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Craig shapes up for new adventure after surf shop

After 22 years Brisbane surf brand Primitive Surf is closing its doors. Founder Craig Rees said the loyal customers, many who have become great friends, have made it such an amazing journey.
After 22 years Brisbane surf brand Primitive Surf is closing its doors. Founder Craig Rees said the loyal customers, many who have become great friends, have made it such an amazing journey. Jacqueline Henry

AFTER 22 years and nearly 8000 surfboards, north Brisbane surf brand Primitive Surf has closed its doors.

The man behind the brand, Sandgate resident Craig Rees opened Primitive Surf on February 11, 1995 in Braun Street, Deagon (where The Star is now located).

"We originally had one shop on Braun Street and then expanded to take over two shops. After 10 years we decided we wanted to be closer to the city to take in the whole of north Brisbane and we found the property at Nundah and we've been there for the last 12 years," Mr Rees said.

"For the past 22 years I've been living the dream surfing all over the world, making friends, shaping boards and it all started in Deagon."

Mr Rees said some of his best memories have been the surf trips but the customers he's met and the friends he's made have been the real highlights.

"The surf trips have been amazing memories. I've got to surf all over the world but making surfboards for people and seeing the joy people get out of surfing are my favourite memories.

"Whether that's beginners or kids or someone from overseas, that's definitely a highlight.

"The friends we've met along the way have been amazing. And the people who have met each other through the shop. You introduce people to each other and 10 years later or 20 years later or whatever, they're still great friends and they've been surfing together all that time. Primitive brought people together."

Although Primitive Surf is over, Mr Rees plans to continue surfing and shaping boards.

"I can still make surfboards, it just won't be under the Primitive name. I'll use my name Rees Shapes," he said.

"I'll make my boards from the same factory at the Gold Coast. They've got shaping bays so I'll just take a few orders and shape the boards and then they'll go through the same process they've always gone through and they'll have the same quality.

"Our original logo is the old stick man. It was the first logo we used when we started at Deagon. We brought him (the stick man logo) back in the last few years.

"We've been putting him on all these retro sort of boards, like twin fins and long boards and single fins.

"We also did a surf report every week on Facebook and we'd have a stick man surfing tip of the week. He was our original logo so we've come full circle."

Primitive Surf has made boards for a lot of surfers, including some famous ones.

"I've made three boards for (former Prime Minister) Tony Abbott, (Olympic gold medallist) Steven Bradbury, a lot of the famous league and rugby players and cricket players, and TV stars like Gyton Grantley. I have a picture of Gyton Grantley that was on the front page of a newspaper walking up Bondi Beach holding a Primitive surfboard.

"But a lot of the favourite boards I've made have been for local surfers; many of them have become mates who've I've gone surfing with. When you're making that board you're actually thinking about that person and how they surf when you're making it.

"It takes about a week for a board to go through the factory process. They're such a labour intensive product. People think boards are machine made now. The initial process may go through a CAD machine, and everybody uses that same technology, but still shaping the blank (board) needs to be finalised and every process after that is done by hand.

"It's the same way boards were made since the 1960s. Hence why they can get them made so cheaply in other places in the world, because they're paying people much less an hour and it is a very labour intensive process.

"It might take me half an hour or two hours to shape the blank and then it goes to the artist and he does the artwork and then you lay the cloth down and pour the resin on. Then you sand it and put the next coat on and then you sand it back and put the fins in, but there's no machines in any of that process. It's all done by hand.

"That's what we've always done. We've done a lot of custom boards so people pick their own artwork and I think, in Brisbane, you've got even more people who want that service.

"They like getting colours on their boards and getting them customised. We've always done a lot of different colours and artwork.

"That's where we've been a little bit different because we have been a Brisbane-based shop. People in Brisbane will have that five days a week where they're not at the beach so for them we were a place they could go to get that little surf hit during the week and buy a block of wax and touch a surfboard and get the beach feel. It always felt like that's what we were fulfilling for Brisbane surfers.

"Another reason we've been successful for so long is we've had an amazing team of people and staff around us; everyone who's worked for us in the shop, team riders, ambassadors, we've just been surrounded by amazing people. I want to thank all those people and Primitive director Dale Fielder and my wife Lotta.

"And we're grateful to all our customers, they've been amazing. One of my customers has become a good friend who I met through the shop and he said to me, 'Craig, if I go into another surf shop it's like I'm cheating on my wife'.

"People became that loyal to us and it's been like that the whole time, that's why we've been around so long, our loyal Primitive people.

"For everyone who's been involved for the last 22 years, it's been a whole heap of fun. Thanks for the ride."

Topics:  gyton grantley primitive surf steven bradbury surfboards surfing tony abbott


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