Pre-1950 Australian photos

Duke Kahanamoku at Freshwater - 1915.
Three handboards and a possible bellyboard can be seen in the crowd.

Dr. Huntly Gordon Higgins with fellow Scarborough Scouts- 1932
Photo courtesy Robert Hosking.

The surfing Scarborough scouts -1932
Photo courtesy Robert Hosking.


The scarborough scout photos were made available by Robert Hosking. Robert made and rode ply bellyboards in the 1960s. His Uncle, Dr. Huntly Gordon Higgins, died aged 94 in December 2011. These photos were from a family photo album and indicate a family surfing connection. The group photo contains the names: H. Gorham, Higgins, r. Royce, C. Moore, C. Spivey, G. Knapton, Smith and Hosking. recorded as absent were B. Forster and J. Atkins. The photo was noted to be taken at Manton Beach - January 1932.

Lorne c. 1918-19

Lorne c. 1918-19.
Photos courtesy Henry Marfleet.

Photo by Murray Walding. Wild on the Beach - Lorne

Walding (2012), the author of Surf-o-rama (Walding 2008) describes the above boards as follows: "The longest (green and cream) board is 1440 x 330 and appears to date from the late twenties. It has a metal plate slotted into the nose and held with brass nails. This board came from under an old holiday home and had been there since the house was built. Its solid timber as are all the others except the blue Hotel Pacific board which is ply and is the youngest of them. Underneath the Pacific wording, the words Kia Ora can be seen. This was an early Lorne guest house which no longer exists. The red board is from the Carinya - another long gone guest house. It's solid timber with metal nose plate. The red and yellow boards also came from under an old house and although they are made from solid timber the nose 'plate' is ply so I'm guessing they are WWII vintage to early fifties.

Wood boards from different eras.
Currumbin Surfworld museum.

Protective brass insert in nose area.
Bryan Hayden collection.

1940s 4'6" South Aust. Hire board.
SDR -Surf Dumper Riders.
Mike Brown collection.

1940s 4'6" South Aust. Hire board.
Bottom view
Mike Brown collection.

Greenmount 1912
Baker, T. Australia's Century of Surf

Graham Avery -Pt Elliot 1947.
Source: Reid, C. Cactus

Table of contents

On-line photo archives are a rich source of information about early surfing. In both New Zealand and Australia, libraries and museums have on-line photo collections. Because some photos have copyright restrictions, links are provided rather than the actual photos.

Surfing near Victor Harbor 'Surfers using wooden planks, near Victor Harbor. Petrel Cove and Rosetta Head (the Bluff) are behind the surfers. Circa 1926. Photographer: Barnes, Doris Constance, 1894-1994. Victor Harbor Collection, State Library of South Australia.

Two Girls and Three Men with Home Made Surf Boards, Cowes beach, Phillip Island, 1934 Photograph shows Ivy Russell, Jimmy White, Frederick Russell, and friends, with home made wooden surf boards. Photograph copied from Mrs Nola Jones. Photographer unknown, Museum Victoria collection.

Favourite Summer pastime In the surf at Victor Harbour, South. Australia. Evening Post , Issue 57, 7 March 1936, Page 23. National Library of New Zealand.

Surfing, Summerland Beach, Phillip Island. Six photos of bellyboards in the surf: December 1947. Item held by State Library of Victoria. Collection or series is part of Victorian Railways collection.

Young Surfers Paradise Life Savers preparing for the first ever flipper race at a Broadbeach Surf Carnival, circa 1940s. ca 1940. Hookway collection, Local Studies Library, Gold Coast City Council. Flippers paved the way for bellyboards to be more than a shorebreak adventure.

Paipo interview with George Bills of Tasmania Includes photos of Bill's family boards and newspaper photos

Maroochydore c 1924
Photo courtesy Gary Clist.

Grace Wooton, 1915 Pt. Lonsdale
Source: Wells, L. Sunny Memories.

Grace Wooton, 1916 Pt. Lonsdale
Source: Wells, L. Sunny Memories.
Grace Wooton, with friend W. Harrison 1915
Source: Wells, L. Sunny Memories.

Victorian bellyboard
Photo courtesy Bryan Hayden

Victorian bellyboard
Photo courtesy Bryan Hayden

The original Lightning Bolt
Photo courtesy Bryan Hayden

Nose with double reinforcements
Photo courtesy Bryan Hayden

1930s 5' oak and maple board.
Deck view
Mike Brown collection.

1930s 5' oak and maple board.
Copper plates fasten the board.
Mike Brown collection.

1940s Wards Boat Builders (Cotteloe) 4'6 x 17 bellyboard

Jack Holder- 1944 in Bougainville.
".. it was safer lying down"
Tracks Oct 2003, p. 41.

Section Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Paipos, bellyboards, lameroos, chestboards - what's in a name?
  3. Australia pre 1950s
  4. New Zealand pre 1950s
  5. The mixed fortunes of bellyboards since the 1950s.
  6. Queensland
  7. the North coast
  8. Manly to Palm Beach
  9. Maroubra to Bronte
  10. Cronulla and south
  11. Victoria
  12. Tasmania
  13. South Australia
  14. Western Australia
  15. New Zealand from the 1960s
  16. Final comments, acknowledgements and information sources