Robin Mair has been handcrafting surfboards for over 50 years in South Africa, California, and Hawaii!

Robin shaping, circa 1972, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

He shaped his first board when he was 13 years old out of a square block of polystyrene insulation foam. All he could get out of the blank was a 4' 6" kneeboard. It was 9' long, but he needed to make a board for himself and his best friend, and they could only afford one piece! This board was glassed with epoxy after the foam had been covered with spackle. Little did he realize that 60 years later, boards would still be built this way! This started a lifelong love of surfboard building and, of course, surfing.

When he was 18, he was lucky enough to apprentice with a local shaper in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where he learned from the bottom up to laminate, sand, and polish surfboards. So his career started as a laminator with short forays into shaping boards for himself. Later, building his boards, Robin did every step of the building process, from shaping to polishing.

Robin shaping, circa 2009, Hanalei, Kauai

Slowly, the love of shaping started to take center stage, and so began a quest to master this simple but tricky process that never seemed fully realized. There always appears to be one or two more tricks or skills that need to be learned.

So true mastery, as in all things, is always just out ahead like a dangling carrot leading one forward!

From an early stage in his shaping career, Robin has also always shaped kneeboards. He never forgot his roots after shaping that first kneeboard. Also, because his best friend is a kneeboarder, he always made his boards. This has also been a lifelong interest as it presents a different challenge to shaping a normal surfboard.

Later, Robin moved from South Africa to Santa Cruz, California, as his passion for designing watercraft moved towards an interest in designing sailboats. This interest led to an interlude of building and designing large racing sailboats. But surfing was always present, along with the love of surfboard building.

Eventually, the cold waters of Northern California drove Robin to the beautiful island of Kauai! Finally, he had arrived home and could now settle down to pursue the art of surfboard shaping and design. There was a surf spot where Robin could fulfill his passion for shaping guns. Eventually, he was lucky enough to run into Felipe Pomar and started shaping some large guns for him. These started as foam and fiberglass but soon moved to hollow balsa boards.

In the late summer of 2003, Robin and a friend, Mitch Haynie, decided they wanted to design a fin system as they were frustrated with the currently available systems. This sparked a new endeavor, with Robin learning the intricacies of CAD design and 3D modeling to design and engineer the system. Thus, the ProBox Fin System was born from humble beginnings and a lot of stoke! The system continues to gain momentum slowly! Mitch and Robin eventually sold the system to Larry Allison at Fibre Glas Fin Co in California!

The creation of the fin system was driven by Robin's deep interest in fin design, which had been present throughout his entire surfboard-building career. His firm belief has always been that a surfboard cannot be designed independently of the fins used on the board. Consequently, he has always designed and made his fins. This led to creating a separate fin business called HANALEI FINS, which has been providing fins for the last 20 years, featuring Robin's many varied designs.

A subsidiary was started in Australia to handle the ProBox fin system distribution and the Hanalei Fins manufacturing. The goal was to introduce both the fin system and our wide range of fin designs to a broader market; the company is called Hanalei Fin Systems and was started by a best friend of Robin's from South Africa, Lance Pearson!

Robin continues to shape a lot of guns, but these are balanced with a wide range of other boards that fit the eclectic challenges he enjoys. These days, he is focused on mastering the composite board-building technique that uses bamboo veneer skins on foam cores using epoxy resins. This allows us to build more durable boards that satisfy our aesthetic goals!

Throughout the intervening years from the creation of the ProBox Fin System, Robin continued to work on design improvements for a fin system. This culminated in the release of the GEARBOX fin system in late 2013! Then, a year later, a complete system redesign was released in the form of GEARBOX 2. This design is a revolutionary design that embodies all of the knowledge that has been gained through the years of working on fin system design. This system is now used in all of Robin’s new boards. For more information on the system, see GEARBOX SURF!

The Australian subsidiary became GEARBOX AUSTRALIA shortly after the release of the GEARBOX fin system so that it could handle the distribution of both HANALEI FINS and GEARBOX. These days, the fins have become a much more significant part of the picture as the demand has steadily increased. Fins are now being shipped worldwide, but the market is robust in Australia.

We are also stoked that our new line of RTM molded composite fins, called HRD-KORE, is now available, leveraging most of our most successful fin templates; these are exciting fins. More information on the full range of fins can be found here - HANALEI FINS. Additionally, Robin continues to make custom hand-foiled fins for those discerning customers looking for something unique with their new board.

Distribution in Australia has now been moved to a new entity - SANDED Australia, that handles GEARBOX and HANALEI FINS distribution through their storefront and website. This partnership has seen wider exposure for both products.

Lately, the custom fin business has been consuming most of our time as we have been developing many new fin designs, and they are in high demand. Some of these new designs are slated to be turned into production fins! In the last few years, most fin production has moved to CNC machined fins as these are the closest we can get to the custom handmade fins and can be turned around much faster. New templates are constantly being added to the CNC range.

For 2024, we are excited to be working on introducing the next generation of GEARBOX - GB24! Stay tuned.

Robin will continue to focus on delivering high-quality, accurate surfboards for a wide range of discerning buyers, and he will always be looking to improve the quality of Mair Surfboards.

Old Photos and Decals

Some photos from the old days and some of the different decals that have been used over the years.

Robin laminates a board in the Ra Surfboards shed at JBay, with Larry Levine looking on, circa 1972.

One of the original Nature's Own decals. Hand drawn for each board.

Original OM Decal

One of the original OM decals was either painted on each board with colored resin or airbrushed directly on the foam. The normal approach was to do them on the sanding coat with an opaque color resin at the same time as the pinline if there was one.

Current OM Decal

In its current form, the resurrected OM decal was recreated from the original, and text was added as the original never had any text. This is the primary decal used on our boards and the stylized "M" lightning bolt style decal.


The "M" decal was used as the primary decal until the resurrection of the OM decal. It is always placed in a small size on the bottom of the board, with the OM decal in a larger size on the deck.