Updated: Sep 5
Welcome to the second article of Australian Sup Life, this time we have packed our board bags from Sydney’s Northern beaches and jetted off to Western Australia to chat with SMIK owner/shaper & pioneer Scott McKercher
Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule to be apart of the Australian Sup Life Blog.
1. You were the 1984 World Champion of Windsurfing, I was one year old, can you tell us how you first and foremost got into the sport of Wind surfing and your transition into Stand Up Paddling?
Well Actually no. It wasn’t in 1984. 1984 was the Windsurfer class world champs in Perth. (when I was 14). I got into windsurfing through my brother whom I crew’d for on a Hobie 16 and he convinced the family to get a Windsurfer. Got straight into racing at the yacht club and the worlds were at that club a couple years later. Won a couple races and funked up a couple but this gave me the belief that I was going to go full on with this sport.
Competed ever since, got sponsored and got to hang out in various shapers bays from about 16. (Santosha surfboards _Greg Laurenson. (Total Legend) with some asymmetrical that look awfully similar to what’s going on today. (Also where a young Bert Burger started out) which later became Rusty Surfboards. Performance surfboards-Mick Manolas-Taj Burrows shaper at the time who introduced me to Cambell Brothers Bonzers. Neil Sheltema-Wind-Tech who’s construction was so cutting edge for 1992 and then Svein Started up Starboard and I became involved with them around 1996. As a team rider and taking care of their waveboard designs.
I was world champ in wave sailing in 2004 at 34.
Around 2006-7 Starboard were getting serious about SUP and I started to help out with the SUP design and testing while still competing on the windsurf tour. Svein saw it early but it took the distributors a few years to cotton on to his vision. SUP was fun and games and like a novelty side act, until things became a lot more serious and a lot more time and recourses were devoted to SUP.
When I was done with competing it became full time design and testing between the windsurf and SUP surf ranges. (Amongst other things)
2. Your company SMIK paddleboards seems to be going from strength to strength, can you tell us about SMIK, the story behind the company and where you want to take it into the future?
Yeah, people are becoming more aware what Smik is about. Basically, it was about having the creative freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted and just had this inner voice which was whispering to go out on my own. It was kind of like when I first started going on tour and was 100% at the whim of life and I wanted to experience that level of interaction again.
Basically it’s just the next phase of of a life being passionately engaged with board design and testing that manages to keep me immersed in the water as much as possible.
The aim was to maintain the highest quality materials available, with full divinicell carbon constuction, whilst keeping the pricing at a “Fair go” level. Something that is absolutely Schmick as in every way.
I’ve never really been a great planner but just believe that once the boards are under people’s feet they feel the difference. It’s why I’ve been doing a ridiculous amount of air miles and K’s to deliver boards and these are little seeds that have resonated outwards. Once people try they understand.
As you read I’ve been dicking around with rockers, rails fins and various forms of surf craft for quite a while now. And all boards whether they’re large or small must incorporate the essentials of any form surfing. Speed and flow with innate qualities built into the boards when on rail or hitting the lip.
The other thing is I’m 48 years old on a Hip that’s been rebuilt twice. So I’ve aimed to build high performance into shapes that are comfortable and not a struggle to ride. Which I think a vast majority of the SUP community can relate to. I’m not into paddling around under water, but I love a high speed on rail cutty.
3. Custom orders, can you tell us how you would go about making the right board for someone who would be interested in ordering a custom SMIK from you.
How does a custom order work? Do most people already know what there after or are they trying to work with you to really progress their riding by pursuing something with smaller dimensions?
Most people are aware about their weight to capability to volume’s they require which is why they’re coming for a custom in the first place. They have certain lengths and widths they feel comfortable and we can give exactly what they desire in terms of performance and look.
Most people are pretty savy and have a fair idea. But certainly when people describe their ability, where they surf and predominantly what the conditions they surf in we can direct aid them in making up their mind what they want.
Some of the cooler graphics have come about from hand drawn sketches that we then mock up them and have turned out super cool. The last guy just said make it like a lifesavers packet. We’ll see how that one turns outJ
4. Your from the beautiful Margeret River, Tell us what its like to be a SUP rider on one of the most consistent and scariest stretches of coastline in Australia?
Yeah. I feel blessed to call Margaret river home. It’s by far the place with the most consistent source of swell anywhere in the world. There’s only ever a few days a year where it actually gets truly flat.
But it hasn’t all been smooth with the transition of SUP arriving on the scene. There’s a few guys that SUP but I’d say there’s more females that Sup regularly. The Jurassic point crew (Old boys that dominate the point) are quite un-accepting which is why it’s good to have some isolated reef breaks to paddle to where I can quite often be on my own or with my over-frothed mate Paul Lane.
I’m pretty thick skinned having being a windsurfer my whole life, and now into sup so it’s funny having faces that totally know who I am, not even being able to make eye contact if I see em in town in the supermarket or something. Most people are fine it’s just a select few. (Generally the older crustier (than me) types) There’s waves that are taboo and we respect that, and play by a max of 4 surfers out rule at other lesser waves, but there’s no pleasing some people.
The shark factor is definitely a real one and it was ridiculous around that time with all the pilot whales stranded. I’m not looking forward to encountering a bit great white that’s for sure. I try not to think about it, but on a grey day a fair way out to sea, it’s hard not have the thought come into your head at some point.
5. What’s the Western Australian SUP scene like? Are there any clubs in your area, or more of an underground scene?
It’s pretty cool actually. All the events are pretty good fun with a pretty cool bunch of people rocking up to wave events.
The state rounds for surfing are always really good fun. Especially rotto. Everyone’s pretty relaxed and not too serious and have a few (too many) tins.
6. What would be your three favorite Stand Up Paddle destinations?
I’ve had a few sweet sessions around the place.
Long time ago I went to Cabo Verde which has some pretty special waves. Would love to go back with some more recent boards. Love Indo with Nihiwatu on Sumba standing out among some other not to be named spots J. Hard to beat up North in WA or down in Margs when it’s on.
7. What are your thoughts on the 10ft long board movement? Is it taking off in Western Australia?
I love it. Certain days and waves are more suited to longer boards. And love the line drive you get from longer boards. The one 10’ft event we have is really well represented and would love to see our state rounds incorporating a longboard class, instead of everyone entering all the different age divisions like we tend to do. I think this should go all the way through to Nationals and ISA. It’s only natural.
8. Personally I like to have an arsenal of board sizes for all conditions, what are your go to board specs for different styles and size waves?
Horses for courses no doubt. But my go to board is a 7’10 x 29.5x 108L Twin fin which covers most conditions for me. (88 -90kg) Can ride that in anything from 1 ft beachies to 6ft reef breaks. However, when there’s a lot of water sucking up the face in larger /hollower waves, an 8’3 x 29 x 111L Spitfire (Thruster) holds a line a bit better for me.
Then when I need paddle power on deeper water bombies I have an
8’8 x 28 x 108L step up pin (Gun) which can handle quite a bit of juice.
Then if the waves are a little softer and longer I got a few longboards in the mix. Currently a 9’x 29 by really thin pin, 10’ x 29 Twin fin longboard and 10’x 29 traditional 2x1 thruster.
10. Finally, what is one of the best SUP experiences that is embedded into your memory?
Sup has blessed me no doubt, so there’s been a few beauties. But I think one stand out was one particular wave up north in WA. I think we’d celebrated a pretty epic windsurf session in the carpark the evening before and back in camp that night. Woke up a bit rough and paddled out about mid-morning. Paddled up the reef and this big slab came through and swung straight into it as I was on the spot. Just remember shitting myself as I wasn’t really ready for it. It wasn’t until I got through the bubbles and I knew I was going to survive that I was able to enjoy it and just stood tall with the most amazing view until it smashed me at the end.
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