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A Paipo Interview with Maurice Richardson

Ply bellyboards boards in Durban, South Africa in the of the 1940s

A Paipo Interview with Maurice Richardson
July 22, 2012 - Jersey (UK)
Andrew Garton and Jeremy Oxenden visited Maurice with questions from Bob Green
Additional assistance from Bev Angus, Geoff Cater, Glen Thompson and John Whittle

Maurice rode ply bellyboards boards and bodysurfed the Durban, South Africa beaches during the 1940s before moving to the northern hemisphere where he later discovered others still ride the boards of his youth.

1. When and where did you first ride a bellyboard?
Durban, South Africa, 1940 through 1942, aged 9 years. I didn't bellyboard. Most of the time I bodysurfed without a board.

Maurice: La Societe Jersiaise 1971 and circa 1981.

Photos courtesy of Maurice Richardson.

2. How did you get started? Were there others in your family riding bellyboards or was it just a popular activity?
It was on Durban's South Beach that I learnt to swim and surf and because of the surf and it's strength I was soon a pretty good swimmer. Just about everyone on the beach didn't just swim in the surf, they surfed either with or without boards. And because young Durban kids of my age were all surfing expertly, I needed to learn quickly in order to keep up with them.

Durban, ca. 1925.

Source: Geoff Cater's Surfresearch site. Postcard by Valentine and Sons Publishing Co. (S.A.)

3. Where did your first board come from? What was it like?
I never had a board of my own. I occasionally borrowed one. They were made of plywood as I remember.
4. Was it mostly children your age riding bellyboards?
Some were but most children bodysurfed. Adults, too, bodysurfed and bellyboarded.

South African bellyboards.

Photos courtesy of Surfing Heritage South Africa.

5. Did you go out past the breaking waves or were you catching waves on a sandbank? Did you use flippers?
As my swimming became stronger, the further I went out to catch waves. Finally, before I left Durban at 11 years of age to return to the U.K., I was catching breaking waves about 100 to 150 yards offshore. I don't remember anyone using flippers.
6. What would a good ride consist of? What technique was involved?
To begin with, I would start swimming flat out in front of an oncoming wave, to be picked up and carried on by the wave up on the beach. As I got more expert, the more exhilarating the sport became. Finally, before I left Durban, I was able to swim out farther and catch the swells, as they broke into rollers.
7. Do you know about the history of bellyboards in South Africa? There is a jigsaw puzzle of early South African bellyboarding? Had you seen this or other media, such as books or films?
I didn't realize that surfing even had a history. Only after a couple of histories were published did I begin to appreciate the historical evolution of surfing.

(Below left) Surf-riding at Muizenberg: The Queen of Cape Coast Watering Places and (below right) a portion from Surf-Riding. These surfing jig-saw puzzles date from the late-1920s to early-1930s, according to Henry Marfleet.

Courtesy of Henry Marfleet, posted on the website. Published by The South African Series of Jig-Saw Puzzles. London: A.V.N. Jones & Co., LTD.
8. Any other comments?
I think that's about it. Thinking back over seventy years, one's memory begins to fade a bit. If I am able to trawl up anything more, I'll let you l know.

I remember returning to Jersey in 1945, soon after the German occupation ended. I went swimming in St. Ouen's Bay. I started to bodysurf in the waves and was surprised to discover after a while that I had an audience of about half a dozen spectators who wanted to know where I had learnt to surf!

South African bellyboards.

Photos courtesy Surfing Heritage South Africa

Other Notes: None.

Feel free to send me suggestions, comments and additional information to: The Paipo Interviews

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Last updated on: 01/19/15