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renwick : okinuee, 1957 
Ross Renwick  : Build Yourself an Okinuee Board, 1957.

Extract from
Renwick, Ross: Build yourself an okinuee board.
Australian Outdoors
November, 1957, pages 16 to 21.

Introduction.
Essential historical document.
Contains one of the few eyewitness accounts of the Avalon carnival, published within twelve months of the event.
A photocopy of this article contributed by Mick Kershler, Anna Bay, October 2008, with many thanks.
Page 16

Build yourself an okinuee board
They're all the rage this surfing season!
The Hawaiians introduced them to Australia last year, and they caught on fast.
They're easy to make, too!

It was late on the afternoon of Sunday, November 10, last year, at Avalon Beach in N.S.W.
An internatIonal surf carnival had just drawn to a fairly drab finish, with teams from America, South Africa, New Zealand; Ceylon, Hawaii and Australia competing.
Most of the crowd had left.
A few stalwarts stayed to watch the Hawaiians take their peculiar little surfboards out through the mountainous seas.

The boards were short - 6 ft. shorter than our own 16 ft. boards; and they were wider - 25", com- pared to 19" or 20".
Instead of being made of hollow plywood construction they were carved from solid female balsa. Over the balsa was a thin fibreglass coating.
Opposed to our finless 16 ft. boards they had nine inch fins placed about two inches from the tail. These fins were very similar in shape to the dorsal fin of a shark.
They were as different from the popular Australian surfboard as they possibly could be.

All who watched were sceptical.
Earlier they had seen crack Hawaiian waterman, Tommy Zahn, reputed to be a former beau of Marilyn Monroe, compete disastrously in the surfboard race.
Zahn was winner of a 26-mile board race in Hawaii and was paddling the same board in the race at Avalon.

It was 15 ft. long and similar in shape to one of our racing skis.
Over its frame of balsa was stretched light canvas which was impregnated with fibreglass.
A rudder, operated with the feet from the lying position, steered it.

Zahn, a tremendous figure of a man, paddled out through the 15 ft. sea lying down.
Rounding the buoys and back into the wave area, he lay fifth in a field of top Sydney board paddlers. On the front of a big wave the nose of his board dug in and he disappeared into the break.
When he surfaced his board was smashed beyond repair, slit from end to end.

Amused Australians, confident of their own surfting prowess, and fed on the legend of small, rolling surfs at Waikiki Beach, nodded condescendingly and said, "Knew these boys couldn't handle our big, steep waves".
Avalon had really turned it on that day.
A surfboat guarding the swimming buoys, and supposedly 150 yards outside the danger area, had been hit by a huge wave and swamped, injuring some of the crew.
Only a handful of competitors in the board and ski events had negotiated the break successfully, and eventually there had been more swimmers in the board race than there had been in the surf race. Few of those who threaded their way through the waves on the way out managed to get back to the beach still attached to their boards.



Photograph: Ross Renwick, the author in action. (cutting left in the whitewater on a stripped toothpick).

In the R. and R. event the Hawaiian beltman had failed to reach the buoys.
In surfing circles this is the greatest disgrace of all.
Hawaii's stakes were low that day.
Now they were taking their little balsa surfboards out through the rip in the centre of the beach.
A balsa surfboard!
Very little lateral strength!
The thin fibre glass covering kept water out of the porous wood, but added very little in the day (sic, way) of durability.
Ten feet long, or less - not 16 like our own "tooth- pick" boards.
Their twenty pounds weight was too light for Australian conditions!
Or so we all thought.

So on the beach were about 200 very sceptical, slightly tolerant Sydney-siders.
Watching the long, ...

Page 17

... steep escarpments of water roll past them were a handful of Hawaii's best surfboard riders - not men from placid Waikiki Beach - but from the beaches of Sunset and Makaha on the other side of the Island of Oahu.
Beaches where the long Pacific swell sometimes rose to an awesome thirty-five feet before crashing on to the submerged bombora reefs hundreds of yards off- shore.
These men were used to cracking waves of immense size, cornering their boards parallel across the face of the wave and flying, at bullet-like speed, out into the calm water on either side.
They could "zip" and throw their boards about in a manner Australians, handicapped by 16 ft. of heavy wood, thought impossible.


Photograph:
Coming down int he crest in a "power to pwer" corner, the top man's arm drags through the wave.
There are over 100 boards of the Hawaiian type in Sydney now, and many in other states.
(Three riders on a large Hawaiian wave, probably Makaha.)

First man on to a wave was Mike Bright.
Paddling lying down, he pushed on to a fifteen foot wave off the baths at the south end of Avalon, straight in front of the rocks.
Bright spun his board into a corner and in a flash was travelling in a "parallel zip" across the face of the wave, heading for the smooth rip water 150 yards away.
The crest was curling over him as he shot into the rip and fiicked his board over the top of the wave and back out to sea.
Bright had cornered 150 yards across the front of the wave in 6 or 7 seconds, during which time the wave had made very little progress in a shorewards direction.

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.

POWER TO POWER CORNERING
After the carnival I spoke to Greg Knoll (sic, Noll) of the American surf team, who said that fifty miles per hour or over was usual in a parallel corner on a 15 ft.-plus wave with those boards.

This involves what is known as "power-to-power" cornering.
"Power- to-power" means the power of the forward motions of the wave, exerted on the "sideways falling" motion of the surfboard.
In a normal comer this gives the speed of the wave, plus 50 per cent, as the actual speed of the corner.
But both these factors may vary, particularly the latter - the 50 per cent - which is actually the "power-to-power" factor.
The speed of the wave can vary only within certain limits, but the "power- to-power" factor can be constantly changing.
For instance, a big southerly sea has good cornering characteristics.
The waves are usually not very long but have high peaks, about 20 yards wide, which break first. Catching the waves at one of these peaks, the board is hurled down-wards as tne peak jumps before breaking.
This original impetus can add much to the power-to-power ratio.

The Hawaiians demonstrated this at Avalon, where the 16 ft. surfboard lost its glamour position in the ,Australian surfing scene.

INTRODUCTION OF SURFBOARD RIDING IN AUSTRALIA
How did this type of surfboard, which was fairly unsuitable for riding waves, come to be accepted by surf-loving Australians?
The trend away from good wave boards was started by the champion surfboard racers of recent years, who found that the longer, thinner boards were faster.
Speed compensated for loss of manoeuvrability on a wave, and because these men were all stars,
the general run of board riders followed the fashion they set.
However, many types of board had been seen on the Australian coast in the 30 odd years before these came into vogue.

Surfboard riding was originally introduced into Australia by an Hawaiian, Duke Kahanamoku.
Riding the waves in Hawaii goes back a long, long time, and many native legends involve cracking waves in j or on a various assortment of crafts (sic, craft).
The Hawaiian Commercial Advertiser ...

Page 18

... of April 2, 1868, reports what it describes as "the greatest aquatic feat in the world".
The hero of the story is a man called Huloua, who lived near Ninole, on a big island of Hawaii.
On this day tidal waves struck the island and Huloua and his wife fled to the hills.
But Huloua remembered he had left his money behind, so he dashed back to his house, which sat in the path of the first of the giant waves.
The wave struck the house and the angry waters sucked it out to sea with Huloua still inside.
Miles out to sea, but undaunted, Huloua wrenched a rafter from the ceiling (he was a powerful man) and rode the next wave - a mighty 60-footer - to the shore, landing on a hillside where his wife awaited him.
The wave he rode is reported to have wiped out four villages and killed over one hundred people. With this story in mind, not many would dispute that Huloua is the grand daddy of all surf riders, and a good man on a big wave to boot.



Duke Kahanamoku, who could be described as a more modern Huloua, was here in the summer of 1915, fresh from Olympic swimming triumphs.
When the Duke arrived Australians had mastered only the art of body shooting.
Nothing successful had been done on a board, although a few attempts had been made to master the tricky sport.

Kahanamoku carved a huge lump of Australian sugarpine into the shape of a surfboard, 9 feet long, 25 inches wide and weighing 95 pounds.
When he had finished the board he promised the locals at Freshwater an exhibition one Saturday.
On the day the Duke was accompanied by three Australian board riders, Geoff Wylde, "Busty" Walker and Claude West.
All four left the beach together, but the Duke had caught four waves before any of the Australians got out, and when they did, they saw Kahanamoku standing backwards and waving to them as he disappeared shorewards on a huge wave.


The basic frame. 
Note the cross frames supporting four horizontal stringers (sic, five longitudinal?).
The cross frames are for general frame strength, 
while the stringers support the ply.

Kahanamoku impressed that day with his skill and daring, a new aspect of surfing was revealed.
The possibllity of riding the waves on a piece of wood had seemed remote before, but was now very feasible.
The movement towards surfboards in Australia had started.
When Kahanamoku left, West, Wylde and Walker started experimenting in shapes of boards and techniques of riding the waves.
They were joined by others and a number of solid boards were constructed.
These boards varied from 6 ft. (minimum) to 9 ft. 6 ins. (maxi- ...

Page 19

... mum) and weighed upwards of 75 Ibs.
The board, which hardly floated at all, were pushed on to many a flne wave and Australian surfboard riders became known among the best in the world.

But these solid boards floated low in the water - in most cases completely under the surface - and it was a strong man who could push his board on to a wave before the wave broke.
It was tremendously hard to get them out through a big sea, but once on a wave, they gave an "armchair" ride.
But catching the waves in dangerous spots such as bomboras, where one mistake on the part of the rider or an inadequacy in the design of the board could mean possible death, these boards were useless.

So just before the war, when Fitz Lough started building hollow boards, things really began moving. Lough was the pioneer of hollows and built a board 11 to 12 feet long and curled up at the front like a snow ski.
Waves could now be caught much farther out then before and every aspect of board riding was made simpler.
Boards floated higher, became longer, and acquired more glide.
A new era was beginning.
Down south at Maroubra a strong board movement was growing led by Lew Adler, and it was from here that many champion board riders came.
Also building "hollows" was Fred Hoinville of Bondi, who organised the since discontinued Australian Surf Board Association.
Hoinville built a parallel-sided board - dreadful on any waves, big or small.
It was about this time, just before the war, that a noticeable evolution away from good wave boards began.

The champion paddlers in board races found that a deep-sided hollow board, which was more buoyant, could get out more easily.
Boards became longer but narrower - first 14 ft., then 15, then 16.
After the war a new crop of surf-minded Australians inherited the long boards.
There were still brilliant riders.
Men like Bob Evans of Queenscliff and Roger "Hellfire" Duck of Manly cracked the awesome North Steyne bombora (sic, more commonly known as the Queescliff Bombora), while "Bluey" Mays of Bondi threw his board about in hurricane seas.
But the sixteens were still difficult boards to handle well, and the number of very good riders was limited.
With the evolution away from these long boards comes one big advantage - manoeuvrability.



Gordon Woods using a spokeshave 
to round the sides. 

Rounding the sides of the board is a fairly 
important job, and takes some time.

MAIN APPEAL OF THE SHORT BOARDS
The main appeal of the Hawaiian- type board, apart from manoeuvrability, lies in the fact that it has facilitated a previously difficult facet of the sport - cornering.
Cornering means traversing across the face of the wave along the beach instead of towards it.
When the wave is about to break the board is straightened so that it can be ridden through the white water and up to the beach.
The straightening of the board can be extremely difficult for the sixteen footer, and at best, takes a matter of seconds.
An Okinuee can be flicked through a ninety degree turn and straightened even while the wave is curling over the board.
Alternatively it can be flicked up and over the wave and back out to sea again before the wave breaks.

STANDING POSITION ON BOTH BOARDS
On a sixteen foot board the standing position varies from about 4 ft. from the back of the board on a small wave to a matter of inches from the back of the board on a large wave.
This means that the rider has between 12 and 15 feet of board in front of him to control.
Particularly in a large surf there is always the danger of the board digging into the front of the wave or becoming uncontrollable.
At increased speeds in corners this foot- age builds up air-resistance and fans up and down in an alarming manner.
As a sixteen footer has high flat sides which will not settle into the wave it is comparatively slow in corners.
Also, as mentioned before, difficult to straighten up when the critical "breaking" time comes.

On an Okinuee the legs are placed farther apart and the normal standing position is very little distance behind the centre of the board.
In a position between three and four feet from the tail (which is only 6 feet from the front) the board can be swiftly turned and easily controlled in a parallel corner.
The whole side of the board "grooves" into the wave and extra speed is obtained by moving towards the front.
On big waves the front foot can be as close as two feet from the very front of the board - in complete ...

Page 20

... contrast to the 16 ft. board.
In the coming season Australians will be thrilled and amazed by the spectacles created by these new Okinuee boards.

A HOLLOW HAWAIIAN BOARD?
After the Hawaiians had impressed everybody with the shape and design of their board a problem presented itself to the board builders in Sydney - balsa.
The Hawaiian boards were solid balsa - 10 feet long, 2 feet wide, and from 4 to 6 inches deep.
This much balsa, if it were available ; would have cost £60 in Australia.

With no other wood as suitable a number of experiments took place with hollow boards.
The intention was to copy the shape and fiotation of the solid balsa Hawaiian board.
Douglas Jackson and David Lyall of Bilgola Surf Club were the first l to launch a short board.
Their boards were about eight feet long, looked and fioated like a door, but were good performers on a wave.
They were hard to get out and the corners of their square front constantly dug into the water.
Sitting out the back waiting for waves was both an un-nerving and cold pastime as the board floated about six inches under the water.
But in a corner they were fast, though not as fast as a balsa board, and they were manoeuvrable enough to be very encouraging.

Then a month after the Hawaiian surf team had gone home well-known board rider, Gordon Woods of Bondi, turned out a beautifully moulded hollow board, which at first glance looked exactly the sarme as its balsa counterpart.
He had not only copied the shape, he had improved upon it in many respects.
Gordon had bought one of the three Hawaiian Balsa boards which were left here, and studied its shape carefully.
The board he made was faster and had better flotation than the balsa one, it would catch a wave sooner and was not very much heavier.
Its performance on a wave was terrific, although the balsa board was a little more comfortable.
Gordon had proved that an Australian-built 10 foot board, copying the Hawaiian shape, was
comparable with the Hawaiian one.
So much so that he has already received two orders from Honolulu.
Ten feet was found to be a good, all-purpose size, but a shorter board is more manoeuvrable, though slower to paddle.
And "slower to paddle" means that waves are harder to catch.
You'll have to decide for yourself what size suits you best.
Keep in mind that only a few inches in length make a big difference.
Then a month after the Hawaiian surf team had gone home well- known board rider, Gordon Woods of Bondi, turned out a beautifully moulded hollow board, which at first glance looked exactly the sarme as its balsa counterpart.
He had not only copied the shape, he had improved upon it in many respects.
Gordon had bought one of the three Hawaiian Balsa boards which were left here, and studied its shape carefully.
The board he made was faster and had better flotation than the balsa one, it would catch a wave sooner and was not very much heavier.
Its performance on a wave was terrific, although the balsa board was a little more comfortable.
Gordon had proved that an Australian-built 10 foot board, copying the Hawaiian shape, was
comparable with the Hawaiian one.
So much so that he has already received two orders from Honolulu.
Ten feet was found to be a good, all-purpose size, but a shorter board is more manoeuvrable, though slower to paddle.
And "slower to paddle" means that waves are harder to catch.
You'll have to decide for yourself what size suits you best.
Keep in mind that only a few inches in length make a big difference.

Photograph above, right:



The three different types of board mentioned in the story.
Left is the conventional Australian racing board, centre, the Australian built Hawaiian type, and right, the "Hot Curl", 10 feet of carved female balsa, sheathed in fibreglass.

BUILDING
These boards are not difficult to build and working time on them should not be more than twenty hours.
The list of measurements given may be varied for different reasons.
A particularly heavy person - say 16 stone - will need a board 11 feet long, while a light person - 10 stone - can manage with a 9 foot board.
But remember that the longer the board gets the less manoeuvrable it will be, while the shorter the board the slower it becomes.

THE NOSE BLOCK
The nose-block is made of three inch deep maple (see diag. 1).
The slots on the side are for the side frames, while the slot down the centre is for draining and placement of the bung.
The nose-block is simply cut to shape, as in top elevation diagram.
Shaping of under-side is not done until the board is practically finished.

THE TAIL PIECE
The tail piece is also made of three inch maple (see diag. 2).
There are no slots in this section as the side frames fit around it, not into it.

THE SIDE FRAMES
These are of three inch by 1/2 inch maple and their length determines the total length of the board. Using a waterproof glue, they are first glued ...

Page 21

... and nailed into the slots on the nose piece.
Then they are glued and nailed around the sides of the tail piece.
All nails used in the construction of the board must be copper.
When the glue has set the back corners of the tail piece are rounded.
By virtue of the shape of the nose and tail block the board will now have fallen into shape, close to what it will be when it is finished.
Final shape is now determined by the placing of the cross- frames.
Four cross-frames for a 10 foot board should be enough.
The board should be thickest about four feet from the nose so the longest cross-frame is put in here. Total thickness, including i inch shaped side pieces, should be about 23 inches to 24 inches at this point.
Thecross-frames are equally spaced along the board.
They have slots cut in the top of strengthening stringers, and are bored for the purpose of
drainage (see diag. 3). Three or four stringers may be used, and it is
recommended that they run the
whole length of the board; that is, from the nose piece to the tail piece.
They need not be very thick - certainly no more than ~ inch.
See photos for positions of stringers and frames.
These show four stringers but three will be enough for an average-sized person.

THE PLYWOOD .
The frame is now ready for theplywood -§ inch three-ply.
The top of the board is planed and the plywood is glued and nailed.
Plywood must always be nailed from the centre to the nose, both sides together - then from the centre to tail.
The top ply is put on first so that the frame will not warp when the curved bottom is placed.
A hole for the bung is now drilled through the top ply.
It may be left as it is or a metal bung may be mounted.

ATTACHING THE BOTTOM
Because the base will be curved a slight angle must be planed on to the side frames to receive it neatly.
This angle can be checked by the cross-frames, as it will correspond with them.
Nail again from the centre.
Excess ply must now be planed off and the frame and ply is ready to receive the shaped edge strip. This strip is , inch by three inch maple, and must be glued on.
If a sash clamp is not available it can be lightly nailed, the nails being removed after the glue is dry. When the glue is dry this strip is shaped-by spokeshave or plane - so that it is curved (as in diag. 4) with a fairly sharp edge towards the bottom of the board.
The underside of the nose is now planed (as in fig. 1) so that the front of the board will cut through the water more neatly and not throw a spray.

Now all that remains to be done is to fix the fin about two inches from the tail.
The fin should be about 8 inches high and can be mounted with fibre glass, as firmly as possible (see diag. 5 for shape).
General sandpapering and varnishing or painting should now finish the board.
At least four coats of varnish or two coats of paint are recommended.
The board is then ready.

Now it's up to you but keep in mind that only constant practise will make you a board rider.
Handling the shorter boards is quite similar to handling the conventional style board, although there are a few variations.
One thing the rider will notice as soon as he mounts the Okinuee is the increase in manoeuvrability and speed.

He'll have to make a whole revaluation of his board riding technique.
He must remember not to sit so far back on the board that the nose is completely out of the water. The correct position is at that point on the board where the rider's weight just lifts the nose from the water.

As a wave builds up behind, give three or four very hard paddles, then slide to the back of the board, to keep the nose from digging in at the bottom of the wave.
The best place for beginners to learn is in rips where waves sometimes do not break.
They must remember never to learn in the vicinity of a sandbank for it is on these sandbanks that waves dump.
When you decide the time has come to stand up on the board, do so as quickly as possible.
Don't try and balance on the way up.
Get to your feet and then worry about balance.
If you happen to falloff, make sure you go to the side of the board not to the front.
And don't forget that oniy practice makes good riders.
He'll have to make a whole revaluation of his board riding technique.
He must remember not to sit so far back on the board that the nose is completely out of the water. The correct position is at that point on the board where the rider's weight just lifts the nose from the water.

As a wave builds up behind, give three or four very hard paddles, then slide to the back of the board, to keep the nose from digging in at the bottom of the wave.
The best place for beginners to learn is in rips where waves sometimes do not break.
They must remember never to learn in the vicinity of a sandbank for it is on these sandbanks that waves dump.
When you decide the time has come to stand up on the board, do so as quickly as possible.
Don't try and balance on the way up.
Get to your feet and then worry about balance.
If you happen to falloff, make sure you go to the side of the board not to the front.
And don't forget that oniy practice makes good riders.

Photograph above, right:



Without the fin, the board will skid and skitter about in the water.
They are usually attached with fibreglass.


Renwick, Ross: Build yourself an okinuee board.
Australian Outdoors
November, 1957, pages 16 to 21 .

This article contributed by Mick Kershler, with many thanks, October 2008. 

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