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Surf ski ST CHRIS with paddles and trolley

Date: 1953
Dimensions:
Other: 710 x 760 cm, 3780 mm
Vessel Dimensions: 3.91 m × 0.76 m (12.83 ft × 2.49 ft)
Medium: Wood, leather, varnish, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Estate of John Mervin 'Jack' O'Brien
Object Name: Surf ski
Object No: V00039660

User Terms

    Description
    This single plywood surf ski named ST CHRIS was built by Herb Robson of Balmain for Jack O’Brien 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.
    SignificanceST CHRIS reflects early designs of the unique Australian surf ski, and represents an early Australian benchmark for endurance paddling when in 1957 John 'Jack' O’Brien paddled 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.
    Related People
    Designer: Herb Robson

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