Thalia Surf x Adrian Knott Collab & Interview
Posted on 03 November 2021
Thalia Surf has teamed up with old friend Adrian Knott on a couple of new women's tees. Many of you will remember Adrian's artwork from his old clothing line Rake, which we proudly carried for years. These days Adrian is focusing much of his creative energy on hand shaping surfboards for his Maren label, out of Noosa. Fortunately we were able to coax him into laying down his planer and picking up a pen to draw out a couple of surf inspired designs for us. We also did a little interview with the Australian. Read on to learn more about Adrian's creative journey, surf life, greatest blessings, and future plans. And don't forget to grab a tee from our online store, or right off of the racks at the shop in Laguna Beach!
What does a typical day in the life of Adrian Knott look like?
Up early to let Omelette the chicken inside to have some breakfast in the lounge room, then I am off to the local cafe for a coffee, check my emails and do work stuff eg : blank orders, invoicing etc… then I head to the beach for a surf check. I usually just sit and watch the ocean for a while then make a decision whether to surf or head home.
If surfs on I will plan my day around the tides. When its good I will probably surf for 4-5 hours then head back and do some gardening or graphics work, projects etc. I shape in the evenings as I share a work space with Mitch and he is usually shaping during the day, so I have to do the graveyard shift. I usually leave home around 5 pm and drive to work, shape a board (which can take around 2-5 hours depending on what it is), then tinker around and foil some fins, mix resin for glassing, then bail and head home around 12 am. The boys at the factory call me the Bat as I only am seen at work during the evening.
We first came across your work when you were doing Rake. Can you tell us about that project?
I had spent over 15 years working for surf companies as a clothing and graphic artist since I left school. I started to get pretty bored with the work and the direction of the companies. I had launched various little projects over the years and I could see a little hole in the market for a small surf brand that wasn’t focused on big corporate logo branding which was flooding the market at the time. I wanted to do something art based with a vintage surf, grass roots look and feel. I came up with a small line of t-shirt
prints, hats and some board shorts that were heavily art based. I called it Rake (surf term for the sweep on a surfboard fin not a garden rake). I think one of the first shops I sold too was Thalia! It was one of the only surf shops in California that I got excited to visit back then in around 2008. I remember walking in and seeing old vintage skateboards ,surf memorabilia, small unique brands and a rack full of alternative surfboards. I got inspired at the direction Thalia surf had taken and thought they would suit my product. The range got a great response and people started to contact me. Many clients assumed it was a American surf brand due to the product only being available California. I got board shorts manufactured in California at first then in Bali. I built a pretty good retail list pretty quick and sold in Japan, USA and Australia. I ended up expanding the product to include surfboards and this is what set me on a path to shaping boards.
My Dad is a master salesman and ended up doing all the international sales and helped with production. I got super burnt out working on the project and was doing a massive amount of time chained to the computer. Eventually I started to fade out the clothing and concentrate on surfboard building.
These days you are making Maren Surfboards, and unlike many shapers, all of your boards are hand made. Why is that important to you?
Yeah, I decided I wanted to set a goal for myself to develop my skills as a shaper from the ground up. I find it super rewarding to shape by hand & I enjoy the process. I am trying to build my company on being a small low volume business that only produces custom surfboards. I don’t see the need to machine boards when my production is only limited low numbers each year. I don’t do stock boards so I try to be super mindful of how important it is to get as close to the customers vision, from the fine details like colour, volume and the feeling they are looking for out of there new board.
Surfboards are expensive and I want to get it right and make something unique and high quality that can be enjoyed for many years to come. It would be nice to see a little more transparency within the industry about what boards are machined and ones that are hand shaped, many of the smaller alternate surf brands market themselves as hand shaped when in reality the boards are all machine shaped . Would be nice to be able to charge a little more for my time but the reality is it's an even playing field due to consumer not being aware on how they are made.
How did you get started making art and surfboards for a living?
I always knew as grommet that I wanted to be an artist and work in the surf industry. My dad was artistic and had worked in the rag trade all his life so I managed to be around and see how clothing companies worked. I got a early break into the surf industry straight out of art school and learnt my skills working in house at various big brand surf labels doing graphics and clothing design and eventually left to do freelance.
As far as shaping surfboards, there was never a point during my early years that I ever even thought about shaping. I was really into collecting vintage surfboards and had curated a huge collection in my shed that became a great reference point later. The seed that sparked my shaping probably was when Richard Kenvin / Joe Bauguess started to explore the history of Bob Simmons and they shaped a smaller compressed version of his design they labelled the Mini Simmons. I remember seeing the early Casper design and just couldn’t believe how fun this surfboard looked. No one in Australia was shaping the Simmons design and I couldn’t afford to purchase one from USA so I decided to make one myself, the first few boards were crude but they worked amazing. I ended up getting so hooked in the way the board rode that it drove me into a path of shaping. It was a nice change to be building and crafting something rather than sitting at desk getting mentally drained to create art. Now I shape full time and do various art projects when they arise which allows me to be more creative instead of being a sausage machine.
Have you faced adversity in your life or creative career? What have you learned from that?
Leaving the comfort of full time employment to working for your self is a huge challenge you have to rely solely on yourself to have money coming in constantly, so that was quite a challenge. I have been a sole trader for over 15 years, so you learn to get by when business slows and bills keep flowing. You start to become pretty clued in on periods of the year when orders slow and also when peak times hit. I also got diagnosed with a rare terminal blood condition 8 years ago so I have to be in hospital for a special infusion every 2 weeks to keep me going. After the diagnosis I am out to keep life as exciting as possible and focus on filling my life with new experiences and adventures by having a good work life balance .
What feeling or message do you want people to take with them after viewing your art or riding your boards?
Although I put in a lot of extra effort in making the boards look visually appealing and getting the order as close to the customers vision, the main feeling or goal I want to to achieve is a surfboard that works and leaves the customer feeling super stoked after riding it. This is what drives me to keep developing my skills and designs, I love to get feedback whether its good or bad. Function is my main aim.
What role does surfing play in your life?
As most surfers know Its a lifestyle not a hobby. We all dream of chasing the perfect wave everyday or clearing our minds in the salt water after a rough day at work. We all have different levels of how deep we want to immerse our life around surfing, for me I have managed to incorporate my life around surfing in every aspect. If I am not surfing I am in the shaping bay working hands on with surfboards and when I have free time I am thinking about my next board build or how I can develop my skills further.
What are some things that you are grateful for?
Grateful that I am able to incorporate my work and love for surfing into my daily routine and create a life that allows me to choose when I want to work and build it around my lifestyle. Also, I feel very lucky to have a super supportive family and partner who makes challenges in life a lot easier when they arise.
What do you love about living and surfing in Noosa Heads?
I grew up in Noosa as a grommet so it holds some pretty amazing childhood memories. I think its the best place in Australia, its small enough to have a community vibe but big enough to have everything you need at your fingertips on a daily basis. It's tropical and warm most of the year, great like minded surf community, amazing coastline with a front and back beach and one of the best point set ups in Australia when its on. It also suits my surfing and development of my surfboard design, the surf community here are open minded with the craft they ride. They ride anything and everything! Also, there are many inspirational surfers and shapers in the area. If I get over the Noosa bubble I can drive 3 hours south and explore the northern NSW rivers for surf adventures.
Do you have any plans or projects that you are looking forward to in the future?
Eventually I would like to set up a little shop front /showroom to have my boards on display with a shaping bay out the back . Also, when travel resumes I would love to do some shaping trips to other countries. But at the moment I am happy just to have my manufacturing set up and live as simpley as possible. It's a strange world at the moment and I am trying to keep the business model simple and easy and not have big overheads.
How do you stay inspired?
The ocean and the local environment, artists, friends, history, books, new adventures and my amazing supportive partner Lindy .