To say Luke is a lover of the ocean would be the understatement of the year. Inspired by his childhood trips to Newquay from his hometown of Reading, Luke’s dedication to board construction and shaping the best boards to meet the needs of their riders is palpable. This is a really enjoyable interview with a man of eclectic tastes but an open mind for the exploration of humanity’s betterment.
A true patron of the surfing world.
Great to have you on, Harty.
Night Slides (NS):
Let’s start at the beginning, when did your love affair with the ocean start?
Luke Hart (LH):
I was just always that kid who loved water, the ocean, swimming pools, ponds, rivers. Whatever it was, I just wanted to be in an around it. If I went to the beach when I was little, I would be in the sea until I was dragged out!
NS: Generally, growing up in the UK, a career shaping board isn’t a common path for most, why was this different for you?
LH: Especially considering I grew up in Reading! It was just always part of my life outside of my normal existence. It was the thing my mum and I would escape to. To get away from urban life we used to go to Newquay on holiday and it was just where we wanted to be the whole time really. As soon as I got half the chance to live it everyday, I took the opportunity with both hands. I didn’t think twice about what the outcome might be, it was just something that I wanted to do.
I wanted to live surfing and being a shaper gives you that lifestyle – Luke Hart, Fourth Surfboards
NS: Who were the shapers that really inspired you, be it their design theories, work, or just personal inspiration?
LH: I was more inspired by the local surfers if I’m honest. Shaping was a way I could understand what they did, it always seemed obvious to me when a board went really well and didn’t go so well and the inspiration was to use that skill I had and develop it.
I have always admired many shapers, especially ones I have been lucky enough to work with. Lee Bartlett, Mark Neville, Nigel Semmens, Malcolm Campbell, Ryan Lovelace; all of these guys I have watched live and have taught me a lot in the way they go about their work.
NS: Around the world, the UK surf scene is often on the receiving end of some stick, which for us Brits certainly feels unjust. What’s your current view on the British scene?
LH: Yeah I’ll be honest that I’ve never really felt like we get stick from anyone other than UK surfers.
I think globally, the industry here is met with surprise more than anything. I can understand that. It’s a weird place to surf. As far as the scene goes, there are some amazing people who surf! People with all different backgrounds and upbringings, all linked by surfing. Love it or hate it it’s a really special sport for bringing people together in a natural state of awe from the experience and sharing those experiences with others really does bond people together through surfing. It is more noticeable from the outside I think, because there aren’t many surfers who see themselves as part of a ‘scene’ as such.
NS: Moving onto Fourth Surfboards, your own brand which has developed into one of the most reputable shaping factories in the UK. How did Fourth come about?
LH: I’ve never really been brand orientated to be honest. I just know I love Fourth as a brand. It has just grown from people being passionate about it, from surfers, shapers and the places that sell them. Nothing has happened by accident or with any real plan, it has just evolved. Such a cool process to be intertwined with. I own a surfboard factory and we make a load of different brands all of which are totally different and have their own followings, I love that. Fourth is the label I shape for and for me it is about making sure everyone who comes to us gets the right board under their feet. I have just always wanted people to get the best product from us. That is what makes me feel connected to surfing more than actually going in the water! Sounds weird I know.
NS: So how is fourth and the Toy Factory going during these difficult and unprecedented times that we’re in at the moment?
LH: Good to be completely honest. It has been hard for sure, but it has also helped evaluate direction and adapt to what we need to do in order to survive. I really think in the long term it will help us. That process has been enlightening to me. I love my kids being around more, I love how everyone feels more connected and in ‘it’ together. Of course there is a negative side but that will pass and what we are left with is hopefully a healthier business because of it.
NS: Over the years, Fourth has had some of the best UK surfers ride for them, how has this been for you, being able to work with some of the best and enhancing your research and development for Fourth?
LH: Yeah it has been great. I love making boards with anyone. For anyone. I find it such a rewarding process knowing you have helped someone have such an amazing time and that is really heightened when someone wins a competition on your board or gets an amazing wave etc.
The design part for me is relatively effortless because I follow a similar line of thinking which has kind of always been there, even though I have learnt huge amounts along the way in how to interpret what I’m seeing. I guess that is what you would call my style or whatever. But tailoring that to a surfer is just an amazing experience and I feel blessed I have gotten to make boards for some really talented surfers along the way, who have all helped me be the shaper I am now. Without these guys you are nothing more than someone with an idea.
NS: We have seen such a change in board design and construction. The Standard PU Thruster that’s always being faithful is getting challenged by new designs. What are your views on new innovations of board design?
LH: It’s so good. As a shaper, you want to change outline, rocker, etc but you also want to change flex and feel and trying different materials gives you that freedom. I have always been intrigued by what things are made out of. I love when you find something new that does something you haven’t seen before. I think the important thing is realising what works best and for who. Sometimes budget comes into play, sometimes ethics do, aesthetics etc., the more options to build gives you more options to offer, right?
NS: At Fourth, you have a variety of different types of surfboard construction, could you just give us a quick breakdown of the different forms you have?
LH: We have four main construction methods which you can check out in detail on our website and vimeo channel. The idea being that within those 4 tried and tested construction methods, along with a host of different models, we can find you a perfect fit to make sure you get the most out of your surfing.
Flex being the key component of change when it comes to different construction options. The Doofer in ese tech has been a hugely popular choice for a couple of seasons now. It really is a great all rounder and that’s why so many people own one. It will very rarely let you down if you have the right size and that can be said for most surfers. For everyone else, we have other options as well! The beauty of creating your own construction methods I guess! We can cater flex, shape, size,weight and look all to the individual.
NS: Lockdown dependent, one of the most talked about points at the moment is the introduction of surfing into the Olympics. As expected, it’s a controversial conversation in the industry, however what positives can you see coming from this in the UK surf scene?
LH: There are positives in everything. The Olympics is going to see more money in the sport for the athletes which is awesome because the life of a professional surfer has very little financial rewards. We will see more new surfers keen to have a go that maybe wouldn’t have been subjected to the sport first hand and that will create a whole new surfing scene i think, especially when you throw in wave pools into the mix. It’s spreading the joy of surfing a bit further isn’t it, and that might be seen as a bad thing for some and a really good thing for those who never knew it existed! I’m all for it.
MH: You’ve got one trip all expenses paid and you can take anyone. Where would you go and who with?
LH: Ireland with my mates and family. Road trippin, Guiness sippin, head dippin and a few rounds of golf when it goes flat. Heaven!
MH: What’s your favourite action sports movie and why?
LH: ABC by Mickey Smith. Because it made me want to find secret spots!
MH: What’s your favourite ever movie and why?
LH: Pineapple express, lols.
MH: What’s your favourite series?
LH: Not a huge TV watcher to be honest, maybe Royal Family or Only Fools and Horses.
MH: What podcast(s) have you been listening to lately?
LH: Last one I listened to was Joe Rogan and Dan Bilzerian weirdly. Got about 20 mins in and gave up. Best ones are always the trippiest ones, like Eckhart Tolle or David Icke or just anything that blows my mind really. I like reality becoming as close as possible to fantasy, I don’t think there is much in it if you open your mind to everything.
MH: What book(s) have you been reading recently?
LH: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Loved it from start to finish.
MH: What’s your favourite album of all time?
LH: Thats so hard. I’m gonna go for two (sorry). B sides, Seasides and Freerides – Ocean Colour Scene. Because I realised how clever and amazing music really was with that album. And more recently Kano – Made in The Manor. The guy is a modern day poet, I think it could be lost on some who didn’t grow up in the city environment but yeah it’s stunning. HAIL = tune!
MH: What album are you listening to at the moment?
LH: A couple of throwbacks. Oasis – Definitely Maybe and Santana – Supernatural.
MH: Favourite hobby/pastime outside of the surfing world?
LH: I love golf. After spending most of my time outside of surfing doing combat sports I have recently turned to golf and I love it. Just starting my third year playing and I’m as hooked as I was the first day I got a handicap. The battle with your own mind is just awesome. Same as combat sports but way less physical pain!
MH: Finally, what can we expect from Fourth over the next twelve months, are there some new board designs on their way or are there any trips planned?
LH: Always things in the pipeline! New shapes, a couple tweaks on some new techs based on our existing techs. We have some really cool stuff on a new YouTube channel we’re setting up as well to be more interactive with people buying boards from us. So yeah watch this space!