400 and counting: Hand plane maker gives repurposes wasste

Kane James is a miner, a surfer and an entrepreneur - but it doesn't stop there, he's also an artist, a rock star and a family man. Photos: Tanya Regan.
Kane James is a miner, a surfer and an entrepreneur - but it doesn't stop there, he's also an artist, a rock star and a family man. Photos: Tanya Regan.

He wears many hats.

When he spoke to the Mail, Kane James had just got back from a surf.

We wanted to speak to him about his business - hand shaping handplanes. We had never before met someone who did that.

A handplane is a mini board which is strapped to the hand while bodysurfing, which allows the rider to turn and change direction easier. They have been around since the 1960s but have made a comeback in the last decade or so.

Kane, who lives south of Mandurah in Western Australia, first started shaping them from timber he found laying around while he was working in the gold mines.

He went on to make them under the label Deckhand Body Surfing Co and has sold more than 400 since 2010. His sales are mostly online but also through the Sommersault Market in Scarborough for the last six summers and via outlets such as Star Surf & Skate in Mandurah.

"I first got the idea to make one out of a skim disk - I cut it with a knife and put a handle on it but it was big and bulky," he says.

'So much waste'

He now makes them out of old skateboards, timbers and other things he finds laying around - he's not into buying things new.

As a miner, and even as a consumer, he says he already feels like he's contributing enough waste.

"There's so much waste in mining - it feels good to be able to repurpose things rather than seeing them go into landfill."

Photo: Tanya Regan

Photo: Tanya Regan

'Many shapes you can ride'

Like most creatives, Kane isn't satisfied sticking to one product.

He also makes surfboard fins out of recycled plastic thrown out at work, and tries making - and surfing - all kinds of objects with all kinds of fins.

"I get sick of paying top dollar for stuff, you don't have to ride what the surf shops and industry tells you to ride," he says of his surfing.

"There are so many shapes you can ride and that brings a different feel to it.

"You've got to cruise along and be your own person."

So he's a miner, a surfer and an entrepreneur - but it doesn't stop there, he's also an artist, a rock star and a family man.

So he's a miner (precisely, a scaffolder in the mines), a surfer and an entrepreneur - but it doesn't stop there, he's also a rock star, a family man and an artist.

Fun and quirky

More recently his attention has been on creating the kind of art that would be placed on a mantelpiece.

"I'm doing more of that than handplanes," he said. "It gives people a smile because it's fun and quirky...I like that."

Kane James also plays in punk rock band, the Booths, with his son Sam and nephew Cameron Pearman. Photo: Facebook

Kane James also plays in punk rock band, the Booths, with his son Sam and nephew Cameron Pearman. Photo: Facebook

Kane will dabble in anything that inspires him - and going by the collection of material he uses, that seems to be most things.

"I use anything I find down the beach, I'll make something out of it."

He has used a big rope from an old fence at Avalon point, plywood from an old boat at Pyramids beach, an old timber pallet he found on a walk and a star picket.

"I love finding rusty bits of metal, I fit them onto something, they give pieces a grungy, rustic look."

He take the rubbish from work, old gaskets from the dumpsters, discarded metal.

Working together to make things happen

While he's a self-proclaimed "hermit", Kane says often the secret to making things happen is community.

When he's not creating art (or mining, surfing and being an all round great family guy), he also plays in a punk rock band with his son Sam and nephew Cameron Pearman called The Booths. The trio play at Cobbler's Tavern and other local venues.

Even with music, he tries to keep things local.

Mandurah entrepreneur Shane Hardy, who owns Star Surf and is behind the Godspeed Threads label, printed the merchandise t-shirts for the band.

"There is a great little community of people here in Mandurah doing things with other people," Kane said. "It's really nice when you get out there and get to know people. It's great working together to make things happen."

Adopted out at birth

The story of how Kane came to Mandurah is a unique one in itself.

He grew up with adoptive parents and in his quest to find out about his biological family, he met his half-brother Kim, who had been living in Mandurah for about 20 years.

During frequent visits, the family fell in love with the south of Mandurah and eventually made the move down to Dawesville from Perth.

Kane now works at Alcoa's Worsley refinery but dreams of leaving mining after this year. The mortgage will be paid off and he wants to get into care work to "try to give something back".

He's also hoping that one day someone will open a venue themed around his artwork.

"I've got enough pieces all the same theme that would be good in a pub," he says.