steph got Snapper and Sally got Bells, question is will Sally go back to back in New Zealand.
Q: Snapper and Bells, you have been sitting with the team in the competitors’ area talking with your team a fair bit, run us through all of that?
DH: I really make the most of these first two events, both being in Australia. I work close with the team over Summer getting their boards right for the tour. Then they all show up at my place for Snapper and we put the equipment to the test. Sometimes we make a few changes after Snapper so it is good to get down to Bells and see the result of that first hand. I get a lot of information just watching and talking to the team when they are fresh out of a heat, the waves and board is fresh in their head and it is some of the best feedback a shaper can have. Because they are both such different waves, it gives me a great scope of how the boards are performing for each team rider.
Steph off the top in the final.
Q: What were Mick, Sally and Steph riding in the finals?
DH: Mick was riding his Ducks Nuts 5’11 x 18 ¾ x 2 ¼. We have really got this model tight and Mick is loving it when the surf is pumping. He rode this board through most of the event.
Sally was riding a 5’9 x 17 3/8 x 2 1/16 DX1, this is the model Sally chooses when there is a bit of size and the surf is good. She has been riding the Eager Beaver, Project 15, Puzzle Piece and DX1 and we are really stoked with how the quiver is fitting together. I reckon we will see her on the Puzzle Piece and the Eager Beaver throughout the NZ event.
Steph was riding a 5’11 x 18 ½ x 2 ¼ version of the Mick Fanning Ducks Nuts. Mick and Steph have spent a lot of time surfing together and surf very similar designs. I generally model Steph’s performance board off the Mick’s with a few tweaks that are more suited for Steph.
Adriano De Souza laying down the Brazilian power.
Q: What was the feedback from the team for this event?
DH: Yeah everyone is frothing on their boards, I reckon this is the best start to the year we have had with the team. We all got focused over Summer and the boards are just so tight, all the team keep calling me up and they are just frothing. Everyone is really happy with quality as well, the team keep commenting on the strength and lightness of their boards. This is a hard balance with team riders to have the lightweight performance and maintain strength. You need to have confidence in your equipment, not only the performance but durability as well. It is taking them a lot longer to wear out their boards which is a big plus, particularly if it is a magic board. A lot of the team are liking the Puzzle Piece and the DX1 as their performers. Jordy Smith was looking great with the 6’3 x 19 1/8 x 2 ½ DX1 under his feet in a few heats, Adriano was stoked with his 5’10 x 18 3/16 x 2 1/8 DX1 in those conditions. Everyone is feeling really comfortable with their equipment after the first two events, at the end of the day that is what I want to hear.
Jordy Smith Superman in the bowl.
Q: Your boards are popping up under everyone’s feet, how do you work with such a large team
DH: The team never seems to stop growing, there are a few more guys on the core team this year and my test pilot team is always growing. I love working with such a large team, there is so much surfing experience amongst them all and each surfer is so different. As a shaper you can’t get enough of it, it fuels my inspiration and keeps me pushing to get the ultimate design for everyone.