Pera Davies only planned to stay in Waimate for a couple of weeks of shearing work.
Six months later, he is still living in the South Canterbury town and has converted a shed at Warren White’s Waimate Shearing quarters into a factory for his patented Stretch Flexibility and Circulate (SFC) foam rollers.
Mr Davies, who is originally from Hastings, has been shearing for about 40 years and has had to learn to look after his body.
At the age of 25, suffering serious back injuries, he started to develop techniques for injury management and prevention during and after work.
Integrating aspects of jiujitsu martial arts, Mr Davies’ methods were so effective he was employed by Australian Wool Innovation to teach other shearers how to look after themselves better, too.
His SFC foam rollers – three foam rollers joined together, to disperse the contact points – were designed to aid recovery for shearers.
“The foam rollers are really good at releasing tension in the body, and this design makes it a lot easier to use,” he said.
“It allows you to roll on your tender spots longer and target certain areas.
“Shearing is one of those things which is black and white: things either work or they don’t – and this works.”
He took the SFC roller with him to different sheds and other shearers started asking where they could get one.
So he started making more.
Its uses were widespread, he said. In Australia, drug and alcohol use in the shearing industry was rife and he believed that was a symptom of shearers self-medicating.
“A lot of it comes from pain.
“If you can address some of that pain, it will nip some of the [drug and alcohol use] in the bud.”
Although it was designed with shearers in mind, his SFC foam rollers could be used by anyone.
“Construction, office workers – everyone gets a sore back.”
As many shearers do, Mr Davies usually splits his time between New Zealand and Australia, chasing work.
He came to Waimate in March for two weeks of shearing and ended up spending lockdown there. Before lockdown, he had been set to talk to a foam roller manufacturer in China, but Covid-19 affected those plans.
During lockdown, Mr White cleared out a space for Mr Davies to start producing the rollers locally. It has become Mr Davies’ permanent base.
“That’s the passion Warren has; anything for Waimate, he gets behind,” Mr Davies said.
At present, about 250 of the rollers are in production.
The biggest hold-up is supply of the polystyrene foam, and he plans to look for ways to make a product with the same specifications out of wool.