YESTERDAY UNTIL TODAY - A TRUE SURFING LIFE
Neville Charles Hyman was born (1958) in Johannesburg, South Africa, grew up in the Western Australia city of Perth, began surfing at age 9, and shaping boards 4 years later, working out of his father's garage-workshop. In ‘75, one week after graduating high school, Hyman, along with Phil Usher founded the Odyssey Surfboards factory-showroom in Perth; two years at 18 later he moved to Burleigh Heads, Queensland, and in ‘80 he began shaping under his own Nev Surfboards label. Possessed not only of gifted hands, Hyman was also bright and funny and easy to communicate with; by the end of the decade, he'd positioned himself among the world's most sought-after board-makers. Over the years, he made equipment for dozens of the world’s best surfers, including world champions Kelly Slater, Wendy Botha, Mark Occhilupo, Sunny Garcia, Martin Potter, Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, Sofia Mulanovich, and Joel Parkinson. While not as well known as the aforementioned surfers, Aussie pros Michael Barry, Danny Wills, Dave Rastovich, Dean Morrison, Nicky Wood, Richard Marsh, and Trudy Todd are perhaps most closely associated with Hyman's boards.
During the '90s, Hyman's company produced between 100 and 150 boards a week, making it one of the biggest in the world; in 2001, Hyman was featured in an Australia's Surfing Life magazine article titled “Loaded: 10 Surfing Millionaires.” Hyman’s fortune, the magazine said, came largely from exporting boards to Japan.
In the late '80s and early '90s, Hyman helped develop an array of computer-driven shaping technologies, hardware and software both, at a time when machine-made boards were largely regarded as being antithetical to the hand-crafted work that had always been part of the sport's aesthetic. "Nev was always a smart cat," surf writer Derek Rielly later wrote. "He was the guy who threw it on the line to not only champion machines that could shape boards from a computer program but poured money into it. His dream was to shape a board on his laptop, send the details to a machine, and have it make the board." This process would later become the industry standard.
In late 2005, Hyman was looking for a way to modernize the surfboard's core materials. He partnered with an innovative Western Australia shaper named Bert Burger, who was working with a new "sandwich" construction involving EPS foam, balsa, and epoxy resin; the two of them formed Firewire Surfboards. In 2015, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater bought a 70% interest in Firewire.
Hyman also has a flair for marketing, and to that end he's known for having shaped the world's biggest surfboards, which in turn have carried a Guinness-sanctioned record number of surfers in 2005 for 1/ The Biggest Surfboard at 40ft long, and 2/ for 47 surfers riding on one board at Snapper Rocks during the Quiksilver Pro. Then in 2015, PT asked Nev to design another one for the 100th anniversary of surfing in California. It was a quad-fin measuring 42' long, 11' wide, 16" thick, and weighing 1,300 pounds. On June 20, in Huntington Beach, the board was crane-lifted down the beach and towed into the surf; on a small wave, 66 people together rode atop the board for 12 seconds.
In 2012, turning his attention away from surfboards, Hyman and Sydney architect Ken McBryde formed NevHouse and began working on prefabricated low-cost stormproof modular structures made of recycled materials. NevHouse won the top prize for sustainability in the 2016 Australian Good Design Awards. In 2018, Hyman won top honors in Pitch@Palace, an entrepreneurial award, which earned him, among other things, tea with members of the Royal Family at Windsor.
In an Australia's Surfing Life magazine 1992 Shaper's Poll, Hyman was named the 7th best shaper of the year, and the 15th most influential of all time.
In 2020, Hyman was inducted to the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame.