In the epicentre of the Gold Coast’s surf culture, Burleigh Heads, Dolphin Surf Craft produces custom-designed (and in many cases decorated) handmade, true-blue boards that are in high demand globally.
One of the largest Australian board manufacturers with a multi-million-dollar turnover, Dolphin designs and shapes boards for elite athletes on the Surf Life Saving circuit, among them Ironman Champions Shannon Eckstein, Ali Day, Jordan Mercer, Ironwoman Champion Courtney Hancock, and world SUP Champion, Lincoln Dews.
Such is their prowess, Dolphin supplies Surf Lifesaving organisations throughout Australia, and exports to New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Europe, UK and the USA. Cult TV show and the epitome of American beach culture, ‘Baywatch’, also used their boards over the years.
Simon Hunnybun, who has been making boards professionally since he left school 27 years ago, is a Director at Dolphin. His business partners are former Ironman world champion, Zane Holmes and Ironwoman Champion, Kristyl Smith.
Simon grew up in Berry on the south coast of NSW before moving to the Gold Coast, and is proud to say he was mentored by the best in the business.
“I worked with Dick Van Straalen who is known for being a very experimental, innovative, open-minded surf craft designer and shaper. I started working with epoxy with him 20 years ago and never looked back.”
In 2008, Simon bought the Dolphin business from his wife’s uncle. “I was well-acquainted with the business and he was glad to keep it in the family,” he says.
Family remains a crucial part of the operation, as does surfing. Denizens of Palm Beach, Simon and his family, daughter Sianna, 13, and son Zai, 11, are actively involved in surf lifesaving and keen surfers. Simon makes their boards, of course, and repairs them.
Today, Dolphin is the acknowledged leader in surf lifesaving boards, producing customised surf skis, rescue boards,Nipper boards and racing paddle boards, along with a range of standup paddleboards and surfboards, all made from the latest epoxy systems.
KINETIX® epoxy surfboard laminating systems are supplied by the experts at ATL Composites, based at Molendinar, who have earned an equally impressive global reputation for innovative products across the fields of marine, automotive, architectural and construction. The specific surf range has been formulated to address the surfing industry’s interest in reducing release of VOCs into the atmosphere and improving performance in the international market.
“We have plenty of experience in construction, design and racing,” says Simon, referring to his formidable team, “and we are committed to constant R&D.
“We’ve evolved from using wood or polyurethane and foam. Those boards were heavy and not very durable. For rescue and racing, you want the lightest weight, the toughest boards. Athletes want any advantage they can get. The boards are big with heaps of volume, so we use epoxy for lightweight, strong boards.”
ATL has a creative hand in their clients’ businesses, as Simon attests. “ATL has been amazing since we started using their resin at least seven years ago”.
“They always go the extra mile. When we were seeking resin that would be easier to sand and make the whole process easier, ATL chemists came back with different formulations to fit our brief. These products are now used all over the world and are considered the best and easiest to use.”
KINETIX® Professional Laminating systems are ideal for the fabrication of parts requiring high strength and lightweight, and are specified by a variety of industries including performance racing yachts, automotive components and high-performance sports equipment.
“Making boards is an art AND a science,” explains Simon. “For a hand-crafted product, the process is extremely high-tech. The formulations have to be spot on. Everything has to be right, sanding, laminating, curing – all along the way.”
The Dolphin range of boards has won a slew of awards for design, performance and their eco-friendly construction.
“We use a range of eco products that use basalt, flax and ATL’s KINETIX® ECO-X resin in the construction of some boards. These have been approved as ‘eco-boards’ by Sustainable Surf accreditation, due in part to ATL’s resin, which has been independently tested by Beta Analytic to ASTM D66866-16 to confirm the bio-based carbon content in the cured system.
But it’s not all formulations and technical wizardry. Like the surfing lifestyle that entices devotees the world over, there’s an esoteric component that draws on our sheer awe at nature.
“All of us are passionate about the ocean and surfing. Creating, designing, constantly enhancing our products stems from our love of the surf. We have a full-time artist on our team who is super talented and creates beautiful customised artwork on boards, which is a wonderful, personal touch.
“I am just so lucky that I’m motivated by making the boards I love, here in my own backyard.”