Graham Smith picked up his first board at the end of West Street, Durban long before South African surf began eclipsing the troubles of apartheid. From the early age of fourteen, he began working in Max Wetteland’s surfboard production factory. Wetteland was known as South Africa’s surfboard pioneer, through his progressive shaping style manifested in visionary board designs. Years spent watching and learning from this astute craftsman allowed Graham’s shaping ability to flourish. Before long, against a backdrop of a coastline spoiled in waves, he found himself at the forefront of surfboard production.
Graham Smith Surfboards (G-Force) was established in 1978 in collaboration with world title surfing champion, Shaun Tomson. Gee’s curiosity, devotion, and innovative artistry led him to the spirited shores of Hawaii. Here he traded pearls of knowledge with shaping sharks Bill Barnfield and Craig Sugihara of Town and Country Surf. As Graham carved through the Pacific he learned from a community of world class wave riders, and by the time he left Hawaii, he’d gained a thorough feel for the emerging surf-styles and board designs, and he’s stayed ahead of breaking trends ever since.
Jordy, Graham’s son, was born in 1988. From the age of three he was catching waves at his local playground, New Pier Beach. Serendipitously, a fishing pier was erected around the time of Jordy’s arrival. Sand began collecting around the pylons transforming a second-rate closeout to the region’s most dependable break, and the surface for Jordy and Graham’s dynamic partnership.
Jordy, now the window for the already present eye of Graham, helped him experiment and transform the possibilities of expected industry standards. Growing up, Jordy had always been in his father’s shaping bay but left most of the decision making to the insight of Gee. SMTH Shapes came to the surface after Graham realized that Jordy’s intuition in the shaping room was a must-have for their continued success. In 2018 SMTH Shapes marked the surfing sphere as a collaboration between father and son, master-shaper, and world-class surfer.
Gee believes that modernization cannot come at the expense of comfort, quality, and accessibility. Dark Arts Surf first captured his eyes in Hawaii in 2019 when he was presented with a surfboard to inspect for quality purposes.
“I’ve been manufacturing surfboards for over forty-five years now and have yet to see a fused, vacuumed product in this caliber in a carbon construction. Carrying a high-end finish and an outstanding noticeable precision in shaping and craftsmanship is hard to do. With today’s high volume “hack & rack” manufacturing, I’m stoked to be a part of this venture as it’s hard to find a product that has finesse and craftsmanship that I aspire to from start to finish!”
Graham is and will always be firmly rooted in the individual needs of every surfer across an entirety of skill levels. The ideas he envisions today form under the feet of those whose common goal is a ride to last a lifetime.