|January 1, 1936,
Jack King of
Manly Club, rides a surfboard.
(Sub-committee report by Messrs. T. W. MEAGHER, C. MACK, and H. W. CRAIN.)
It can be stated that the preponderance of evidence is inclined to the view that there is no grave risk to the bathing public from a continuance of the present system on most beaches of surfoplane riders being allowed to bathe in the same area as the general surfing public.
commenced its inquires and deliberations on this matter with an open mind,
and sought information freely.
Some of the arguments advanced by those approached have been good, some have been obviously actuated by prejudice, and others rather weak.
Having the benefit of this fund of knowledge on the matter, combined with practical experience, the sub-committee sets out its views as clearly and concisely as possible.
First of all,
let us touch upon the question of whether the introduction of surfoplanes
has been of any benefit from a surfing point of view.
Anybody who, over the last few years, has watched the growth in popularity of these rubber boards can only give one answer to the question, viz., that surfoplanes have provided for people who ordinarily did not have swimming ability, and could never hope to cultivate the knack of surf board or body shooting, a wonderful opportunity of enjoying some of the real thrills of surf bathing.
There is the other side to the question, of course, and that is that many of those who have attempted to join the happy band, at times get into difficulties, out of which they could not get without the aid of trained life-savers.
As a matter of fact, there have been occasions when serious consideration has been given amongst surf clubs as to whether representations should not be made to prohibit surfoplanes.
To follow such a course obviously would be an easy way to settle the matter, but when it is viewed from the angle that a moderate surfer should be encouraged to taste of the best surfing can offer, one is constrained to take a more rational view.
Accepting that as the doctrine of the Association, the sub-committee realises the necessity of doing everything possible to protect first, surfoplane riders, and by no means last those who are not
sufficiently venturesome or expert to be more than one of the crowd.
In the eyes of
the Association, should either of these two sections of surfing enthusiasts
receive preferential treatment?
With acceptance of the Association's motto we are of the opinion that both sections are entitled to the same "Vigilance and Service."
For the sake of argument, however, we will presume that those who constitute the crowd should be freed from the dangers said to be associated with surfoplane riding, and that the "plane riders" should be removed from the bathing area.
Proceeding on that basis, let us try and visualise what would be the outcome.
As we are all aware, most beaches cannot be surfed from end to end with safety, and consequently the bathing limits are defined by experienced men in observing the safest spots.
Having given such areas to the moderate performers, the natural corollary is that surfoplane riders would become exposed to a grave risk of being carried ...
... out, or, possibly,
of being washed off their boards.
What is of the most importance is that they would be denied close observance from beach inspectors and patrols, and by and large the chances of fatalities would become much greater.
The thing the Association now has to ask itself is, "Does the end justify such means?"
This appears to be the crux of the situation.
After all, have surfoplanes added to the risks of surf bathing?
And before answering we want to make it quite clear that we respect the views of those who might differ, while at this stage we would like to express our appreciation to Mr. S. A. Maddocks, for having brought the matter up for investigation.
is firmly of the conviction that things should be left as they are, and
in support of our arguments, we claim there are factors logically in our
favour which might easily escape the notice of anybody who has not had
the necessity to closely investigate the problem.
First of all, rubber surf boards carry an air pressure of approximately 2 lbs., and a person struck by such an object in itself, no matter at what speed it is travelling, has to be extremely unfortunate to receive serious injury.
Secondly, a person riding a suroplane, owing to its buoyancy, is almost bodily out of the water, and thereby is much more visible to other surfers than if he were taking a body shoot, when there is little more than the head and shoulders discernible.
Body shooting, as a matter of fact, has been responsible for many accidents and injuries in the past, and we feel that in actual point of fact, the chances of being struck by a body shooter is far greater than from a surfoplane rider.
Unfortunately, accidents will happen in the surf the same as anywhere else, and one can only have the greatest sympathy with the victim.
Taking everything into consideration, the sub-committee is of opinion that it would be very unwise and very dangerous to confine the use of surfoplanes to outside the recognised bathing area, except, of course, on beaches where crowds are small and there is plenty of safe beach and enough attendants to keep a close watch upon bathers.
At the same time, the sub-committee would impress upon Beach Inspectors and Patrol Men that in cases where surfoplane riders show a wanton disregard for the safety of others, that prompt and appropriate action should be taken to see that such behaviour is discontinued.
A copy of this
report has been sent to all sea-side councils.
A romanticised, and somewhat inaccurate, historical overview of early surf bathing in Australia and antecedents in England.
October 1, 1936, page 10.
In England it
was King George III who made sea bathing fashionable.
His medical advisers ordered him a daily dip, and when the waters around Weymouth had received the royal person of George III, the practice became fashionable in England.
There were no neck-to-knee costumes in 1770, nor any V's either.
Incredible as it may seem (but we must accept the authority of the London "Bystander" of those days), Majesty itself, the sons and daughters of Majesty, noble lords and ladies, the landed gentry and their better halves-all went into the sea in the costume of Adam and Eve.
The males, of course, bathed as remotely as possible from the females.
Much later the practice of wearing a costume was introduced.
But it was not until a very few years ago that the Continental habit of "mixed" bathing became general in England.
surf bathing as a pastime owes its origin to Manly.
In the early part of the present century it was an offence against the law for anyone to bathe from the beach in daylight in any suburb.
They might bathe furtively at night (some did), or they might bathe before sunrise.
But to bathe between sunrise and sunset was a punishable offence.
The proto-surfer of Australia was a gentleman named Goscher (sic), who conducted a newspaper at Manly.
Sometime about the year 1904 this gentleman announced in his paper that he was going to defy the absurdity of the sunrise-sun- set regulations, and that he would enter the water at noon on a certain day.
He was subsequently proceeded against in court and fined.
On that very day was conferred upon Australia the freedom of the surf.
From Manly the
practice of surf-bathing quickly spread to other suburbs; and when the
rateable values of local property went up, in consequence of the popularity
of the surfing habit, the objections of shocked aldermen vanished.
The surf boy and the surf girl had very soon so firmly entrenched themselves on the beaches that the shifting-power of the Puritanical screwjack was powerless to move them.
Manly at first made skirts mandatory for ladies bathing, and subsequently the Mayors of Manly, Bondi and Randwick recommended for both sexes a costume consisting of a pair of long knickerbockers and a long-sleeved jumper reaching to the knees.
However, the ridicule excited by this suggestion had the effect of not only killing this particular movement for the compulsory wearing of an inane costume, but all other suggestions as well. Thereafter the question was left to the good sense of the wearer, and no regulations as now enforced in this regard provided that the costume satisfies the local police as to its propriety.
To Manly also
belongs the honour of having introduced the habit of surf-shooting to the
For years, of course, natives of the South Sea Islands have been in ...
... the habit
of shooting the breakers on a canoe or a piece of wood, but it was a South
Sea Islander, named Tanna, who first showed to an astonished public on
the Ocean Beach at Manly that it was possible to project one's body through
the surf by tile force of the water.
The exercise of this craft introduced an entirely new force into surf bathing, and actually raised it from the condition of a tame affair of paddling about into a highly scientific and virile form of athleticism.
In these early
days, bathing "machines" were to be seen on the beaches.
These infernal machines have now, of course, passed into the kingdom of forgotten lumber.
But even to this day machines of this sort may still be seen on the seafront of numerous English resorts.
In the days of my own youth in England, it was the only way in which people could respectably approach the sea.
There was actually nothing "mechanical" about these machines at all.
They used to stand in a row, far back from the sea, looking as drab in their washy paint as the very meanest of suburban houses.
Into one of these one would be packed almost secretively by a zealous nursemaid, and then, while in the process of delaying the horrid business of getting undressed a very old man or a very old woman would come along and yoke a very old horse to the front of the machine.
That set the "machine" in motion.
In the first series of jerks one would be thrown violently against the walls, and finally on the floor. And then, after one was recovered from this appalling concussion, a cautious peep through the keyhole would reveal a frightfully cold and wet looking sea right up against the steps.
There was absolutely no means of escape.
The strong sunshine
has conferred upon Australian beaches a natural sense of attraction to
The surf bids one invitingly to share its own enthusiasm of motion, and the health-giving rays of the sun pour down a benediction upon the devotees who worship at its shrine.
The surf is a glorious democracy in which wealth rank, Norman blood, or scholarship have no privilege of place.
All are freemen of the surf; and he alone is beyond the pale whose skin shows white.
On the beaches one sees Greek sculpture transformed into real life in the forms of sunburnt Australian men and women.
One of the most
admirable features of the development of surf bathing in Australia has
been the co-development of the life saving organisation.
This body has a history of but twenty-nine years.
In 1907 the formation of the first life saving club was projected, and to-day there are over 120 clubs in Australia, comprising a membership of over 8,000.
By the assistance of these volunteers, fatalities on beaches have been reduced to an absolute
And when we consider the enormous crowds which throng the beaches through the whole course of the season, we must surely stand in admiration ,of these men who, for rewards that are purely visionary, help to make the purest and healthiest form of outdoor exercise in the world safe for the Australian people.
Surf riding was the favourite pastime of the ancient Hawaiians, and often kings and chiefs of the islands would gather on the beach for
shows how easy it is.
The Hawaiian who
desired to be successful with his board took great care in the selection
of the tree from which it was to be cut.
Upon selection of a suitable tree (usually a Koa- of the acacia family), a red fish called a Kumu was procured and placed at its trunk.
The tree was then cut down and the fish (as an offering in payment therefor) placed, with a prayer, in a hole dug at its root.
The board was then chipped out of the trunk with coral implements and finally stained black with a mixture made from the bark of the candlenut tree.
Before the board could be used in the surf, other rites and ceremonies had to be performed for its dedication.
The common people usually disregarded all these ceremonies, but the kings and chiefs religiously observed them and considered them essential to success.
some three miles from the city of Honolulu, and a number of other beaches
throughout the Hawaiian Islands, are ideal for surf board and surf canoe
riding, the coral reefs forming a shelf which extends almost a mile out
from the beach- the depth at that distance being approximately fifteen
Great swelling waves roll evenly over this coral shelf, with little or no break, but sufficiently banked to enable a board rider to pick them up by very fast paddling.
Our own surf is usually much steeper, with break and dump, and consequently a shorter board is
The boards used by the natives in the old days at Waikiki were up to eighteen feet long, two to three feet wide and six to eight inches thick.
Such a board would be quite useless in our surf, but the fact that they can be used on the Hawaiian beaches will indicate the ideal type of waves and beaches there.
Of course good
waves are not always rolling in, even at Waikiki, and when in ancient times
the sea was too calm the natives endeavoured to coax good waves by forming
a swimming party, which took several strands of a sea convolvulus vine
and, swinging it around their heads, lashed it down unitedly upon the water,
at the same time chanting a prayer.
Legends do not relate whether these efforts were ever crowned with success, and no doubt board riders on our beaches would, on many occasions, give much for a prescription for good board waves.
At Waikiki to-day
eighteen-foot boards are seldom used, the most favoured length being about
twelve or thirteen feet.
A feature of the board riding in Hawaii, which strikes the Australian expert on first experiencing the sport there, is the amazing angle at which the riders come across the wave- seldom, if ever, do they ride straight for the shore, but angle to such an extent that they appear to be riding along the crest of the wave and almost parallel to it.
It will be realised that pace can ...
... be increased
almost without limit in this way, rather than the rider being more or less
confined to the pace of the wave itself, as is the case if a straight course
is laid for the shore.
I think that those who use the big boards on our beaches could add considerably to their enjoyment if they adopted this practice much more than they do at present.
That there should
be no sharks over the reefs off Waikiki is to me a mystery; they abound
in the waters of Honolulu Harbour, a bare three miles distant, and the
reefs where the boards are used, being sunken, there is no coral barrier
to prevent them coming in.
The fact remains that no shark has ever been seen there, and no watchful eye need be kept by the man sitting on his board and waiting for a wave- and the long paddles over the deep, clear waters to the edge of the reef are undertaken with no fear such as we experience when well out beyond
Tandem riding is seen daily at Waikiki- pairs frequently coming four to five hundred yards on the great green rollers, and at times one sees a girl carried on the shoulders of a dusky rider with every appearance of ease and nonchalance.
who visit the islands, returning say that there are no waves on Waikiki
This, in a sense, is true, as at the water's edge there is only a small swell, comparable with, say, Balmoral Beach.
The big waves rising nearly a mile out from the beach where the coral shelf drops sheer to the ocean depths, die gradually away and do not sustain their roll to thunder on the beach as do the waves here; and to the man on the shore a wave a mile distant looks small and the rider a barely perceptible speck in front of it.
It will be noticed
I have throughout used the term "riding" rather than our own "shooting."
The Americans and Hawaiians smile when one speaks of shooting the waves- pointing out that riding is a more correct term, and, as this article concerns their country, I have followed them in the use of their expression.
Photograph: Adrian Curlewis headstand, Palm Beach, circa 1930.
Note the female boardrider and the low bouyancy of the solid boards.
Curlewis was to become a long serving President of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia.
Circa 1923 he purchased his first 70 lb board to surf at Palm Beach from Claude West - "owner in hospital owing to using same".
West was injured while transferring a patient to a surfboat.
- Maxwell: Surf (1949) page 238-9.
This board was replaced by one of similar design in 1926 by Les V. Hind of North Steyne for five pounds and
fifteen shillings, including delivery.
- Brawley: Palm Beach SLSC (1996) page 55.
Reference : L. V. Hind to A.Curlewis, Curlewis Papers, SLSA Archives.
Surf in Australia.
Official Organ of the Surf Life Saving
Association of Australia
(Head Centre), 119 Phillip, Street Sydney.
Editor: W.G. Simmonds Esq.
Published by Alexander Leo Finn,
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Printed by Lake and Ashes Pty Ltd.,
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