for primates: a catalogue of surfboards in australia since 1900
: about this page
surfresearch.com.au is a
free online annotated surfcraft museum, compiled as a necessary part of
the evolution of surfing history.
The site is a work in progress - currently
Version # 174.
Some data is unknownly incorrect, and
When data is to be found to be incorrect,
it is changed.
Some data is known to be incorrect and
requires correction, but has a low priority.
Spelling and grammatical
errors are rife.
Many sections are incomplete, in some
All sources are credited,
Everthing else is my work
and is copyright Geoff Cater, 1999 - 2011.
Enquiries and contributions are encouraged,
I have never worked in the surfboard
My personal manufacturing experience is
limited to ...
- a few boards built in the Great
'Backyard Butchery" Outbreak of 1968-9 and the early 1970's Soul Surfer
- a long history of repairs and restorations,
a large number of boards in my personal collection have been extensively
worked (I simply could not afford to pay a professional to put in the hours
My knowledge is based on my observations
of surfboards, discussion with board builders and riders, and reading any
available design related literature.
It is possible that I may have this all
2. The Title
Pods for Primates takes its title
from Bob McTavish's articles Pods
for Primates: A Personal History of Surfboard Design, Part 1 and Part
2" , originally published by Tracks
Magazine sometime in 1972. They were subsequently reprinted (circa 1972)
in The Best
of Tracks Vol 1 (pages 120 – 124). The article was accompnied by
several excellent photographs.
The article's title refers to the introduction
of the Malibu board to Australia in 1956. 'Pod' was a term for a standard
square tail Malibu board circa 1963, see Kevin Platt in Pollard : The
Australian Surfrider , page 23. Subsequently the term referred
specifically to the tail itself.
'for Primates' hints at both the
relative primative stage of surfing in Australia in 1956 and also the evolutionary
development of surfboard design, a theme frequently featured in surf
literature, of which Mickey Dora's “da Cat’s Theory of Evolution” ad for
Greg Noll Surfboards is the most infamous example (Re-printed in
Noll, Greg With Gabbard, Andrea: Da
Bull – Life Over The Edge - photo section).
résolus de m'informer du pourquoi et de transformer ma volupté
3. The Quotation
- Baudelaire, 1860
Translation : "I set out to discover
the why of it, and to transform my pleasure into knowledge."
No, I have not read Baudelaire.
My source is Robert Hughes : The Shock
of the New, Thames and Hudson Ltd. London 1980.
The quotation appears in the introduction,
Originally I failed to transcribe the translation correctly - and I
couldn't find the overstrike (é)
on my key board.
The correct translation was contributed by Guilhem Rainfray, Guéthary,
France. June 2005.
Many thanks to Guilhem, and apologies to l'Académie Française.
4. Lou Morath's
I came across this magnificent board
fortuously at International Conservation Services, Chatswood in 1999, where
it had been restored. I was able to take a few basic photographs and dimensions,
gain some historical material from the detatched metal dedication plate,
and dicuss the restoration process with the craftsman.
Enthused with the beauty of the board,
that night I browsed a heavily thumbed copy of Margan and Finney's A
Pictorial History of Surfing, 1971 and was amazed to find a photograph
of the board and rider in 1940 (page 118). Further research identified
the branded logo as that of the Outrigger Canoe Club, Honolulu (virtually
confirming its Hawaiian connection) and additional information about Lou
Morath and the 1939 Pacific Games in C. Bede Maxwell's Surf : Australians
Against the Sea, 1949 and Reg Harris' The History of Manly Life
Saving Club 1911-1961, 1961 (additional photograph page Forty-four).
The craftsmanship and design exhibited
by the board refute any possible derogatry description such as 'plank'
or 'log'. Contact with the Balmoral Beach Club in August 2000 led to conversations
with Dick Morath (son/grandson of Lou) who reported that the board was
shaped by Lou Morath in Australia before 1939, the origin of the Outrigger
Canoe Club logo a mystery.
5. The Catalogue
The Catalogue started in
1981 when, while talking with Jeff (Foxy) Fox about surfboards, we put
to paper a list of theboards we owned since starting surfing. Foxy's list
totalled 15 boards, while mine was 25, including 3 retired boards.These
boards (#23, #24 and #25) became the basis for a collection of surfcraft
and the list continued to expand.
By 1996 the 'list'comprised detailed specifications
and photographs of approximately 60 boards with book and magazine
references to place the board designs in historical context. In 1997 I
started editing and storing the reference sections of 'the Catalogue'
digitally and in 1999 a first draft went online. These now comprise the
History, References and Appendix sections of Pods for Primates.
The Catalogue is largely based
on my own collection, supplemented by others that are on pulic display,
from boards I see at Old Mal Contests, auctions, other local collectors
and submitted examples from contributors.
n 2000 the first entries to the Catalogue
were added and the numbering system is basically the order in which
the boards were added to my original list and have no other significance.
The Catalogue, as at December 2002, is
a reasonable coverage for the period 1900 to 1984 (Simon Anderson's Thruster).
Entries in absentia include hollow plywoods
(paddleboards and okinuees), Keel fin circa 1971, Ski tail circa 1975,
Wilderness Hull circa 1970. A Side Slipper circa 1970, Bonzer circa 1974,
and Step Bottom circa 1965 and several sailboards are in preparation.
6. A Brief
of Surfcraft in Australia Since 1900
Orignally a chronology, some entries have
exceeded their brief, none so much as Duke Kahanamoku's 'introduction of
surfing in 1915', which now appears as Duke
The History section is an on going project
that currently is a convoluted mess, requiring a lot of work. I am progressively
working my way through this in fits and starts, some sections are reasonably
coherent - others merely a chopped up copy of previous work.
1.The Glossary contains only terminology
specific to surboard design, it does not have entries for general surfing
terms - see Cralle below.
2.Many entries are currently uncredited
to their sources, an unfortunate oversight that will be corrected in the
(not so near) future.
3.Although much of this work was completed
before I had access to it, Trevor Cralle's The
Surfinary – A Dictionary of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak 1991 has
been invaluable for review and the addition of US specific terms.
A second edition was published in 2001.
4. New Zealand entries thanks to Tony
5. Also see Books,
any indicated as containing a Glossary.
Entry Format : Model Name
or Term / Common Alternative Term/ Uncommon Alternative Term / (common
application) / (applications) : Explanation and historical notes.* Editor’s
Information and Inspiration
work on the page, many people have offered invaluable contributions of
boards, books, information and inspiration. Some are listed below..
Bruce White (Sydney
University Board Riders, 1970)
Ken Grieves (Sydney
University Board Riders, 1970)
Dave Mattison and
Jim Parkinson (Jackson Surfboards)
Scott Dillon (Scott
(NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
Paul Hundley (Australian
National Maritime Museum)
Jack Finlay (Surfworld,
Russell Graham (Moonlight
Peter Turner (Kirra
Greg Bennett (Bennett
Greg Millet (Dion
Al Wilson (Al Wilson
Ray Moran (Manly
Surf life Saving Club)
Tony Reid (The Longboard
(The Legendary Surfers Homepage)
Dick Morath (Balmoral
Paul D Gross
Originally the Catalogue
was an text based attempt to define and describe surfcraft, with minimal
reliance on images.
This was to reduce
my own costs (mainly photograph processing and the purchase of books and
magazines), avoid time consuming image scanning and manipulation, reduce
domain size, allow the pages to load faster, and to minimumise any possible
This is clearly
unsatisfactory; images do provide information beyond the capabilities of
text, they are integral to historical analysis, and translate wonderfully
to the medium.
1. All images fully
credited were possible.
Images deemed unsuitable
by the registered copyright holder will be removed immediately on notification.
2. Images are only
used where they add substantially to the text.
3. In many cases
the image has been cropped and/or enhanced to focus on relevant features
- this is usually noted.
4. The images are
scanned to the smallest size that allows reasonable identification and
This is invariably
smaller than their original printed versions.
5. A majority of
the images, such as portraits, are reproduced in black and white, even
if originally colour.
6. All images are
compressed before uploading, again to promote fast page loading.
Everthing else is my work
and is Copyright Geoff Cater, 1999.
me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further correspondence.
This web page
has been produced as a necessary part of the evolution of Surfing.
( - with apologies
to 1960's record
and Geoff Cater
Sydney NSW. Summer 1953
Dedicated to Frank Harry