If you’re the kind of arsehole who has too much time on your hands, and divides that time equally between writing hate filled dribble on Internet comment sections and stalking your ex on Facebook, then Shaun Manners is your wet dream. Why? Cause he’s a young pro surfer who is androgynously handsome, hangs out with young freesurfers Creed McTaggart, Ellis Ericson, and Beau Foster on the North Coast of NSW, is on Dion Agius’s sunglass brand, the Epokhe surf team, and has appeared in a Skegss music video pashing a girl in slow motion, which also featured on one of the band’s EP covers. In short, he’s a nice kid who shreds, and is having a pretty good time… perfect, right? So, go on, get on with your hating, surfing’s gross corner of Internet isn’t going to make itself all negative without you. Shaun’s not going to care either way. He’s on his own trip, one brimming with oodles of talent, lanky limbed Machado-esque style and an unmistakeable Margaret Riverness coursing though his approach to wave riding that guarantees an enviable comfort in the juice, and a toughness in his surfing that’s unflappable, in the same vein as surfers like Taj Burrow, Jay Davies, and Creed McTaggart. Shaun joined Chippa and Dion on this recent trip to South Sumatra and couldn’t be more stoked about it.
SW: You’ve just returned home from a trip with Chip and Dion. Mind blown?
SM: It was pretty psycho. That was my first proper trip working on a movie and I was tripping the whole time. It’s so weird surfing with guys on the hunt for clips. They make the craziest airs look so easy. I was just sitting back going, “Holy shit! These guys are psycho!” I couldn’t really keep up, but I learnt so much from them. They’re incredible.
What stands out most about those guys when you’re surfing with them?
How hard they attack. Chippa was pulling full rotes every wave. Dion was doing crazy alley oops and shit. It felt like they do something mental with every wave they catch.
What’s the strike rate for makes when those guys are going that big?
High man. Consistent. And the thing is, they never throw down stock standard spins, they’re always shooting for something bigger. They work their arses off for it, they surf all day and they go hard. They just get it done.
You look like you were focussing on longer lines and drawing out your turns. What’s the inspiration there?
Beau Foster and Ellis Ericson recently showed me Litmus, Andrew Kidman’s film, for the first time. I’ve been watching a shitload of that lately, it’s just such a sick film! Watching Derek Hynd surf J-Bay… I had no idea he surfed like that! I could watch that all day. I’d never really copped anything like that before, and I really wanted to get into it. It was a classic opportunity for me because my dad wanted to teach me how to shape boards. I’ve only shaped two of them, he helped me out, but I tried to make some different boards. I tried to make something longer and narrower because it’s just boring trying the same shit all the time. If I’m riding the boards I’ve shaped, I’m usually on a righthand point where you want to draw out your turns. I usually just try airs when there’s a fun section, but I’m not that good at them.
Tell us about the right where you did that grab rail bottom turn.
That thing was so sketchy. We only surfed it once. It was pretty sick, but if you fell off on the inside bit you got so smoked. I got this one wave and tried to do a grab rail bottom turn and bogged so hard and got sucked over the falls and landed on the dry shelf, and my boardies got ripped off. It was really gnarly. I always kinda trip out in Indo because the reefs are so sharp there. They’re pretty different crazy waves, really sucky, shallow, unpredictable waves but that’s what makes them exciting as well.
What’s all the footage for?
Epohke is making a team film, Kai Neville’s making it. Shane Fletcher was shooting that trip. It would be pretty sick if I got a part in it. I haven’t done that before. That’s what I’m frothing on. That’s what I always dreamed about as a grom. Scoring pumping waves with your mates is just the cherry on top.
Who were you frothing on the hardest as a grom? What videos?
When I was a grom, I didn’t get that into surfing, I was more into video games. I didn’t really watch too many surf films. The ones that I did watch were the ones Kai Neville did with Dion and Chippa. Modern Collective and that kinda thing. I’ve only recently started getting gnarly into surf movies. I never really watched surf films until recently, but I reckon it’s sick, I can’t believe I haven’t been doing it for longer.
Tell us about growing up around Margarets…
It’s a pretty crazy place to grow up. I mean, It’s super chilled and whatever, but I was there until I was 17 and it’s a pretty small town. Just like any small town in Australia, you get pretty over it, but it was definitely sick to grow up surfing there. There’s so many good waves, heaps of slabs and bombies, but I couldn’t stay there my whole life.
So how’d you get out?
Creedo invited me to come stay at his place in Bangalow for a while, just outside of Byron. I think he invited me over for a couple of weeks and I just ended up staying for a year. I moved into the laundry.
Next to the tumble dryer?
Nah. There’s no washing machine in there, just the hot water system, but people pop in every now and then to get their clothes. It’s pretty funny.
Has the east coast changed your surfing?
Not really the way I surf, but I surf more now because the waves are pretty shit in Byron most of the time, and when they’re good it makes you think, “Fuck! I’ve gotta go surfing!” And then when I’m back home in West Oz, I just go nuts because you’re spoilt for choice over there. Now I’ve learned to appreciate where I grew up.
Where do you see yourself five years from now, what do you want to be doing?
Best case scenario would be doing freesurfing and getting paid, making movies. The same thing I’m doing now. Hopefully five years from now I can shape my own boards really easily, like I know what I’m doing. Pretty much the same thing, but just get better at what I’m doing. Dude, I’ve fallen in love with freesurfing, especially over the last couple of trips. It’s not just travel, it’s a job, and it’s fucking sick! Especially going on trips with Dion and stuff, it’s so surreal like, “Woah!”
Did those guys have any advice for you?
When we’re filming, whether it’s Shane Fletcher, or whoever is on the beach, you’ve gotta work for them. They didn’t say it to me, but I just noticed it. Like when the lighting’s good, and the waves are good, they’re trying their hardest and surfing for hours. That’s how you get it done. When I was younger, I’d go for a fucken hour and a half surf and think, “Aww yeah, I got the clips,” but it’s not like that at all. You can’t surf for an hour and a half and expect to get sick clips. Chippa and Dion stay out there until they get their shit done, and it usually takes quite a few hours. You can’t just go for a quick surf.
Any career advice from those two?
I have picked their brains on a few things. Just little questions. Dion’s crazy, mate, he’ll surf for six hours straight and get the most psycho clips. I noticed on this trip, he’ll come straight in, jump on the lappy and start designing a new pair of sunglasses or replying to a hundred emails. He’s a full businessman, and he’s really smart with how he goes about the whole thing. That’s what I noticed. I couldn’t do that, I come in from a surf and I’m knackered and all I want to do is eat and sleep. He’s a powerhouse, and that’s why he’s so successful.
Will that be you one day when the shaping career kicks off?
I’d love to, but I have no idea how to get into that. I’m still pretty young, like 19 or whatever, and to have another creative path would be pretty sick.
What’s the number one thing you took away from this trip?
My first proper surf video trip done. I felt like I kinda kept up. I gave it a good crack and wasn’t slacking off. I was just stoked to go on a trip with my heroes, I couldn’t believe I was on the same as them! I was like, “Holy shit!” This is what I always dreamed about as a grommet, I had no idea back then that I would be doing this. A couple of days after the trip it sank in and I thought, “Fuck, this is what I’ve always wanted to do!” I’m so blessed, I feel really lucky. It’s that sick!