The man behind the label is lifetime shaper and classy goofy Michael Saggus, who’s racked up a pretty serious CV across the decades since he first began building boards while still at school at Coffs Harbour Jetty High.
By 16 Michael was shaping for Trevor Pollard (ex Norm Casey from Cronulla) who’d moved to the area in ’66, followed by a spell at North Coast hotbed Country Woods Surfboards with John Blanch and Rodney Judd, before opening a factory in Coffs under his own label.
Bill Tolhurst and Ronnie Goddard were among the shapers who worked with Michael, add Paul Joske, and by the time Californian industry guru Bob Cooper joined the mix in the late ’60s there was a tight cell of adventurous surfer/shaper/designers constantly pushing each other in the surf and shaping bays around Coffs.
In late ’71 Michael headed off with Cooper for a short visit to the USA. He stayed a decade, doing extended stints head-shaping for Rennie Yater at Yater Surfboards, and working with Al Merrick at Channel Islands (when Curren was his gun grom and Kelly still in nappies.)
Although he purposely kept a pretty low profile in the surf industry while pursuing his career as a professional photographer, Michael’s loving his shaping more than ever these days, inspired by the return to, and demand for, more open-minded and varied shapes.
Now coming out of the South Coast of NSW, Surf Empire is all about quality design and manufacture, using only Australian blanks and materials, shaped and glassed in Australia – with inspiration “fresh from the past”.