Surf Museum

THE PLYWOOD OKANUI SURFBOARD 1956-57 —A BRIEF HISTORY

By December 19, 2017 No Comments

The plywood Malibu or Okanui/Okanohue was the end result of the American Surf Team arriving in Australia for the Melbourne Olympic Surf Carnival which was held at Torquay Victoria in 1956. (See our posts on the Balsa and Toothpick Surfboards)

On their arrival the American team appeared on the beach with short (for Aussie surfers) Balsa and Fibreglass 10ft. boards.

They then put on a display of tricks that were impossible with the 16ft. (toothpick) boards currently being ridden by the Aussie surfers.

Many Australian surfers were determined to have one, so the search for Balsa wood started.  Being unavailable in Australia at this time the idea to craft a look-alike in timber was soon hit upon.  This occurred to many surf pioneers such as Gordon Woods, Norm Casey, Bill Wallace, Bill Clymer, Barry Bennett, Joe Larkin and others.

The ply board in this form is uniquely Australian Construction.

The Boarding Offices at Mooloolaba, Nambour (pictured), oh and our own home BTW :) all have originals of these unique boards, they are very special.  The Mooloolaba Okanui was made by Bill Wallace and we thank him for most of the content for this article. The method of construction has the frame built with timber rails while plywood ribs create the plan and profile shape with red and white timber used for Nose and Tail blocks.  The Bungs are turned from brass.  The fin and rails are laminated also in red and white timbers which gives a nautical look to the board. The plywood is three-ply with a veneer finish.

The whole board was finished with a Shellac or quality clear lacquer, this is before the use of fiberglass had penetrated the surfboard manufacturing market after WW2.

Tools used include chisels, a hand plane, 60g clamps for gluing decks and 25 sash clamps to secure the laminated nails.

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