home catalogue history references appendix 
the malibu : 1948-1953 

1948 - 1953
The Birth of the Malibu : Bob Simmons, Joe Quigg, Matt Kilvin, and George Downing.

Bob Simmons Malibu Circa 1947
Surfer July 1976 Volume17 Number 2 page 46
Les Williams Archives

Although his boards were probably never currently surfed in Australia, the contribution of  Bob Simmons to surfboard construction,while occasionally over-rated, is integral to any history of surfboard design. 
While the Tom Blake Hollow board had secured it's position as the preferred paddling board in Hawaii and California,
it did not dominate wave riding as it did in Australia,  .
In both surfing centres the ancient alaia designs retained popularity and were still being replicated, although lengths had increased up to 12 feet and weight had been greatly reduced by laminating balsa wood between redwood stringers and rails.
Alternatively timber sections could be chambered before lamination.
Popular Science magazine, 1938.
These were the first factory boards,  manufactured by Pacific Homes Systems in California, notably the infamous Swastika model of 1939.

During the late 1940's Bob Simmons' experiments with surfboard design had convinced him of the benefits of scooped nose lift, and he became known for his ''scarf'' jobs - sections added to an existing timber board on the nose to allow more lift.
It was this work that led him to the use of resin and fibreglass, developed during the Second World War, to strengthen the added sections.

And there is a photo of George Downing, Russ Takai and Wally Froiseth on the beach at Malibu, circa 1947.
Downing told me he ran that board into the pier and cracked the nose, and Bob Simmons fixed it:

"That was the first time I saw fiberglass and resin," George said.
- Ben Marcus: email, December 2008:

 Although not primarily seeking weight reduction, he also experimented with polystyrene foam, in common use as an insulation material.
As the foam reacted unfavourably with polyester resin, Simmons laminated the foam inside solid wood rails and plywood decks and bottoms.
This construction approach would be reprised in the late 1980's with the development of timber laminated epoxy boards.

Bob Simmons - or Dave Barham, 
Malibu, 1948.
Photograph :  ?
Surfer July 1976 Volume17 
Number 2 Page 61.

Matt Kivlin, Rincon, 1951.
Miki Dora Archives.

Note that the first fibreglassed board is credited to Pete Peterson and Brant Goldsworthy in August 1946, but it was apparently two moulded halves joined by a seam tape, and not the common laminated method.
- Nat Young, (1983) pages 61 and 64.

The experiments with laminated fireglass resulted in the development by Bob Simmons,  Matt Kilvin and Joe Quigg  of the modern surfboard – a shaped blank covered with fibreglass and resin with attached fin, or on some examples, multi (twin) fins.
At some stage the timber laminated  timber/polystyrene blank gave way to the simpler all balsa wood blank that allowed infinite design variation in the shaping.
Many early examples of this design featured a multi-block blank of 4'' x 5'' x 36'' balsa sections, recycled from the buoyancy added to World War Two rescue rafts and lifeboats.

An  example of a balsa wood board of this period is held by the Australian National Maritime Museum,
Darling Habour, Sydney.
Catalogue No.00015142

#101 Bob Simmons' Spoon

Previous to Bob Simmons' work, the fin, usually a long based keel, had become an accepted addition.
Although its first use is credited to Tom Blake in 1934, because of the emphasis on paddling, the small size relative to the board, the increased danger and the difficulty in attachment, many riders did not consider fins as a necessity.
Large, high aspect (or upright) fins did not become firmly established until the late 1940s following the  by George Downing and Wally Froiseth
experiments in Hawaii.
They made a test board with a removable fin slot and rode it with different fin designs in different positions, and without a fin.
Their conclusion was that a board with a fin had superior performance, virtually regardless of fin design. (Kelly, page 121)

The introduction of fibreglass largley solved the structural difficulty of attaching the fin, and the complexities of fin design would be an area of intense experimentation for the next forty years.

Bob Simmons made
on some examples, twin (multi) fins.scooped nose lift and rope turning handles. All features with further work to come.

In 1953, the Easi-Bild Pattern Method of Construction series included the "easy-to-build 10ft Surfboard," a world of fun for those who "ride in with the waves" or "paddle under the sun."
Build it Yourself No. 247 Surfboard
Published by Easi-Bild, 1953.

Bob Simmon's Flat-bed Truck at Malibu, 1949. Photo: Bob Simmons.

Bob Simmon's Car, 1950.
Photo: John Ewell

Joe Quigg and Bob Simmons, Malibu,1950. Photo: Miki Dora Archives.

Bob Simmons, Malibu,1950.

 Motorized Surfboard, 1948 -
Hollywood inventor Joe Gilpin riding his motorized surfboard.
Photo by Peter Stackpole.
Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images/

Circa 1950
Surfboats adopted the tucked stern, as opposed to the original double-ender design inherited from the whaler. This design is still in current use, 2001. Some veteran boatman of the time believed the double-ender more sea-worthy and this design is still used in similar craft in the USA - the Dory.
 Harris, page 48

1950-1951 The first recorded fibreglass and balsawood surfboard in Australia accompanied Hollywood actor and Malibu Point surfer,  Peter Lawford.
He was in Australia in 1950 to film Kangaroo,’ released in June 1952, it was the first Technicolor movie filmed on-location in Australia.
Filming was based at Pagewood Studios, Sydney, and locations included South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

 In 1954, actor Peter Lawford, filming in Australia, aroused widespread interest amoung surfers with a board called a Malibu...       - Greg McDonagh in Pollard, page 56.

 The board, identified as a finless board by Dave Rochlen Surfboards, was housed at Bondi for most of its stay and ridden by locals, Jack 'Bluey' Mayes, Ray Young and Aub Laidlaw.

Image left,
Actor Peter Lawford and other Malibu Surfers,
The Pit , Malibu, circa 1953.
Lueras, Page 115.
Ricky Grigg Collection.

Lawford brought a similar fibreglassed board to Australia in 1950,
while on location to shoot Kangaroo.

A Rochlen skegless board had been brought to Sydney by the American actor, Peter Lawford, when he arrived in Sydney in November 1950 to work on the Twentieth Century Fox production, Kangaroo (1952), which was shot in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
While filming, he left the board at the Bondi surf club, where it was ridden by the local beach inspectors, Jack 'Bluey' Mayes, Ray Young and Aub Laidlaw, though it didn't seem to impress them, with Laidlaw later achieving notoriety for banning both bikini-wearers and boardriders from Bondi Beach.      
- Thoms, page 63.

It was possibly a recreated Hot Curl design, dating from 1937, similar to boards made by Joe Quigg in this period.
For the Hot Curl Story, see Fran Heath in LEGENDARY SURFERS.
Also Matt Kilvin on Joe Quigg and Dave Rochlen, in Longboard magazine, Vol No. pages ? )
Dave Rochlen was the favoured builder amoungst Hollywood surfers, noted for the outstanding quality of the colour and decor design.

In 2006 the Bishop Musem published the much anticipated Surfing - Historical Images from the Bishop Museum, edited by DeSoto Brown.
On page 143 a photograph titled 
Importantly the board clearly bears the offset script "MALIBU" on the nose.
It is clearly the board Lawford took to Australia, confirmed by a photograph printed in Brawley (2007) page 216, see below.

The photograph was included in an interview with Duke published in 1965 with the following caption:
Richard Boone, Duke and Peter Lawford pose on the beach at Waikiki in 1947.
Lawford had one of those new "Malibu" boards made of balsa and fibreglassed.
Duke tried it- but preferred his own 16 footer.
Surfer Magazine, Volume 6 Number 1 March 1965 page 18.


In 2007, renowned suf lifesaving historian Sean Brawley wrote of Lawford's 1950 visit in his history of the Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club.

The start of the Malibu era in Australian surfing is usually associated with the year 1956.
At Bondi, however, the revolution had knocked on the door six years earlier, when the Hollywood actor Peter Lawford came to Australia to make the film Kangaroo.
The brother-in-law of John F. Kennedy brought with him a 10 and a half foot, banana nosed, solid balsawood board designed by Californian builder Dave Rochlen.
(See Endnote 19, page  323, below).

Lawford never called the board a Malibu, and the Bondi locals called the style a Zip board because of its greatly reduced length and' zippy' behaviour on a wave.
To those lucky enough to ride it, the board simply became known as Peter, and the first Australian to take it into the surf at Bondi was chief beach inspector Aub Laidlaw.

With Lawford in South Australia making his film, Laidlaw and Basil McDonald were the most frequent users of Peter.
Performing a number of rescues, the board soon had the words W.M.C. Patrol stencilled to its face.
The third most frequent user of the board was 'Bondi Mermaid' Pam Pass.
Pass had had difficulties riding a sixteen, but with Laidlaw's careful tuition she was soon a competent practitioner.
For a time Peter was stored in the McDonald surfoplane concession before it found a more permanent home in the North Bondi board rack.

Laidlaw's and McDonald's use of the board suggests that the two men saw that it possessed certain properties for lifesaving that the toothpicks did not, a fact that would be recognised in the 1960s when the Malibu became the basic design for SLSA rescue boards.
This said, the board did not spark the type of response that would greet its return in 1956.
When Lawford collected his board and returned to the States, there was no rush to reproduce the design, and Bondi board riders turned their back on surfing's future.
This rejection was the result of three factors.
First, Lawford was not a particularly outstanding practitioner of the art of surfing and therefore was incapable of showing Bondi board enthusiasts its true potential.
Second, Laidlaw's and McDonald's practical use of the board had not seen them explore its recreational capabilities (though allegedly Pam Pass did this with some success).
Third, reputedly; 'Peter' did not possess what the 1956 Malibus had -a 'skeg' (fin):9 It would be the power of the fin that would mesmerise surfers in 1956.

When the American and Hawaiian teams arrived in Australia in 1956 for the international carnivals they brought their surfboards with them.
In stark contrast to the toothpicks, the American boards amazed many an experienced Australian surfer when their owners showed what the boards were truly capable of.
Without fins the Australian boards simply had no capacity for lateral movement once a course had been set on the wave.
With fins, the Americans could not only alter the course of the board but, with a deft transference of weight, they had the ability to increase its speed on the wave.

- Brawley (2007), page 216.

Endnote 19, page 323.

There is some debate about whether the board was'skegless' (finless). Pam Pass, who rode the board and wrote about the experience in 1956, claimed the board had a fin. Within surfing history, however, it has been commonly accepted that the board did not have a fin.
- Brawley (2007), page 323.
Peter Lawford, Malibu, and an interested beach-goer.
Brawley (2007), page 216.

National Championships 1954-1955
Clyde and R. (Clarrie?) Budd of the Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC came second in the double ski at North Steyne.
At the 1956-1957 State Championships, Clyde and W. Piggott came third in the Open Double Ski at Coffs Harbour.

Clyde Budd -a very keen competitor in ski events, showed outstanding talent at designing and manufacturing surf skis and could also turn his hand at club dances as a musician.
 - Thorn: Stanwell Park SLSC (1983) page 67.
Clyde and Clarrie Budd, circa 1955.
Thorn: Stanwell Park SLSC
(1983) page 67.

(circa 1955) Scott Dillion and Barry "Magoo" McGuigan, members of Bondi Surf (Lifesaving?) Club, surf balsa boards in California at Hermosa Beach, courtesy of local Surf Life Guard Stations.
- Scott Dillon Interview by  Neil Armstrong. Longboarding Magazine, Number 5, Autumn 1999, page 23.
- Scott Dillon Interview 29th June 2005. Coffs Harbour NSW.


John ‘Nipper’ Williams, of Queenscliff S.L.S.A, obtains a balsa Malibu, bought used in Hawaii, and surfs it at Manly Beach, NSW.

-   Biographical Note in Pollard, page 71.

...'Nipper' Williams, who had been using a beat-up old Malibu for six months, also was showing form.
'Nipper's' board was about 8' 6" and had been brought back by a travelling Australian businessman for his 11 year old son six months earlier.
Everyone else thought it was a joke - except "Nipper" and
several thousand Californians.
- Bob Evans in Surfing World (1972) Vol 16 # 4, pages 30 to 35. .

For the full article see:
- Bob Evans:
Remember the time when?
A retrospective covering the period from the introduction of the Malibu board 1956 to 1966.

In early 1956, Scott Dillon returned to Bondi and puchased a milk-run, a job that was condusive to his surfing activities.
Mid 1956 he encountered 'Flippy' Hoffman, a visiting American surfer, seriously ill with yellow jaundice.
Flippy Hoffman was a member of a famous surfing family that included Walter and Joyce Hoffman.
While Hoffman was hospitalised, his balsa/fibreglass semi-gun was surfed by Scott Dillon at Bondi Beach.
The board featured an unususal concave deck.

By the end of 1956 Scott Dillon had ordered an Okinuee, a finned hollow timber board, from Gordon Woods.
- Scott Dillon Interview by  Neil Armstrong. Longboarding Magazine, Number 5, Autumn 1999, page  23.
- Scott Dillon,  phone conversation, 2000.
- Scott Dillon Interview, 29th June 2005, Coffs Harbour NSW.

By chance the liner carrying home of the Americans to Australia also carried two Australian surfboarders returning from a world trip.
They were Scott Dillon and Barry "McGoo" McGuigan and their non-surfing mate Bruce Laird.
Obsessed by the possibilities of what they had seen of the short board in action overseas, the boys persuaded one of the Yanks ('Flippy' Hoffman ?) to leave his board in their care at Bondi while he journeyed to Victoria for the big surf carnival.

This board, the first of its kind to be used regularly south-side, was stored at Ross Kelly's house and was ridden to a standstill, till its owner returned to claim it.
- Bob Evans: Remember the time when?
Surfing World Vol 16 # 4 1972 pages  30 to 35.)

San Onofre Shack and Surfboards, 1950.
Life 28 Aug 1950, page 116

John Ewell with a Bob Simmons' early model timber/styro-foam laminate board, circa 1951.
 Uncredited. [probably John Ewell Collection ]
 Surfing February 1989 Vol 25 No. 2, page 71.

The two boards in the foreground are later glassed balsa boards, similar to # 101.
The shorter board (sub 8 ft?) is particually interesting.
In the left background, the tail of a hollow board shows leaning on the other side of the hut.
John Ewell is preparing a biography of Bob Simmons.
See Notes on Fibreglass for John Ewell's comments on Bob Simmons' use of fibreglass cloth (soon). 

Kit Horn, Bob Simmons and Buzzy Trent riding solid laminates, Malibu, circa 1941 - 1944.
Surfer March 1981 Volume 22, Number 3, page 36. (uncredited).

Flippy Hoffman (right) and Bob Simmons, Makaha, winter of 1952-1953.
Photo: The Hoffman Family/SHF

Kathy "Gidget" Kohner and Friends,
Malibu Pit,  1959.

Life Magazine
home catalogue history references appendix

1959 Bloomfield, John  Know-how in the Surf
Angus and Robertson 89 Castlereagh Street, Sydney

1961 Harris, Reg. S.The History of Manly Life Saving Club 1911-1961
Published by Manly Life Saving Club, NSW Printed by Publicity Press Ltd.

1966 Finney, Ben and Houston, James D. : Surfing – A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport
Pomegranate Books P.O. Box 6099 Rohnert Park, CA 94927  Reprint 1996

1968 Kahanamoku, Duke With Brennan, Joe:  Duke Kahanamoku’s World of Surfing
Angus and Robertson Publishers Sydney , Australia 1972 2nd Edition  A&R Paperbacks, Sydney , Australia

1970 Margan, Frank and Finney, Ben R. :  A Pictorial History of Surfing
Paul Hamlyn Pty Ltd, 176 South Creek Road, Dee Why West, NSW 2099.

1964 Pollard, Jack (ed.):  The Australian Surfrider
K.G.Murray Publishing Co.P/L,142 Clarence Street , Sydney Australia

1972 The Best of Tracks   (Vol. I) Editors : Falzon, Albert; Stewart, John; Grissim, John. :
Tracks Publishing Co Pty Ltd. P.O. Box 178 Avalon, NSW.
'Bob McTavish’s Personal History of Surfboard Design – Pods for Primates Parts 1' (pages 120 – 122).

1992 Stell, Marion K. :  Pam Burridge
Collins Angus & Robertson Publishers (Australia) Pty. Limited
A division of Harper Collins Publishers (Australia) Pty. Limited
25 Ryde Road, Pymble NSW 2073, Australia

1997 Warshaw, Matt : Surfriders – In Search of the Perfect Wave
Tehabi Books, Inc. Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

1978 Warwick, Wayne A Guide to Surfriding in New Zealand Second Edition
Viking Sevenseas Ltd Wellington, New Zealand

1979 Young, Nat ; Photographs by McCausland, Bill: Nat Young’s Book of Surfing
A.H. & A.W. Reed Pty. Ltd. 53 Myroora Rd, Terry Hills, Sydney.

1983 Young, Nat with McGregor, Craig : The History 0f Surfing
Palm Beach Press,40 Palm Beach Road, Palm Beach NSW 2108 

1985  A History of Australian Surfing  Nat Young.

1971  Modern World July   Shane Steadman/Terry Fiztgerald (possibly) : 'Surfboard Design' pages 30 to 36.

1972  Surfing World. Volume 16 #4.  Bob Evans : 'remember the time when...' pages  30 to 35. 

web sites
Malcom Gault-Williams: LEGENDARY SURFERS

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute.
As usual, as my work is continually updated, nothing is "fixed in stone".
Suggestions for Zahn and Noll to Australia 1956, below.
My "edits or fixes or additions" in italics.

Unfortunately at present my computer is failling to satisfactory display the content at
 which of course I am keen to read.

Zahn, Noll and Bright to Australia 1956
(Mike Bright was touted as the current US champion (Zahn considered a member of the Hawaiian team) and apparently his performance had most impact on the Australian surfers.)

Entry ID

Thumbnail Image

Date: For Item Placement

Date: Readable Format


Short Headline

Aussies Get a Look at the Malibu Board
Fibreglass (Malibu) Revolutionizes Australian Surfboard Riding.

Short Description

The common wisdom that Tommy Zahn and Greg Noll introduced the modern Malibu Chip to Australia in
1956, might be predated a few years by
While Australian boardriders had some limited exposure, noteably by a surfing Hollywood star,  to the the fibreglassed surfboards developed in California and Hawaii in the early 1950s, the visit of Hawaiian and Californian boardriders in late1956 saw an explosion in surfboard numbers on Australian beaches.

Long Headline

This is why Australians Call Longboards "Malibus"
Have to think about this.

Full Story

The accepted surf history wisdom is that Greg Noll and Tommy Zahn (and others) took modern, Malibu chip
surfboards to Australia in 1956, when they traveled down under with all their kit to compete in surf
lifesaving festivals (carnivals) that ran in conjunction with the Summer Olympics in Melbourne.

But according to Australian surf historian Geoff Cater at the website, the
1956 trip (was) pre-dated by Hollywood actor and Malibu Point surfer, Peter Lawford taking his surfboard down to Australia in 1950, where he did some surfing in between shooting a movie.
The movie starred Lawford, Richard Boone and Maureen O'Hara in the first American studio production shot in Technicolor on-location in Australia. Filming was based at Pagewood Studios, Sydney, and locations included South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

Surfmovie historian, Albie Thoms (2000) wrote " A Rochlen skegless board had been brought to Sydney by the American actor, Peter Lawford, when he arrived in Sydney in November 1950 to work on the Twentieth Century Fox production, Kangaroo (1952), which was shot in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. While filming, he left the board at the Bondi surf club, where it was ridden by the local beach inspectors, Jack 'Bluey' Mayes, Ray Young and Aub Laidlaw, though it didn't seem to impress them, with Laidlaw later achieving notoriety for banning both bikini-wearers and boardriders from Bondi Beach."
Dave Rochlen was the favoured builder amoungst Hollywood surfers, noted for the outstanding quality of the colour and decor design of his boards.

Bondi SLSC historian, Sean Brawley (2007) describes the board as "a 10 and a half foot, banana nosed, solid balsawood board designed by Californian builder Dave Rochlen" and notes the most frrequent riders as "(Aub) Laidlaw and Basil McDonald ... The third most frequent user of the board was 'Bondi Mermaid' Pam Pass." Citing the recollections of Pam Pass, Brawley  raises the question whether the board was in fact, "skegless". He also reported "Lawford never called the board a Malibu, and the Bondi locals called the style a Zip board because of its greatly reduced length and' zippy' behaviour on a wave. To those lucky enough to ride it, the board simply became known as Peter."

Several available photographs of the board, one with Duke Kahanamoku and co-star Richard Boone at Waikiki, confirm a length of approximately 10ft 6''. As the board closely resembles a classic Simmons' fibreglassed balsa board of the period it is questionable whether it was, as is commonly asserted, finless. Furthermore, the word "Malibu" was clearly emblazoned across the deck.

(Digression: I have all these photographs (of course without copyright) and in a recently acquired history of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, one of  Lawford aged 11 at Waikiki, where he first experinced surfboard riding. Accredited as "Peter Lawford, later to become a widely known actor, sits on the oceanside terrace with his parents, Gen. and Mrs. Sydney Lawford , in November 1934. Lawford would go on to a long acting career and a marriage into the Kennedy clan. Hawaiian Archives."
In the hope that some one in California might be able to comment on Lawford and/or the board design/manufacturer etc. I will try to post these on the surfblub)

While the impact of Lawford's Malibu was negligible, in the early 1950s several Australian boardriders rode them on trips across the Pacific. Ted Burns of Wollongong competed at Makaha in 1950  on a similar board and circa 1955 Scott Dillion and Barry "Magoo" McGuigan, members of Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club, rode balsa boards in California at Hermosa Beach, courtesy of local Surf Life Guard Stations. On the northern beaches, John ‘Nipper’ Williams of Queenscliff secured a balsa Malibu from a friend who had bought it second-hand in Hawaii in 1955 and on returning to Bondi in 1956, Scott Dillon rode the board of visiting Californian surfer, "Flippy" Hoffman, while he recovered from an accute illness.

According to the website: " Decades after professional lifeguard agencies had been established at beaches throughout America, Australia was chosen to host the 1956 Summer Olympics. The volunteer lifesavers of Australia decided to hold an international, invitational competition. California lifeguards and a contingent from the Territory of Hawaii agreed to participate. The California lifeguards organized themselves under the banner of the Surf Life Saving Association of America (SLSA), although they were solely from the Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City lifeguard agencies."

The appearance of the Californian and Hawaiian teams was eagerly anticipated, particularly in Sydney, then the centre of Australian surfrding. The Australian surf life savers saw the carnival to  promote their organisation, methods and equipment, principally the reel and surfboat, on the international stage. While the visiting Americans were similarly enthusiastic about their lightweight fibreglassed paddleboards and the torpedo tube, it was the wave riding Malibu board that made a dramatic impact on Australian surfing.

Although the first international carnival was scheduled for Torquay in Victoria in December, the most emphatic demonstration of the Malibu's potential was demonstrated two weeks earlier in extreme surf at the Avalon carnival. Following the organized events, where the American teams had little success, severval riders took to the surf on their  wave riding boards. Ross Renwick recalled in 1957 "Australians on the beach were stunned again and again as the Hawaiians shattered the popular theory that short boards were not good on big waves, and when they finished an hour later not a person had left the beach."

In a subsequent article, Renwick noted "When the Hawaiian Surf Team left Australia early in 1957, they left behind them a type of surfboard which was to revolutionise the sport within 12 months.  Less than a year after they left, as many as 100 of their Okinuee-type boards could be seen at any one beach at the one time, if a good surf was running. Before this, when the 16 ft. surfboard was in vogue, most board riders stayed at the one beach, leaving it usually only to go to surf carnivals."

Understandably, the new design was in great demand and the Sydney Morning Herald (November 21, 1956) reported under the title "Surfers To Sell Boards":
 "The visiting Hawaiian surfers will sell their seven lightweight surfboards, which created a sensation at Avalon last Sunday, after their farewell appearance at Collaroy on December 9. The boards, which are made from balsa reinforced with two long strips of redwood and coated with a thick layer of fibre-glass, weigh 26lb. The lightest racing boards in Sydney, made from 1/2 inch plywood weigh from 33 to 23 lb. The Hawaiian boards, which have been used at Waikiki Beach for seven or eight years, can be made in less than a week.
Shorter, Wider
They are eight feet long, compared with the average Australian length of 16 feet, but are about five inches wider than the local board's 20-21 inches.Three hundred people saw the Hawaiians give an exhibition of board riding after a special carnival at Avalon in a big surf last Sunday. Unlike Australian boardriders, the Hawaiians stood on the middle of their balsa boards, even when heavy white water from the broken waves swept around their feet. Harry Shaffer, captain of the Hawaiian squad, said last night of the boards: 'There is no question of selling out to the highest bidder. We plan to give our boards to the fellows we consider to be the real enthusiasts at only a token cost.' "

According to Nick Carroll: "Bob Pike was there when Californian lifeguard surfers Noll and Tom Zahn came to demonstrate the first lightweight Malibu-style boards at surf club carnivals in 1956. During their stay, Zahn left a board at the Manly Surf Club, and Pike borrowed it. One afternoon he was coming in from a surf when Zahn angrily confronted him, 'What are you doing with my private property?' Pike immediately fibbed and said he was thinking of buying the board. Zahn changed his tune and offered it for sale. Stunned, Pike had to get money from his father to make good on the deal."

Bob Pike was a noted big wave rider and  the first Australian to make his mark on the north shore of Oahu in the ealy 1960s. Other Sydney surfers to accquire Malibu boards were Bob Evans and Gordon Woods. Evans recalled in 1972 "I paid Tim Guard 46 (pounds) for a beautiful, hot curl board built by George Downing."

Manly surfer, Bob Evans,.was the original publisher of Surfing World magazine, a surf photographer, prolific film producer and an enthusic promoter of the art, establishing the ASA and the driving force behind  the "first World Championship" held at Manly in 1964.

Gordon Woods, originally from Bondi, was a recognized builder of  paddleboards and, due the unavailabity of suitable balsawood, quickly reproduced the Malibu board in timber and plywood. Usually about 10 foot, the boards had significant rocker and a substantial fin. Critically, the rails were constructed of  wide timber panels that were hand shaped to a rounded edge, unlike the square "box" rails of the paddleboards. These models, known as "Okinuees" , were relatively short-lived and by 1959 Woods was building boards of fibreglass and balsawood before quickly moving on to foam in the early 1960s  and remaining one of the industry's  major manufacturers until the early 1970s..


Some ten members of the US and Hawaiian teams arrived in Sydney by plane on Tuesday 13th November 1956. The other ten team members may have come by sea or on a different flight (details unknown).

Noll's  narrative, and contemporary film, indicates that the teams and the Malibu boards arrived by air:
"Tom Zahn, Mike Bright, Bobby Moore and I paid the extra freight to take our surfboards with us to Australia ... When the boards were first taken off the airplane and put on a flatbed truck ...". Noll (1989) page 70.
It is probable that the larger paddleboards were also in the same shipment, although it is possible, with lengths exceeding 14 feet, they came by sea freight.


Still ruminating.

External Links

Australia 1956 =

Australian Newspaper Extracts =

Image 1

Caption 1

Found this on the website, under a profile on Mike Bright. Not sure where Tommy
Zahn is.

Image 2

Caption 2
home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2000-2017) : History : Birth of the Malibu, 1948 -1953