Saturday, November 29, 2008

Double Trouble

It was around 1962 - 63 that the old hollow 16 foot plywood long boards had reached their used by date. The balsa and fibreglass Ockanuis had replaced them and the foam and fibreglass Malibus were now all the go. Today the Malibus are simply known as Mals or long boards, but back then they were short boards. The single surf ski remained as a rescue board and even today the highly evolved variations of those ancient plywood skis are still being used, but mainly for competition. Despite becoming a completely hooked Mal rider, I nonetheless kept on surfing on my racing surf ski with fellow troublemaker Tom. Did we stir and upset those Malibu riders at North Avalon? You bet we did.
All hollow plywood construction and pre Malibu.
My main reason for purchasing a Mal was so I could spend many a surfing session with the beautiful bikini clad surfer girl Paula and this I was able to do on a regular basis, lucky me. We never became an item but, we were kissin' cousins, so to speak, who enjoyed a frequent snuggle at various Drive Ins etc., to keep warm on a cold winters evening, double lucky me.
More on Paula (Polly) at Friends and Partners.

The Malibus were nowhere near as manoeuverable as the modern thrusters and could be up to 20 kilos in weight. The sight of two surf club ratbags on 18 foot long planks of plywood bearing down upon you was more than enough to bring on an unexpected bowel movement from many a shortboard rider. Shouted comments made Gordon Ramsey sound as though he was reciting Shakespeare or quoting verses from the Bible. The beautiful Paula used her noggin and would surf with Tom and I and would wait for the two of us to crack a wave then follow behind us......Smart girl. It was amazing how over tanned surfers faces changed colour to a flat white as either Tom or I and sometimes both of us were about to pass over the top of them. Despite this, no one was ever hurt, how I'll never know.

During the years surf board design has evolved to the point where even the present day Mals weigh in around 3 to 5 kilos maximum. In 1962 my Mal weighed in at 19 kilo and was over 8 foot in length.
Although a better than average surf ski rider, I had never competed in an Open or Restricted Surf Carnival. One reason for this was the fact that I happened to be a member of the brain dead Surf Boat Crew. One day however, Tom and I began to pay closer attention to a huge plywood double surf ski that belonged to the clubs two senior paddlers, Max and Jackie Watt. We were given permission to use it, but were warned that it had a few leaks..... What an understatement. Tom and I would paddle out the back, swing the ski around hoping that a wave appeared within the next 60 seconds, otherwise it was shades of the Titanic all over again. On some occasions when full of water, the bow would submerge and with the added weight of all the Tasman Sea within, we would literally transform into a wooden submarine. The boardriders at North Avalon were safe from harrasment as our craft was incapable of reaching that part of the beach without sinking like a blacksmiths anvil. The ones who ventured south for a less crowded wave only did it once as the possibility of being crushed to death by a water filled uncontrollable missile made the northern end of the beach a much safer place to surf.
I think it was in 1962 or 63, Max Watt was laid low by a stomach virus. His younger brother Jackie was disappointed as it meant they would be unable to compete in the Metropolitan Championships being held at Palm Beach over the weekend. Seeing me on the beach, Jack grabbed hold of me and literally kidnapped me and threw me into his car, that I noticed had the SS Titanic tied on the roof. Jackie was aware that I was a fair to middling ski rider and as far as he was concerned, I was now his brother's replacement on the Double Ski. I informed him that I had never raced my single ski, let alone the leaky double, but all I was told was to simply do whatever he did.....So much for extensive training.
Arriving at Palmy, we deposited the monster in the marshalling area and I set about checking some of our competitors skis. It was possible for a single guy to lift and carry the other skis, whereas our one weighed a ton and was an effort for two people even to simply lift it off the ground. Eventually we were called to our starting position and Jackie wanted me to be up front, but I argued that it would be better for me to be at the back so I could do everything that he did during the course of the race. We were both hoping to reach the turning buoys before descending to Davy Jones Locker and meeting Huey.

Thank God it was a small surf. The Starter's pistol fired and at least 12 two man crews took off like a rocket.

We were all packed in fairly tight and I am certain that at times we were on top of some of the others and it was this that kept us floating when we rounded the can in second place a mere half length behind the leader. The ski became hard to keep ones balance on as we commenced heading for the shore. At one stage we actually hit the lead, then it was the Dambusters all over again. Several of those WW2 bouncing bombs must have exploded next to us, because we were becoming uncontrollable as the Tasman Sea poured in through gaps you could row a boat through.

We headed north, we headed south, we even did a full 360 degree turn and just as we were being overtaken by several vessels, I fell off. What a disaster....Not really, as I landed on top of one of the overtaking skis, causing it to slew north and completely destroy most of the other overtaking competitors. Using language unheard of even today, Jack requested that I resume my position on our submarine so we could continue on.
Luck was on our side, we had reached the shallow sand bank that was only inches deep and disembarking we commenced to drag the ski towards the shore. It weighed a ton as it was now full to the brim with ocean. Jack and I dived for cover when the waterlogged craft swung around at right angles and was responsible for a massive pile up of timber that had been following us. Can anyone remember the police car pile up towards the end of the Blues Brothers movie?

We reached the shore, but needed four other guys to drag the ski up the beach. It was all too much, there was a creak, followed by a groan, then the side panel fell off that released a sudden rush of water that swept away two young toddlers, who happened to be standing nearby.

Jack and I were more than pleased to have survived, but when we discovered we had finished in third place we were gobsmacked and elated. Not only had we performed admirably, we had also entertained the public with skills and a unique demonstration very rarely seen at such events. By gee, didn't we get some evil looks from many of the failed competitors when we were presented with our Bronze medals.

 I am certain that at some time in the not too distant future the infamous Double Ski simply self destructed on it's rack in the club's boatshed and came in very handy when the clubs barbecue was fired up. Another era in Avalon's Surf Lifesaving history came to an end during a sausage sizzle at the rear of the clubhouse.

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