In the 47 years since the first surfboard was introduced in Australia, surf-riding has become a synonym for love of the water.
In the 47 years since the first surfboard was introduced in Australia, surf-riding has become a synonym for love of the water. More, it's a hallmark of the Australian outdoors.
In a home workshop in the Sydney suburb of Harbord, the craft of board-making is the speciality of Greg McDonagh and his father Army McDonagh. The boards the McDonaghs make are rather special - they're so light they can be picked up with one hand. And they are made of a foam plastic.
Cutting the pattern on the meet of plastic is a simple job. The McDonaghs use a sew, but a kitchen knife would serve almost as well - the material is so soft. This is a far cry from the first boards which came to Australia from Hawaii, more than forty years ago. The first one was brought here by a men named Patterson, in 1912. It was a solid, heavy, red-wood slab that scarcely anyone could handle. And it indeed it wasn't handled much until two years later, when the now famous Duke Kahanamoku of Hawaii toured the country, and gave exhibitions of surfboard riding. From these primitive beginnings, the sport has risen to become one of Australia's top summer activities. The making of the boards has developed accordingly, and the latest material is plastic foam.
To protect the plastic board and make it highly durable, it is covered with fibreglass. This forms a tough waterproof skin, sealing the plastic's aerated quality.
It's an exhilarating feeling to catch a "boomer"...to feel the salty spray and smell the tang of the surf, as you ride the crest of a wave at may be 30 miles an hour. It's a sport that most people can master with a little time, a few spills - and patience. The lightness of the boards will make them easier to handle in the surf, and less likely to cause injury to bathers. And to the riders themselves they'll mean better chances of catching the weaves. They'll be riding the surf on plastic.