VIA – ABC AU
Surfer and collector Phil Critchlow among his many, storied surfboards (ABC Local: Rick Eaves)
Phil was 11 when his father found that 11 foot balsa board, threw it on the back of his ute and gave it to his son.
He has been hooked ever since, a ‘lifer’ in surfing and still going strong in the powerful waves of Tasmania’s west coast. He is in his 50th year of riding waves.
“My father still says it’s the worst thing he ever did,” Phil says with a laugh.
“I think back then he would have just liked me to be a good man for mixing cement with a shovel.”
Now 61, Phil has also become a dedicated collector of old surfboards of every era and is just as passionate about the people and the stories that each board represents.
Past his 60th birthday, Phil Critchlow still chasing big waves at Marrawah on the board his sons call Greedy Guts (ABC Local: rick eaves)
A near-death experience explains a head-shaped dent on one board; the crazy artwork on another was inspired by the era of ‘dropping-out to get far-out’; and then there are the shapers, artists and craftsmen, who made their mark on surf history, local or global.
Now with more than 100 boards in his collection, Phil says he feels an obligation and responsibility to the history. He has written entries about every board and says he has learnt to leave plenty of white space because the stories will inevitably be added to.
“That Simon Anderson thruster up there, just for one example, I’ve had five different surfers in this shed now, all locals, who rode their first wave or did their first real turn on that board,” Phil enthuses.
“I’d really, really like to find my own first board.”
Over his working life, Phil spent as much time working in the ocean as playing in it, doing all sorts of fishing and particularly the abalone diving that initially lured him to Tasmania.
A small section of Phil Critchlow’s collection. He says it has developed a sense of historical responsibility (ABC Local: Rick Eaves)
He also feels strongly that the only ethos a surfer should have is ‘work first, take care of business, then you can surf’. Just to be sure there are not hitches, he also recommends a jar for brownie points.
“Luckily my wonderful wife Audrey enjoys surfing and she finds the collecting interesting too. We really do have some great experiences meeting people and hearing their stories.
Phil’s collections features boards dating back to the beginnings of surfing in Australia as well as some state of the art modern craft (ABC Local: Rick Eaves)
“And then of course there’s the thrill of finding something special and full of history. More often than not, you find those classic boards in an op-shop or on the tip.”
Some stories are more significant than others, like a board which Phil believes was built in southern Tasmania in 1956. He says there is an ongoing debate about who first stood up on a board in Tasmania and when.
Phil says he has on more than one occasion gone to purchase a board off and old surfer and left again empty-handed after telling them they should keep the board as a reminder of the great days.
“I’m not an avid collector, worried about my territory and things like that. I encourage people to get those boards out and display them,” he says.
“Be some guy there sitting in a chair saying ‘see how I’ve got this dent in my head and the board’s got that shadow near the nose, from when I was surfing, down at the Hobart points’.
“You see the stars in their eyes you know and they’re taking themselves back. I just get a bit of rag, clean it up a bit and find a spot above the bench and say ‘keep it’.”
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