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Redwood surfboard used by William Cavanagh

Date: c 1930
Overall: 2745 x 595 x 63 mm, 30 kg
Medium: Redwood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Lorna Cavanagh
Object Name: Surfboard
Object No: 00030646

User Terms

    This 1930s unvarnished solid Redwood surfboard was used by Victorian swimmer, surfer and surf lifesaver, William Cavanagh. Redwood was recognised as being tough and durable, though much lighter boards in balsa and plywood were also popular. The board has a flat deck, curved bottom, rounded nose and rails, a flat tail and no fin. Boards remained finless until the early 1950s, and often replicated this early Hawaiian shape.
    SignificanceThe influence of Hawaiian surfboard designs on Australian board making was felt up until the 1950s. This surfboard is representative of the solid hardwood designs common on Australian beaches between World War I and World War II.
    HistoryThough Australia was first introduced to surfing in the late 19th century by traders and travellers who had passed through Hawaii, the surfing demonstration of Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku at Freshwater Beach in 1914 was a significant moment in Australia's surfing history. Solid hardwood planks were common on Australian beaches between World War I and World War II, and pre-dated the Australian surfing boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Designs were often similar to the Duke's 1914 board, which was shaped from sugar pine purchased from Hudson's Timber Mill in Sydney, and incorporated many of the standard Hawaiian design characteristics.

    William Cavanagh (1908-1995) was a Victorian State title holder and member of the Melbourne Swimming Club who surfed at Lorne and Torquay in the 1930s and was a founding member of the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club. As a 16 year old William Cavanagh was known as the 'Peter Pan' of swimming. He has also competed against Olympic swimming medalists Andrew Boy Charlton and Frank Beaurepaire, and in 1925 won the Victorian 220 yards Championship. He retired from competitive swimming and moved to the United States, returning to Australia in 1935 and making a comeback to win the State half-mile title, which he repeated in 1937. He again retired from competitive swimming and joined the Royal Australian Air Force. He returned to Melbourne and began training for pennant swimming. In 1938 he outpaced youthful rivals and won his third Victorian Championship at Surry Park.
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