From wakeboarder to home builder: Brad’s rad skills
- A chance conversation in a wakeboard store put Brad McEwan on the path to a career he loves
- Brad wants Australia’s homes to be built to a better standard and shares his advice and skills on Instagram
- He’s been wearing Steel Blue boots since his apprenticeship days, because he prioritises support and comfort
A love of wakeboarding is an unusual way to land yourself a carpentry apprenticeship and a career in the building industry, but that’s exactly where Victorian Brad McEwan’s journey in the trade began.
“I’d wanted to leave school and do a trade but my mum said, ‘No, you’ve got to go to uni’,” Brad said. “So, I went to uni, then I got a job in retail, working in a wakeboard store. One of my good customers said to me one day, ‘Oh, you are living the dream. You must go wakeboarding all the time?’ And I was like, ‘No, every week when you come in here to buy stuff, I’m in here working’. Then he goes, ‘Come and work for me then’. So, I quit my job and went to work for him.”
The diversity of carpentry skills keeps every day interesting
That was in 2011, in Essendon, in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs. Brad grasped the opportunity to do his carpentry apprenticeship with both hands.
“Carpentry is just the most interesting and most diverse trade,” he said. “The skill set you get from carpentry enables you to do so many things. You can never really get too bored at work if you’re open to always doing something different. It just keeps things fresh. It’s good for me, because I get itchy feet. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again.
“The biggest thing for me is the satisfaction of having something tangible at the end of the day, something to look back and go, ‘that’s what I got done today; that’s what I achieved’.”
Sharing his skills, knowledge and passion for quality work
A little over a decade later and Brad has his building licence and he’s running his own company, Sanford Build Co, based in the Macedon Ranges in central Victoria — where there’s not much opportunity for wakeboarding but plenty for using his building skills. He is passionate about building higher quality homes — homes that are more energy efficient, more durable, and healthier to live in for the inhabitants. He shares that knowledge and those skills with thousands of followers on his Instagram.
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“The minimum standard in our building code in Australia is incredibly low compared to other First World countries,” Brad said. “So, for me it has been a long road in terms of learning these different construction principles and methods and products to use. I really had to go out of my way to seek out that information and then adapt it to Australia and the products we have available here. I thought it would be good for everyone to know this sort of stuff, so I decided to share it on Instagram. I get a little satisfaction in getting to teach people but it’s also just paying it forward, I guess.”
Why Brad chooses Steel Blue work boots
Brad first started wearing Steel Blue boots as an apprentice.
“I did the typical thing as an apprentice and I just bought a pair of cheap boots to wear to work for the first time,” Brad said. “They were slip-ons. I just hated them. They were so uncomfortable. At the start of my apprenticeship we were framing full-time, so I was on the roof, flat out. They were terrible.”
Brad went back to the shop and bought his first pair of Steel Blue boots — Argyles, with a zip, so he could still slip in and out of his boots easily.
“They were super comfy and I’ve been wearing them ever since,” Brad said.
“I wakeboard and snowboard, so I understand the need for such a nice supportive boot. You don’t want to be tearing around in something that’s loose-fitting or uncomfortable. I’ve seen so many people roll ankles on a job site and I just think, it’s not worth it. I’m all for comfort and support.”