Caption- A 19 year old Oggy

One of the first buildings you pass in Dunsborough’s Light Industrial Area is the Yahoo surfboard store. On the shaded veranda out front there are stands of second-hand boards. Inside it smells of surf wax and fresh neoprene and there are rows of glistening, new surfboards.

Most of these surfboards are the lifeblood of one of this town’s most well-respected surfboard shapers, Mark Ogram. Oggy, as he is known, began making surfboards in Dunsborough in 1990.

His boards were originally markedly different from the conventions of that era but his vision and foresight were prescient.

“It was the Kelly Slater era then. Boards were getting narrower and longer and thinner. They were geared towards high performance and it was interesting to see, but they weren’t right for everyone,” says Oggy.

Through that period, I saw a lot of guys drop out of surfing.  They couldn’t keep up or ride those boards and they thought they were past it, and that sort of bugged me a bit.

Surfboard shaper Oggy has always been drawn to the ocean.
Surfboard shaper Oggy has always been drawn to the ocean.

“I guess all my design stuff has come from my own needs because I’m an average surfer myself. And to me, those boards weren’t working. So I moved into that middle zone between short boards and long boards that really suited the recreational surfer, the older surfer, who needs a bit more foam and volume.”

In recent years, popular surfboard design has conformed with Oggy’s vision – with shorter, wider, and fuller shapes becoming popular, even among professional and high-performance surfers, says Oggy.

“We were really on our own a bit there. It’s a lot more open now. Everyone has sort of woken up to the fact that you can have a board with a bit more volume in the nose. It’s good to see the industry progress and embrace that.”

Inside Yahoo Surfboards, Dunsborough
Inside Yahoo Surfboards, Dunsborough.

Oggy’s journey here began when he was a child living on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island in the 1960s. Although he lived a few hours inland his family were coastal people. Every free moment was spent at the coast – fishing, swimming, or surfing. At home, Oggy’s dad built his own wooden fishing boats, which helped instil an interest in watercraft design in Oggy.

“The old man, he was a mad keen fisherman. He was never a professional boat builder but everyone just built their own boats in those days. So I sort of soaked that up and obviously had the love for boats and the ocean right from then.”

“I guess that just transferred into the love of surfing. There was a natural interest in the boards and how they were made and designed. And yeah, that was me. That just ticked the box.”

Caption- A 19 year old Oggy
A 19 year old Oggy

When he finished school in 1978, Oggy’s parents pushed him to study engineering but Oggy spent more time at the beach than in his lectures. It was a chance encounter one day at a beachside car park that pulled him towards a career in surfboard shaping.

“I had made a few boards in the backyard and had just decided I wanted to have a crack at doing it properly, and I sort of just bumped into Bob Davie, who was the guru of shaping in New Zealand at the time. We hit it off and he offered me a job in his factory.”

Oggy began fixing dings, before moving onto glassing, sanding, then shaping under the guidance of Bob in his Saltwater Surfboards factory.

Bob ran the business with three other partners, but after a few years he and Oggy found themselves heading off in a different direction and left to pursue their own label. They set up Lipsticks surfboards and began shaping in a shed beneath the avocado trees on Bob’s rural property.

Surfers at sunset in Yallingup. Credit Rachel Claire
Every free moment was spent at the coast - fishing, swimming, or surfing. Photo credit Rachel Claire.

But the long New Zealand winters began to wear Oggy down, and in 1988 he and his wife, Sherylle and 10-month-old son, Jed, set off in search of a warmer climate. They landed in Fremantle in the middle of a 10-day heatwave.

“I hadn’t been to WA, but I had a couple of mates had and they raved about how good and consistent the surf was. When we got to Fremantle, I had never had heat like that. It was just awesome. I remember touching the buildings and they would still be warm at night, and going, ‘I’m never leaving here,’” he recalls.

Again, luck was on Oggy’s side, and he landed in Perth just as major surf brand Rusty were moving their operation from Dunsborough to Perth – and he got a job shaping at their factory.

While Oggy learned a lot about shaping boards in large-scale production, he missed the creative investment that came with creating a board from start to finish. After two years at the Rusty factory it was time for a change. He packed up the family in the old HG wagon and headed south to Dunsborough in 1990.

Oggy, Jed and Zak
Oggy, Jed and Zak.

After beginning in a small unit on Clark Street, he moved to his Naturaliste Street shop in 2012. He’s also bequeathed his passion and talent for riding waves and shaping surfboards to his son Zak, who shapes under his own Z-Shapes label in the same building. His eldest son, Jed, is a talented tattoo artist. Both the boys have inherited their love of the ocean from their father and Grandfather and after both having time out of Dunsborough after leaving school, they have returned to raise their own young families.

While many of Oggy’s shapes were originally dismissed by some of the more high-performance surfers, Oggy has remained true to his original vision, and expanded his range to create a collection of surfboards that are accessible to everyone.

“In the beginning there were the hardcore guys who rode the high-performance stuff, and wrote them off as being too boaty or whatever. But I wasn’t worried about that part of the market. I was out for the older guys that embraced it, just making boards for guys like myself,” he says.

“All the designs have changed and been refined a bit, but really it’s just been about adding to the range and that versatility. Really, what it’s all about is making sure we’ve got something for everyone.”

Mark 'Oggy' Ogram, in his Dunsborough surfboard shaping studio
Oggy at work.

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