Paipo - Belly boarding in Australia




Jeff Callaghan sharing a wave with Nat Young, 1969.
Surf International (Vol. 2# 4). Photo by John Witzig.
Later versions of the photo airbrush Jeff out.

Final comments


Bellyboarding has appealed to both novice surfers, for whom the bellyboard was a transition to riding a surfboard as well as to competent bodysurfers and others who saw opportunities for going faster or for obtaining greater manoeuvrability than bodysurfing or longboarding offered. In the 1960s bellyboarders were often found where there were hollow waves or at rocky locations, which were hazardous to surf before leg-ropes became popular. Fast, hollow waves were suited to the planning speed that a bellyboard could obtain while the reduced buoyancy was a bonus in getting out in big surf.

Rather than a passing fad, riding prone has been an essential aspect of the surfing experience historically, while the fun of riding prone continues to be rediscovered. This is well illustrated in a 2009 interview involving a group of pro-surfers (Binns 2009):

MO: Oh yeah, when no-one's around I don't even try, you cruise. Early mornings at D-Bah, with no no-one around, it's so good to not even try, and just go across.
OW: I lie down sometime and just enjoy the waves.
MO: Me too!
OW: Yeah, you just go across and you're like 'this is the funnest wave of the session. I'm gliding'. (p.70)
Appreciating something of the history of bellyboards won't revolutionise the surfing world, though it does give recognition to surfers who were having fun with a shortboard revolution of their own.


Acknowledgements

The work of Geoff Cater is an inspiration and source of invaluable information. Also, both Geoff and Rod Rodgers provided useful comments on earlier drafts. John Milliken provided invaluable assistance in turning a jumbled text mass into this document.

This account would be empty without the information provided to me by the people who I phoned or e-mailed (see reference section), or the photos that have been generously provided. Mike Brown, Jeff Callaghan, John Clark, Gary Clist, Kit Carson, Bryan Hayden, Henry Marfleet, Ray Moran (Manly Surf museum), Bob Smith, Leigh Tingle, John Burn and Phil Trigger have been especially generous with their time and assistance. The Surfworld museums at Currumbin and Torquay have also been of assistance and are always worth a visit.



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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. Cronulla and south
  7. Maroubra to Bronte
  8. Manly to Palm Beach
  9. the North coast
  10. Victoria
  11. Queensland
  12. South Australia
  13. Western Australia
  14. Tasmania
  15. New Zealand from the 1960s
  16. Final comments, acknowledgements and information sources