MASTER CRAFTSMAN: Mick Hopper from Hayden Surfcrafts working on Clint Robinson’s old board.
MASTER CRAFTSMAN: Mick Hopper from Hayden Surfcrafts working on Clint Robinson’s old board. Warren Lynam

Hayden Kenny kicks off surf craft dynasty

IF YOU'RE a paddler or surf skier chances are you've been on a Hayden craft.

For many they'll be spending the best part of nine days on top of or sitting in one of those Hayden surf crafts.

For two men in their 70s, those same nine days represent a gruelling period of 80-hour weeks as they shape, repair and produce crafts for the thousands of lifesavers hitting the sand at The Aussies.

Those two men are Mick Hopper and Graham Cook.

They've owned Hayden Surfcrafts since 1981, taking the company over from founder Hayden Kenny, who famously shaped his first surfboard on his grandfather's farm at Maryborough in the late 1950s.

In the middle of undertaking urgent repair work for those boards battered and bruised this week, Hopper spoke about the work he loves and how they stay ahead of the pack.

"A lot of the athletes help us out with feedback," Hopper said.

"We're doing that all the time (innovating), it's just what we've always done."

Currently restoring legendary Olympic paddler Clint Robinson's original paddleboard, Hopper said yesteryear was never far from sight in his industry.

"The links to the past are always there," he said.

"We do a lot of restoration of old craft."

So how did the company become a household name?

Hopper points to the crop of extraordinary athletes that have used Hayden, including Grant Kenny, Robinson and Scott Thompson to name just a few.

"We've always had a lot of good athletes on the boards," the understated Hopper said.

"It's just sort of happened for us, we've just done what we do."

With more and more imports entering the market, Hopper reflected on what he said was an ever-changing industry.

"Skis are obviously faster, I think the athletes with the intensive training... they sort of demand, they set pretty high standards," he said.

"They demand high performance out of their craft."

At 72 you could forgive Hopper for putting his feet up and sliding into retirement.

Not a chance though if you ask him.

"I really enjoy it. I don't think i want to do anything else," he said with a laugh.

It's not just last minute repairs or creations that make the week of The Aussies busy for the Hayden crew.

Plenty of athletes drop in to talk equipment and conditions, looking for any competitive edge they can.

"Rebecca Creedy came in yesterday and we were just talking about boards, doing little things to make it better," she said.

Challenges include having to make boards that can cater to 40-45kg fresh Nipper graduates to the rigours of Open competition with 90-95kg elites throwing the craft around.

So are there any secrets to the perfect board?

Hopper reckons no.

"I don't think there are really any secrets any more, it does come down to changing things for different competitors," he said.

With so long in the industry, there's no shortage of friendships and the Hayden team were lucky to have veteran paddler Terry McLardy jump in and help out in the workshop last week.

McLardy shaped the original longboard and ski plugs back in the '60s.

"We've had a lot of good people working with us," Hopper said.

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