Marty lived in Redhead Beach, near Newcastle on the central coast of NSW and was a happy camper there until a life changing trip to WA in 1973. After 3 months of surfing around Margaret River, it was a bit hard to go home to 3 foot beachies, so many more trips ('74, '77 ,'79) were made across the dreaded Nullabor in the trusty EH holden.
Making boards in Redhead for the locals was a great lifestyle and when one of them was the late Col Smith, it was extremely rewarding to collaborate on designs and testing. Col rode any board he could get his hands on and was always looking for something new. He could make any board rip and soon took his talent and natural ability to Hawaii and on to become rookie of the year,winning the PRO CLASS TRIALS at 15’ Sunset Beach.
In his first year there he rode the subtle channels of Jim Pollard to a place in the final of the Pipe Masters. Jim was the first man to make serious inroads into the foam on the bottom of surfboards that we had seen . He was also shrewd and wouldnt let us know how he did it, so eventually we went away and found our own way, which resulted in the “clinker hull” style of channels that you see today. The late, and great Al Byrne was an early convert and carried the torch from those days till now while ML got distracted by windsurfing, followed by kitesurfing.
On the first time he rode a channel bottom surfboard:
I first saw Col Smith [of Newcastle] at Pipeline with an original Pollard channel bottom. No one remembers that Col surfed Pipe like no one else...really far forward on his board and fast. And that really interested me. He actually...piloted the speed. Like Bruce Raymond used to. And when Col won the Pro Class Trials, I became intrigued by his board and we ended up becoming best friends. Anyway, so when I made my first channel bottom the next day—and these were single-fins, remember...I made the mistake of making the channels too shallow. I was disappointed and didn’t know why. When we got back to Newcastle, this guy Martin Littlewood shaped one for me and really dug in the channels. Really deep. Littlewood is really the progenitor of all my channel bottoms because he was not scared to really carve them in, like a sculptor. He took the shallow Pollard concept and deepened the whole concept physically and philosophically. Then I took mine toward breaking the sound barrier.
On his first time riding a thruster:
When Col Smith got back to Newcastle from the Narrabeen Coke contest he had two new, unridden boards: a weird-looking thing called a Thruster and a brand new single-fin. So we went down to surf them. It was six feet and perfect. I remember turning my nose up at the Thruster, so Col took the thruster and I took the single-fin. Col hated the Thruster. He surfed so far forward on his boards that they did not work for him. But when we switched boards...Oh my God... the lights came on for me. My first Thruster...I immediately started mind- designing the one I was going shape with deep Littlewood channels...that was my mission... I couldn’t come in that day I was so excited. I think I surfed until my nose started bleeding. My wife damn near left me that day.
Marty moved to Margarets in 1985 as a windsurfer and made sails on his arrival after learning this technical skill on 2 trips of 3 months each to Maui, Hawaii, which was the centre of the windsurf universe. After being blown out of the water by the afternoon seabreeze on 4 surfing trips to the south west, it was an obvious move, to get into serious waves and dependable strong wind. After settling into a house in Prevelly and shaping assymetric sailboards for the local crew Marty slowly got back into making surfboards, mostly channel bottoms which were, and still are, a "heritage" design for the brand.
During the next 10 years the Delta Designs team pioneered aggressive waveriding in big waves with the likes of Gil Stubbs and Dave Sheen riding assymetric boards designed to go left only, but maximise the power of bottom turns. Then along came the advent of EPS/Epoxy vacuum sandwich technology which took over the sailboard market. With teamriders Pat Redman and Blair Simpson, Delta Designs was on the cutting edge of this technology and was using a deck laminate that is unrivalled today in allowing the board to bend in turns and have that lively twang out of a turn that you just dont get in production boards. New technology was quickly adopted by sweatshops in third world countries and the custom market was killed off quickly.
Kiteboarding came along just as the crush was on so we quickly moved to the dark side and got involved in the new and exciting sport that was kitesurfing circa 2000. So it was onto the the steep end of the learning curve again with boards changing monthly and sometimes weekly!! How much fun can you have in one lifetime !!
VARIETY....THE SPICE OF LIFE
As a young and enthusiastic shaper I was quite blinkered in my approach and paid scant regard to other shapers work with a notable exception, that being the greatest shaper of them all, SAM EGAN, a true master shaper . The blinkers came off very quickly once in the deep end of windsurfing and thankfully they have stayed off ever since as I have plagiarised my way through the last 25 years taking everything I can in and hopefully spitting it all out in more inventive ways.