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Paddle for surf ski ST CHRIS

Date: 1953
Overall: 2440 x 180 mm
Medium: Wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Estate of John Mervyn 'Jack' O'Brien
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Paddle
Object No: 00039662

User Terms

    This double sided paddle was used by Jack O'Brien on his surf ski ST CHRIS, a 3.9m long plywood surf ski built in 1953. O'Brien was a surf and fitness enthusiast and ST CHRIS was one of at least three skis that he owned and used off the northern beaches of Sydney where he lived.

    O'Brien attempted two trips on ST CHRIS from Cronulla to Palm Beach. In 1955 heavy seas forced him to land at Manly rather than his original destination. In 1957 he successfully reached Palm Beach covering the 60km in nine hours and 15 minutes.
    SignificanceThis surf ski paddle reflects early designs of the unique Australian surf ski. It also represents an early Australian benchmark for endurance paddling when it was used in 1957 by John 'Jack' O’Brien to paddle the ST CHRIS surf ski from Cronulla to Palm Beach in nine hours and 15 minutes.
    HistoryJohn 'Jack' O'Brien, former Queenscliff lifesaver and professional boxer, was a pioneer of endurance solo paddling using single and double surf skis. Over the course of ten trips from 1940 to 1962 he attempted or set non-stop paddling records on ocean trips between Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle. His training regime included cycling 48 km a day, following a strict vegetarian diet and 24 hour endurance paddling sessions.

    Being tied to his craft in rough seas, navigating by day and night and avoiding hazards such as reefs, rocks and sharks were all part of the challenge. In 1952 he claimed a world record for the greatest distance for non-stop ocean paddling in a 24 hour period, paddling 128km in 22 hours between Watson's Bay and Newcastle. Although his claims were contested in the media and subsequently bettered by others, he is remembered for pushing the boundaries of ocean paddling on surf skis.

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