Dave Porter shaping new story at old Bulli timber mill

Dave Porter has been making surfboards since he was 16. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Dave Porter has been making surfboards since he was 16. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

George A. Moore said: "A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."

In Dave Porter's case, he travelled around Australia in search of a "cool little town with good waves" where maybe he could settle down.

"I had visited [Wollongong] regularly," he recalls.

"But it's funny because on that trip I went straight past here and headed further down the coast. I did this lap around Australia and forgot all about this area."

Porter grew up in Oatley in southern Sydney and five years ago he recalled a place a little south of home,with a national park for a garden and a beach at the front door. He decided to move to the Illawarra while working for the Sutherland Shire Council as a landscape architect.

'I'm hoping it will be a hub for local surfers to be able to call in, have a cuppa and watch a surf video.'

Now, while out on his surfboard on an uncrowded ocean, he takes in the image of his new home, a place he is not likely to forget again.

"Every time you paddle out and you turn around to look back, its the backdrop of this huge escarpment - there's nowhere else like it that I've ever been."

Porter has made a name around Wollongong for his custom-made surfboards and outdoor garden designs. His customers come mainly from word of mouth, creating a steady business for the 33-year-old. What started as a garage project is now a business running in a much bigger garage. Treehouse, Landscapes and Handshapes is located in the old Timber Mill on Malloy Street, Bulli.

"I needed somewhere I could build the boards ... somewhere I could make a mess," he laughs.

The old mill turned out to be the perfect space to house his hybrid business.

Dave Porter recently opened Treehouse, Landscapes and Handshapes in Bulli, where he is now helped by Laurianne Charvier. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Dave Porter recently opened Treehouse, Landscapes and Handshapes in Bulli, where he is now helped by Laurianne Charvier. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

"They seem quite different things but, at the core of it, my principles are that everything we do, we want to utilise good craftsmanship and sustainable materials and design where we can," he explains.

"We want to be able to provide a custom service.

"For both the landscape design and the boards, I see those things as essential," he says.

His vision for the business was also to create an accessible community space.

"I'm hoping it will be a hub for local surfers to be able to call in, have a cuppa and watch a surf video.

"It's not a surfboard business; it's more of a lifestyle business."

Porter could not have hoped for a better lifestyle - doing what he loves and sharing what he is best at.

He has been making and breaking surfboards since he was 16.

"I've always built surfboards on the side ... It took me a couple of years to be happy with how the boards performed and keeping the weight low and durability high."

When he started, Porter used traditional materials, then seven years ago he decided to change his style.

"I'd broken quite a lot of boards and I got to the point where I felt guilty and thought there were better alternatives out there."

He now uses more sustainable and locally sourced material to make his boards, which now number in the high hundreds.

"A lot of shapers keep track of the number of boards; I don't do that, I'm more chaotic," he says, sipping his tea.

"We focus more on the everyday surfer and what they need."

Porter has recently tried his hand at crafting something for the not-so-everyday surfer; finless boards.

"It was great to be trusted to come up with something totally new that may or may not work," he says.

Luckily for Porter and his client, it did work out and he will be moving on to his next prototype. But with his store's opening hours dependent on the wind and swell, the waves might have to take priority.

Dave Porter's work will be on display at the pop-up exhibition Drift in Thirroul next weekend. For details, see coalcoastartisans.tumblr.com.

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