Phil Critchlow has been surfing for 50 years and has over 100 boards in his collection, but he still wants to find his first – an 11’ Balsa coated in barnacles, that washed up on a beach in Eden on the South Coast of NSW.
His dad came home with a Balsa from the early 50’s in the back of his ute, Critchlow was 11 at the time and he has been hooked ever since. According to Critchlow, his dad still says "it was the worse thing he ever did"
By the mid 1960’s, board designs were undergoing major changes; they were getting lighter, shorter and wider. This period of innovative surfboard shapes and new experimental designs are a primary feat of his collection, “these were the ones I frothed on as a kid and couldn’t get.” he laughs.
Finding boards such as these started the collection in Critchlows Tassie shed, “I just wanted to decorate the walls and it just snowballed”.
Amongst the collection he has several different historical shapes, from d-fins, mals with dolphin fins, pintail v bottoms, pintails, shortboards, thrusters and twin fins.
With each board he collects, a story is told. Five locals have each said that they used to have the same Simon Anderson thruster in Critchlow’s collection as their first board.
“Five good surfers did their first turn, got their first wave on that little thing” he remarks. I’ve been to half a dozen people’s places and talked them out of selling their board, there’d be one guy there sitting on the chair 'see how
I've got this dent in my head and the board's got that shadow near the nose, [that’s] from when I was surfing down at the Hobart points’, he says, “you see these stars in their eyes, they’re taking themselves back”.
Amongst the collection, Phil has boards from the likes of World Champs Sunny Garcia and Pam Burridge, “he’s a nice boy”, he says, [on Garcia].
Critchlow’s collection of boards can be used as a documentation of Tasmanian surfing history from the early 50’s and onwards.
He points to a board built in Tasmania in 1956, an early time for Tasmanian surfing history, “Everyones starting to wonder, who was the first person to stand up on a board in Tasmania?” he asks.
Found from newspaper ads, op-shops and the tip, these often underappreciated boards find a new life within Critchlow’s shed, however they are 'retired’ from the water.
I’ve got 2 boys that surf and they just wanna’ pull them off the wall and surf the things” he laughs.
A museum may be on the cards for Critchlow or a surf film starring his boys riding the boards for one last time, but regardless, Critchlow wants the boards to be preserved and remembered as a piece of Tasmanian surfing history.
“I cherish them all, they’ve all got their own stories, from being built and now they’re all immortalised in my shed – if I can keep my boys hands off them” He laughs.