Isle Floral

In Conversation : Toby Pratley

Toby Pratley of Welcome To Colour is a surfboard builder and fin maker from the Mid-North Coast. Once situated in a backyard workshop at his parents’ Emerald Beach home, he now finds himself in a surfboard factory in Tweed Heads where he spends his days honing in on perfecting his craft.  

We linked up with Toby to create a couple of fins intentionally made to reflect the designs and colourways of our latest capsule. To celebrate it’s release, Rhythm is giving away two of his handcrafted single fins and a $500 Rhythm Online Gift Voucher.

Photographed by Jake Millward and Lola Irwanto

You grew up in Emeral Beach, what do you miss about it ?

It’s nice and quiet and there’s a cool, tight-knit little surf community. There’s also a higher chance of uncrowded waves which I quite like!

How did you get into crafting hand foiled fins?

I started shaping and realised that I needed to learn how to glass, then sand, and then thought that I should learn how to make the fins so I can be involved in every step of the process. I sought out the knowledge and experience of other well-respected surfboard builders in the local area who I regularly go back to for critique and advice to keep improving my fins.


There’s no denying how busy the Gold Coast has gotten over the past couple of years. What brought you to Tweed Heads?

A woman, haha. I fell for the love of my life so the surfboards and fins just had to follow suit. There was also an opportunity for some space in a factory up here and felt like the timing was right.

How have you found adjusting from your own backyard setup to sharing a factory with a few other shapers?

Its good! At first it was kind of strange having other people around. It was definitely something I wasn’t used to and I was a bit self-conscious but now I quite enjoy it. Also, It’s good to be able to chat and bounce ideas off other people who can provide some alternative input from time to time. I find it beneficial to be able to share ideas and work alongside other board builders who are talented at what they do.

What sorts of fin templates or techniques are you exploring at the moment?

I make solid fibreglass fins and work with a range of templates. Single fins or glass-on twin fins seem to be quite popular at the moment, as well as unique layered fins. Personally, I’m quite interested in working on my thruster templates. I don’t get many orders for thruster set-ups but I currently find them the most challenging and satisfying to develop for myself.

Are there figures within the industry or even areas outside of surfing that influence your work?

I credit my fin knowledge to Bill Tolhurst. He’s someone in the industry who I highly respect and have sought critique from for a number of years. The way I foil my fins and my understanding of their function and design stems from his mentorship.
To some degree, I try not to look too hard at what other people are doing, otherwise you’re not working on your own stuff or developing your own ideas. At the same time, you can get stuck in tunnel vision so it’s good to look up and poke your head around.
One thing I’ve been interested in more lately is looking at shortboard single fins again. Particularly, the “blade fins” that George Greenough has developed for years and continued more recently with Andrew Kidman and Ellis Ericson. It’s a really interesting concept to me and something I wouldn’t mind delving into a bit more down the track.

There’s a lot of value placed on handcrafted products, particularly made in Australia. Where do you hope to send your fins off to one day?

I’d love to send my fins to Japan one day! They seem like they have a really cool surf culture and they build boards and fins to a really high standard. I find their work very impressive. Some of the Japanese surfers who I met when I was living back home were always very respectful and invested whenever we’d talk about surfboards, whether I was showing them a board I made or vice versa. It would be cool to spend some time there and meet some likeminded people.

At Rhythm, we’re all about championing like-minded individuals in their creative fields, so naturally, we saw you to be a great fit for this collaboration. Can you tell us more about your own ethos and approach to creating your product?

I’d say my ethos would be: Make it well, make it to last and in small numbers. Surfing brings a lot of joy to people but I think we’re all aware that they’re not great for the people who build them or the environment. The process of building boards and fins can be quite wasteful. I personally try to create things that bring a lot of value to a customer and would make them want to hold onto and care for the product. I’d prefer my customers to be adding to an ongoing collection, rather than frequently replacing boards and fins.

One last question: what is your ideal board-fin set up for a pumping day back home?

I’m not sure, that’s a hard one haha. I’d like to say something alternative as I’m all for riding anything and everything. I really enjoy the different feelings you can get from a variety of surfboards. However, I’ve been working on some shortboard and thruster set ups lately that are influenced by other Mid-North Coast board builders. These have me pretty excited at the moment, so right now, probably one of those if it’s pumping. Those days are few and far between and I definitely want to be making the most of it!

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