Junkyard Dogs

11 Jan 2016 2 Share

Find this story in the latest issue of Surfing World Magazine

Junkyard Dogs

A second chance for surfboards unloved and discarded

Surfboards exist for no other reason than to give us pleasure, so why do we turn our backs on them? Why do we sell them, give them away or chuck them on the council clean up pile? And what becomes of the broken hearted? Recently Surfing World got together with team Arnette’s Chippa Wilson, Ben Godwin, Pama Davies, Kalani Ball and Jackson Baker to scour the hock shops, garage sales, swap meets and junkyards to find out if the dogs that inhabit these spaces deserve a second shot at being loved.

Little Frankenstein had the villagers storming the castle with torches and pitchforks. “Kill it!” they screamed. But it was too late because Chippa Wilson had given the monster new life.

Little Frankenstein had the villagers storming the castle with torches and pitchforks. “Kill it!” they screamed. But it was too late because Chippa Wilson had given the monster new life.

Little Frankenstein

Chippa Wilson: The Shaper/Pro

Little Frankenstein was born at least ten years ago, way back in the day when Matty Hurworth was still making boards for the Shaping Co with Greg Webb. For whatever reason I felt like shaping a board one day so I walked in and said, “Give me the planer, I’m gonna smoke this shit.” I thought it would be easy but I was tripping. I tore this blank apart, shit was flying everywhere and by the end it looked like what it was – a blank that had been completely ruined. Thankfully Matty was in there to smooth things out and once he took the rough edges off we were actually pretty stoked on the final design. Not that there were any design elements considered at all when I tore in. I was just going from intuition.

The thing is, it looked so different from my normal boards at that time which were very standard little shooters. This board was wide and flat and much more like the boards I ride now and it went really well. I was getting hammered a lot back then, just going out every weekend, and the board became my go-to hangover board. It was a cruiser. Eventually, I put it on ice and it stayed in Matt’s factory until this trip came up.

So when I heard the trip was called Junkyard Dogs I knew I wanted my Little Frankenstein to be a part of it and even though I’d only just flown in from OS the same morning I was driving south to meet everyone, I took the hour detour north to the factory to grab it.

I arrived in the late afternoon, jetlagged and ready for a good snu snu, but there were some bumpy golden wedges and I figured I may as well have a late arvo rinse. And what do you know? The board felt incredible straight away. The next few times I surfed the thing it went better and better.

A few things occurred to me. I probably surf a little better than I did back then but the board is a shape that I’m more familiar with now than when I shaped it. And although the deck had sunk along the stringer and killed a bit of the life in it, I could still get it to pop off the lip, plus the drive through the rail was incredible. I was putting volts in my monster and it was coming back to to life! Was I ahead of my time making this board back when I did? Probably not, but I was stoked enough after riding it again to want to get back in the bay.

When Chippa first pulled the Carrabine out of the car his initial thoughts were “What a piece of crap.” Thoughts that turned out to be well founded.

When Chippa first pulled the Carrabine out of the car his initial thoughts were “What a piece of crap.” Thoughts that turned out to be well founded.

The Carrabine

Will Cartwright: The Original Owner

I found this board at the Nambucca council tip. I was working there at the time and I walked over to the landfill and saw the tail sticking out of all this rubbish. A bulldozer had already compressed the pile it’d been thrown in so it was really wedged in amongst all this other shit. I pulled it out, took it home and gave it to a mate of mine, Rolfy. He fixed it up, had one surf on it and gave it straight back. “This thing should be put in front of a firing squad,” he told me. It’s been under the house ever since.

Chippa Wilson: The Pro

All the boards we rode during Junkyard Dogs had the same colour scheme, this gross yellowy brown, but this board was orange and man… it totally sucked. When I first picked it up I actually thought, “Ah, I want to ride this.” Of all the boards it was the one I chose first because it looked like a challenge. So I ran down the beach threw it in the water to do a run-in, you know, where you jump off the beach and glide for a second, feel it out? And I swear the board went backwards. I was like, “What the…?” It was bizarre. By the time I paddled out I knew I was on a pig. On the first few waves I was moving around the board trying to find any sort of sweet spot, anything that would lock in, but it gave me nothing. All I could do was hang on and make a frowny face. Can you imagine if all you had to surf on for the rest of your life was a board like that? You’d probably quit and take up badminton.

Riding a board that’s been in his family for nearly three decades Benny Godwin knew exactly what buttons to push to get the Col Smith firing.

Riding a board that’s been in his family for nearly three decades Benny Godwin knew exactly what buttons to push to get the Col Smith firing.

The Col Smith

Ben Godwin: The owner/surfer

The Col Smith is a deucey! It was originally my Dad’s board, custom shaped for him by his good mate Col Smith from Newcastle and glassed down at Bob Brown’s, who was the big legend shaper around Newy back in the day.

Dad and Col travelled around a bit together and Dad surfed the board in competitions. He even rode it at the Om Bali Pro at Ulus, which seems a bit wild for back then considering the board is only 5’8”, but here’s the thing, it’s got a pintail, so the bigger the surf gets the better it goes.

Sadly Col passed away from lung cancer at a young age, maybe 31, and Dad put the board away after that. It was pretty dinged up and old but it went under the house until I found it when I was about 11 or 12. When Dad saw me with it he drilled me about the importance of the board to him. “Mate, that’s a really good board made by a really great shaper and friend, take care of it.”

Col must have had a great mind because even when I was little I was tripped out by the channels and the pulled in tail. It even had one of those old school textured decks, so if you didn’t have wax it didn’t matter all that much, although the board rash you’d get was next level.

Over the years I’ve ridden the board a lot and it is incredibly drivey and full of life. I mean, it’s waterlogged and got a bunch of dings but it zips and zaps and you can pull it through the meanest turns. It also goes incredible on the backhand and some of the local boys I surf with reckon it suits my surfing better than my standard boards, it gets a few smiles whenever I walk down the beach with it.

I reckon I’ll own this board forever, maybe even give it to my kid someday. I’ll never get rid of it though, partly because it means so much to my dad but also because it goes as good as it probably ever did. And how’s this, I found out that the house we were staying in for the Junkyard Dogs trip is right next door to the house the board got shaped at. Dad and Col all those years ago cutting out a board that I’d be riding 25 years later. I love stuff like that.

Jackson Baker and The Wonder Board formed a bond greater than Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years and you can easily imagine him getting barrelled to Joe Cocker’s version of Little Help From My Friends.

Jackson Baker and The Wonder Board formed a bond greater than Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years and you can easily imagine him getting barrelled to Joe Cocker’s version of Little Help From My Friends.

The Wonder Board

Corbin Nash: The Current Owner

I’d just gotten home from an all-nighter at Northies, a popular drinking establishment in The Shire made famous by the reality TV show The Shire. There’d been a hen’s night on and someone had mistaken me for a male stripper. At first I was like “you have the wrong guy” but then they started shoving $50s in my undies so next thing I was up on the bar with my shirt off putting on a show they’d never forget. So I had all this money and as luck would have it the Space 44 guys were having a surfboard swap meet and I thought I may as well go and get me a new whip.

There was a heap of craft down there and the board I ended up buying was probably the worst of the lot. It looked like the puppy nobody wants at the pound. The one they put down first. I paid $15 for it and took it home. It was tiny and ugly but I ended up loving it to death. It was super fast and surfed in the pocket incredibly. It also had heaps of pop if you wanted to do airs. I guess it put me in all these strange places on the wave a conventional board wouldn’t take you. I called it the Wonder Board and rode it religiously for two years. Eventually, my dad got sick of hearing people saying, “Why are you riding that heap of shit?” and he got me a new board. The Wonder Board went under the house until Junkyard Dogs came calling.

Chippa Wilson: The Pro

This board was a heap of shit, but man it flew. It was like a skateboard, all over the place and super fun to ride. It looked like it had been shaped from the blank of an old mal or something. It had the worst outline I’ve ever seen and the strangest distribution of foam from nose to tail, but yeah, you could fly around and I think I even managed a couple of airs on it. So even though I would never even look sideways at this board normally, it was great to give it a chance and a lot of fun to find little moments where it clicked in.

Beau Emerton described the Ledge as “irresistible to women,” due to its “big and beefy body shape”. Wonder what that means? Beau in rooftop slide mode.

Beau Emerton described the Ledge as “irresistible to women,” due to its “big and beefy body shape”. Wonder what that means? Beau in rooftop slide mode.

The Ledge

Beau Emerton: The Pro

I’m an open minded kind of guy so when I first saw this giant single fin sticking out of the sand with what looked like a street curb carved into the bottom of it I thought to myself “to heck with surfing on this thing I’m gonna get my skatey and smith grind this puppy!” The groms had grabbed all the other Junkyard Dogs and The Ledge was the only board left so I figured I might as well take it for a spin.

Paddling out it felt pretty good. It’s a big beefy thing so I was motoring around the line-up like I had a little outboard stuck on the back, but when I took off on a wave, man, it was like trying to surf the Titanic. It was like riding a sinking ship. So I brushed doing turns and just decided to go straight and the board actually liked it. It found little trim zones and sailed along beautifully and I ended up having the time of my life.

It’s funny because over the course the week, riding all these old boards made me think a lot about my old boards, where they’d be now and who’d be riding them. I mean, I kept a few, there’s a board I got the best wave of my life on at Teahupoo that I’ve still got, and another from when I won the US Open (that is so thin I can’t even imagine how I ever rode it), but at one stage in my career I was getting between 20 to 40 boards a year. Where did they all go? And then I started thinking about the guy who shaped the Ledge board and the different owners it might have had over the course of its life and I wondered “Do these guys ever think of this board and wonder where it is and what it might be doing today?” And my answer to that is no chance. They were probably stoked to get rid of it.

When the thruster came into play so too did the imagination. Pama puts the Simon on rail.

When the thruster came into play so too did the imagination. Pama puts the Simon on rail.

The Dingo

Simon Anderson: The Shaper

I was a cut and dry single fin man and I had no reason to change. I was perfectly happy surfing single fins and I’d still be surfing them today if it weren’t for MR and the tour.

MR was dominating the tour and we were trying to fight back somehow. I was surfing twin fins in two-foot waves and having some degree of success but I felt really flat when I got back on the single fin unless there was a bit of speed in the wave (as soon as you got a proper wave the single fin was fine). So I began trying to come up with a design that worked in three to four feet surf. That’s what led to the Thruster.

This Thruster was probably made between 1981 and 1983, so it’s a relatively early model. After the success we’d had at Bells and Pipeline, Thrusters became popular very quickly. All the shapes were full shapes so there was a lot of work – an hour and a half minimum – to crafting these things. They were all glassed pretty light because we were so focussed on performance, not a lot boards survived, certainly not in good condition. So it’s a little bit unusual to see this one in such good nick.

Most boards back then were all-rounders. They were made for one to six foot. Pretty much everyone’s got a story about their first Thruster and the way that it had added another dimension to their surfing, with connection through turns, holding speed through the length of the turn, just all these things that they’d never felt before.

I think the fundamentals of surfing are there for you to feel in this particular board. It’s certainly like stepping back to the beginning of a new age. They’re not super sophisticated by any means. We’ve come a long way since the early 80s and the surfing that you see is testament to that. There’s no going back, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t or that you shouldn’t.

Yes, there are awful surfboards. I’ve made some boards for myself that really haven’t worked and I’ve given them to other people and they’ve been the best boards they’ve ever had. It’s definitely horses for courses and there’s no such thing as a bad board, well maybe there is, but it’s probably going to suit someone somewhere.

Bob McTavish’s Bluebird has been experiencing somewhat of a revival, but even he had to laugh when told the thing went great in two foot shoreys. Speedy chip float on a board that was designed for huge Lennox 41 years ago.

Bob McTavish’s Bluebird has been experiencing somewhat of a revival, but even he had to laugh when told the thing went great in two foot shoreys. Speedy chip float on a board that was designed for huge Lennox 41 years ago.

The Bluebird

Will Cartwright: The Original Owner

I bought the Bluebird off the rack at Barry Bennett’s in Brooky, straight across the road from the school around 74. It was a beautiful shape but what really stood out to me was the swallow tail. I’d never seen that before so I was keen to give it a go.

It was a long board so it wasn’t perfectly suited to short, dumpy Sydney beach breaks but when I’d get a clean wave, the feeling of coming off the bottom and then off the top was unlike anything I’d experienced. I quickly fell in love with riding it.

I think the standout session for me would have to be when I went to New Zealand with a bunch of mates shortly before I married my sweetheart Megey. We scored Raglan at about eight foot and absolutely perfect and the Bluebird was positively singing. We had no leggies in those days, so a lot of the onion rings and dings you can see on it happened during those sessions, but the board really came into its own. It was the perfect board for those waves.

In the late 80s I stashed it under my mum and dad’s house in Epping and pretty much forgot about it. Years went by until 2009 when Mum and Dad had to move out, so I go under the house during the move and there it is. I was so stoked. I pulled it out and even got it back in the water a few times when me and a bunch of mates did our annual surf trip to Creso. Nobody could believe I could still ride it. I had some great little surfs.

That was a few years ago. Since then it’s lived under our house at Warrell Creek until my nephew came and grabbed it for the Junkyard Dogs experiment. I was interested to see what modern surfers would make of it but I wasn’t about to hand it over for good. I hope to give it to my grandson Rocky one day.

Chippa Wilson: The Pro

That Bluebird was incredible fun. I picked it up and it was hella thick through the body but extremely narrow. Considering the waves I was about to surf – two foot peaks – it didn’t make much sense to take it out but the outline was really cool and the swallow tail definitely caught my attention. My initial goal was to go straight on it, try and find a trimline, and to my surprise it locked in straight away. You couldn’t turn it like a normal surfboard, you had to really do some funky shit with your body if you wanted to change direction but I was having a ball running way back to the tail and giving it a go. It’s such a bummer we didn’t get bigger waves because I think it was my favourite board of the lot. I would have loved to have surfed it on a big ol’ eight foot left point.


Junk Yard Dogs from Surfing World Magazine on Vimeo.

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