Source Documents
interview : rick neilsen,  1973. 

Surfing World : Rick Neilsen Interview,  1973.
Rick Neilsen Interview
Surfing World.
Volume 17 Number 4 Number 100, July 1973.

Partial extracts from an extensive interview with Rick Neilsen, shaper at Neilsen Bros Surfboards.
The interview begins with discussing the formation of his company with his brother Paul, winner of the 1971 Australian titles held at Bells Beach.

When asked, Rick answers
that he does all the shaping, me and my shaping machine.
Made one out of wood, with the assistance of Kingsley Knackers Kernovske, this early model rough shapes the blank with a flat bottom, bottom curve, a near flat deck, and the profile foil.

Later, Rick Neilsen expands on the prospects for professional contests following the success of the Smirnoff contests in Hawaii.
Envisioning sitting on Burleigh Point and watching eight guys batting it out in ten to twelve foot tubes for a couple of grand, he observes:
Professionals are so cool to surf with ... in the heat I was in for the Smirnoff everyone just took it in turn, no dropping in or fierce hassling.

Four years later, at the Stubbies Contest, his prophetic vision proved to be half-right,
a large crowd sitting on Burleigh Point and watching two guys batting it out in six foot tubes for a couple of grand.
The Stubbies Contest in March 1977, based on Peter Drouyn's man-on-man format,  became the standard template for most professional contests, except in Hawaii.
The first Stubbies was won by local Michael Peterson, over Newcastle's Mark Richards.

Rick Neilsen was one of the first manufacturers to publicly use a leg-rope.

Also see:
1977 Peter Drouyn : Man-on-Man Contests.

Page 8

Neisen, Photo: Brown
Page 9
Rick Neilsen Interview.

S.W.: What's the story with your board business, you know, how'd you get into it, how's it going, that sort of thing?
Rick: Paul and myself started making boards for ourself about two years ago.
Before that we were working for other people, but we were getting nailed.

S.W.: What happened?
Paul won the Australian titles, down at Bells, I forget which year, the one at Bell's anyway.
Paul won that one and I came fourth, we were working for a certain manufacturer at the time and we came back thinking that we might, well, we thought we deserved a little something a bit better than we were getting.

S.W. What did you do, lay it on him for some extra bread or something?
Rick: Yeah! Paul wanted to get right into surfing so we wanted to be paid a retainer, just a little bit of dough so he could go to the beach.
Concentrate completely on riding waves.

But they didn't handle that at all so we just went home to our little house on the beach at Surfers, a pretty run down little old house, and we sat down, had a talk with each other about what we were gonna do.
We knew if we started building sticks for ourselves, it was gonna be a lot of work, and that for a while we were going to lose a tot of surfing time, sort of go down hill for 6-8 months before things started getting better.

S.W.   Did you have any bread?
Rick: I had three hundred dollars.
Wow, starting a business is really heavy when you haven't done it before.
So we tossed a coin on it and said, well lets do it, and that was the start.
We've hired this house and garage from an old guy that owned the car yard place next door.
It's really a entity run down sort of shed you know.
So we got in there, and we fixed it up, made the front into a showroom, and a little glassing room and a little shaping bay.
When we first started we got our old man to help us, 'cause we still wanted to go surfing as much as possible without having too many money hassles.
To do this you've got to have someone running the business side of it.
All I really wanted to do was shape, and all Paul wanted to do was glass.
That way we would be able to go surfing when we had no boards to do.

So we cut the old man in on the deal, we all put in a share of money.
Paul had just come back from the Islands and was broke so dad put his share in for him.
After that I had about seventy bucks left, that was it.
At first, just nobody came around to see us, let alone order a new board.
And we just went, oh no, what's happening.
We were blown out, really blown out.
Its really a nervous thing, you think you're gonna eat it before you even start.
Anyway, we were sitting around in our new factory, and some kid comes and tells us the waves are good down at Burleigh, and we think, shit, let's go and surf, business is gelling us down.
We'd only been open two weeks, done no boards, we hadn't even seen anyone so far.
It was the fiercest time in my life for being  nervous and anxious, plus frustrated over the work, or the lack of it.
It's not good to think you're not gonna make it.
Like, here's the Australian champion sitting in the glassing room and no one wants a board from him.
What's the Aust. title worth if it can't even sell boards.
This is what we were thinking.
You know, we were down boy, I'm telling you.
So we went to the beach and a couple of kids came up and we started rapping to 'em they ordered a couple of boards, and we were away.
The trouble was, there we were, sitting on our bums and nobody even knew we made boards, didn't know the business even existed.

l went down and saw Ray Richards at Newcastle, told him about our boards.
He just won't let any old board into his showroom, you know.
Your boards have got to be reasonably welI made to get in.
Anyway, I gave it a go.
He looked at my boards and thought they were a little different, they had a kinda Vee in the deck, different rails.
They were fresh sticks.
He says to me, "Okay, just chuck 'em on the floor in there and we'll see how they go."
I needed the money for those boards so badly that if I had gone home without it my brother would have got someone new I think, 'cause he sent me away to sell those two boards, see, and we were low, I tell ya.
I went back to Rays about an hour or two later and he'd sold one of my boards that morning, and he asked me for more, wow.
Jumped in my car, flew all the way home singin', got into the shaping bay and started on his boards for him.

I really took my time.
I wanted to do a good job.
When they were in the glassing room I'd be saying to Paul to do a good job, do a good job.
We were sort of scared of our first boards, you know.
Treat 'em like babies or somethin'.
Everybody was so nervous with those first sticks, and the boards were coming out so well that I couldn't believe it, you know.
The factory had holes in the walls, there were mice running around everywhere, and cockroaches all over everything.
Ray was stoked to buy our boards and so were we, he really helped us, it was great.

SW: Do you do all the shaping yourself?
Rick: l suppose, yes, me and my shaping machine.

S.W.: We've heard various reports on the efficiency deal about shaping machines, but nobody other than the guys who actually use them want to know much about them.
Are they a bit of a secret or what?
Rick: Well, people know about ours.
It's never been a secret as far as I know.
People tell the old stories a bit, I think.
We've got this one that me,
'Knackers' and my father built.
It's pretty good.
I'd never seen one before.
Knackers had a fair idea, so we made one out of wood.

S.W.: What do they do, the shaping machines?
Rick: They rough shape a blank for you.
What they do is they make the blank a good flat bottom, with the required bottom curve, which can be anything you like.
They leave the deck near flat, easy to work with, plus they do your profile foil.
They Ieave you with a perfectly shaped blank, and you work from there - plan shape, rails, vees, concaves, thin nose, thick nose.
No matter what you want to do with a board, you can start it on a perfect blank shape.
It's like having an apprentice to do all the dirty work of clearing up a twisted bottom, or uneven thicknesses.
Just one cut with the machine and it's done.
I feel free to concentrate more on the subtle details of a surfboard if I don't have to worry about all the work that a machine can do.
To build good ...

Page ??

Page ??

(Professional Contests)
Rick: A lot of people to help us.

S.W.: How much money do you figure you'll need?
Rick As much as we can get to start with, get that first one going, once we get that going we'll be right.
You know, the sponsors will see how much publicity they can and will get and they'll just freak, then things really start moving for the next year.
But the first one is the hardest one.
Once the first one is going I think we're sweet.

S.W.: What sort of people do you think would be good sponsors, have you given this part any thought.
Rick: Huh, anyone with dough is a good sponsor but really I'd like to see professional contests sponsored by the people that make money out of surfing and surfers.

People like Bennetts and Golden Breed, you know they've done a lot of good for surfing, not just those two, like their only examples, but they're the sort of people that would be ideal for the sponsorship, plus they'd just get so much publicity.
Once the prize money got over S2,000 for first prize, you'd have Lopez, Hackmann, Barry K., they'd all be out here in a flash, and that's when it happens, you know, once it's International that's when things start moving out.
You know Smirnoff have just cleaned up on the Vodka market, now everyone buys a bottle of Smirnoff 'cause of that contest, which is the best at the moment but we can pull off something like that once we've got interested backers.
It can really get going out here, people really want to see it.
You can just imagine sitting up on top at some point, say Burleigh of something, watching eight guys batting it out in ten to twelve foot tubes for a couple of grand, like there'd be radio station guys, T.V. cameras, daily newspapers plus a couple of thousand people just checkin' out, watching the action, and there would be action, 'cause with a pro contest you can just wait for those good waves, not just run it in slop because that is the only time the mayor can present the trophy or something.
Know what I mean?
And professionals are so cool to surf with when competing.
In the heat I was in for the Smirnoff everyone just took it in turn, no dropping in or fierce hassling.
You can't 'cause there are guys on shore ready to deduct points for any unnecessary activity.
It's amazing.
I thought it would be just full on hassle, out do the other guy, but was great.
I thought I'd get ripped apart but na, if you paddled for the wave first, it was yours, really fair.

S.W.: How do you think you handled the contest scene over in the Islands

Rick Neilsen into leg-ropes. 
Tracks, March 1973, page 5.
(possibly Burleigh Heads).

Jimbo's just taking it for a for a tube at Winki.
She is super long and once she takes off, hold on.
Lost the dimensions, but the looks are there.
Jack McCoy's Neilsen Gun
Number 30 March 1973, page 26.
Around 1973, Knackers was also shaping at Free Fluid Surfboards at Caloundra, Queensland.

He later started his own company around Noosa Heads.
K.K.K. Surfboards

Kingsley Knackers Kernovske

Surfing World.
Volume 17 Number 4
Number 100,
July 1973.


Geoff Cater (2020) : Surfing World : Rick Neilsen Interview, 1973.