Hayden Cox

For many old-school surfers, riding waves is 
an organic, almost spiritual experience that happens mainly near tropical beach towns or at remote, exotic destinations.

But maverick surfboard shaper Hayden Cox believes the freewheeling, creative spirit of surfing belongs just as naturally in the most urbanized centers in the world.

As part of his mission to redefine modern surfing culture, the Australian-born designer produces high-performance custom boards that look chic and edgy enough to decorate apartments in Manhattan.

“I like to combine design and art with the surfboard world without compromising performance,” said Cox, 33, who recently moved to Venice Beach, California, to headquarter his surfboard production company in the U.S. “I like 
to merge those two worlds. It’s challenging, 
but that’s the fun part.”

Hayden Cox

Surfing is all about personal expression—whether someone rides a surfboard on giant waves or hangs one on the wall as an art piece, he said. 
To facilitate the crossover between form and function, Cox teamed up last year with fashion designer Alexander Wang to create a string of five exclusive surfboards. The marble-patterned boards were part of an installation at Wang’s flagship stores in New York City and Tokyo.

“Each board, as beautiful as they look, still maintains the very lightweight and high-performance flex patterns, and can be ridden by 
the most elite athletes in the surf world,” Cox said.

The irony of making a surfboard look like a heavy slab of marble was part of the playful spirit 
of the collaboration with Wang.

“Wang has an edgy take 
on fashion, and we felt it’s a good fit for us as a concept. We love the look of marble, and that wasn’t seen in the
surf space before.”
—Hayden Cox

“Wang has an edgy take on fashion,” he said, “and we felt it’s a good fit for us as a concept. 
We love the look of marble, and that wasn’t seen 
in the surf space before.”

He started surfing at age 4, and shaped his first board at 15 after snapping his favorite ride. Ever since Cox started shaping boards as a teenager growing up in Sydney, he has pursued innovation on every front. By 22, Cox had opened his own factory and was shaping boards for friends and teachers from his parents’ backyard. He even learned how to code in order to launch his own website. With Haydenshapes—his line of performance boards started in 1996—Cox made his mark on 
the surf industry.

Today, as a self-taught computer programmer, website designer and surfboard shaper, Cox embodies the spirit of modern surfing.
Known for his stylish approach to design, 
brand aesthetic and integration of art, Cox makes boards that are versatile enough for world champions and ideal for the everyday surfer.

Hayden Cox
Hayden Cox

“Surfers are very emotional about their surfboards,” he said. “There’s definitely a feeling when you see a surfboard or put one under your arm with an aesthetic look. It can really change your perception of that board and even affect your performance. It’s one of those things, if you can create a board that looks amazing and performs, you have the best of both worlds.”

In a way, the relationship is similar to fashion, he said.

SHAPERS_HAYDENCOX_1-398 Hayden Cox“It’s important how a board looks because it reflects who you are as a person, like the clothes you wear,” he said. “Not only does the shape of the board define you as a surfer, but the aesthetic defines you as a person and surfer. It’s a form of expression.”

A self-proclaimed “tech geek,” Hayden is responsible for inventing a surfboard technology called FutureFlex, which is an innovation that resulted in better speed and drive for his boards. His “Hypto Krypto” design is currently among the top bestselling surfboards in the global market and was named “2014 Surfboard of the Year” by the Australian Surf & Boardsports Industry Association. Cox has found inspiration from his Haydenshapes team of free surfers, who are elite surfers from all over the world and are more about their surfing style than competing.

Even people who don’t surf appreciate the beauty of a well-designed board, he said.

“People who live in urban environments like New York and Tokyo can get a certain level of inspiration from surf culture,” he said. “Living in the city, surrounded by concrete, the feeling like you are living on the beach can be refreshing. If you do surf, you are passionate and want to have an art piece in a board.”

Cox believes that the younger generation is more receptive to the crossover of surf culture into the metropolitan scene.

SHAPERS_HAYDENCOX_3-595 Hayden Cox“Modern thinkers are into other design and fashion and the urban environment and can participate in that as much as in open, natural spaces,” he said. “It really does cross over.”

In a way, surfing is an art in itself, a form of personal expression on all levels.

“Every surfer has their own unique style,” he said. “When you ride a wave, it’s an expression of how you perceive the world and no one rides a wave in a similar way. But ultimately, the choice of board defines how you approach your surfing, and everyone has their own take. It’s as much a sport as a creative outlet.”

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