Interview – Dan Sivess

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The Dan Sivess Interview – – July 2008

Hey wassup Dan ? Where are you right now ? What are you up to ?
Hey mate, things are good. Just sitting by the pool with my laptop at the Hyatt in Jakarta, finally found a free moment to focus on this interview. Sorry it took so long! I’m up here taking a weekend away from Surabaya to spend some time with my girlfriend and relax.

How was your Bali trip with the VS and NMD teams ? looks like you guys had a good time.
Yeah the trip was sick. Was good to meet all the team guys and see them all surf. I was only there for the first week of their trip but felt really privileged to have an opportunity to be there with what I would consider to be the worlds best bodyboarders. I think everyone out there will be pretty excited by some of the footage the boys got, i know Nick’s (Nick Mesritz) has some cool plans for it all. The trip was pretty full on for Nick and myself with all the driving and late night airport pickups and early morning surfs, I think we got an average of about 4hours sleep for the first few days!

Can you introduce yourself and what your job is for some of our readers who might not know who you are ?
My name is Dan Sivess, I work in the bodyboard factory in Indonesia with Nick Mesritz. My main role here is to oversee production but i guess i do a bit of everything and anything. A lot of my time is spent converting the shapes customers want into our 2 cutting machines, making the sheets and specs for our production staff to follow and making sure our boards are of the best quality. In the time between I build customs for team riders. Most people who do know me, know me from my customs or DSC but in actually fact that is only a small part of my job. That said, shaping customs is definitely my passion and I am very lucky that i get to shape for a great mix of riders.

How did you get into shaping boards ? is it something you were always interested in or did it just happen coz you had an opportunity to try and learn from someone ?
I guess it was a bit of both. Ever since i started work in the factory back in New Zealand I’ve tried to push myself and tried to be the best at what i do. It wasn’t until Nick came back to work for Broady (the company name in NZ) and I saw him shaping customs that I discovered there could be something more to the job then what i’d been doing up till then. Since then I wanted to learn to shape but it wasn’t until coming to Indo with Nick in 2002 that i finally got the opportunity to learn. My job in NZ had taught me the basics and given me time to refine my skills in the finishing side of board making such as healing the chines, noses and tails and then laminating rails and finish rolling etc. Nick taught me all the rest, how to map out the dimensions, cut the template and shape the core. I owe much of where i am today to Nick’s mentoring.

How did you end up managing the biggest bodyboard factory on earth with Mez ?
I started working for Broady in 1999 the year after i finished College. In 2002 the company was forced to move to Indonesia due to the rising cost of labour and overall costs of running a factory in NZ. Nick asked me if I would join him. Most of the guys in the factory at the time had no intention of moving to Indonesia and to be honest i also had my own doubts about it all. I was 21 and leaving everything i knew to move to a city called Surabaya on the island of Java to make bodyboards was pretty damn intimidating. I’m glad i took the risk though. The first couple of years were really really tough. We had to start the business from scratch, train staff while dealing with the whole language barrier and being away from all our family and friends.

What do you guys do at the factory basically ?
To begin with we were doing a hell of a lot of the actual production, working on the floor everyday with the boys, sweating our nutz off, training staff, running machinery and doing whatever needed to be done. These days things run a lot smoother and we have a great bunch of staff who we can trust which allows us a bit of time to breathe and focus more on creating good shapes and improve on the little things that give boards from our factory that something extra. There is quite a bit of time spent on emails and communicating with the customer to get their ranges dialed in. We also have to build spec sheets and keep a close eye on quality control and dealing with any problems that come along. In between these things i fit in my customs for the team guys.

Can you tell us more about living and shaping and working everyday in Java / Surabaya ?
It’s tough…. The hardest part is being alone, away from family and friends and it certainly took quite some time to get used to that. Unfortunately Surabaya is not what people imagine when you tell them you live in Indonesia. It is basically a big concrete jungle and we have NO BEACH! Luckily Bali is only a half hour flight away for when we get the chance to get down there and get some waves. It was pretty hard to get used to the way people here work, in that it is necessary to have at least double the man power to do a job that would have taken one person in NZ, but once you learn that European work ethics have no place here and relax things seems to flow a lot smoother. There are definitely perks to living here though, we have a maid at home that lives with us and cooks and cleans and a driver that takes us to and from work everyday. The everyday living costs here allow us to save some coin too which was and is a huge plus to living here too. One thing most people notice almost straight away when they come over is the traffic, it’s chaos out there! The heat is also pretty in your face and took a fair while to adjust to.

You are one of the 3 star shapers involved in the great VS project, along with Todd and Jarrod from QCD, what does your job consists of with VS ?
I basically supply the shape that I think is best for the stockboards based on the boards I’ve dialed in year by year working on Pierre’s customs, give my input on the colourways for the model and anything else that I think could help the brand.

Do you communicate with Todd, Jarrod and Mez to work on the VS image and brand ? work with riders and shapes etc. ?
Not so much. I only really communicate with Nick but the concepts and direction for the brand is all him. We do all give him our 2 cents worth and help out with anything we can. More so we work on the custom shape of riders and the board design side of things.

You’re more specifically the PLC’s boards designer / shaper for VS, how is that ? how do you work with Pierre ?
It’s great. I love the concept of rider and shaper and am proud to have been asked to be a part of it. All the materials and colours are exactly what Pierre, Mitch and Ryan ride so I reckon it gives that custom feel to each board and allows the public to ride a board which is pretty much exactly what their favorite riders are using. The only contact myself and Pierre have had is really through email as obviously we are limited by where we live. It was good to catchup on the VS trip to Bali, talk on his boards and see the kid surf… Goodtimes! :)

Is Pierre picky with his boards or he just tells you what he likes and you go from there and he rips anyway on whatever he rides ?
Pierre is pretty good and not too picky. It’s always a process with every rider and all guys tend to make slight changes here and there until we get the magic formula. The best boards always tend to happen when the rider has a fair idea what he wants but allows me to experiment or change things here and there where i believe it necessary or think the shape needs it. With Pierre I think we have the board pretty perfect for now but I’m sure we will slowly have to scale up the size of his board as he grows.

Any little changes for the 2009 on the VS range of boards ? any new stuff coming ? How is the new PLC board by the way ? We want an exclusive scoop from you for Spongercity ! nah just kidding !
Yeah we’ve got a few changes this time around. We have a new CNC machine this year to cut out the boards, this means super clean, super accurate shapes and they have never looked better! I’m happier than ever with Pierre’s shape and can’t wait to see how everyone likes it. Nick’s has also come up with VSAP (Versus Art Project) which combines a sick artist to each of our rider/shaper models… The art these guys have come up with is crazy and i think everyone is going to love the new look.

How long do you spend every week shaping boards for the VS team riders and the other pros you shape for ? Is it hard to switch between the shaping room and managing people and stuff in the factory ?
It’s kinda hard to say as the custom orders don’t come through in any sort of order. I tend to get a crap load in one hit and more often then not everyone needs them at short notice. I guess I spend a bit of time most days shaping and just try to fit it in between the rest of my work as best as i can. It’s a bit of a juggling act at times, especially when Nick’s back in Aussie and I’m up here on my own. In the beginning I was focussing a little to much on the customs and had to kinda take a small step back and focus more on the factory but I think I’ve found a good medium now and learned to have my mind on the managing things even while in the shaping bay.

Do you still surf as much as you want to ? Bali is close to Java but you guys seem to work like crazy and have very little time to enjoy the Bali reefs and beaches actually hey ?
Yeah dude, seems crazy but we hardly ever get down to Bali even though it’s around a 30 min flight away. I probably only get a surf once every few months which sucks but at least when I do get in the water the waves are generally pretty good. Work has kinda taken over my life! hahaha…

Do you go back to NZ to see family and friends quite often ?
Only at Xmas time and if I’m not too busy once in the middle of the year. That was my biggest sacrifice with this job and I know it is also hard on my parents only seeing me once or twice in a year. It’s amazing how much you learn to appreciate your family and friends when you don’t get to see them so often. I’m lucky to have great parents who have supported me throughout even when all the crap hit the fan with the Bali bombings etc. I’ve lived here in Surabaya for 6 and a half years so basically this is home for me now.

Did you watch the new Isolated DVD from NZ ? we’ll review it next week, looks like there’ heaps of good waves in NZ.
I actually did get a chance to watch it when i was home last and thought the guys did a nice job. NZ waves can be pretty Isolated so the dvd is pretty aptly named. There is a very hard core, passionate group of bodyboarders in NZ and it’s great to see them getting their own dvd out there. We aren’t very well known for our waves down there but if your willing to search there are definitely good waves around.

You’re also involved in the design / shapes for the HB team and brand, can you tell us more about that ?
I’ve been working with Terry at HB and his team for quite a few years now. I help them out by working on the range, give them my opinion on board models and any extra features and design the shapes for each board. I’ve also worked with the HB team guys on their customs and injected a lot of those shapes and ideas into their stock models.

Who’s the most picky rider you shape for (all teams or brands included) ? and who seems to know what he likes better and is the most easy rider to work with ?
Hmmmm their are a few picky riders but the one that springs to mind would probably be Dean Fergus (HB), he always wants every feature under the sun! I’m not a big fan of cluttering boards with too many features, i prefer to keep it cleaner. The easiest rider to work with is a hard one to pick. I like working with guys who know what the direction they want to go with their board but leave the templates up to me and trust my judgement on the dimensions and are open to trying something new. I also like working with guys who give me feedback about their customs so i can see if any small changes i may have made worked or didn’t work and if they liked them. I’ve been enjoying working with guys like Jose Marquina (BZ), Amaury Lavernhe (Sniper), Brad Hughes (HB) and of course Pierre Loius Costes (VS) because of those reasons.

Most pros seem to ride a PE/stringer or PE/stringer/mesh combo these days, and i’m sure a lot of readers are wondering why since PP seems more durable and has more projection even though PE has more control ? What’s your idea on materials and material combos ? You’re riding a PP+mesh board and it seems to be quite a good combo isnt it ?
A major reason for the Pro’s preferring to ride PE surlyn boards is that they are riding in bigger, more powerful waves where gaining speed from their board is easier and control of that speed is more important. The PE core allows them stall and control their speed a lot easier than with the stiffer PP core. PE core can be a lot less forgiving and is better suited for more experienced riders that know how to use a waves power to create speed. The Pros can all get free boards from their sponsors so don’t have to worry as much about the boards lasting so long whereas your average grom needs a board thats going to last them as long as possible. PP stringer boards are definitely a good option for most people out there who want an all round board which should, assuming they have a good shaped board from a solid brand, last them a fair while and be well suited in most waves. Many of the Pros who normally ride PE are actually giving PP boards a bit more of a go these days though especially in smaller, comp conditions. In the end it is a feel thing where each rider has to test and ride what feels the best for them and complements their personal riding style. I love my PP/Mesh/No Stringer board as it has the perfect flex for me and I can always shape up another if it gets hammered but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who expects their board to last forever or someone who is busting and landing solid airs as you’d probably bend her in half after not too many of those.

How would you advise younger people to take full advantage of their boards, playing with materials, shapes and water temps or type of waves they surf ? is having a quiver of boards a good idea ?
It’s always a good idea for people to try out different types of cores, shapes, sizes etc. until you know what you like. I guess a lot of younger guys are influenced in their choice by what their friends or favorite rider uses but it doesn’t hurt to keep an open mind with boards. Most people know that cores get stiffer in cold water so should think about the sort of flex they want in response to the water temp in their area before choosing between PP and PE. If you live in a country with hot summers and cold waters it would be best to have a PP and PE in your favorite shape, use the PP in summer and the PE in winter. As i said above I definitely recommend purchasing a board with a stringer as it will last longer and you’ll get better value for money. Having a quiver is good if you can afford it but if not find a shape you like and go from there. Don’t be afraid to try something new maybe mix it up with your mates boards and see how different materials and tails feel. Always check the boards out carefully in the shop and choose the board with the flattest rocker and the one that looks the best quality wise, not necessarily the best colour combo ;)

Do you have your own little shaping habits ? any little things you like doing and no one else seems to do ?
I don’t really know… I suppose I like to have everything pretty organized before even starting the board. I prepare all the custom sheets with all the dimensions, colours, materials and the speeds, heats and pressures that i’ll run the slicks and decks and all the screen printing info first so that it’s ready when i step into the shaping room. I also heal my chines, nose and tails with the slick up rather then down and like to use a small knife for my trimming instead of a drag knife.

How do you come up with a rider’s model ? shape ? stamps ? logos ? etc. what’s the process ? Do you feel like you decide most of everything or some riders seem to be more involved or interested in their shapes ?
I don’t have my own brand at this stage so aside from my DSC I’ve never really had to worry about creating the logos. All the brands we make here have their own artists and art direction for their board model logos etc. I know Nick does all of the NMD logos himself but he definitely works with Ben and Winny on the ideas that he comes up with. In regards to the actual shapes myself and Nick have a lot of input and either help the other brands by coming up with shapes or make sure that the shapes they supply us with are suitable. Most times a riders signature model will be loosely based around their custom board and then scaled from that original template into the different sizes.

What does it take to be a good shaper ? Any advice maybe for people who might wanna shape boards one day ?
Patience, hard work and like any sort of trade a willingness to start at the bottom and work your way up. All the best shapers spent years just sanding cores and running laminators and doing the basic, day to day shit that comes with working in a factory. I think you also need to really enjoy making things with your hands and much of the time need to be willing to put work before play which can mean sacrificing time in the water for time in the shaping bay. Bodyboard shaping is a tough industry to get involved in these days as the majority of the companies are based in Asia or are small custom facilities that need very little manpower. Unless your an absolute legend and can teach yourself and create all your equipment and everything from scratch then i guess you gotta get lucky and know someone in the industry who needs an assistant and is willing to teach you the ropes.

You learned from Mez who learned from Buzz @ Toobs in the US, that’s a pretty cool way to pass the shaping knowledge, who’s gonna learn from you and Mez now ?
No one it dies with us! ;) muhahahaha. Jokes jokes… Hmmmm it’s a good question, the first Indo shaper maybe?? Nah, seriously though I have no idea, we will have to wait and see mate…

Thanx a lot for your time Dan !
Talk to you soon,

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