Meet The Locals: Matt Williams From Gold Coast Ding Repairs

Opening Gold Coast Ding Repairs at just 21 years old, Matt Williams now presides over one of the biggest surf craft repair businesses on the Gold Coast.

As well as doing quality board repairs, Matt is an awesome dude with a great work ethic, who always gets the job done – even when the surf is up.

I caught up with him recently for a chat about life in Mermaid Beach, how a childhood hobby grew into a vocation, serendipity and the importance of doing things differently.

Hi Matt, you are a true Mermaid Beach local, what do you love about living here?

Definitely the lifestyle. It’s great to be so central on the Gold Coast. The beach is right here – we lived right across the road when I was growing up – and I started surfing when I was 10. I used to walk down and surf with my mum, she’s the one who got me into it. I also love that the local hinterland is nearby and the Tweed Coast as well. It’s like you have the best of everything here.

How did you get started with surfboard repairs, is it something you study?

You have just touched on one of the biggest problems in the surf industry – there isn’t an established entry program. I just got into it out of curiosity when I was around 12. By then I was skating as well as surfing, and I started to make skateboards, which led me to wonder if I could make surfboards too. I did all the usual digging around on the internet and then I just started making surfboards in my backyard. We’re lucky on the Gold Coast because we have a solid industry here and a few suppliers, so I was able to get the materials together. Eventually one of my friends asked if I could fix his board, so the repairs started from there.

That was enterprising of you. Was the first board you made any good?

It was surprisingly good! I think it was beginner’s luck. The next 10 I made weren’t so great, so it’s a good thing I got it right the first time otherwise I might not have kept pursuing it.

You were just 21 when you set up your repair shop in Mermaid Beach, how did that come about?

Making surfboards is one of the things I am most passionate about, but starting a repair shop was more of a business decision. I studied business at Bond University, then worked for a year with one of the suppliers that I used to buy materials off as a kid. That gave me an overview of the industry and I could see there was a big gap in the market for a reliable, high-quality surfboard repair service. You can buy boards everywhere but they’re extremely fragile, and repairs were always just a side service that manufacturers would offer. You would drop your board off and be waiting weeks, then eventually someone would scrub it out and do a dodgy repair. I wanted to professionalise the service.

In 2015 everything just kind of fell into place with the shop. I think you would call it serendipity. I was at a 21st birthday and got talking with someone who had a shop premises. At the time I was still fixing surfboards out of my parent’s garage. So, it was a matter of the right place, right time and the shop happened to be in Mermaid Beach, so I didn’t have to think twice about the location.

Did you get a lot of support from the local community?

Yeah, it was unreal! I had already been fixing boards for quite a few locals, but once they found out I had opened a shop everyone rallied around. There were plenty of others too that started bringing their boards in, once they heard a local kid had set up shop. So yeah, it started very local, but now we are the biggest repair shop on the coast. We are the main repairer for surf lifesaving clubs as well – we fix both the lifesaving boards they race on and the rescue boards.

So, what do you love about what you do?

Probably the biggest thing is being able to help people. I love the sense of wonder people have when they hand in a broken board and get it back totally fixed. It’s super rewarding to have a job where people are really excited about the work that we do for them. Repairing boards is a unique skill and hard to learn, so there is a deep appreciation for what we do. I also like that when I go out in the surf, I know a lot of guys out there. It consolidates my base in the local community and that makes working feel good.

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How do most dings happen? Crashing into other surfers?

Definitely. On the Gold Coast, you’ve got big crowds out at the popular spots. You’ve also got a lot of point breaks with heaps of rocks that people jump off, like Burleigh, Currumbin and Snapper. But people ding their boards around the house too or carrying them out to the car. There’s a lot of different ways to damage your board.

What if a board is snapped in half, can you fix it?

Anything’s fixable but there can be a trade-off on cost and how the board is going to perform. If it’s a big structural job – like it’s snapped in half – we’re basically reinforcing the whole board so it usually comes out a little bit heavier than it was and a little bit stiffer, so sometimes it doesn’t feel the same. But yeah, it’s fixable and if it’s a special board you can definitely still go out and keep surfing it.

Does working in the surf industry mean you go surfing every day?

Normally I am working on making sure everyone else is out in the water before me, so no, I don’t surf as much as I used to. It all depends on how busy we are. I think that’s a key difference with us – we put our customers before ourselves. Probably the most cliched excuse in the surf industry is, ‘yeah sorry I haven’t done that yet because the surf’s been good,’ and you’re meant to accept that they’ve been out surfing, so it’s understandable that your board isn’t repaired yet. We are the opposite to that.

And what else sets Gold Coast Ding Repairs apart?

The quality of the repairs, the customer service and the reliability. People can drop their board off and know exactly when they will be able to pick it up. They also know that they’re going to get the best possible job. My strategy was always to nail our core business first, and once that’s really consolidated then look at expanding, and that’s basically the stage we’re at now.

So you have plans in the pipeline?

Yes, another shop with a bigger space! We were already looking, but then COVID hit and we kind of settled down and focused on this spot. Our owners have also put the shop on the market, so yeah, the next step is definitely trying to lock in a bigger space in the same area – hopefully, we can keep our business right where we began.

Wishing you the best of luck with that Matt. For sure there’s a lot of surfers out there that want to see you stay right here in Mermaid Beach!

For more information on Matt and Gold Coast Ding Repairs, check the website, follow on Facebook or Instagram, or drop by the shop at 3 Sportsman Avenue, Gold Coast.

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