A Noosa double at world titles
Author – PHIL JARRATT
Noosa’s longboard superstar Harrison Roach has seemed destined to win a world title since his teen years. At 31, he may have started to think the dream would never be realised, but no victory ever tastes as sweet as one you’ve had to wait for.
And Harrison’s World Surf League Longboard World Title win at Surfrider Beach, Malibu, California this week was even sweeter with best mate and shaper Thomas Bexon cheering him on from the sand, then helping chair him up the beach to the podium. 5 October 2022 at Malibu also saw the culmination of one of surfing’s great surfer/shaper partnerships.
Think Nat Young and Bob McTavish in the 1960s, Gerry Lopez and Dick Brewer in the ‘70s, and Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore with Darren Handley in the 2000s. Each a partnership bonded in design and execution. For more than a decade now, Thomas Surfboards founder Thomas Bexon and test pilot Harrison Roach have changed the face of modern longboarding from their Noosa base. And they’ve done it by going back to the very roots of surfboard riding, in culture and in the designs of the boards they ride.
Harrison’s desire to pay homage to surfing’s history by riding in the style and on similar equipment to the pioneer surfers of the first golden age of longboarding, the 1960s, saw him almost lost to competitive surfing completely in the early 2000s, when he started to follow the path of the soul surfers of the past, who chose freedom over the regimentation of competition. This led him to remote parts of the planet where he rode perfect waves with just a few mates, purely for the pleasure, and ultimately, it led him to the door of Thomas “Doc” Bexon.
Doc Bexon built his first surfboard in his mum’s garage when he was 14 years old. He shaped, glassed and sanded it on his own, long before the days of Youtube tutorials. By the time the small business became too large for the garage, his “old mal” style boards were a significant feature of a new longboard movement in Australia, one that celebrated the joy of traditional surfing.
Enter laminator Jake Bowrey who became the second half of Thomas Surfboards. Hailing from the UK, Jake had honed his craft in much the same way as Thomas, and recognised the potential in a partnership at Thomas Surfboards. They went into business together, and from humble beginnings, in a shed that soon became a cultural hub for traditional surfers, Thomas and Jake’s modern approach to manufacturing and retail, along with their focus on traditional design, culture and construction, distinguished the brand from its competitors and contributed to its success and growth. In 2017, Thomas Surfboards began building its new home at 4 Project Ave, Noosaville, and since opening in March 2018, the modern and innovative space has become a premiere surf culture and manufacturing destination on the global radar.
But long before Thomas Surfboards became iconic, Harry and Doc were just two Noosa mates, endlessly testing traditional designs on the point breaks and refining them back at the factory. Harrison had become the third wheel at Thomas Surfboards, while developing his own business interests with surf brands that valued his dedication to tradition. In this way, Joel Tudor’s Vans Duct Tape events around the world and Deus Ex Machina’s longboard comps and parties in Bali helped create a new global appreciation of traditional longboarding that would eventually lead Harrison Roach back into the WSL professional ranks.
But success didn’t come easily for Harrison, despite having long been recognised as one of the finest surfing stylists in the world on all kinds of surfboards. He knocked on the door a couple of times, but it wasn’t until this week in beautiful waves at Surfrider’s First Point, that the judging panel answered. Riding a scoop-tail noserider designed just a month ago, and the only board he took to California, Harrison could not put a foot wrong, growing in confidence with every heat surfed. According to Thomas, the board is “an Aussie hybrid noserider, designed so that he could put the power into his turns but also plant long parallel hang tens.”
Undoubtedly the highlight of his performances at Malibu was his decimation of old rival, three-times world champion Taylor Jensen. Taylor surfed beautifully but he had no answers to Harrison who lodged three near perfect scores, each improving on the last, combining sweeping turns with extended arched noserides, and a couple of good-natured theatrics thrown in for good measure.
With the world title on the line in the final against rankings leader Hawaiian Kaniela Stewart, Harrison looked exhausted in his fourth surf of the day, but he managed to find yet another ride in the excellent range, and backed it up, with the Hawaiian desperately trying to pull off a “buzzer beater” victory, and only just failing.
It was an appropriately exciting finale to one of the greatest days of longboard competition ever seen. And for Thomas Surfboards, the icing on the cake was a tremendous performance from Hawaiian team rider Mason Schremmer, now based in Noosa, who finished third in the women’s division, gaining her a spot on the 2023 WSL world tour.
With team riders the defending men’s champion and Mason yet to reach her surfing peak, who only missed out on a title by one heat last week, in the mix for ’23, it could be another banner year for Thomas Surfboards.
For further information on Harrison Roach models visit thomassurfboards.comRead more articles