60 Years of Stoke

60 Years of Stoke

From humble beginnings in 1962 shaping in the backyard shed, through the first longboard era. The shortboard revolution. Wave Skis. Snowboards. Sailboards. Longboards reworked and redeveloped. Guns/ Big-wave lust. Small wave joy. A happy outlook. No end in sight.

60 years of Mctavish means 60 years of yarns. Over the next few months, we'll be dropping some of the lesser-known moments of the McTavish story, straight from Bob and Ben.
"When I stop and think about it, this picture melts my brain a bit. I know dad feels like an 18 y/o kid in his mind, I definitely feel like one too (it's only our bodies letting us down!). Now I have a son of my own who is a kid and he’s tinkering on surfboards. We have totally corrupted him! Ha! Pretty cool. It’s early days and whether he gets right into shaping or not doesn’t matter, because we get to hang out, pass on bits of info and continually learn off each other’s generations. I can’t wait to see what Cooper's generation are designing and shaping in 20 years." - Ben McTavish

"60 years and absolutely no end in sight! This is ridiculous! The terrific thing about surfboards is they are constantly improving… better suitability to the changing needs of the rider, and the waves chosen, and the style of approaching our wave riding art. Us McTavish guys just love what we’re doing. Shaping and designing is most of all simply a pleasure to us foam freaks!" - Bob McTavish
"Aaahh wonderful Lennox! This Peter Green shot from the early seventies shows the Point as a cow paddock. The owner was Jack Easter, Lord Mayor of Ballina. In 1968 he offered George Greenough and I four acres of the headland for a few thousand dollars. I said to George “ Naaah, we’ll find someplace better!” We never did. I ended up living there for thirty years and he still lives at the other end of the beach.
My wife and I built the first house up there on the ridge in 1978. It’s been demolished and replaced by something bigger." - Bob McTavish

Photo by: Lynn McTavish and Peter Green

“Noosa National Park, 1966. This is my very first car, a 1936 Chevy, which I bought off Algy Grud when we were both working at Hayden’s factory opposite the Surf Club at Alexandra Headland. It cost me 20 quid, plus another pound for a tub of white enamel paint. It was green when Algy had it. I paintbrushed it into the White Tornado. It was our surf adventure car and faithfully shuttled Bob Cooper, Russell Hughes, Algy, George Greenough and I between Alex and Noosa whenever it fired between ‘64 and ‘66.

When Denny Aaberg, scriptwriter of Big Wednesday and great Malibu surfer, lobbed into Queensland, he and I travelled Noosa, Gold Coast and Byron living in the White Tornado. We had a great time surfing and terrorising for a month over summer. Hence the sketched house floor plan, and concept for a tee shirt!

Oh yeah! Those outrageous board shorts were made custom for me by the recently departed original bikini queen Paula Stafford, at Surfers Paradise that summer.”
- Bob McTavish

Photo by: Paul Carey

"Just to clarify at the get-go, I’m not necessarily one of those weather geeks, studying synoptic charts and hunting every swell that hits our coast. I am however very aware of the weekly goings-on in the ocean on a local level; tides, banks, etc., and don’t mind jumping in the unpopular breaks when the swell is up. I do own a few bigger wave specific boards, but am by no means a ‘big wave surfer.’

Even though the modelling is more and more accurate, it seems the more hype on a swell, the more of a fizzer it is. This swell had a lot of hype and I was getting sucked in too. A mate of mine, Jake, was on my case to surf our local and all things considered, it was looking perfect for it. We looked early but it was too big and impossible to get out unassisted. It needed more of a northern corner to hide from the nor-east energy, so Tallows was the call. We got there and it was a solid 6-8 ft, howling offshore wind and pumping! I decided to ride this 7'11" single fin gun, mostly for paddle power and to sit out the back and streak in behind the bigger ones. My normal go-to would have been a 6'5” step up, but I ended up really enjoying riding this board. I managed a few nice drops and a cover-up or two and have since ridden it a lot on bigger days.

That swell in June hung around for days and provided some insane waves at the more secret spots in the days to come. As the media bled out, it was apparent that the whole east coast of Oz was blessed by this beautifully angled swell. A real treat to have been a tiny part of it." - Ben McTavish
"This windsurfer went great! Firstly, the full-on hydro tail step went super fast, allowing water to sheet off cleanly, reducing wetted-surface induced drag. Normal fins cannot operate in such aerated water flow, but the Fence-fin is deigned to block air travelling down the fin and ruining laminar flow. It worked unreal and Multi Fins, an early Byron Bay fin company, sold thousands to Europe and America and I collected a small royalty.
I got the concept off the old Manly Hydrofoil. The moulding was done by a very clever fin maker Steve Herbert, at Currumbin. Windsurfing was SO educational for me as a surfboard shaper!" - Bob McTavish
"Aaahhh … the mighty Wayne Lynch! Although he doesn’t remember, I actually shaped six boards for Wayne over the decades. The first two were Plastic Machines at Keyo’s in 1967. Ordered and paid for by Claw Warbrick from the infant company of Rip Curl. Then in 1968 I made two for him at San Juan in Byron - including this first “egg” shape. I made one for myself as well, and we hit solid Broken Head, as seen here in a shot by John Witzig.

These boards went pretty bad, as did the Plastic Machines! It wasn’t until the following year, 1969, that the flat bottom and down rails hit the scene, liberating surfing into a high planing game compared the the previous displacement boards. But the template in this shot is awesome. As unbelievable as it seems, I actually had Wayne stand on the blank at my rental farmhouse above Byron, while I sketched the outline around his feet!
The round tail represented the arc that Wayne would take in his beautiful roundhouse cutback combo, and that part worked!

The fifth board was later in 1968. On this one we integrated George’s Velo tail template pushed to the extreme, creating the first wing tail. It too suffered from the rolled bottoms of the era. Soggy!

The sixth board I made him was in the early nineties when he wanted a tandem board to take his kids out on. Son Ben and I made that one in eps/epoxy/wood veneer. Pretty rough too! So, sorry Wayne that I never made you a sweet keeper!" - Bob

Photo By: John Witzig 
"I’m not sure what it is about this photo that makes me feel sentimental. I remember this time period as lots of hard work, especially for Dad. He was hand shaping five longboards a day and checking over my hand shapes as well. Seriously working hard long hours, dusty, sweaty shaping and getting paid per piece. Not much surfing.

We had been broke a few times already, I had seen Dad and Mum at their lowest. Financial pressure can be so hard on a family, however Mum would always stick by him and Dad would always bounce back, always look for the silver lining and still enjoy the little things in life. Body surfing to wash off the dust, a quick coffee break and a laugh. Then we'd scratch enough coins for a beer on the way home. Crank a good song on the radio. The little things.

I learned a lot from this time period. I learned work ethic. I learned that even in low points of life there are good things to be found. I learned that money is just another tool. When used right it can benefit your life, but loving money and having it as a main goal is pointless because you miss all the little good things along the way.
So, thanks Dad. Love ya mate." - Ben
"It was 1970 and the Shortboard Revolution was in full swing still. Tom Morey and Karl Pope got me to design this pair of surfboard models, starting to separate wave demands into different models. Ground zero for surfboard quivers. The ad ran in Surfer mag, the get-up and concept was all Karl’s. I reckon the model names and logos; “Big Mac” and “Power Dude” might have dampened sales, but the boards surfed great considering the era!

Oh yeah… McDonalds sent lawyers to Morey-Pope to cease and desist, claiming the line “
Jan 1968. I was 23, had just spent a month on the North Shore, and I was living with George Greenough. I had the only hot mid-length in California and had six weeks of the best surf of my life - but I never saw any footage. So when William Finnegan’s Pulitzer Prize winning book eventually described my Rincon days… I was just a little bit stoked!!!
- Bob McTavish 

“He was doing it, moreover on a board that seemed to have jets installed on the rails. My eye actually had trouble following the bursts of speed that each banking bottom turn produced. The rider would be suddenly ten years ahead of where he was supposed to be, according to the physics of surfing as I understood them. He was getting comparable acceleration off his top turns. The result was that he was making it through long, heavy sections that would normally have ended a ride. It felt like each time I blinked, some film in my head skipped, and the surfer reappeared farther down the line than he should have been. If you read some of the early published descriptions of surfing - Jack London’s and Mark Twain’s, each occasioned by visits to Hawaii, are the most often quoted - you’ll find them full of clumsy efforts to render action that was too quick, complex, and foreign to the observer’s eye to make any visual sense. That was how it felt to watch McTavish thread that eight-foot wave at Rincon. He order through the First Point take-off zone, past the crowd, as if it were just another section to outwit, and continued, blazing turn after blazing turn, all the way to the cove.”
- William Finnegan, Barbarian Days.

"Nothing was the same afterward. Within months the surf mags were full of V-bottoms and other radical new designs, all dramatically shorter and lighter than the boards people had been riding for decades. The revolution was emanating from Australia and Hawaii, its gurus McTavish and a couple of Americans, George Greenough and Dick Brewer"
- William Finnegan, Barbarian Days.

Photographer: Unknown 
1972 was an incredibly productive year for me. Lynn and I married in January. Barry Bennett hired me while we lived at Collaroy for the year. He let me try anything. Alby Falzon snapped this shot while he was editing Morning of the Earth.
I was making plenty of tri-fins at the time, the side fins provided extra thrust driving out a bottom turn, and whipping back off the top! I thought, there’s a future here!
That’s Rodney our dog in the foam dust. Often after a heavy planing session, only his black nostrils were visible. When he died I had his lungs checked for cancer.. but he was fine! Coal mine canary I guess."
- Bob McTavish
Photo by Alby Falzon
"One Sunday afternoon in the late 70s, looking down from our wedge-shaped home on the top of Lennox Point I saw an amazing sight… two white windsurfer sails were flashing out through six foot Nor’easter torn surf. Flying out through and over the powerful lines, then turning and catching the biggest waves back to shore! Nobody had challenged seriously strong wind-torn surf before so I raced down to meet these guys and check out their equipment. Scotty O’Connor and Mark Paul had these sawn off Windsurfers with glued-on tail locks. About ten feet. Bodged up foot straps. Heated and bent nose rocker. Fascinating! Within a month I had an eps/epoxy version and was on Lennox’s Lake Ainsworth getting the knack. I hand shaped the eps foam and simply wrapped it in alfoil glued down with epoxy.

The sailing world was investing fortunes into racing yachts with solid wings as opposed to simple sailcloth. The theory was, if aircraft are so efficient generating lift, surely sailboats, and therefore windsurfers, will benefit from solid 3-dimensional wing-sails as well. Turns out the resultant rigidity is an enemy. Tip washout is powerfully essential to efficiency. So a foiled mast with a cloth body is still the current go-to.
This solid sail simply failed (Slide 1). It generated a crazy rhythmic pulse as it released air off the tip. Yuck!

For the following ten years, I explored windsurfing from all kinds of constructions in all kinds of locations; Ho’okipa Maui, all along Torquay to Lorne, Flat Rock, Noosa.... even ten-foot Lennox Point (where I broke $1000 worth of gear)! I learned so much about sailing, epoxy, vacuum bagging, fins, moulding, blowing polyurethane foam, roto-moulding, foam sandwich, wood veneer laminates, and just plain fun surfing huge waves with an engine in your hands!! Yeehaw!!! But it was costly, and soon we had to sell our house on the hill and start again..."
- Bob McTavish
Photos by Lindsay Grant and Peter Green

“I moved up to Currumbin in the late nineties. I wanted to buy a house but the prices in Byron were already out of my reach, so I settled on a ratty old timber house with a big shed and a 10 min bike ride to the beach.

The big shed is what sold me, and a shaping bay install was the first cab off the rank. By this time I had been shaping for about 8 years and had been production hand shaping for McTavish, and doing my own brand, making around 5 a week. I felt like my shapes were finally getting some consistency.

On my way home from Byron along the coast road (pre-highway), I spotted this seafoam green 1963 AP5 Valiant wagon for sale! By this time in my life I had somehow turned into a full-on car head, namely vintage Chrysler products. I’m a sucker for the styling, they always had plenty of grunt and were cheap!

So this was my 4th or 5th Valiant, but my first wagon which was perfect and functional for where I was at the time. I would pick up 10 Blanks on Monday from Burford (2 min drive from home),shape 5 Jason Blewitt models and 5 Ray Gleave models, wrap them in bubble, hit the coast road, sucking fumes all the way, careful of the tailgate being down, deliver to the Factory, pick up a check and do it all again next week.

The Wagon brings back good memories and a stamp in time of a simpler life.”
- Ben McTavish
"Bells Beach, April 1965. Regardless of surf history saying 1981 was the biggest year at the Rip Curl Pro when Simon unleashed the Thruster onto the global community, 65 was so big only a few competitors could actually get out! This was pre-duckdive on big boards.
I caught a couple, riding borrowed Dave Haines Hawaiian gun shaped by Bob Shephard at Sunset. This wave nearly killed me. Got slammed, then tumbled and tumbled, unable to penetrate into the solid water below. More tumbling, breath screaming. Finally, I made myself rigid, straight, so I became a stick in the gutter, swell below. That drove me down into the still-hefty swell below and turbulence passed on by. I swam for the surface, burst my air out, but the foam was so thick I couldn’t reach clean air! Aaaagh!! But I’m still here…"
- Bob McTavish
Photo: John Witzig 
"Although I’d spent most of the sixties shaping for major brands along the East Coast, New Zealand and California, and even setting up my own small operations in farmhouses and old ice works - it wasn’t till early 1974 that I rented a true factory facility here in Byron. It was the very first building on Byron’s Art and Industry Estate, became Maddog’s for decades, and is now Surfection’s shop. It’s where Bluebirds we’re made, ten a week with me shaping and sanding, John Thomas glassing and glossing.
A few years later I had relocated to the Cowbales at the Lennox Head top roundabout." - Bob McTavish
Photo: Mark Jennings
"I’ve always been allowed, on the first night only, to bring my new board into our bedroom. This sweet Bennett 7’6 gun (which I’ve still got stashed) interrupted our night the first year we were married in 1972. It got converted to a windsurfer later that decade!"
- Bob McTavish
Photo by: Lynn McTavish
"This shot was taken at ‘Backside Flat Rock', Ballina around 91'. That’s my mate Adam. And that's the first board I ever shaped. The beat-up board next to it is the last "performance" board Dad shaped for me, he was so busy recovering from a failed moulded-surfboard business, raising 5 kids, and trying to pay rent. Sooo... I decided to shape one myself. I took a template off the previous board, but shortened it a few inches, narrowed it an inch and scooped as much nose rocker into it as possible. I made it from start to finish. There wasn’t another way back then. I cut out some old plastic fantastic tissues that Dad had and put it up on the nose in 90's position. 'Kelly Slater in Black and White‘ had just been released and had me, and most of the short board world, spinning out on his super rocker, super narrow, super thin blades and I wanted in!

Dad knew they were way over-rockered, but let me slide and learn with it. He would just highlight outline bumps, and go “wow, she’s got some entry flip “. I’m like "yeah, I wanna get tight, get involved, and fit the curves“.

I had just got my driver's license and took my sister's Honda Charade to go surf Skinners one day. I was so excited by my newfound freedom that I left my newly shaped board in front of the car and took off without it... went back for it, but it was gone. My loss, and possibly the new owner's loss too, I’m sure it was rough. But I do wish I still had it. I understand why a lot of the young shapers have been revisiting 90’s inspired designs over the last few years. I still try to add some of the feelings and design concepts into my boards, it’s so cool how every era of surfboard design has gold and we get to experiment with all of it."
- Ben McTavish
"I remember this being kind of a nightmare! Not necessarily the length of the board (that was a fun challenge as Dad had to shape it outside), it was the laminate. Being an EPS blank we were using Epoxy and vacuum bagging a thin veneer of timber to both sides at once. We glassed both sides wet, taped the veneer to both sides then delicately slid it into an 18 foot bag. Using a cow milking vacuum pump, that would chug away all day, we sucked it all together to make the bond super tight. This normally worked really well, except on this board the epoxy didn’t go off! We opened up the bag the next day and it was 16 feet of soggy wet mess! We squeegeed the resin out, dried it as much as possible and gave it another go. The next lam was successful and I think the rest of the finishing went ok. We were pretty rugged back then. Lots of fun though."
- Ben McTavish
"The guy at the tail of the board rocked into our shed in about 1994 and requested the longest board we could make. As Ben and I were shaping EPS and vacuum bagging ash veneer/epoxy laminates, we could offer this 16 footer (no polyurethane blank exceeded 12 feet). He was an electrician in the mines, and must have dreamed up this record breaker while fitting cables deep underground in the inky blackness. After he creased its backbone we fixed it up and it hung on the wall of a Byron restaurant for years. Dunno where it is now….."
- Bob McTavish

"The Genesis of the Shortboard Revolution in late 1967. This 6’10 double concave I shaped before Bells at Easter of 1967. I didn’t compete at Bells that year. I just surfed Winkipop endlessly on experimental boards. Looking on I think is Neal Purchase Senior in a gifted WindanSea t-shirt, at Keyo's in Brookvale."
- Bob McTavish
Photo by: Mickey Munoz

"Lennox Farmhouse mid-seventies.. bringing back some longer boards after the Shortboard Revolution was fait accompli’. One in polyester in Burford’s biggest blank(7’8) And the other in eps/epoxy. Ben getting planer and shape enthusiasm via osmosis. The outcome in the next photo .. two dedicated shape enthusiasts today."
- Bob McTavish
Photo by: Peter Green

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