|A Paipo Interview with
December 21, 2015 through August 15, 2017 - Coogee, Australia
Phone interview by Bob Green
1960s, "plys" were a transition between bodysurfing
surfoplanes, and stand-up surfing. Around the southern Sydney suburbs
of Maroubra and Cronulla early kneeboarding developed out of riding
bellyboards while kneeling. Pete Berry was riding, filming and making
these boards before establishing his own board labels, Nomad and
Mountain Dew. He designed some unconventional shapes which
have continued to be influential today. Pete has described working from
a concept, which would then be pushed in different directions, looking
for something a "bit wilder." Pete was also influential in the early
days of kneeboard clubs and surfer fundraising. Quads (short for
quadriplegic) was a dig at the term "cripples" but also a worthy cause
he supported. A man of many talents, Pete Berry passed away on 13
2017, at age 70.
Photo by Chris Elfes in Surf, (1)6, 42.
How did you get into surfing?
I started off with a
balsa malibu in 1963.
Before that I was riding surfoplanes,
which everybody rode around here,
and bodysurfing. I was allowed to go to the beach when I was six years
old. My mother stupidly said, "You can go to the beach by yourself
(without my sister who was five years older and used to boss me around
all the time) once you can swim two lengths of the local Olympic pool."
That was when I was five years old and by six I could do it.
2. I've seen some photos and
old footage that had guys riding prone and kneeling. Was that some of
That was some incentive.
It was a big incentive. I was going to Coogee Beach which is a very
safe beach. Not a lot of people drown there unless you're a backpacker
and get pissed, you can drown there easy then.
When I was 9 years old we moved house. I think I got a surfoplane when
I was 10 years old. It took me a year and a half to save up for a
surfoplane. In 1963, I bought this balsa board that weighed 45 pounds.
reckon I was only kid in the whole school who could scratch his knees
without bending over. Dad never owned a car and nobody would give you a
lift. You couldn't get them on a bus. My ears kinda grew out of my neck
because I used to carry it on my head. It was over two kilometres from
long way from ply, Nazgul.
courtesy of Brad Arman.
One of the local guys turned up with this bellyboard thing, which was
about four and a half feet long, made out of balsa and cedar. It was
made by Barry Hutchins from Caringbah (see Note 1
for more on Hutchins).
Then I ran into the guys riding the plywood, so I started off with
them. I then bought a board from Barry Hutchins, it was a bigger board,
5 ft. 2 in. or something. It was bigger than everyone else's. It was based on a
Hawaiian design. A very weird looking thing I saw at Rob Conneely's
shop at Bondi Junction.
What did this board look like?
It had a thin nose and the sides cut out of it. It was shaped like a
teaspoon. Years later when I was working at the paper mills I ran into
the security head, turned out he bought the board. He said it was a
very good board. I was trying to save the money up, I finally got the
money up, I got over there and it had been sold. I drew up what I
thought it looked like, but it was a bit of a dog. The rails were too
thick and too round. I obviously didn't describe it right, but I had
fun on it.
At this stage I knocked up a trailer to go
behind my bicycle, the board went in it and I had a little luggage rack
that I used to stick my blue Globite school suitcase on. In the case I
used to have camera with the 300 mm lens. I used to put that suitcase
on the beach. Years later I was talking to guys and they said, "we all
knew that you had the camera in the suitcase but nobody would steal it
because they knew it was there and they just wanted to see the photos."
We used to do that
before we got proper foam
boards. The other thing was that the beachies kept confiscating our
boards and we could go and make another one every Saturday morning.
3. Tell me more about these
When was that?
How long did you ride the boards for?
Until I could get the money to make real good, bigger kneeboards. I was
a late starter in 1963, there was already a lot of guys on the beach
riding paipos. They were just a sheet of plywood. We actually screwed
drawer handles onto them. You know what they were used for. When the
beach inspector would come out and hassle everybody, he'd come out and
say, "Do you see anyone out on bellyboards?" What you'd do was wear one
flipper, instead of two, so that way two people could buy a pair of
flippers and use them. And the other thing was, when you saw him coming
you'd stick your foot through the handle of the paipo and tread water
until he'd go away. It was four or five feet below you, "Ah no, we
didn't see anyone out here on bellyboards." Him and his mates were
allowed to surf Maroubra Point using handboards which were barred on
the beach but we weren't allowed to go out there on bellyboards because
it was a bodysurfing area according to his rules. We had fins on them.
So who did you surf with?
My mate from school, Phil Shapiro, and his mates Dick Bush and Ronnie
Ralph. Ronnie was about the best paipo rider on the beach. I've got a
photo of Dick Bush. One day I went down to the beach and said, "There's
nobody out in the water" and then someone said, "Look where Dick Bush
is." He was like a 100 to 150 metres further out than anyone else. I
"What's going on?" They said, "There's a set once every 20 to 25
minutes." Everybody is going in trying to surf this about 5 foot wave
and I've got a photo of him on a 10 foot wave. He took off on the point
side of the storm water channel and made it to the center of the
pavilion which is half of the length of the beach.
We didn't go where we
wanted to go with these
things because we didn't have the equipment at the time. I have vacuum
bagging equipment now. I knocked out a couple of paipo out fourteen or
more years ago. I vacuum bagged them so they have a bit of rocker in
them and a bit of spoon in the front. I put balsa wood around the rails
to give a bit more lift in the nose and to build them up a bit. They're
straight plywood with a single layer of glass over it. We wanted to go
about 4 ft. long and 2 ft. wide but we could only go to 3 ft. long
weren't allowed to take anything over 3 ft. long on the bus. So you
them 3 ft. long so the bus conductor didn't get you. They conducted
4. How far afield did you surf?
Guys would also make them a specific length so they
could get a certain number out of a sheet of ply.
There was a plywood shop opposite Maroubra Fire Station, in Maroubra
Road. He'd sell cut up sheets and we could get 3 x 3 ft. or 3 x 1-1/2
The wood board with a fin is one of these more recent
I called it a Lurline design because that's what we used to ride at
Lurline, but it was expanded. It was 46-7/8 by 23-3/8 inches
and was shaped on December 29, 2002.
Pete and the
courtesy of Pete Berry.
I made two up, that and
a twin fin, which is a pin-nose pintail sort of thing. A rounded thing
which was what we made more of, than the other. Both were done using
vacuum bagging. The originals were fiberglass because it was cheaper
and quicker than varnish. You could do it in a day compared to using 20 coats of varnish
over a two period. They were made out of two layers of ply. They
have a spoon shape in them, with lift in the nose and on the deck they
have balsa wood on there. I shave the rails to very thin. A year ago a
local guy said he wanted one. I still have the mold to bag them onto,
in my workshop and I tried to get hold of some rib cedar ply to go with
the balsa but it was going to cost me more to get the ply than they
wanted to pay for the board. It was $400 a sheet for the ply. I needed
three slices out of a 4-mil sheet. That was three quarters of a sheet.
That was going to cost me $300 per board for the ply before I even got
the resin, glass and balsa wood for the rails.
and Cameron Haynes with the two 2002 paipos, a single fin and a twin
courtesy of Pete Berry.
The major place we
used to ride was a place called Lurline Bay (see Note
5. So you took a few photos?
I've seen some photos of Lurline.
Were they the ones from a 1964 issue of Surfing World with
Aiden Parsons and John
Holden? That was a serious wave on a NE swell. John
Holden was a guy who pioneered a lot of surfing breaks, like Little
Avalon. You'd take off in ankle deep water on a good 6 to 8 ft. wave.
a good article in Surfing World, all guys bodysurfing. There
guys riding boards. I used to love surfing that place but you can't
surf it under 6 ft. Lurline Bay was the nearest place if you wanted to
fishing, or Honeycombe Rock. It's a 400 metre walk from the house to
sea. Skin diving, fishing, surfing and stuff.
and John Dunn bodysurfing Lurline Bay, June 1964.
John Pennings (1964) and (right) unknown, courtesy of Dennis Markson.
I'd heard a lot of these early bellyboard guys were
also skin divers.
Most of them did. Especially when you went away, you didn't want to
spend money on food. You tried to get a couple of abs, or shoot, fish,
a cray or something.
I was a fisherman so I knew where every current was in the local area.
So if I got caught out at Lurline I knew where to go. You had to use
the currents and the four neutral spots where there was no wave action
to drag you around out there. If I lost my board, being a kneeboard
rider, with giant fins, I could also bodysurf really well.
What I used to do,
on Saturday, it was
before I was old enough to drink, but I did drink, was go for a surf,
dry off, take my pictures, go home and Saturday night I used to process
all the negatives, do my prints and contact sheets. I'd take one or two
good ones and I'd print them up as a 10x8 which would cost an
enormous amount of money if you got them in the shops in those days.
I'd print up the ones that were good and sell them for a quarter of the
price you'd pay to have them processed in the chemist shop to the guys
and I'd take orders for the other ones to be printed up as am ordinary
6. I want to ask about the
video footage I sent you. Did you take it?
Berry photo of a 1960s paipo rider at Lurline.
courtesy of Cameron Haynes.
You were bit of an entrepreneur?
That's how I paid to go through high school. Dad didn't have much
money. I worked in Christmas breaks and there wasn't a lot of money for
pocket money, so what I did through the Christmas breaks I'd save up as
much as I could with my camera and stuff, and I got my board. On
I'd hawk the ones off the contact sheets.
This was at Maroubra or Coogee?
It was Maroubra; Coogee doesn't have a real surf. It's got some hell
surf, it's got an island off the front of it that stops a lot of it.
There is a bombora between it and the next beach (a bombora is an
Australian term for an area of large sea waves breaking over
a shallow area such as a submerged rock shelf, reef, or sand bank that
is located some distance from the shoreline and beach surf break).
That's the way I made my money. I can
remember one night printing 153 photographs. I was making a 400 percent
on the materials, so it was virtually giving me a wage. That's when I
went to uni, so that really helped even though I went on a scholarship
which paid me money as well.
Two of Pete
1960s photos of Lurline Bay. (Left) Paipo boarder in the wave face and
courtesy of Cameron Haynes.
7. It is what is amazing what
people have stashed away. I'd be interested to see some of these photos.
When was it taken?
There is quite a long section—that's Cronulla Point. It was shot about
1969. I couldn't surf it that day as I'd sprained my ankle trying to
the southy at Coogee. I had to get a right to go in, but I got two
lefts first. This was a serious distance out and I couldn't walk so I
went and shot that. I'd got hold of an old Bell and Howell, an American
Second World War photographer's camera. They worked on a 50-foot
cassette of film, so you could change them in about two seconds. You'd
just snap the back of the thing open, it had three fixed focal length
lenses and I started using that. Quite large waves with a right hand
break. A few guys riding bellyboards and coolites.
We used to call them
bellyboards in those days—they became known as kneeboards later on.
a coolite at Lurline Bay and (right) unknown kneeboarder at Cronulla
footage courtesy of Pete Berry (see the YouTube video at
Pete Berry's kneeboard and prone surfing footage).
So some of those were coolites? They rode them pretty
They used to ride them at Lurline when it was enormous. They'd drop in
on each other. They were about 5 inches thick. I saw one guy snap his
board on his head. His head got driven through his own board. He had a
headache for almost a week. There is also some footage in quite slow
motion. It is a left hander and there's some guys standing on the
One was Paul Minard, a South Australian kneeboard champion. They're
standing on the rocks and it is just slamming onto the rocks, saying,
"You can't ride that." The footage is of me surfing. It was shot around
1972. At that point we'd gone up to using a 16 mil Bolex Reflex. I had
set up with a 90 to 230 mm zoom on it. It also had an underwater
housing, with a 11.5 mm lens on it. You've only got the short
version—the full version is 3 hours with me surfing Crescent Head.
along long walls, just having a great time flying along walls, throwing
cutbacks and going down tubes the wrong way and coming back out again.
The boards had a lot more acceleration than the boards they build now
top left) Pete
Berry putting theory into practice riding the Lemon
board at Winki Pop; riding the Chimera Phase 3 at Botany Bay; surfing
the NSW south coast, ca.
1972; and, riding Crescent Head, ca. May 1974.
taken from video footage taken by Peter Bird (top row), bottom right
Glen Wright. This footage was taken using Pete Berry's equipment.
Bottom left is Crescent Head from the movie Room to Move by
O'Loglan. See the YouTube video at Pete
Berry kneeboard footage.
Were there many bellyboards around?
Around 1964, there were quite a few guys riding Cronulla Point on
plywoods. That's where Barry Hutchins came in. The nearest beach to
Caringbah is Cronulla.
A good excuse to
pull out old photos.
8. By the time boogie boards
were introduced bellyboards had basically disappeared.
I interviewed a guy who had a letter that John Kelly,
Hawaii, wrote in the 1960s, advising him how to make a paipo.
The big guy in Hawaii surfing them was John Waidelich. I remember
seeing pictures in a surfing magazine. He was surfing Rocky Point or
somewhere. He was the only person out there. On his first wave he broke
his jaw right through. He was also surfing Sunset. He hits the inside
section and does a 360 on the flick off. I think he was riding them
with very small fins.
They didn't have any fins (skegs).
The guys that were riding them on the northside that I ran into, that
was 1965, they said they were using John Waidelich designs. But they
done a couple of things. One, they'd put small fins on them but they
were very, very small fins and the other one is they'd made them like
the original kook box, the hollow ply board. And the guy cranked it. It
was at the Butterbox at Long Reef. But it started to sink so the guy
said he'd have to get his other board. He's gone in and drained it out
and came back out on an ironing board with the front planed up. I just
went, "I've got to have a go at that." We swapped boards and I had a go
at it. It was pine and he'd just planed the front up a bit.
had the first boogie in Australia. I got it in 1974, and took it over
New Zealand. I used to have a letter on the wall of my workshop to
show how dumb you can be. It was from Tom Morey asking me if I wanted
to be the Australian agent for Morey Boogies. They were something like
in the U.S. and I had to sell them for $50, and we were dollar for
dollar at that point to just break even. One of the guys two streets
from me saw me surfing at Maroubra and talked to me about it. He
imported them and was selling them for $65 each which was making a
reasonable profit. Then he decided he was going to cut them up and make
fins go on them using pieces of the stuff. Then Tom Morey heard about
it and canceled his franchise. You don't muck around with boogies
they were designed to be ridden the way Tom Morey designed them. The
classic was getting the thing here. It took almost a year because we
were working out freight and stuff. It turned out that he had a mate
who was sending fin box systems to Tom Arnold in South Australia and I
had a mate who worked for Tom Arnold. So they put it in this container
with Fins Unlimited, then got them put on Kwikasair and sent up to me.
those days you had to glue your own skins on. There was a high volume
one, we only got the low volume one out here. I glued it up. You could
put your own curvature into it. So I put it with a hook instead of a
rocker. In other words the tail went down, which is the way I use to
build all my boards, by that point.
9. Do you still have any of
the old ply boards?
Berry profile in Smorgasboarder magazine, 2012.
source: Swan, Dave. (2012, September/October). Peter Berry: Mountain Dew Kneeboards. Smorgasboarder,
13, 41-42. Also on the Internet at Issuu
Morey Boogie along with instructions and cat damage. (Right) The
source: Swan, Dave. (2012, September/October). Peter Berry: Mountain Dew Kneeboards. Smorgasboarder,
13, 41-42. Also on the Internet at Issuu
and Smorgasboarder. (Right) Photo by Pete Berry.
So they had
Later on, after many years, I learned that the proper term for it is
hook, in naval architecture terms.
No, what I used to do
was use them for a
while then sell them off so I could build more new boards. That was the
other way I was making money. I was building boards. I think I built my
first board in 1963. A kid up the road snapped his balsa board in half
and I shaped it into a bellyboard. I've got design books that go back
to the early-1980s that I've kept. There's projects on bellyboards to
the curvature in them. In the mid-1980s, I was teaching TAFE (Technical
and Further Education) and got a
whole lot of vacuum bagging stuff and knocked out a couple of boats. I
didn't get my arse into gear and actually make a mold to get curvature
in the paipos until 2002. The mold is only made out of chipboard and
some scrap oregon. The idea was to try and make a Greenough style spoon
out of plywood.
10. I'd like to ask you
about the evolution of your kneeboards.
The boards look like they ride like plys, but the latter boards are
surfed quite differently. (See a chronology of Pete Berry's kneeboards
in Note 3.)
I've got drawings for about 10 percent of the customs I built. I'd have
drawings for about a hundred boards. I don't have drawings for the
bellyboards because that was earlier. Kneeboards, surfskis, mals,
windsurfers. I did the whole lot. I used to get the Spirax notepads, a
little bit bigger than A3 and work on 1.5 inches to the foot
scale. So I could scale up exactly. The only thing is I drew them all
up in pencil so they are hard to copy.
How long did you ride the bellyboards for?
I just went from bellyboards to kneeboards. I just started to progress,
I started to kneel on them and that was it. We were still riding
plywoods, I was kneeling on plywoods.
When did you get your first fibreglass kneeboard?
That would have been 1964. I've got a board under the house that I
haven't dug out in years. It was made out of maple and pine. I put
these Perspex fins on it. It was 4-1/2 ft. long and 19 to 20 inches
wide. The very first time I took it out, we used to ride a break around
here, these days only boogie board riders go near it, as I paddled out
the fins landed on a rock because it sucked out to nothing. Just took
the fins straight off it. Stashed it under the house. It got about two
rides. I'll dig it out and take a picture of it.
I used to build seven boards a year for myself. Even when I was working
full-time I was building three boards a week so that was 150 a year.
went full-time I was only doing about four. I was doing everything,
shaping, spraying, glassing, glossing, polishing.
What label did you make your boards under?
The original one was Nomad. When I got rid of full-time employment I
called it Mountain Dew. It used to have underneath it, 100 proof
from the mainstream."
Holmes, Paul. (1976, November). Nomad: Different Directions In Kneeboard Design. Tracks,
74, 33. Courtesy of Ray
Henderson and the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland.
My mate Cameron has about 20 of my bellyboards. A Maroubra guy, he's
got a 1966 green F100 ambulance, which is renowned for rust. He has a
3-1/2 to 4 ft.' (42 to 48 inch) bellyboard. It's a foam one. It's set
up as a stinger. But the
thing is, you can take it out in real small waves and get lots of waves
nobody else can get into.
designs: 4 ft. 5 in. x 27 in. 1986 bellyboard and BigFoot; 1972 pintail
Haynes and 1986 board: 6 ft. x 27 in.
courtesy of Riq de Carvalho.
designs: Pre- and post-flex-tail (Big Foot). Deck view of Big foot
(5 ft. 11-1/2 in. x 29-1/2 in.).
courtesy of Mal Veigel & Riq de Carvalho.
I was using basically
the standard shape, but
a more pointy nose. The original surfboard I had was a pig board. It
was balsa, and the wide point was further back than half way, with a
reverse pinky fin. I liked the style of it, the way it worked, even
though I couldn't surf it very well because of my lack of balance. At
one stage, somewhere along the line I saw an advertisement for some
an American magazine. The angle they'd taken them from, made the nose
look narrower and the tails were wider. Just the angle. I looked at
them and thought, "That's my original surfboard." I thought, "I'll go
into that sort of design, that idea of putting the hips half way back
or more than half way back." This was good on a kneeboard because you
can't move much. You've got your major planning under where you are
kneeling, whereas everybody else had these great, big fat noses and
narrow tails, so they were kneeling really far forward on the board.
11. You mentioned that one
board was the most advanced that you'd built. What was this board like?
traditional looking Berry kneeboards. (Top row) This is likely a Werri
special (about eight were made for Werri Beach surfers to make long
sections). (Bottom row) This is a 5 ft. 6 in. x 23 in. board made for
Steve Brady. The board
had a deep vee in the nose, going into a double barrel concave and a
deep vee in the tail. Spray was done by Kev Rogers.
Photos courtesy of Gary Clist.
You were kneeling back a bit further?
Yes, I was kneeling back a bit further. The only unfortunate thing
about this was that you have a tendency to lean forward to trim it and
that meant I got hit in the back of the head by some serious lips a
couple of times. I have a really good scar across my chin and my nose
slides side-to-side. I was slammed into the board a couple of times.
When did you add in the hook?
That would have come in around 1970. What I did, I built one board that
actually went really well. I put three planning surfaces into it. There
was a front planning surface, one in the middle and a bit of lift at
the tail. It was wider at the tail. We found it manoeuvred really well.
It went hard. You could really get it going. Then I went to gradually
get flatter and flatter because I found when I had a board that was
totally flat I got a lot more acceleration. Because it's flat, there's
no drag. Then I went to the point where I said, "Well, I'd like to get
more maneuverability so what I'll do is make a board that's average
flat." I had a vee in the tail and instead the vee went down, the tail
went down. On the sides, what was up, was above the datum line for the
center. The center of it went down. At this point I realized that this
board accelerated so much faster. Years later, I realized that the
curvature of the shape of the bottom of the board, the rocker,
determines where it sits in a wave. If you have a lot of tail lift the
board works best inside a tube, where the tail lift matches the
curvature of the wave. The only place where a tail that is curved down
matches the curvature of the face of the wave is on an unbroken wave.
So what happens, is when you get in a tube they don't want to be there
so they come out. So you have massive acceleration compared to anything
Pete Berry flex
tails: The Five-finned Shadowfax II is a pintail measuring 6 ft.
7-3/4 in by 27 in.
courtesy of Neal Cameron.
You were using a lot of fiberglass in the tail. What
was the idea behind that.
The flex in the rail? The flex tail?
I like spoons, the way they worked, but they were so hard to get into
waves. If I put a lot of foam in the rails of the spoon it would
basically defeat the purpose because I would be getting the center to
flex but the rails would be that rigid they wouldn't flex much. I put
the foam in the middle with the glass on the edges. Then the rails
could flex and as well when you drove it up on a rail, the rail
penetrated the water like a fin. I was running a single center fin
mainly and a lot of the time I had guys commenting that I had ridden a
wave where they could see the fin completely out of the water because
of the fact I was riding really sucky waves. I just had the rail
slicing through which was working like a fin on each side.
That's the principle behind the finless paipos.
Yep, you use the edges as fins to penetrate. So that was basically
where I went with that. I liked the flex in the tail because I wanted
to control the curvature in the bottom, whereas on a spoon the whole
thing bends. I wanted to control the entry point and through to the
center. One of the first major boards I had with a lot of flex in it,
besides the spoon, had about 15 inches of glass on the tail. It had a
tail and you could actually flex the tail. I got onto the boffins over
at Fibreglass Australasia and I said, "I want a resin that will flex."
So they put more of the stabiliser into the resin for me in a 20 litre
drum. It's dimethyl phthalate, the buffer you get in catalyst so it
doesn't blow up. It's readily available material. It means if you add
more catalyst, you don't overheat your job, it doesn't go more brittle,
it goes more flexible. It took me a lot of mucking around at TAFE to
work these things out. After I started teaching reinforced plastics at
TAFE I had time to go over there and play around and use their lab.
So material selection was something that you got right
I got into materials and I was changing the formulas of resins. I was
buying off the shelf ones but I was adding things to them, which
changed how they reacted.
board being held is the Shadowfax (5 ft. 8 in. long and around 29 in.
wide). The board by the fence
is called Nazgul. The second of the Chimera series is the board with
kneepads (made from Morey Boogie skin offcuts). The board in the front
the Cosmic Debris. The Shadowfax and Nazgul were built under the
label. The others are a bit older and were both designed and built
under Pete Berry's "Nomad"
label. (Below right) The
lettering on the Nomad board uses a font created by Pete, who had a
a fine arts course.
courtesy of Brad Arman and Neal Cameron.
It had five fins but
the fins didn't fit in
the normal pattern. The shape of the fins were different. It was very
pointy nosed. It was basically designed off a cross between the SR-71
aircraft and the X-15. The X-15 was the fastest aircraft ever built.
12. You've ridden kneeboards
and prone - how do you reckon the two differ?
Some of the inspiration was aircraft design?
Yeah, a lot of it was. I was a wing-nut when I was a kid, I was into
What were the handles for on some of the boards that
That came in when I thought, "You're getting drag from your hands into
the water when you grab a rail." So I thought I'd put a handle on and
they'll get rid of the drag. It meant that you got a lot more leverage
on the board too. But then they got banned in competitions, "technical
advantage." A guy from South Australia went up to Queensland
for the Australian titles. I only made it to Crescent Head before the
car broke down, May 1974, which was the biggest swell in New South
I've ever seen and probably, anybody's seen. He hitchhiked the rest of
the way. After he went in the first heat, they said, "You can't use
handles in the contest." There was no statement before that you
couldn't. You couldn't use handles because it was like using legropes.
They said it gave him the advantage of not losing the board. He'd been
riding a place like Burleigh Heads, only it's a left hander - for 9
months training. It was working 28 out of 30 days in the month. It was
a really long left hander from hell. He trained there.
At Burleigh, he
was just like home where he was surfing. They told him he could still
surf but if he came higher than fourth we'll have to re-run the heat.
You can go in it as long as you lose. I was a bit peeved with that, so
what I did, what I'll do, is so the same thing but build an extra rail
on it on the two board. We have two rails, one above the other, grooved
in. The first one I made, Neal Cameron and I at the time were having a
pinline war. We were seeing who could do the most pinlines. I did this
thing with like 25 different colours, stars and pinlines that
overlapped each other. They were trimmed out around each other. It
wasn't multiple colours over the top. It was just this great big stream
of stars running up the board.
handles: (Top left) 1986 and 1972 decks. (Top right) Chisel nose fish
tailed Fugley, 5 ft. 5 in x 27 in. and Step bottom fish, 5 ft. 7 in. x
24 in. (Bottom left)
1971 Star board 6 ft. 4 in. x 21 in. and the nose broken off. (Bottom
right) Phase 4
Top photos courtesy of Riq de Carvalho. Bottom
photos courtesy of the lyttlestreet
blog and Neal Cameron.
This was the 1970s?
Yeah, it was the 1970s. In 1976, I built the second one. With the first
one, what I found was that it air under the rails at the tail, when I
put it up on a rail to turn it. The bottom base of the board came over
to a very hard rail. Like an edge basically. There was another rail
built above it, but stepped in from the side of the board. I realised
that the cross sectional area on the first one I built, was larger at
the front than it was at the back. This meant, when I put it up on a
rail, any air that got pushed under this double rail, as it started to
come down, was compressed and pushed sideways, it made the tail
slippery. Air was being pushed out the side. I changed it so that the
cross sectional area at the front of the void, under the rails, was
smaller at the front than it was at the back. I got an unexpected
effect—this rail made the board suck onto the face. When you drove it
up on a rail, you got your fins clean out the water, it was stuck on
there like glue. Some of Neal's boards are based on that system. I've
got a reconstruction of the one that really worked the best. In Tracks
(surf magazine) they've got a photo of it end-on and you can see it.
I've got a step on
the bottom. They used to build a step on the bottom of some old
malibus. It raised the rails. They had like a rounded pintail sort of
pattern on the bottom, your sides were a square tail. What I did, I put
my one the other way around. I created the finest pin so the curvature
was not convex but concave, around the line. You got to see a picture
obviously don't have to worry about the time in getting up. Taking to
your knees takes time. Once I started to get into riding on my knees,
the first boards were 3 ft. 6 in. plus. Before that I was riding a
three-foot-board and I
found the area was a bit too small. Ron Ralph handled 2 ft. 6 in., he
even kneel on it. He was an awesome surfer, absolutely awesome. I found
when I went a little bit longer I could kneel on them, which some of
the guys did and then everybody got into kneeboard riding. By that
stage the boards had got longer. The first board with the curvature
down was a pin nosed, pintail 6'4'. I rode it at Angourie. I went out
on a Easter Sunday. Only about 10 guys got in the water and three had
to get out, they were injured. A guy hesitated when he jumped off the
point, I said, "When I say jump, jump," but he hesitated and went 15
vertically down the rock face, landed face first into his board and
knocked two teeth out. I was used to jumping in off rocks. I just
waited for a wave to hit the top and slipped down the back of it. He
was scared and jumped too late. Another tried to go through Rincon and
went through the rocks. He went through the mill pretty bad and another
guy got hurt. Everybody got out of the water so I was out there by
myself. I thought I'd better have a rest so I paddled out past the big
black rock out the front there, where Rincon is. I paddled out past
there to Back Angourie, about 50 metres. I was probably 80 metres out
and 50 across out the back of Angourie. A wave came up and I took off
on it. It was the longest face I've ever seen on a wave. Lengthwise it
was hundreds of feet long. The wind was onshore but it was like being
in a refrigerator because of the offshore wind the wave created. I
don't know how big it was. I always have claimed it was 15 feet. I rode
this, going into Spooky's backdoor and three guys dropped in on me. I
went right across the bay, I didn't go around into the bay. I got out
of the water into the carpark and you couldn't have seen the board for
people looking at it. That was the first one I put handles on.
13. Where do you reckon the
best waves you surfed were?
Where did the idea for the handles come from?
I don't know, handles on paipo. They were on the front of paipos, so I
put them on the side. For leverage.
I'd read somewhere that you used handles to try
That was another one. I had a whole book on it. Unfortunately it's gone
out in the rubbish somewhere. I had a whole design of things. They used
to do underwater bodysurfing. You take off underwater so you come out
halfway down the wave face. I wanted to stay under there. If you could
get this underwater takeoff organised, you went down towards the
bottom, as you came back up again the reduction in water pressure on
your body made it so your feet could almost leave the water as you hit
the surface because of the massive force of the wave. The water
pressure variation would squirt you out, like when you pick up a lemon
seed. You got spat out. I worked this thing out, it had fins on the
side and flaps, so when you went forward it would hold you into the
body of the thing and when you got water pressure from behind, they
opened up. It would probably have been totally impractical, but it was
from underwater bodysurfing. I used to love doing that.
You were pretty keen to experiment?
Oh yeah. I'm a mad scientist.
Berry in Surf magazine, 1977. Pete's boards had distinctive names: In
the quiver photo, #1 is Shadowfax, #2 is Cosmic Debris, #3 Lemon
Board, #4 is Starboard, and #5 is Phase 4 gun. The #6 board was made
Source: Elfes, Chris. (1977, November). Design:
Peter Berry (and Who Is This Man & Why Are His Kneeboards So
Radical?). Surf, (1)6, 42-45. Courtesy
of Adam Williams.
You said your fins were different on the other board,
what were they like?
The one's on the one I was telling you about? If you have a look at an
X-15 aircraft it doesn't have a normal airfoil on the tail fin.
It's got a wedge shape so it is very narrow in the front and wide at
the back. And it had a flat thing that kinda stuck out the side. This
thing had to work on the verge of the atmosphere. It went into out of
space. It's high flights were 300,000 feet. It flatlined at 15,000 mph.
seriously lunatic rocket with a motor at the front. The idea was that
they were wedge shaped so I built wedge shaped fins. I found these fins
were incredibly fast but incredibly nippy. When you started a turn it
would bite in the turn, really push it. It was like you had no drag at
all. You weren't relying to create a wing (airfoil) that went through
the water, a flattened blade you tried to make a thing that cut through
it and behind it you'd have a vacuum trail, which shaped the water out.
(Read more about Pete Berry's ideas on board fins and other design
innovations in Note 4.)
pintail with a Greenough style fin.
courtesy of Neal Cameron.
I was teaching TAFE at night, running my own industrial fibreglass
business during the day and I was also working in a surf shop. It gave
me diversity and made me look at a really broad spectrum of things. The
weirdest job I had was a tour driver. I used to drive from Kathmandu in
Nepal to London, 20,200 kilometers each way. This was in 1979 and 1980.
through Iran with 26 naive tourists, five days after the Americans
tried to get the hostages out in Teheran. There were rumours
infiltrators were left behind and we were in an Army truck painted
white. Guess what we looked like, infiltrators. You've got to get on
with Indians, and Pakistanis, Turks and Greeks and everyone. I've been
to Syria twice, the people were beautiful. It's terrible what they are
doing there, they were nice people.
Travel broadens your perspective.
It changes your perspective. I was watching stuff on television
recently and realised I came from an era, when multiculturalism and we
were getting the Vietnamese here and we weren't going, "They are all
evil, they're going to kill use and take our jobs." We went "poor
bastards who went through the worst shit ever" and empathised with
Angourie and the
south coast of New South
Wales. It's not just that the waves are good, it was the fact that it
wasn't crowded. If you went north, at Crescent there were a 100 guys in
the water. If you wanted to drive down the dirt road, Point Plomer
would be 2 ft. bigger, it's not as good a tube as Crescent is, we'd get
there and there would be two or three guys out. I'd drive there so I
get the crowds. The longest wave I'd ever ridden was in Port Hacking.
14. Any other comments?
Inside the bay?
At this place was called Cabbage Tree Point. I was outside Cabbage Tree
Point and I made it down to the Deeban Spit, which is over half a mile.
It was when I was riding the paipo and I didn't own a wetsuit. Three
waves and the entire day and half way up the spit there was a boat that
had been grounded on the spit. When I got there I sat down in the sun
to warm up. I was freezing.
surfing the Starboard at Pebbles, 1972.
by Des Clark, courtesy of Pete Berry.
You'd sacrifice some qualify for peace of mind?
No drop-ins because I get very aggressive in the water. I'd yell my
head off if I was on the inside. A maniac yeti. A mad yell makes people
hesitate for one stroke on their paddle and they usually miss the wave.
What sort of wave were the old ply bellyboards best
They surfed virtually anything but I liked the point at Maroubra which
had a good peak takeoff, a bit of a wall where it backed off a bit and
then it had an inside section. By then you'd built your speed up. Loved
it. But I also surfed Lurline, which is big, mean, horrible and inside
out. I've got a photo of me kicking in on a 15 ft. plus wave on a piece
I'd read about you having a pretty heavy wipeout at
The worst wipeout was at Coogee bombie. I got sucked over the falls
seven times. I took off, and had a wetsuit on, kneepads, safety straps
and flippers. I came up and I had the arse blown out of my wetsuit and
nothing else. By then I was 10 feet from the rocks and about an 8 to 10
reform about to chew me only a reef that is about 4 inches deep. I had
swim about a nautical mile. It was getting dragged by the current by
the time I got out of the impact zone, with no flippers on. A guy
turned up on a surf-ski. I said, "You haven't seen any flippers around
here?" He wiggled around out the back and pulled out a flipper with a
bootie still in it. The safety strap was gone. I found another of the
flippers but I didn't have a bootie. I did get the board and as I said,
it was about a nautical mile, that's 1.8 kilometres. I would have had a
second go at the bombie but I'd lost the other bootie so the flipper
didn't fit anymore because you needed the bootie to fit the flipper.
I'd got deeper and deeper because I couldn't get into it, so every time
I missed the takeoff I could deeper and deeper. I got a spot where I
finally got into it onto one of the ones where you shouldn't have
gotten into it in the first place.
last wave riding a four-finned, four channel bottom flex tail with a
square nose, 1987. The board
was stolen and recovered from a pawn shop eight years later, for $60.
by Pete Merrick, courtesy of Pete Berry.
The thing I really
hated about surfing in the
older days was that everyone treated it like a secret society. Nobody
wanted to teach anybody anything. Nobody wanted information to flow, to
create development. The same thing they got today, tunnel vision. It's
built this way, it's always been built this way, so it should be built
Blom, a northcoast kneeboarder who competed in local contests, is
Neal Cameron's Stepbottom, which is based on the Chimera Phase 3
design. When Pete Berry was asked if
that was him in this photo he said, "I wouldn't wear a crash
helmet like that!" This board is now at the Australian National Surfing
Museum, located in Torquay, Australia. (Below right) The first Chimera.
courtesy of Neal Cameron.
to Adam Williams for identifying the issue and to his mate who had the
magazine. The source for the
Pete Blom photo came is an article appearing in Surfing World
magazine: Ware, J. (1978, April). Duranbah '78. Surfing World, 27(1),
70-75 (also known as issue number 157).
Do you know about Bushrat Surfboards? I read he was
influenced by your ideas.
Yeah, I know Jed Done really well. He had a week up here where he came
into my workshop to do some vacuum bagging and build some kiteboards.
We also had a night out on the town, on the piss, talking surfboards
from 7 o'clock at night until 5 am the next morning. He's utilising the
ideas I had. He's taking baby steps whereas I wanted to make giant
leaps every time. I only had one board that didn't work, but it was
designed as a dual purpose board, to be towed behind a board or work as
a kneeboard in a really heavy tube. It had a curvature in the bottom
crossways, rocker was straight lengthways. Crossways it was a
cross-section out of a cylinder, so it could roll from side to side
behind the boat. We found it worked but not very good. We sawed the
fins down and put it behind a boat and my mate bought it straight up.
It flew behind the boat. It was a hybrid thing. It was a failure on one
side but I have never had a board that I would say "that's a real dog."
Even though I was doing these radical departures in shapes, and designs
and curvatures and things, I never had anything that I said was a real
dog. I had things that were limited in what they did and some where I
had to adjust my surfing style completely to a different style to
actually ride it. That's the one with the five fins, the weird fins
that I told you about. Neal Cameron couldn't ride it at all. Whereas I
could ride it. What you had to do, if you wanted to do a forehand turn
to your righthand side, you had to flop the board to your lefthand side
to get it flat on the face before you could turn it.
That wouldn't be intuitive?
This is very counter-intuitive. Normally you are pushing it onto a
rail. This thing you had to start it off flat. It had to be flat on the
face like you were doing a cutback, to do a forehand turn. If you
wanted to do a backhand turn you had to situate it like you were doing
a forehand turn, and then turn back. Neal's board were all basically
the same shape, Chimera Phase 3, a mythical beast. Where the name came
from, I wanted to do full rail 360s or barrel rolls. Barrel rolls is
what I really wanted to do. So I built this board to try and do the
impossible dream. It was Phase 3. It's still in my workshop. He bought
it off me and kept copying it and doing subtle changes. He 'd go, "It's
never as good as the first one" and then the next thing you'd know he
would go "best board I've ridden." I really reckon it was because he
had to tune to it. I could get on a Friar Tuck and change my surfing
style. I used to always surf with my knees fairly back and leaning
forward. That involved me getting the scar across my chin and my nose
broken. I could ride a Friar Tuck and kneel really vertically, like a
standup but on his knees. I used to get out in the water and just slide
my board over to somebody else and say, "Ride that for a minute I want
to ride your board" and get a couple of waves on their board. I wanted
to try everbody else's ideas.
An inquiring mind?
Nah. You never learn unless you look around you. Try other things. You
become static unless you try different things.
Did you ever try making fibreglass bellyboards?
Kneeboards are just overgrown bellyboards. I've a three and a half
downstairs that's called a knellyboard (spelt with a 'k' like
deathknell). It was basically the same as the original larger Morey
Boogie. Really round in the front, 42 in. long, really flat. I found I
could go past a 5 ft. 8 in. Friar Tuck on this thing on my knees. But
it as a bellyboard. The name came from a Tumbleweeds cartoon, where
everyone in town is trying to think up a name for a kid who wandered
into town. Then Tumbleweed said, "What about plain old knelly, I know
the k is silent, but I know it's there."
What's the theory behind his board?
It was designed as a bellyboard, that's why its got the groove right
around the front, to get your hands in there and hang on. In the old
days they had a handle, but I just made a giant groove to get your
fingers into, so your hands don't go in the water, when you grab a
rail. You grab the top rail rather than the bottom rail.
It's like two boards in one, you get area and volume
but a thinned rail?
Yeah and you got suction on the rails when you pushed it on a rail,
because the groove increased in volume as you went toward the back. It
created a suction so the end of the board hung on. The fins are
My mate Cameron Haynes has a bellyboard I made him. I think it is 4 ft.
He still rides it all the time. When it's small and there are a million
kids out there, he doesn't have to kneel up, that slows you down. So
he's off on it and away he goes. The bottom on it is almost a bonzer
style hull, with concaves and everything through it. It has handles too.
I'd like to see a photo of that?
A lot these things are still around and being used. I built Cameron
three boards in the early-1990s. Prior to that the last one I built was
1987. He's riding boards I built before 1987 all the time.
The 3 ft. 7 in.
x 21 in.
knellyboard made in 1978.
Photos courtesy of Pete Berry.
Haynes - Wamberal. Cameron is riding a XT1, a double flyer fishtail
which was Pete's first attempt at a thruster. It was made in 1982.
Photos courtesy of Pete Berry.
Cameron riding a Chimera Phase 5. (Below right) Neal Cameron with a
Chimera Phase 3 (1971). (Bottom)
Neal drawing long lines.
Photos courtesy of Neal Cameron and Adam Williams.
The vacuum bagged ply boards are really the last
boards you made?
They are the very last, the one's I built in 2002.
bellyboard; Pete with a 9 inch square-nosed 5 ft. 3 in. x 27 in.
Chunder Board II,
shaped in 1978.
courtesy of Pete Berry and Mick O'Neill photo, on page 72 of the book,
Scott, Mark and Tony Nolan.
(2014). Maroubra: Golden Age of the 'Bra. Alexandria, NSW:
Note 1: Read more about Barry Hutchins's paipo surfing in
Interview with Barry Hutchins.
Note 2: Lurline
Bay resides in the heart of Sydney, Austraila's coastal suburbs,
nestled between Coogee and Maroubra beaches. Pete Berry describes
Lurline there is a peak that
runs across it and it works off the wave bouncing off the rock. When
you are looking for the good wave to ride you're not actually looking
at the wave coming in, your'e making sure there is a big enough cross
wave. Your wave coming in might be 8', but the cross wave might be 2'.
But you actually take off on the cross wave and backdoor the main
section. It's really a giant take-off that goes int a big sludgy wave.
The whole thing is the adrenalin on the take-off, it's as scary as
hell. A lot of people get sucked out to sea because there's no beach
and the currents in that bay are absolute hell."
Note 3: A chronology and description of Pete's
* A chimera is an animal in
mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail.
- Chunder board (1969). Egg-shaped S-deck boards,
flat bottomed, before curve down the tail was added.
- Chimera* Phase 1 and Phase 2. The Phase 1 (aka the
Starboard) Phase 2 boards had
square tails. Neal Cameron described the Starboard as the first "ground
breaking" departure from traditional design.
- Chimera Phase 3 (1971). This design features a
pintail, a double
concave, and heavy noselift.
- Chimera Phase 4 (1972). This Chimera design is
a pintail gun.
board. This board is 5 foot 6-1/2 inches long, 27-3/4 inches wide, and
1-1/2 inches at its thickest point. It prededed the Shadowfax.
- Shadowfax (mid-1970s). Pete's favourite board was
after Gandalf's horse which was silent, fast, and left no track.
- Nazgul (mid-1970s). This design was 29 inches wide,
about the same width as
- Cosmic Debris. This is a pintail, square-nosed board
built to ride
Racecourse at Crescent Head.
Chimera Phase 5 board design was Neal Cameron's development of Pete's
design ideas. This board design is a Chimera Phase 3 design combined
with Shadowfax's step bottom.
Note 4: Pete Berry provided addtional
information on board fins and other design innovations. See below.
Fins: Pete reported he had over 60 templates for fins.
Where I went weird is where I built that 5 fin, assymetrical wedge
shaped fins. 32 layers of 6 oz, that's your standard fin, then I
started to make them out of straight rovings, like old Jarvis Walker
fishing rods. You get so much more punch out of your flex, because you
were going with something that was all linear, rather than crossweaved.
If you're using rovings you virtually have to cast the things. You
can't just lay them up on something flat. You got to cut the patttern
out (woven base i the center), put the resin and rovings in there and
grind them down.
Flex: power came out of the rails and the fins.
'Up to 15 layers. Depending on how long it was and then you'd taper it
off. You laid it up like doing a fin. You start off with a flat slab,
then you start grinding it away, bending it as you are grinding away,
until you get to where you go, "this is is pretty close." Then you cut
the foil into it. '
"I started off with a really long tail, over a foot of flex. Then I
kind of put it onto the rails. I wanted to create the main hull of the
board as rigid, then the rails bend to follow the water flow. You had
more control over the rocker an then the water chnaged in the shape of
the sides to release and allow the water of it.
"Curve, that's what Greenough was about, bending things to follow the
water flow. That's why I couldn't work out why he had foam on the
outside of his boards, that meant the center was flexing but the sides
weren't. Later I learned he was building them in molds, so the whole
thing was flexing."
"The whole thing about flex is, you got to control how much power
comes out ... the power that comes out is how you structure it. The old
chimera III had straight rovings around the edge of the rails. It
really put the power back out. When they bend, it takes a lot of force
to bend them, you got the force back. It's something a lot of people
haven't looked at."
"...with the rocker in the tail, the way I had it, the hook as it
should be called. It felt like it should nosedive but what it did was
give you acceleration, it felt like it should nose dive but it didn't."
Pete was active in surf
administration, including at various times
being president of the Southside Surfriders and the Maroubra Kneeriders
Club. Tony Wales, in a Kneeboard Surfing USA (KSUSA)
Internet forum post, dated
March 21, 2008, recalled that he attended a launch of a book by Peter
David Hunt. Tony's post quotes from this book, "During the
1970s and early-1980s, Peter Berry and Don Bosco ably held the
Southside together. It is ironic that for a period in the mind 1980s,
the Southside was solely run by Peter Berry, who was in fact a
not a stand up surfer."
Source: Hunt, Peter David, & Surfing NSW. (2007). Beyond the
green room: A history of boardriding clubs from Bondi to Garie.
Maroubra South, N.S.W: Surfing NSW.
magazine article about the Golden
Breed-O'Neill Kneeboard Contest, 1976. The article features a photo
of Peter Berry with some of his boards while in another snapshot
Tullemans is posing on one of Peter's boards.
Source: McCausland, Bill. (1976,
October). Vincent had 'em on their knees. Breakway, 35, 6-7. See
the surfing magazine on the Internet at https://www.facebook.com/breakwaysurf/.
Pete Berry designed the Maroubra Kneeriders Association logo shown
below (ca. Dec. 1976). The design was inspired by a photo of Mark Munro
surfing Cronulla Point on a spoon.
Maroubra Kneeriders Association
Photo source: Scott, Mark and
Tony Nolan. (2014). Maroubra: Golden Age of the 'Bra.
Alexandria, NSW: Kingsclear Books, p. 71.