Hayden Cox is one of those individuals who is equal parts dreamer and doer – never one to be daunted by the fact that something hasn’t been done before.

6 April, 2022

It’s not especially unusual for someone in their teens to invent a company name and even design a logo and dream about one day realising the goal of building a multinational business. But while most fledgling company logos and dreams of world conquest fall by the wayside as the ‘real world’ crowds in, Hayden Cox has not only hung on to that dream but turned it into a working reality that even those nearest and dearest to him would have found difficult to imagine in his formative years.

At a glance it might all sound a little too good to be true – a little too easy. ‘A fascination with surfing from essentially the time he could walk. A dream to shape and create his own surfboard brand and make boards better in the process. Follows that dream despite the misgivings of family and teachers, but goes on to revolutionise surfboard design and create a global brand that continues to go from strength to strength’.

But to summarise Hayden Cox’s career like this is to do him a disservice and fails to recognise the combination of natural talent, single minded dedication and hard work that have underpinned everything he has ever done and the way he continues to operate.

Proudly self-taught and producing boards for friends and even teachers from his mid teens, Cox never allowed the fact that something hadn’t been done before to deter him from trying it. In fact, in concert with his natural talent as a designer, that willingness to try new things and approaches – and not give up if they didn’t immediately succeed – continues to be one of his greatest attributes.

The fact that surfboard design and construction had hardly changed in decades didn’t stop a young Cox tirelessly looking for ways to do it differently and make surfboards better in the process.

His eventual invention of what we now know as FutureFlex technology, completely changed the accepted way of producing a surfboard. A parabolic carbon fibre frame, it removes the flex from the centre of the board where it was traditionally centred and puts it around the outside, resulting in a more responsive surfboard that is also lighter and stronger.

But having achieved success and acclaim in one area, he has never been one to sit back and bask in that success – for Cox it’s always a matter of homing in on the next goal. The next project.

“There’s no point in me just doing what I did last time, even if what I did last time turned out great,” he says. “It’s a matter of continually trying to do better.”

Boiled down, it sounds relatively simple. To Hayden Cox it’s all about performance and innovation, but never forgetting the importance of a beautiful aesthetic. Small wonder that Haydenshapes and Audi have enjoyed such a strong relationship that goes back to even before he become an Audi ambassador in 2017. 

The brand philosophies are extraordinarily similar, and while their respective products couldn’t be more different on the surface – surfboards and performance vehicles operate in very different mediums – as far as Cox is concerned, the combination of performance, of form and function, are essentially the same.

That shared philosophy also extends to sustainability and constantly seeking ways of not only doing things better, but genuinely making them better in terms of performance, efficiency and in a way that reduces the environmental impact.

For many years, Cox has applied the same tireless enthusiasm to developing new ways of working, trialling new more eco-friendly materials and reducing the waste products from surfboard production. It’s not an easy process and the relatively high proportion of waste product associated with manufacturing surfboards presents its own special set of challenges. But then, innovative thinking and sheer persistence are the very things that produced Haydenshapes in the first place.

Cox has already had success in finding ways to repurpose some of the over matter from the production process, like reusing the offcuts from fibreglass and carbon fibre cloth and having them re-woven into up-cycled material to  be used on new boards. Or producing stringers – used to reinforce the board – and fin boxes made from carbon, glass fibres, foam dust and bio-epoxy resin with foam dust incorporated.

Of course none of this is allowed to come at the expense of the finished product. 

“It’s important that we refine the performance characteristics of the products first and then we can figure out the most efficient way to manufacture. Compromise is not an option,” he says.

He works on the ‘every little bit helps’ principle, constantly looking for ways to make a difference – trialling new materials and production methods that will cumulatively make a real difference.

But Hayden’s reuse of the over matter is not confined to surfboard related items or projects. Crossovers with the Haydenshapes upcoming apparel line launching in the coming months with luxury fashion retailer Mr Porter see surfboard waste matter repurposed and used in the production of buttons and hardware, while another mix of bio epoxy resin, up-cycled surfboard foam and fibreglass dust is also being used in a completely separate project, where Hayden is designing and producing a limited run of furniture pieces in for premium Australian furniture brand SP01.

This comes off the back of his designing and creating the column design walls for the spa at Crown Sydney made in collaboration with Blainey North, again using his knowledge of resins to create architectural structures with a unique, translucent quality.

These new projects show not only his flexibility as a designer but his willingness to embrace new ideas and disciplines and not allow himself to become stagnant or rest on past successes.

“I’ve always felt as individuals we can make a difference and lead the charge of progress within fields and industries that we’re passionate about,” Hayden wrote in his book, New Wave Vision, back in 2016. It’s a philosophy he has lived since the very beginning and one he continues to apply to every facet of his life. It’s that attitude that will find new, cleaner ways to produce high-performance surfboards and it is that attitude and passion that will drive the next phase of Haydenshapes development.