While in Noosa, we had the opportunity to have a little taste of history through The Noosa Festival Old Mal Division. A division were boards made pre 1960’s were brought out from under competitor's homes or taken out from its dusty cotton case, to be displayed and ridden by talent from todays ages ranging from 14 to upper 60’s. A lot of boards were Australian influence and according to Matt (Chono) Chojnacki, Australian surf history intellect, “were made during a pinnacle time in surfboard revolution in Sydney from the 1960’s up until the 80’s.”
Some of the top performers had a old mal board of their own including Zye Norris, Harrison Roach, Matt Cuddihy as well as teenagers Juels Lepecheux from France, Tosh Tudor for California, and Saxon WIlson from Florida. These teenagers are connecting the sports substantial time in board design where though only short lived (around 6 months), it’s still a pivotal time even in todays shapes. “In terms of actual style and control in small tricky waves, a lot of those top placing surfers can ride rolled bottom surfboards with pinched rails. And most of them had a replica style old mal with a couple tweaks here and there and it goes to show we have progressed 55 years in evolution since the mid-60s that were at a point now where recycling designs incorporating a style without those little kinks and unknowns that was happening at that time,” says Chono.
Matt himself had a good look at all the boards in the division and hand picked a couple selects that he thought were the most influential of the time as well as in today's shapes. Creative shapes that held throughout time and the materials that held it together tell the stories of where the board has been.
The first board is one ridden by Jules Lepecheux of France that was made in early 1967 by Midget Farrelly. It was a stringerless board with rails that were unique during that era but also it meant, over time, the board would be more prone to twisting. “We did have stringerless through mid-1960’s and early 60’s but they didn't hold up. So you wouldn't see a well ridden example of a stringerless board especially one thats sunburnt cause they would've bend and twist over the years. Midget was actually one of the best craftsman in Australia at the time and just the shape of these rails, the bottom contour with slight roll, and the rocker overall is actually a very reasonable outline.You could probably draw a lot of comparisons to some of the new Thomas Surfboards that you guys are currently riding.” says Chono.
The next one is a Scott Dylan, Glenn Richie shape which was more an established shape during that time with a unique fin and placement. According to Chono, this board was part of the “classic involvement style” which regards to pocket surfing; in,out and around the steepest part of the wave also this is where hot-dogging or the revolution of the shortboard started to trickle in. “The board has V- bottom aspects, some transitional aspects, and a really long raked back fin,” says Chono. Applying his talent on this board from a previous heat, Tosh chimes in, “The board is pretty trippy honestly! Its kinda a bigger board for me because of how much it weighed. Its kinda fluid but super rolley, you can feel the roll. When you go to do a turn, it rolls at first and then would start to catch a rail if your start going too much. If you could perfectly time it in the pocket and roll it, it projects forwards.”
“These boards were made within 6 months of each other and in the same town, less than 15km away from each other. Brookevale and Palm Beach in Sydney, which at the time was the hot bed for surfboard performance and evolution in Australia right up until the 80’s. Theres no coincide that there are more World Champions between Manly, Palm Beach and that peninsula than any other place in the world. That’s because of this surfboard industry in the 60’s,” says Chono as he rounds out the history lesson with the newly knowledged groms.
Its one to say that board design has somewhat come full circle in the longboard scheme of things. What had been designed and built more than 60 years ago still plays a substantial part in shapes today and athletes are taking these designs and revamping them into todays newer material. What seems like not much of a change and when you see a modern style single fin compared to one of the 60’s, maybe add some of the vintage brown coloring but other than, shapes have wondered too far from the basics.