The Lifestyle magazine

Alongside the big blue, concrete, wave on the Phillip Island Road in Newhaven is Islantis Surfboards, an extensive retail outlet that provides everything for anyone interested in surfing. The business is owned and operated by Scott Jackson who has been a zealous surfer since childhood with an avid interest in surfing history.

A particularly interesting part of the enterprise is a Vintage Surf Expo that contains a collection of more than 50 surfboards dating back as far as the 1920s as well as signed memorabilia, photographs and other fascinating surfing artefacts.

The premises, initially a homestead diner, has been a retail surf outlet since the 1970s. Scott took over the business almost eight years ago and has continued to build and expand it since.

“We have kept it as an original old surf store rather than giving it a new modern look so it has soul and we keep the memorabilia so it has a story,” he said. “It’s the story of surf board manufacturing – where it started and what it is today and the different materials we use now compared to what was used.

“Modern boards are a lot looser, easier to paddle, easier to turn and much lighter and they glide well through the water. The old timber boards without leg ropes that were much larger and harder to turn could sometimes create havoc in the water.”

He said visitors are often amazed at how much Australia has influenced the surfing industry – the designs and board shorts by Quicksilver and Ripcurl, and board designs by Mark Richards in the late 70s who designed the twin fin, and Simon Anderson who developed the three-finned thruster in the early 80s. Both are renowned designs that have taken off worldwide.

“Tourists from overseas find it particularly interesting. Most people in Australia know about surfing because we all live around the coast but other countries don’t have the luxury of having the beaches we have, so they know little about surf culture.”

Products available in the shop include surf gear, surfboards, wetsuits, clothing, bikinis and board shorts. “We sell to people that travel for surfing so we keep travel bags for surfboards, heavy clothing and we have wetsuits all year round with gloves, hoods and booties. We also sell skateboards and their accessories. Sales fluctuate through trends. The current trend has gone back to the old school retro look and smaller skate boards as well as some long boards.”

The business also incorporates manufacturing surfboards in the Newhaven industrial estate with the Islantis brand. “We make tiny short boards to larger boards and custom-made boards to suit customer’s individual needs. The shaper who works for me is Geoff Garratt but everyone knows him as Grem, which is stamped on all the boards.”

Scott who is originally from Melbourne, said while growing up he had spent weekends and school holidays at Phillip Island with his family and he got the surfing bug when he was about 12 years old. “I went to surfing spots at the far end of Phillip Island in the Cat Bay area where it was easier to learn to surf. During my teenage years, I used to hitch a ride out to Flynns Reef.”

When he was 22, Scott went to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland where he lived and worked for about six years before returning to Phillip Island to take over the business.

He said that like many surfers in Victoria, he has tried to go away somewhere surfing each winter so he has travelled to many tropical places including Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia, which is a popular place for surfers, Fiji, Hawaii, California and Kiribati in the Pacific. “We were the first paying guests at a surf camp there on Christmas Island. It was a great experience because it was so remote and the surfing was really good.”

While Scott has always enjoyed surfing, he has not entered competitions. “Personally, I’m not into competitions, although having a surf shop means being involved to some extent but I just enjoy surfing. I like the relaxation and revitalisation it gives you. If I have a shitty day, I can go surfing and then feel good about myself and feel refreshed. That’s what I like about surfing.

“I now have a family and the business, so I surf a little bit less. It’s generally on Phillip Island because of the consistency of the surf. On the sunshine coast, especially during spring, it was quite flat and you could go days on end without any surf at all but on Phillip Island, you can always find somewhere to go surfing.”

By Wendy Morriss 

Copyright © 2012 Wendy Morriss: Freelance Journalist. All Rights Reserved.