First review for Century of Surf from the obviously highly discerning John Morcombe of the Manly Daily.
Posted on Monday, December 9th 2013
THE GREATEST SURF STORY NEVER TOLD
Century of Surf will land in book stores on Monday and I have been waiting a while to share this one, as I reckon it’s probably the best story in the book. How many Australian surfers knew that our national surfboard champion of 1939 was locked up during World War 2 because he was born in Germany?
Harry Wicke was born in 1914, the same year Duke Kahanamoku first came to Australia, so his lifespan is literally our Century of Surf. He had an Australian mother and a German father and the family moved to Australia in 1927 when Harry was just 13.
He quickly became a keen surfer, built himself some of the first locally made hollow boards and proved just about unbeatable in paddle races in 1939, largely because of his knee paddling technique and his super light hollow boards. He easily qualified for the Australian team for the Pacific Games in Hawaii in 1939 but, with war brewing in Europe, he was denied a passport by the Australian government because of his German ancestry and kicked off the team.
Once war broke out, in a systematic round up of German nationals, police came to his home and arrested his foster brother and when they spotted young Harry they figured they may as well arrest him too. He spent three years in a Prisoner of War camp in Tutura, in northern Victoria, and upon his release he was denied membership of Manly Surf Club, where he was formerly a member, though they have since made him a life member.
Remarkably, Harry is still alive at the age of 99, having recently moved from a retirement village at Victoria Point, on Moreton Bay, to a nursing home in Bundaberg. Remarkably, too, Harry sounds like a man who knows what it means to get barrelled.
I spent a lot of time with Harry during the research for Century of Surf - I had never imagined I would be able to learn about surfing during the 1930s from someone who lived through it. Harry’s sharp as a tack and was pleased to tell his story, which he had kept secret for decades. He was the first person to receive an advanced copy of the book and seemed happy with the finished product.
Meeting Harry really opened my eyes to just how much of our history remains untold and how significant stories of our past can easily be lost to the sands of time. So happy to get to know you Harry and thanks for trusting me with your story. I recorded and edited this interview with Harry with the help of my filmmaker friend Jeff Licence, of Tiger Monkey Productions, to be make sure we had a permanent record of his remarkable story. Enjoy.
Posted on Thursday, November 28th 2013
One of the most intriguing stories in COS is that of the original surfing lawyer Lester Brien, part of the great surfer influx to Byron Bay in the late ’60s and early ’70s.Click on the link above to read more.
Posted on Monday, November 11th 2013
So, this fella in the middle (spot the haole) is my pick for one of the most overlooked figures in Australian surfing history. Arthur Parkyn from Mooloolaba surf club was part of an Australian team sent to Hawaii in 1953 to demonstrate Australian life saving techniques. He must have made a favourable impression because when the International Surf Carnival was planned for Torquay in 1956 it was Parkyn who was despatched to coach the Hawaiian team so they could compete in a truly international surf carnival. At his own expense he also traveled on to California to coach the US mainland team.
I actually met Arthur at the Noosa Festival years ago when he came up and starting talking to me and telling me some of his story. He told me how the Hawaiian lifeguards trained by being dropped out at sea and picked up again three hours later to simulate the experience of shipwreck survivors. I took it all with a grain of salt as I had never heard of him and only later learned how profound his contribution had been. It was reportedly Parkyn who suggested the US Team bring their malibu boards to Australia in 1956 to display the latest in wave-riding, even though there were no surfboard events planned for the international carnival.
Parkyn was such a hit in Hawaii they insisted on hosting his wedding to his fiance Dell, organised discount honeymoon accommodation and presented the newlyweds with a handsome clock. And in the US he and Dell were gifted a trip to Vegas complete with $100 complimentary gambling chips. And Mooloolaba surf club members were given reciprocal rights with the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki - think Mooloolaba got the better half of that deal. For me, Arthur was a lesson in how easily surf history can slip through our fingers. I met the humble unassuming man in the twilight of his years and didn’t pay enough attention to his stories, and later had to learn about him second hand through letters and papers held at
SurfWorld Museum Torquay. Parkyn passed away in October 2009 two weeks shy of his 98th birthday. I think the great surfer/clubbie divide sometimes gets in the way of Australian surfers recognising their true elders and having a cultural continuum to the great ocean people of our past. Parkyn’s another who deserves a place in Australian surfing history.
Posted on Friday, November 1st 2013
The first person to get their special advance copy of Century of Surf was 1939 Australian surfboard champion Harry Wicke, as a belated 99th birthday gift. Harry’s incredible story is told in COS, born of a German father and Australian mother, the family moved to Australia in 1926 when Harry was 13. He quickly found his calling in the surf at Manly, was one of the first to adopt the new hollow boards in the mid-30s and soon proved almost unbeatable in surfboard paddle races. He won the national title in 1939, and was picked for the Australian team to travel to Hawaii for the Pacific Games. But with war brewing in Europe, he was denied a passport because of his German ancestry, lost his job as an aircraft engineer at DeHavilland as a security risk, and when war broke out he was interned as a Prisoner of War. Incredible but true. He shared his story for the first time for COS and I was honoured to be entrusted with it. Thanks Harry, you deserve your place in Australian surfing history. Happy birthday.
Posted on Thursday, October 31st 2013
Just purchased the “books and surfing” page on Matt Warshaw’s epic Encyclopedia of Surfing for a cool 50 clams. Bargain.
Posted on Friday, October 25th 2013
Byron Bay Surf Festival - A 3-Day Fusion of ‘Surf Culture Now’
Posted on Thursday, October 24th 2013
Look what turned up in the post. Advanced copy. On sale December 2.
Posted on Sunday, October 13th 2013
There comes a point in every surfer’s life, a threshold crossed from which there can be no return. I have just crossed that threshold. It is called the surf hat. It is the point at which one’s fear of sun damage overrides one’s dignity. But it is also a glorious liberation. Many of us, I suspect, embark on our surfing lives imagining we are going to somehow impress someone - parents, friends, siblings, that cute girl in the shorebreak. The brutal truth is for most of us no one is taking the slightest notice of our flailings in the ocean. When, in the decrepitude of surfing codger-dom, you finally learn to accept this, you are set free, unshackled from the silly dictates of surf fashion or the delusion that anyone is ever going to swoon over your shaky cutback. Rejoice and don your surf hat with pride.
Posted on Tuesday, October 1st 2013
So, this is what I’ve been doing.
Posted on Saturday, September 21st 2013