Geoff McCoy - a Personal History
Geoff was born into a farming community in post W.W.2 Australia in Gosford, on the Central Coast of N.S.W where Geoff’s father, Geoff senior was the captain of the local Killcare Surf Club. His hard working family centralised its social life around the surf club and its outdoor activities. Young Geoff’s earliest memories are of the beach and running through the bush with his cousins.
The family later moved to Warwick Farm, an outer suburb of Sydney, where Geoff senior joined his father in his racehorse training stable, a tradition which three generations earlier the McCoy’s had bought with them when emigrating from Ireland.
Whilst attending the local boys high school Geoff enjoyed a successful career in athletics. Instructed by his Grandfather and Father he became an extremely competent Horseman, riding track work in the early mornings before attending school. This enabled him to attain a sense of balance and intuition, which would later help him to excel in his chosen sport and great love – Surfing.
Geoff spent all of his school holidays back on the Central Coast with his Aunt and Uncle who lived at Avoca Beach.
It was here that he learnt to Surf and a love of Surfing was born which was to become his all-encompassing passion.
In the early 1960’s Geoff undertook an apprenticeship in Pattern-Making an incredibly precise and exacting vocation in which patterns were hand made out of blocks of wood, which were laminated together and then machined to within 100th of a millimetre of tolerance. These patterns were then used for manufacturing motor vehicle components, appliances, machinery parts, in fact most of the products used in the day. Under the guidance of a supervisor whose standards of precision were stringent, Geoff mastered his apprenticeship, graduating with honours. This apprenticeship with its exacting requirements are what has set Geoff apart from his surfboard contemporaries, forming the basis of his skill and knowledge of design.
By the time he had completed his apprenticeship in the 60’s, Geoff had decided on a career in surfboard design.
He applied for a position as a shaper at Ron Surfboards, then doing big things in surfboard manufacture from their factory at Lakemba. They did not need a shaper but put him on as a finish coater and within 6 months he was shaping surfboards.
During this period he met an older man, Bill Morten and together they decided to form a partnership, M and M surfboards was started. Geoff shaped and sanded and his partner glassed and finish coated the boards. Through buying materials for this business Geoff became familiar with Barry Bennett. Later on, when M and M folded Geoff went to work at Bennett where his shaping technique was influenced by Wayne Burton, one of the first shaper/craftsmen. Around this time North Narrabeen, which had the best waves in Sydney and therefore attracted the best surfers, was the stronghold of surfing in Australia. This included Col Smith, Tony Hardwick, Mark Warren, Grant Oliver, The Weeks Brothers, Jon Payne, Terry Fitzgerald, Simon Anderson, The O’Brien Brothers and others who made Australian surfing history. Geoff McCoy was ‘the shaper’ who made their boards and thereby helped to enforce the Narrabeen domination. Nearly every board on the beach carried the B.B Logo. From Bennett’s Geoff moved to Keyo Surfboards; surfers were meanwhile continually suggesting to Geoff that he should start his own business.
This opinion was enforced by Ray Richards, father of the boy surfer Mark Richards, who, under Geoff’s tutelage would later go on to become World Surfing Champion. Geoff, who deeply respected Ray Richards’ business acumen decided to go out on his own, and on August 11th, 1970 Geoff opened his own factory on Winbourne Rd, Brookvale, a Northern Beaches suburb of Sydney. The legend was born.
Within 6 months the McCoy factory was producing 65 boards per week. These were heady times with Geoff making boards for many of the hottest surfers as well as taking his first trip to Hawaii.
These trips were to become an annual pilgrimage to what was then and to this day remains surfing’s Mecca.
Inspired by Thor Svenson, the man behind the original Wind and Sea team and Geoff’s personal mentor, Geoff met and established relationships with many of surfing’s great names. Jeff Hakman, Reno Abellira, Barry Kanaiaupuni and many others.
In 1978 Geoff spent a year in California where he opened McCoy U.S.A, working closely with Hakman on design concepts. By this time McCoy had relocated his factory to Avoca Beach on the N.S.W Central Coast and it was from this basis that the McCoy Empire now grew, encompassing Japan as well as U.S.A and Hawaii.
Geoff’s energy was totally dedicated to his design concepts and his ability to turn out great surfers. All of the young hot shots of the day came to Geoff asking him to make their boards.
Such as Bruce Raymond, Larry Blair, Cheyne Horan, Tod Ingham, Nicky Wood, Damien Hardman, as well as many others. Working hard on his designs and to meet the needs of such surfers he had little time to devote to the actual running of McCoy, so it was at this time he was to make a decision which was to prove fatal for his business. He employed a business manager, who systematically accrued debt for McCoy. Geoff was eventually alerted to this when a long time business associate approached him asking when he was going to pay something on his outstanding account. Geoff telephoned his business manager from Sydney to ask what was happening and several hours later when he returned to the Avoca factory he found the manager gone and all of the accounts system erased from the computer. There were only two options; bankruptcy or receivership. The former was inconceivable to Geoff, as he had been raised to be a man of honour and integrity. He put the business, which was still flourishing, into the hands of the receivers and sold off all of his assets to pay his debtors. He then retreated to Byron Bay, his faith in humanity deeply dented.
At that time it seemed to him that many people were happy to see this great man fall; maybe they could gain a foothold now that he was down.
Geoff spent two years in Coffs Harbour pursuing a course of self-growth and introspection, once again, like the Phoenix rising victorious above the ashes. In the meantime with no natural leader in design in Australia, the surfing industry had fallen into overseas hands.
Then in 1991 he returned to Hawaii reborn and re energised as it were, with his design concepts metamorphosed and stronger then ever. The Nugget concept crystallised and in 1992 Geoff travelled to Japan renewing his business acquaintances as well as meeting his current partner, Mieko. Since then the pair have formed a strong partnership. Running McCoy together in a tight operation.
With Geoff’s Nugget designs now being incorporated by his contemporaries recreational surfing will evolve into more practical equipment, shorter, wider and thicker designs.
This consummate and innovative professional designer now manufactures his surfboards out of P.S.M in Byron Bay where, when they are not surfing at Watego’s, The Pass or Broken Head, Geoff and Mieko keep a strictly hands-on approach to the management of their business interests.