Halifax surfboard shaper sees big breaks in 2015

Andreas Hart, founder of Hart Surf Co., launches his company and starts to sell surf boards in Nova Scotia.

Andreas Hart concentrates as he slowly pulls the tape off of a surfboard, one of his own creations. He has been waiting for the resin to set for two hours, and is now back to coat the other side. Hart is the founder and sole proprietor of Hart Surf Co., a Halifax-based company that designs and makes surfboards.

This has been a huge year for Hart Surf Co., starting with a sold-out launch party in January. He won second place in a business competition at the University of New Brunswick, and the first board orders are starting to roll in.

Officially a company since Feb. 1, Hart Surf Co. is now selling surfboards, which can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Hart has a few different designs that he uses, and then makes the board to fit the customer.

His small one-room shop, located at the Dalhousie University Sexton campus, is full of surfboards and equipment. Each corner has four or five surfboards stacked together, each at different stages in the design process.

The boards are anywhere from basic foam cut outs to being finished and ready to paint. The process starts with Hart coming up with the dimensions and entering them into his computer. The dimensions then get sent to his machine, which cuts the foam into a board shape. He says the general shape ideas are based off of boards he’s used in the past, but he comes up with all of the dimensions.

The process really started when Hart and some fellow students built the machine, called a CNC surfboard router, during the final year of his mechanical engineering degree at Dalhousie in 2014.

“I wanted to do it after I finished my degree, but then one of my friends, while we were out enjoying ourselves, was like, ‘Why don’t you just do it now?’ And then the next day I sent an email to my professor and asked if I could … and then eight months later we had a machine that worked, and just started designing boards from there.”

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Originally from Dartmouth, N.S., Hart has been a passionate surfer since the age of 13. He taught himself how to make surfboards. He says he used his knowledge of surfing, mechanical engineering, trial and error, and the Internet, to figure out how to make the boards. He says he is continuously learning. Next week, he is going to make his first standup paddle board, and eventually wants to start making skateboards as well.

After finishing his engineering degree, Hart started auditing business classes at Dalhousie to learn how to formally start his own business.

While there are others in Nova Scotia who make surfboards, Hart says he is the only one doing it full time and trying to make an established company out of it. “Nova Scotia has been getting a lot of publicity over the past two winters for its surf … It’s going to take some time obviously, but I’m trying to gain some trust,” says Hart.

Hart says right now he is working on a video that will showcase local surfers using his boards, and what he is most excited about, putting together a surf team with the ultimate goal of the team travelling together and representing his boards.

Surfboards and art

Hart is also connecting with local artists who paint the boards when they are finished, providing one-off designs that can’t be found anywhere else. On April 18, his boards will be featured in The Collective Art Show, hosted by the Blackbook Collective, which will showcase more than 20 local artists.

Local artist Heidi Wambolt has done the art for several of Hart’s boards. She says her style of work focuses on aquatic life and themes, so working with Hart was a perfect fit.

“Andreas is great to work with. He makes suggestions but gives me a lot of space and freedom to do my own work,” says Wambolt.

“With Andreas’ laid back suggestions, the freedom of artistic expression, and my eagerness to keep painting and producing, more boards will definitely be on the way!”

Hart says his next step is to get a bigger workshop outside of the city — preferably in the Lawrencetown, Seaforth, and Martinique area. He says he wants to stay in Nova Scotia and keep trying to get his name out there.

“It’s exciting to see where it takes me,” says Hart.

Stratton performs Deserter at Bus Stop Theatre

Willie Stratton rocks to his latest album ‘Deserter’ at the Bus Stop Theatre and talks about the journey it took to get there.

Willie Stratton steps up.

*stomp*

His heavy cowboy boot hits the small elevated stage in the cramped Halifax theatre. He grabs the blue electric guitar that has been waiting for him in its stand since the previous band’s departure from the stage. ‘Willie’s’ is painted on the guitar head in curly black cursive writing which closely resembles loose rope thrown on the ground.

Stratton dresses similar to a cowboy: Salmon coloured long sleeve button up top with metal clasps on the collar, decorated with fine thread detailing on the chest, tucked into a pair of dark wash jeans being held up by a thick leather belt with an oversized silver buckle, and finally, no cowboy is complete without a pair of cowboy boots. Tonight, he’s dressed up for a special occasion. Stratton is playing a show at the Bus Stop Theatre.

“Yippee-ki-yay.”

Stratton, 22, is an up-and-coming musician and songwriter. He frequents the Halifax bar and live performance scene solo as well as with his band Willie Stratton and the Boarding Party. Having recorded his second complete album in 2014, Stratton has been enjoying all the new experiences he’s had since its release.

“I played coffee houses in high school. I didn’t play any originals, just played like covers like Jimi Hendrix and stuff,” Stratton says, “Then with my own stuff, after I graduated I found out about the Open Mic House on Agricola Street and that was kinda the first place I played [original songs] in front of anybody. Then shows right after at the Company House. It kept going from there.”

Three other men wearing button-ups step up and join him, as well as a woman. All are wearing cowboy boots. Grace Stratton, Willie’s sister and bass player, picks up a cherry red bass guitar and stands by Stratton’s side.

A red light on the stage illuminates his face while a blue light shines behind him, lighting up the drum kit and a large disco ball hanging from the ceiling above his head.

“I want everyone to dance. Do you know the twist?” Stratton says into the microphone using his speaking voice, a much different voice when compared to his guitar strumming, performance alter ego.

“I sing from my butt,” Stratton says in a manner that suggests he’s only half joking, “that’s what I tell everyone.”

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They begin to play. Music spills from the amps and into the air, filling the small theatre venue. Grace’s bass bounces off the walls and into the ears of the audience, who soon stand up to fulfil Stratton’s wishes. Stratton and the other two men playing guitars turn and stomp their feet so loudly to the pound of the bass drum that the drum beat sound is almost non-existent.

*Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp*

Stratton stops his stomping. He turns to face the gyrating audience and puts his mouth to microphone. Out pours an eerie, deep, blues inspired song. Stratton closes his eyes. The sounds of a man experiencing deep pain in his soul, followed by him half screaming the next lines.

Rough.

Loud.

Pained.

Stratton crinkles his forehead to get the lyrics out. Anyone else would have damaged their vocal cords, but not Stratton.

The small sea of audience members shake, twist and jump to Stratton’s music, which is best defined by the band as Cowboy Surf.

“I think it’s catching on,” Stratton adds, “or maybe folk, rock, blues, country, punk, surf?” he says with an upward inflection followed by a moment of hesitation and then a small laugh, “Yeah.”

Drops piano for guitar

Stratton started developing an interest in music at a young age when his parents enrolled him in piano lessons, an interest he picked up from his grandfather.

“I was always screwing around with keyboards and whatever we had on hand. Whenever I went to my grandparents’ house I always played on the big piano. Piano was always around me.”

Not long after, Stratton quit piano because he found he was much more “obsessed” with guitars. After saving all his birthday money, he bought his first guitar when he was 12. He says he was inspired by guitar players from many different genres when he first started learning.

“I was super obsessed with Jimi Hendrix, and from that I got into blues players like Muddy Waters, and I was also really into The Beatles. Some more psychedelic stuff like The Doors and also just songs of the time like cheesy Green Day stuff,” Stratton says with a chuckle, followed by a sigh.

In 2014 Willie Stratton and the Boarding Party released Deserter, they’re sophomore album. Recorded in Stratton’s Bedford home, the band used fewer instruments when compared to its self-titled predecessor.

“The first album is all acoustic, so there isn’t a single electric instrument or keyboard on it . . . [Deserter] was more of a typical kind of like, country rock band set up. We had drums and electric bass and electric guitar, and acoustic guitar as well. Like, on the first album we packed as much instruments on as we could on the album just because I was curious and kind of experimenting, but on Deserter it was kind of more stripped down and more sounding like the band.”

Stratton says the success of Deserter hit him when it was released for sale on vinyl. Being a vinyl collector himself, Stratton feels like vinyl is “more physical” than a digital copy, or even CDs.

The band ends their song. The audience stops dancing. The room once filled with music is now filling up with applause and whistles.

“Are we out of time?” Stratton looks off into the darkness of the theatre at an unseen figure. “We’re out of time,” he answers himself. The audience begins hollering for more music. Stratton looks over his shoulder at his band mates, shrugs, and continues to play his cowboy surf.

“Yippee-ki-yay.”