The Duke Replica surfboard
In 2015 Freshwater Beach re-enacted the birth of surfing in Australia held 100 years earlier by Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku who put on the first demonstration of “surf shooting” in front of a crowd at Freshwater Beach
The actual surfboard used from that period is held in storage display at the Freshwater Surf club so a replica was needed and Glenn (Bluey) Myers and his son took to the task and created an accurate replica that his son Tom Myers not only assisted with but rides expertly at the end of this video.
This is what surfing in 2015 could have been like with expert surfing by Tom Myers.
( supplied by Eric Middledorp - Duke Board Caretaker and Freshwater SLSC History Committee )
The Duke was invited to Australia by the NSW Amateur Swimming Association to undertake a number of swimming exhibitions.
This invitation was accepted as a result of the sportsmanship shown to the Duke by the Australian swimmers during the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. The 100M freestyle event included the Duke and Australian swimmer Cecile Healy. The Duke was delayed, but Cecile refused to allow the race to go ahead until the Duke arrived. This unselfish act of sportsmanship allowed the Duke to race and he eventually won the Gold Medal.
Although the primary aim of his visit was to take part in many swimming competitions, the Australian officials were also aware of his surfing prowess.
So, William Hill (Sec. Amateur Swimming Association) and Freshwater SLSC member Don McIntyre invited the Duke to stay at “Boomerang camp” Freshwater Beach over Christmas and to undertake some surfboard riding exhibitions which he did on Christmas Eve 1914 and again, most famously on 10 January 1915.
Duke Kharnamoku recalled in an interview:
” A few Australian surfers had tried boards but they hadn’t got the knack so I pencilled out a design and asked George Hudson’s timber yard to make up a board for me. I finished off the board by hand myself and at Freshwater Beach on Sydney’s north side, showed Australians how it was done”
It was also reported that the timber used to make the board “was sugar pine (Pinis lambertiana) and and confirmed that the hand shaping was completed by Duke and that a timber firm, George Hudson’s donated a piece of Sugar Pine 9ft long, 2ft wide and 3″ thick. The firm did the rough cutting to the Duke’s instructions then he finished off the finer designing of the bottom of the board to give it lift on the wave.”
The rest is history with the Duke going on to wow the big crowd gathered to watch him effortlessly catching waves The widely published exhibition lit the fuse to popularise surfing in Australia.
The making of the Replica
We now move on a century to the 2013/2014 season, where it was decided to stage a re-enactment as part of the 10 January Centenary Celebrations.
The re-enactment was to reflect as closely as possible the sequence of events that occurred during the Dukes 1915 surfing exhibition at Freshwater.
Understandably, the Dukes original board held in the Freshwater SLSC Heritage Room is far too precious, not to mention fragile, to ever be allowed to be surfed on again.
So, at the end of 2013 the Executive Committee meeting of Freshwater SLSC , it was duly proposed and approved that a ‘true replica’ of the original Duke Kharnomuku surfboard be made to be used during the re-enactment. The replica was to be made of solid timber and made as closely as possible to reflect the appearance and design of the original.
Selecting the Board maker
After extensive considerations it was decided to use a local artisan craftsman, Glenn Myers together with his apprentice son Tom to be approached to build the replica.
Glenn is amply qualified to take on this commission as he has had wide ranging experience in creation of wooden objects such as timber boats and other timber craft, various wooden objet d’art, wooden trophies and of course surfboards.
The selection of these master craftsman has extra significance as Glenn and Tom are the son and grandson of the 1950s board-rider and legendary Freshwater SLSC stalwart Kevin (Bluey) Myers! Kevin’s surf experience encompassed more than half a century across nearly every type and style of surfing over this time. Apart from being a widely experienced and respected surf boat sweep winning several Australian championships, he also body surfed and rode nearly every style of surf craft from the huge hollow ply toothpick boards and surf skis to the more modern wave skis and Malibu boards.
As well as there ability to create truely special surfboards Glenn & Tom also have the essence of surfing running through their veins! Both are steeped in Freshie surfing history, with Glenn a foundation member of both the 1974 formed ‘Freshwater Board Riders Club’, and 1994 ‘Freshwater Longboard Club’ and Tom a 3rd generation Freshwater surfer, following in the footsteps of ‘Bluey’ and Glenn.
Both are champions surfers, with Tom a particularly talented surfer, winning many club championships at both junior and senior levels as well as being a NSW and Team Australia Rep.
Not only was Glenn considered to be the most appropriate as the board maker, the location of his home and workshop being a couple of hundred metres from the beach and Freshwater Surf Club was also an ideal location to make the replica.