A lot of the time the pleasure of traveling is the people you meet . When I was in WA recently, I met local big wave photographer, Russell Ord, who had tagged along with us on a photo shoot for Margies Moments. Russell has a mate named Phil and wanted to take me to see his board collection. Phil was generous enough to take time out of his day to let me share the magic of some of his boards, and the stories of how he acquired them.
I was in surfboard heaven!!! It’s amazing how excited an old guy like me can get over a bunch of dusty surfboards. Phil has a theory, that he should leave the boards just as he bought them, which includes original wax, legrope strings, dings, etc as its part of their history. Some people think its best to clean them up but I thought it was cool to see that they weren’t ‘museum pieces’ …that they had been ridden and enjoyed by someone in the past. I would love to have photographed all of them, but I picked out the ones that meant the most to me and have a place in my ‘surfing memory and history.
The first board that grabbed my attention was a Chris Crozier Flex Tail kneeboard. Chris was a master glasser, who worked in the surfboard industry in Brookvale during the early 70’s. Brookie was the epicentre of surfboard manufacturing in Australia at the time. It was where Gordon Woods, Barry Bennett and Scott Dillon first started making surfboards.
Some time in the 70’s, because he could ‘do everything’ himself, Chris branched out on his own, and opened a factory in Mona Vale. We sold a lot of his boards in our store in Newcastle. Firstly, he started off with single fins and twin fins, then through his association with Peter Crawford ( legend photographer and kneeboarder) he ended up specialising in kneeboards. The Flex Tail in the photo was a complicated board to manufacture. The board was originally shaped with a tail the same shape as the fibreglass Flex Tail, then the bottom was glassed. Chris would then turn the board over, scoop out the foam from the tail section, and glass the deck, adding extra glass in the tail area. The theory behind the design was that the thin ‘glass tail would give extra bite in turns and the flex would propel the rider through a turn.
This board was also possibly one of the first airbrushed boards in Australia. I was riding McCoy’s at the time, and none of them had airbrush sprays. the common method of adding colour was clear resin tints. Chris sprayed one of my boards that Geoff made for me. This was the first time I had an airbrushed colour on a board.
It is so rare to see one of these boards. I have only seen one other since the 70’s and it is nowhere near the condition of Phil’s board.
The next board I grabbed from his racks was a Lightning Bolt again from the early 70’s, shaped by Doug Bell, who was the LB Licensee in Australia. He lived in Manly and was a talented shaper. Doug was also the first shaper and licensee of Channel Island surfboards in Australia.
The classic thing about this board is that it is a pintail twin fin with curved channels which come out through the tail. Totally different to modern channels which run parallel to the stringer. I haven’t seen one of these boards since the 70’s and had forgotten that Doug even made them. The craftsmanship in taping up the lightning bolt designs on it is epic. The board is in classic condition.
Browsing the racks a little more, I pounced on a rare Hot Stuff Rabbit Bartholomew mini-gun model, with a fang tail. During the majority of the 1970’s Rabbit rode boards made on the Gold Coast by Paul Hallas’ Hot Stuff company . Channel bottom legend Alan Byrne was shaping out of this factory at the time. This board was shaped by Gill Glover, who shaped the majority of Rabbit’s contest boards. Gill was ( rarely for the 70’s) always immaculately dressed and groomed, and this reflected in his attention to detail in his shaping. His accuracy in the era of hand-shaping was incredible. The board is in great condition, but the striking thing is the logo/ decal. It shows Rabbit doing a 360 turn, and I have never seen it before. The common Hot Stuff Rabbit logo was a circle with the letters WB in the centre and a rabbit leaning on it eating a carrot.
Again from the early 70’s, a Shane classic potato chip double – ender caught my eye. I love green boards, so I was attracted to it. The striking design feature of these boards was a massive camel hump S deck shape with quite a big nose kick, similar to modern boards today. The bottoms were dead flat, with no rocker or V. They were also always very short, under 6 feet. Shane Stedman was a powerhouse in the surfing industry in Brookvale and all the ‘cool’ guys rode his boards. Terry Fitzgerald and Ted Spencer also shaped there, and it was where Simon Anderson got his start as a shaper. Shane had an amazing model called the White Kite, which was very similar in outline to a modern thruster…pointed nose, rounded square tail…I have a vivid memory of the first one I saw, because it had a full length bottom mural of a seagull sprayed on it. We sold hundreds of them in our old shop. Shane is still making boards today in Brookvale.
Lastly, I was stoked to see some MR twins in the collection. I chose this board because I especially liked the spray. I was pleased to see it looked like it had been surfed hard. Phil’s MR model was made in the late 70’s and was designed by me, but shaped by Bob Margetts. During the peak of the twin fin era, I was traveling and competing, and had limited time to shape. I shaped my own personal boards, some for friends, and limited numbers of custom orders. Mark Plater and Tony Cerf from Byron Bay also shaped some of the twins from this time. These boards had an MR logo on the deck and a ‘Designed by Mark Richards’ decal on the bottom . Mark, Tony or Bob then signed their own name or initials just ahead of the fins or up from the swallow tail on the deck. If you are lucky enough to still have one of these boards, you will be able to tell who shaped it from the signature on it. They are highly sought after, almost impossible to find or buy, and anyone who has one doesn’t want to give it up.
Thanks to Russell for introducing me to Phil. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of his awesome photos below. Check out more of his work at www.russellordphotography.com