Surf Museum

Joe Larkin (1933 – 20.07.2017)

By July 25, 2017 No Comments

The Surfing Family says farewell to another legend of the movement. A man sometimes referred to as  the Grandfather of Australian surfing. Overnight Joe Larkin sadly passed away aged 84. We offer our deepest condolences to his family.


Joe started surfing in 1943 at the age of 9. He quickly moved onto building 16’ toothpick (Hollow plywood) surf and paddle boards in Sydney at Freshwater in 1948-9. He then worked as a Beach Inspector before working under the tutelage of legendary nautical carpenter Bill Clymer. This experience lead him to become one of the major craftsman in the industry.

By the late ’50s, Larkin, Barry Bennett, Bill Wallace, and Gordon Woods had each founded their own surfboard label. Collectively, they established the Australian boardmaking industry.

Joe was also one of the first Aussie surf moviemakers, despite a opening stumble. “He attempted to film the American [surfers] when they visited Manly after the 1956 Olympics,” Albie Thoms noted in his book Surfmovie, “but forgot to take the lens cap off his camera.” Larkin and surf entrepreneur Bob Evans later teamed up to make short films which they showed at surf clubs up and down Australia’s east coast.

In 1961, Larkin moved to Kirra in Queensland, where he opened a new shop. Here, he beautifully balanced innovation and fun. He was regarded as a true Larrikin. 1978 world champion Wayne Bartholomew quoted in his autobiography, “It seemed like design breakthroughs were being made every week at Joe’s factory during this time.” While 1964 world champion Midget Farrelly said  “He was the wildest guy in surfing….. too drunk and too funny.”

That’s over 70 years of Living the Surfing dream during which he mentored countless board builders. This included many of the industries highest profile figures. Midget Farrelly, Bob Pike, Terry Fitzgerald, Michael Peterson, Peter Townend and Wayne Bartholomew just to name a few!

In his later years he played the role of Grandfather of the sport beautifully, welcoming anyone to his shed in Cabarita Beach, NSW. (Leaving his address openly available on his website.)


Joe Larkin 84 RIP, Sir!


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