Making Waves With Mr Hayden Cox

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Making Waves With Mr Hayden Cox

Words by Mr Mike Christensen | Photography by Mr Bill Gentle | Styling by Mr Trevor Stones

10 May 2017

The world’s most stylish surfboard designer shows us his top spots on Sydney’s Northern Beaches .

There are worse places to conduct an interview than Whale Beach, one of Australia’s most beautiful spots. This is where Mr Hayden Cox feels most comfortable. It is where he gets his best ideas. And he can justifiably claim to be working.

Mr Cox, 35, is one of the world’s best surfboard shapers and designers. It is a labour of love he has been pursuing for nearly 20 years, since he started making his own boards aged 15. He has a natural feel for it. “I’m self-taught,” he says. “I’ve never been shown, ‘Hey, this is how you shape a board.’”

Sydney born and bred and having surfed since he could swim, Mr Cox founded his company Haydenshapes in 1997 and is best known in the industry for inventing, patenting and pioneering FutureFlex, a technology that revolutionised board construction. “FutureFlex basically involved removing the wooden ‘stringer’ down the centre of the board and putting a parabolic carbon-fibre frame around the board, kind of like a tennis racquet,” he says.

Recognisable for his clean monochromatic aesthetic, Mr Cox has won Surfboard Designer Of The Year awards three times and his most popular model, the Hypto Krypto, is a bestseller worldwide. “It gets better and better as the waves get better, but it also has that level of forgiveness that can ride all types of waves and suit all types of surfer,” he says. It’s not a case of one size fits all, however. Surfers can customise their boards to their own specifications.

Mr Cox, a recent inductee on to MR PORTER’s Style Council, is an uncompromising stickler for detail. “I once had to destroy 700 boards,” he says. “It’s my name on them and they weren’t perfect.” Mr Cox has shaped boards for many of the world’s best surfers, most notably Mr Craig Anderson, with whom he has worked closely for 15 years. Australian actors Messrs Chris and Liam Hemsworth are also customers. The latter’s fiancée, Ms Miley Cyrus, recently got in touch to buy a limited-edition chrome design Mr Cox made in collaboration with The Cool Hunter. “It’s not officially launched, so I have one mounted in our living room and she has the only other one,” says Mr Cox. It’s intended for Mr Hemsworth’s man cave, apparently.

Mr Cox lives in Palm Beach, an hour’s drive up the coast north of central Sydney. He could be a father by the time this story comes out. His heavily pregnant wife, Ms Danielle Cox, is due to give birth any day. Once we got out of the water, he was kind enough to show us where he lives and works. It’s a pretty nice life he’s carved out for himself.

Monday: At home, Palm Beach

“Danielle and I love how unique the architecture is up here. We’ve just finished six months of reno [renovation] work. I’m hands on with everything, so I love to learn from the ground up. I sanded back the spotted blue gum wooden floors, which is native to the area. I bleached them and put a hint of a grey in the liming. In the morning, I work best up on the concrete kitchen bench. I’ll have the TV on my fridge. I really geek out on technology.

“When I go out, I love these Alexander Wang trousers. I dress them up or wear them with an oversized Rick Owens tee with a really relaxed fit. Owens’ style and aesthetic are amazing. He kind of coasts in his own little lane. And he does really cool furniture, too. As for these red Givenchy shoes – everyone has to have a few statement pieces, right?”

Tuesday: Whale Beach Deli

“Danielle and I got married next door at Moby Dicks, so I love this little hole-in-the-wall deli. I’ll come up from a surf, get a coffee and sit and read the paper. I’m a one-soya-latte-a-day man and they serve single origin, which is the good stuff. Or I’ll grab one of their bacon and egg rolls and chat to the locals about their experiences riding their boards. It’s my most valuable feedback.

“Style in the surf community here is still very natural. People wear what they feel comfortable in. I’ve always been a monochrome kind of guy, ever since my mum once bought me, my dad and my brother matching fluoro wetsuits. This Saint Laurent black tee has a thick neckline, it’s really durable and is something I can wear a million times that keeps getting better with age. I’m a big fan of NikeLabs. Shoe designers influence me because I can relate a sneaker’s structure and form to shaping boards. I always look at the fabrics because there are a fair few similarities.”

Wednesday: Whale Beach

“The beauty of Whale Beach is you’re surrounded by headlands, greenery and fauna, yet still only 50 minutes from the city. Whaley is a good testing ground for my boards because it’s uncrowded and the wave quality is on a par with Indonesia, so I can give new designs a thorough workout. The great thing about surfing is it’s more than just riding waves. It’s the people, the travel, the culture you come across when surfing different locations.

“I’m a morning person. I always head down at sunrise for a surf. Salt water is the best wake-up call, but it can be a little cold before the heat of the day, so I make sure I have something warm to throw on before and after, like this soft Haider Ackermann jumper. I do tend to wear a lot of black – black tees, black shorts, black caps. My personal style and design aesthetic are pretty monochromatic, too. I like clean lines.”

Thursday: Haydenshapes factory, Mona Vale

“This is where we build all the customised boards and do all the research and development. The shaping bay is my peaceful room. I do my best thinking here. I’m in my own little zone. It’s where all the intricacies go into my designs. The lights are set up at the centre of the room to create a reflection across the board so I can see the curves I’m shaping. Sometimes it comes down to 0.2mm – that’s two pieces of paper.

“In the factory, I get messy, dirty, dusty, waxy, salty, sandy, you name it. So typically, I won’t wear anything that I don’t want to ruin. Cut-offs like these Vetements x Reebok are almost a board short style. I’ve worn flip-flops before, but it never ends well. I always end up dropping something on my foot. So a pair of boots like these Valentinos are an essential. They’re robust but lightweight and super wearable.”

Friday: Haydenshapes Store, Mona Vale

“The Northern Beaches are something of an Australian surfing mecca. The calibre of surfers and shapers to have come out of here is amazing, so it’s fitting that this area is at the heart of so much surf innovation. For me, it’s important to have a retail environment that lives up to our boards because, as an industry, the focus has never really been on this part of the experience. We have in-store VR [virtual reality] that takes customers inside our manufacturing line, so anybody can sit down and learn about how their board is made. Biggie, my rescue husky/American staffy pup with anxiety issues, is often a fixture here, too.

“When I’m in the shop in Mona Vale [a few beaches south of Palm Beach] chatting with customers, I’ll wear something a bit smarter but still casual, like my favourite Balenciaga sweatpants. Jewellery wise, apart from my wedding ring, I wear this bracelet. It’s basically a U-bolt that you’d put on a trailer, beautifully created by Miansai. It’s industrial and a cool take on tradesmen’s masculinity.”