Former WA Surfboard manufacturer Tom Blaxell recalls Greg ‘Pantsman’ Laurenson.
I first met ‘Pantsman’ in 1966. It was at Cordingley Surfboards in Hay Street Subi, where Colin Cordingley had just given me a job for the summer school holidays as a board repairer.
I had made my own first board in the garage at home in ‘64 when I was age 14, and had been instantly hooked on surfing. I also had this creative side and loved making things as well.
Seeing my enthusiasm for surfing, my Dad bought me a book by Midget Farrelly called “This Surfing Life” which had this underlying theme of submersing your life in surfing and I swallowed it hook line and sinker.
In those days there was no such thing as professional surfing, so the only way to make a living out of surfing was to get involved in making the equipment.
Ding fixing has always been the starting point in a surfboard making career, and sure enough it is the best way to hone your skills initially, on a miniature but broad range scale. Repairing a board actually involves small amounts of shaping, graphics, glassing, sanding and finishing – all the major skills in making a board.
So there I was on the threshold, on $20 a week and blessed by being amongst a fine team of experienced craftsmen who were at the height of their game.
Colin Cordingley was the nicest guy you could come across and was the front man for the shop, along with his wife Jenny, who had this knack of somehow making me feel like I was her little favourite.
Colin’s brother Rex was the main task master and head shaper. He could get a little grumpy at times but every team needs somebody to keep the show rolling, and he always kept his sense of humour.
Photo: 1970 Colin and Rex Cordingley with Bill Oddy at Australia Day contest presentations at Yallingup. Ric Chan pic.
Kathleen King and David Moss are among the spectators’ bottom left.
Charlie Campbell was the ultimate glasser who toiled like clockwork, ever dependable, never making a fuss and a great working companion.
Photos: 1970s Charles Campbell – Cordingley glasser images. Norm Bateman pics.
Left: 1970s Charles at Cordingley Surfboards Subi.
Right: 1975 Charles skate boarding at Carine.
Dave Ellis was a more colourful character with a certain artistic flavour to his way of thinking. He did the graphics, glossing and most of the sanding. He guarded his gloss room like Fort Knox and used to do a lot of the glossing in the cool of night. He also did some repairs and was the one who gave me most of the guidance in my work.
Photos: 1970s Dave Ellis – Cordingley finisher images.
Left: 1970s Dave at Cordingley Surfboards Subi. Norm Bateman pic.
Right: 1979 Dave at Cordingley Surfboards Jolimont. Ric Chan pic.
Then there was Pantsman, the rising star shaper. The thing that struck me about him most was his totally engaging way of communication. What with big wide eyes, full of interest, his insightful thoughts and questions, delivered with such eloquence and spiced with humour amongst the foam dust. It always required a considered response, so that the briefest exchange, even if it was just a joke, left you with the feeling that it was something important and it stuck in your mind. He could become spell binding, and always made you feel good when you had a chat.
Photos: 1970s Pantsman images
Left: 1970s Pants in Cordingley Surfboards Advt which appeared in West Coast Surfer magazine.
Right: 1970 Pants with GL Surfboard and mates at Yallingup. Ric Chan pic.
For some unknown reason he dubbed me “ Tonneau “ and always opened up with it whenever we ran into each other, and I would be compelled to respond “ Pantsman”, a silly little thing that I always cherished.
Of course in those days, as a punter you got to talk to the shaper, and even get to watch him shape your board. Greg’s gift for communication stood him well in that arena, and of course also later as a contest commentator.
At the same time Pants was of course an extremely talented craftsman who set himself very high standards. In those early days at Cords he was fairly new on the scene but I could see him rapidly developing a growing following, which was encouraging for an even younger bloke like me.
At the end of summer it was back to school, but a lot of my mates wanted me to make boards for them which I did in my spare time in the garage. When I finished school that year I had decided that I wouldn’t go on to Uni but instead devote my life to surfing, so it was back to Cords again.
By the end of that summer the demand in the garage had grown to mates of mates, and it had got to the point where I had 20 boards on order. That gave me enough courage to make the decision to go into business myself at the age of 17. Col took the news pretty well but pleaded with me to stay on until Easter as things were pretty busy, so I agreed to stay on before setting up shop in Ossie Park.
Photos: 1970s Tom Blaxell images.
Left: 1971 Tom at Blaxell Surfboards factory in Osborne Park. Ric Chan pic.
Right: 1973 Tom with full mop top at Gobbles Night Club. Tom pic.
Later on Pantsman did the same, setting up just down the road from me. There was no bad blood, and to me it seemed like a natural progression for him as well. We always had a special connection from the days back at Hay Street.
There was one notable incident when he was shaping a board but made a mistake, and in a Van Gogh perfectionist reaction punched a hole in the wall and broke his arm! He couldn’t shape for some months after, which probably didn’t help business very much.
Another moment was one year at the Margaret River Masters. We had organised a low key sundowner at the point on a Saturday night with a local band from town to entertain the troops. However at the end of the show I had come to the realisation that we didn’t have any cash on hand to pay the band. So I was discretely making myself scare behind a banner to save the embarrassment, when up pops Pantsman “Tonneau, what are you up to? “ When I explained my predicament he instantly responded by opening up his jacket to reveal 2 bottles of vino to say “Well I’ve got a couple of orphans that I’ve adopted. They were looking for a good home. Why don’t you come back with me to keep em company? “… Band? What band?
Click on this link to view Greg Laurenson – Master Shaper by Errol Considine published 2 August 2017.