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John 'Jack' O'Brien and Patti Morgan

Date: 1940s
Overall: 252 x 200 mm
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from John Mervin O'Brien Estate
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00039913

User Terms

    In this photograph, a youthful Jack O'Brien is carrying a Manly life saver surf ski as he walks with Patti Morgan along Queenscliff Beach, Manly. The image was used for a national advertising campaign for Vincent’s headache powders.

    Manufacturers of the analgesic 'Vincent's Powders' used innovative marketing strategies to reach their consumers. Images of men and women in beach settings were frequently used to advertise their products, equating the carefree lifestyle of Australia's beaches with pain relief.
    SignificanceThis photograph for a Vincent's headache powder advertisment features John 'Jack' O'Brien, who pioneered endurance surf ski paddling in Australia and completed ten endurance trips from 1940 to 1962 between Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle.
    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.

    Ray Leighton worked for Russell Roberts in 1932 and later for Home magazine. In 1946 he moved to studios in Grosvenor Street, Sydney. Like his contemporaries Max Dupain and Laurence Le Guay, Ray Leighton was an important figure in Sydney commercial photography, and for the next three decades specialised in advertising and industrial work. Photographing beach scenes stemmed from Ray Leighton's keen interest in surfing, and a number of Ray's Manly photographs were published in newspapers and magazines during the 1940s. He joined Manly Surf Club in 1932 in order to store his plywood long board, which was too heavy to transport. This was common practice among surfers in the 1930s. Ray made his own boards with distinctive patterns and insignia, earning him the name 'Badges'. He was Manly Surf Life Saving Club's top boardsman in the 1939-1940 season.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: John 'Jack' O'Brien and Patti Morgan

    Assigned title: Jack O'Brien carrying surf ski or Vincents National Advertisement campaign

    Related People
    Photographer: Ray Leighton

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