Q&A with Josh Hannigan

We caught up with Josh Hannigan, the balls behind Yucca Surf Design, to see what he’s been up to, how he started, and a few other questions that probably put him in an uncomfortable position. Don’t worry Josh, nobody will know what we asked you and what answers you spat out….

1) What inspired you to start shaping boards?
Well, I grew up with a lot of board sports and a fanatic gear-head dad and the apple didn’t fall far. So, naturally being a gear head, as my surfing progressed so too did my interest in the equipment and what makes it work (or not). But specifically, I recall a surf trip to Tofino when my brother and I ran into the local shaper, Stefan Aftanas, and to a young surfer meeting a shaper is akin to meeting royalty or a celebrity. Getting to hear from a shaper the intricacies of board design and why one fin box is preferred over another, etc., it was an encounter that likely planted a seed. The germination of that seed would be, several years later, when I ordered a custom board from Aftanas and really enjoyed informing the design process and learning from him through that process, and in researching various aspects of board design. The next natural step was to try my own hand and apply that research and theory. Although my first couple glass jobs were far from anything resembling perfect, the shapes worked and the bug had bitten me.

2) Is everything self taught or did you have a mentor(s) to help?
Everything has been self taught, which has its definite disadvantages, because a lot of the learning has been through trial and error. But I also look at it as an advantage because my development and creativity hasn’t been shaped or limited by any doctrine or preconceptions about “this is the way it’s done”, so I’ve started early on experimenting with different fabrication methods, materials and designs with some really exciting results early on in my development as a board builder.

3) What’s with the name? Any meaning behind it?
When I was customizing my motorcycles with performance parts and doing my own paint work, I was considering starting a custom motorcycle shop with the notion to naming it Joshua Tree Customs. I’ve always had this affinity with the southwest desert imagery, was a U2 fan from the age of 0, and my name is incidentally Joshua! So, as I was getting serious about starting a surfboard business, the name was there but it was my brother who told me “that’s a stupid name” and he pointed out that people would maybe associate the name with the desert, which we are nowhere near! So in playing with that theme, it made sense to me that the Joshua Tree is in the Yucca plant family and the palms that grow here well are also Yucca family, so it was a name that reflected my personality and the NW Pacific region. I have also recently learned that it means “hard work” in Aussie slang, and building surfboards for a living is definitely that and more!

4) Biggest inspiration
Totally cliché, but nature for sure. Design theory and ideas are often inspired by the laws of nature and recurring patterns seen all throughout the natural world and beyond, it would seem. I’m no math expert, but the notion of the golden ratio, sacred geometry and species that have evolved over millennia to be perfectly adapted for their environments; there’s a ton of information and much to be learned from that.
In terms of shapers that inspire me, the top names that come to mind are Rusty Preisendorfer, Doug Haut, Gary Linden and Ben Aipa. The success of their designs and craftsmanship is something to aspire to.
5) Finish this sentence, “Being a Canadian surfboard shaper is…………….”
“an honor”, if I ever earn a place in the Canadian surf culture as a noted shaper. I have yet to earn such distinction, but there aren’t many Canadian shapers that have had a lot of commercial success, and although I have no designs on being a large commercial brand, it would be awesome to look back on time and see that I’ve carved out a name for Yucca Surf in the NW Pacific surf markets.

6) Where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled to?
Byron Bay has to be one of the coolest placed to hang out!

7) What the most fucked up thing that’s happened to you while traveling?
Nearly escaping being mugged in Juarez Mexico by a dude dressed as a priest, who at first was offering to help us with directions, until calling for his buddies hiding in the shadows. Full-on sprinting in backpacking gear down an alley in Juarez was real enough!

8) Describe the most embarrassing moment in your life
Would have to go back to farting loudly in a PTA meeting in like gr.2, with a room full of parents and teachers! As an adult I’ve tried to remain humble about my mistakes, but would have to be a time where I mistakenly attached a scathing complaint by an employee, about a client, in an e-mail to that very client! Oops!!

9) If you could be one super hero for a day, who would you be and why?
Superman! Who else? Just to be able to fly out through the atmosphere, or to fly at all! Not to mention x-ray vision…

10) Favorite quote
Changes depending on my perspective/development as a person, but one that stuck with me is, “Only a fool is sure of himself. He does not know what he does not know” – unknown.

11) When was the last time you drank so much you pissed yourself?
Never! For a lightweight (in boxing terms), I can drink a hell of a lot! I did, however, pass out drunk when I was 13 and threw up all into my own hair when it was like down to my elbows! Good times…GIN!!

12) What are you most afraid of?
I would have said Aliens like 5 or so years ago, but now it’s humans!

13) Being a Ukee resident for a couple years now, using only 1 word, describe Ucluelet.

14) 1 moment that has changed your life forever
The moment I decided to walk away from everything I had worked toward in the city and start a new in Ucluelet, leaving a good paying job and my condo, to take a minimum wage job and rent again in a town where I knew no-one but my wife! I now own a home with her and have my own business. There’s no going back from here!

15) Any last words?
Well, I guess to add to the above: Live for today instead of saving for tomorrow. The value of experience outweighs the accumulation of wealth.

vimeo Josh’s world.