When Rod Rose first set up his surfboard manufacturing business in Douglas Avenue, Tuncurry, the real estate agents he rented the place off thought he'd last three months.
33 years later he's the longest-standing business in the street.
A lot has changed in that time, including Rod taking his business from one side of the street to the other and now owning the premises, but one thing you can count on is finding Rod at his factory most days, shaping and repairing boards or sharing a coffee with a friend or customer.
Growing up in Newcastle, he started surfing at Blacksmiths Beach as a 12-year-old and quickly fell in love with it.
Fixing his own dings was his first foray into playing around with fibreglass and foam, before a carpentry apprenticeship at 16 taught him how to really use his hands.
It was during the last two years of this apprenticeship, while working up at Port Macquarie, that he decided to start making his own boards.
A seven-year stint with Bob Brown followed, with Rod moving from repairs to glassing to shaping boards for his own customers.
"It was the dream of the lifestyle," he said of what drew him to making boards.
"I was a carpenter and I was pretty good with my hands."
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Rod said what he loved about shaping surfboards was the craft of it, the fact it required such high attention to detail.
"You can't hide anything on a surfboard," he said.
"You're working with foam and clear fibreglass so it's all there."
Over the 43 years he's been shaping, there's been a lot of changes in surfboard design, with Rod coming in around the time seven-foot pin tail single-fins were popular and moving through the twin-fin phase to the thin and narrow boards of the 90s, before finding himself in today's eclectic landscape, where surfers might ride anything.
Along the way he's tried not to restrict himself to any one style of board, with the versatile craftsman shaping everything from high-performance shortboards to longboards and fishes.
There was even a period where he derived a large percentage of his business from making sailboards under his original Flying High label, when windsurfing became a popular pastime.
"You've got to be able to switch between different boards," he said.
Over the years it's been satisfying to build a loyal customer base and a reputation for surfboards he describes as "hanging together as good as anyone's."
It's also been rewarding to make boards for some of the better surfers from the region, such as Simon Robinson, Joe Haddon, Ben Godwin and the Reading brothers.
But it hasn't all been smooth sailing, with some winters bringing in very little business and summers like the one we've just had keeping surfers out of the water (and therefore out of his factory) because conditions were so bad.
At 64 and with the industry more competitive than ever because of cheap overseas manufacturing, Rod admits he's slowly winding down and looking to do more surfing.
But he'll still keep at it for a few more years.
"I like making boards as much as I like riding them," he said.
"It's been a good life. I've met a lot of good people."
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