Words by Josh Barrow | Photography by Josh Tabone
We’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with Shaun here on the European continent a handful of times over the years. Our first encounter, the best part of a decade ago, was along the shores of Portugal whilst filming for Creed McTaggart’s Real Axe video series. Then, he was still just a young, sweet and innocent teenager. More recently, we’ve had the pleasure of sharing a few bières with him here above Biarritz’s Cote de Basque, before watching him drive into the sunset, across the border and into Spain for his next rendezvous. Now, he’s a proud owner of a European passport and a shiny new sticker on his board, we hope our next meeting is just around the corner. Until then, a phone call from out the front of his local pub will have to suffice.
Whereabouts are you right now?
I just flew over to the East Coast a week ago on a mission to buy a new car. Once that’s dialled, I’m planning to live in it for a bit over here and then slowly drive back over to Western Australia…when will depend on the waves.
Are you visiting anyone over there?
Creedo lives about an hour of South of where I am right now. The plan is to hang with him for a couple days then head down to the South Coast and meet up with Noa (Deane). I have a couple friends who film down there and there’s a bunch of waves I want to hunt, so that’s kind of the motivation behind this crazy car buy.
Have you spent much time on the South Coast before?
I’ve spent heaps of time there but never tapped in as hard as I’ve wanted to really. I feel like it’s one of those spots where you really have to put in a couple months or even more to get to know it. Margaret River where I’m from is kind of the same thing. People always come over and just get skunked. No weather map will be able to tell you when it’s actually good. You can try and figure it out but it still never fully adds up. That’s the beauty of it.
Western Australia is home…can you elaborate on your roots and growing up over there?
Mum’s actually from Ireland but both her and my Dad grew up in Perth, which is where I was born. When I was about four years old we moved down to Margaret River and Dad took the shaping bay down with him. We moved to a farm that my Nan and Pop bought with money from racing horses and that’s been us ever since. Margies is still where I consider home.
You surf Mat Manners Shapes, which are your dad’s boards. Have you always ridden them?
I’ve always been so lucky to have my dad shape my boards, from when I started until I was about 16 I was frothing over them, then as you do when you’re an adolescent you want to do the opposite of your parents or whatever. I never didn’t want to ride his boards but we’re so similar and started butting heads, and then all of a sudden my dad wasn’t making me boards anymore (laughs). I tried a few others and they just never felt good for me. I tried a few Mayhem’s, HS’s and a bunch of other boards and then when we patched things up again; that was probably when I started doing my best surfing, around the time I released the video BLASTOID. I would have been 18 or 19. It’s pretty funny to look back at that time.
Some of the other boys like Creed have also been riding them, right?
Creed’s always had a few in his quiver, and yeah if (Noa) Deany snapped a board he’d ride one of mine.
Have you spent much time trying to learn your dad’s shaping skills?
Heaps but I’m definitely more confident sanding, glassing and fixing dings. I feel like that process is something you can replicate really easily. Glassing’s like a science; you can follow the instructions pretty easily. Sanding is just replication of what’s been done by shaping, fixing dings is just fixing something but shaping, I’ve done a lot with my dad and it’s not something you can really replicate. To get good you have to spend more time in the shaping bay than in the ocean, and I’m not willing to make that sacrifice yet. I’d rather spend all my time in the ocean or pursue my other interests, like making music.
Who are your favourite people to watch surf?
It’s funny, being in Australia feels disconnected from the rest of the world, especially when it comes to the freesurfing world. I don’t really go on websites and watch people surf, which I know might sound cliché. The people that really inspire me are the people I go surfing with. I surf with the Epokhe crew a lot; Creed McTaggart, Craig Anderson, Dion Agius…those guys were the people I was watching as a grom in my room. Modern Collective, Dear Suburbia…all that shit. Those guys fully inspired me and it’s wild to go on any surf with them even now.
Something that blew my mind was watching Noa filming for his last video, NOZ VID. I was around for a lot of times filming and that lad just really put his fucking head down. To experience it firsthand, that inspired me. He’s next level. He didn’t care about anything other than making that film. A lot of the waves in there you don’t even realise but he’s riding up on dry rocks. They might not be the biggest waves ever but they’re dry and he’s doing airs and whatnot.
Of course you have to chuck Dane (Reynolds) in there and fuck, honestly there’s not many others really.
You’ve been working on your upcoming Cult Of Freedom video since getting on Globe a couple years ago. Where did you shoot and who with?
I started riding for Globe about two years ago but I couldn’t even really surf at the time. It was the middle of Covid so I could kind of hide behind Covid a little bit, but I wasn’t honest with anyone, even myself. I finally sorted my shit out and we filmed for a year straight. We started in the south west of WA; one of the first good clips we got was down there. I’d never really towed big waves before, and we towed this big slab and got a good clip. From there we kind of just kept rolling. We went to Indonesia, and got some fun stuff, nothing too crazy. Then we just lucked out back in WA which is pretty easy when you’re from there. There were some sick Box days and I surfed with Taj Burrow a bunch. Some south coast of NSW too. Most of the trips I went on were with Noa and Creed but they used their clips for their personal projects.
When is it coming out?
Soon…I think (laughs).
And why couldn’t you surf?
I had this pain issue with my hip. Long story short, I was redlining my life to a certain degree and I wasn’t giving myself enough time. Then I somehow hurt myself not too badly, but I manifested it into this huge ordeal. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It then dragged on for two years and I couldn’t resolve it. It’s crazy, the body can heal the biggest bone in the body (the femur) in three months after being snapped in half and it will come back stronger but this was a mental thing…what’s crazy is I didn’t start off mentally unstable or anything but I’m a highly strung person and manifested the worst scenario which then became true. It’s hard to describe but once you experience it, you can almost see it within society—other people have chronic pain that they are unable to heal.
Happy to hear you’re back! Can you tell us a little about the upcoming Epokhe Film. What trips have you been on, and do you know when it comes out?
A lot of the footage is stuff people have gathered alone to bring together and then we’ve done a couple of team trips on the east of coast of Australia together. People have pulled things together themselves to make this thing pop off which is pretty cool. Apparently there’s a bunch of old occy footage that Kai & Dion sourced from old school days which not many people have seen too. As far as how the edit will go, Kai (Neville) hasn’t let anyone know what that it will be like, or when it’s going to come out which is pretty standard (laughs). Whatever we give him, he’ll manage to construct something amazing. He’s a genius like that.
Can you tell us about the design process for your signature Epokhe frame ‘The Guilty’?
I worked closely with Dion on the design, he’s so good at knowing what works. I just drew that frame up with a few reference points from existing Epokhe frames. I really liked The Machina and The Candy, they’re both mental—the shape and size—it’s pretty much them blended together. The snake was inspired from a dragon I’d seen on a high fashion piece which was similar in style; an exoskeleton line drawing. Originally it had the snake on both sides but we tweaked it to just one, keeping it a little lighter print-wise.
You’ve just got on Former…congratulations! How did that come about?
It’s pretty crazy! Noa Deane knew Former were looking for someone and without me knowing, and being super tight with Dane (Reynolds) he’d mentioned in passing that my contract was coming up. I wasn’t looking at anything ahead and Dane (Reynolds) sent me a DM out of the blue. I never ever thought him asking me to ride for his company would be a thing. Even him just sending me a message was a trip, being a young kid who looked up to him my whole life. And now it’s all rolling. It’s the best and easiest thing I’ve ever done.
Any Former trips planned?
I think we have an Indo trip coming up and then another trip planned later in the year. That’s another reason I’m over here on the east coast for a month or so, to hang with Craig and the lads. Craig wants to get Dane out here for autumn and surf for a month which would be exciting!
Our generic interview ender: when are you coming to Europe?!
I’ve wanted to come to Europe for the last few years as I’ve just got an Irish passport. When I do get over there I want to see the family and relatives then chase some surf. I’ve been to Ireland but never actually surfed. Once I get there with the European passport I’ll certainly stay a few months…I feel like it would also be rad to go somewhere else in Europe, somewhere crazy to do something different.