Stepping back on the board and giving a nod to Australia’s surfing history

Wayne Winchester with his boards
Wayne Winchester with his boards

When Wayne Winchester started surfing in his early teens he envied older surfers who had numerous boards (known as a quiver) to choose from. But the tables have certainly turned, as Wayne, now in his mid 60s, processes what has to be the ultimate quiver. 

“My love of surfing led me to start fashioning my own boards when I was a teenager and I then started making them professionally in the mid 1970s,” Wayne says. “It was an exciting time as I shaped all sorts of boards just to see how they performed. Nowadays I’m focusing on surfboard repair and restoration and of course getting in the surf whenever I can.”

Back when Wayne set up his first workshop, Liquid Dreams, in Perth, surfers were considered society’s dropouts with more surfing enthusiasm than cash, so Wayne would often accept old boards as part payment for one of his custom-made Winchester boards. As the years passed, Wayne realised he had a significant collection of old boards.

“I started to gain an appreciation of these vintage boards and could see their potential as a collection. I have more than 150 of them now as I’ve added to the collection through buying boards via private sale and auctions. Nearly 80 of the surfboards are now on display, starting from the 1830s with primitive planks from the Pacific Islands up to the boards from the present day and with a surfboard for every year from 1962.”

Wayne’s carefully curated Evolution of the Surfboard exhibition opened to the public just a few months ago and has seen a busy start to the year. Housed in Wayne’s new Surf Gallery between Albany and Denmark, it’s a masterfully curated collection of boards, photographs and memorabilia presented in a manner akin to a prestigious art gallery or museum. In fact, Wayne took inspiration from Tasmania’s MONA Museum, drawing on its attention to detail and providing more information than expected. 

“I’m a qualified maritime cartographer, so my need for exacting lines and deliberate details is perhaps a bit OCD, but hey, the results speak for themselves. All the surfboards are treated like valuable paintings and hung and lit accordingly. There’s a room for each decade with written explanations about the changing surfboard design and the evolving surf culture.”

The nod to MONA goes past the physical as, like the iconic Tassie museum, The Surf Gallery is a private venture making it Australia’s largest publicly displayed private collection of vintage surfboards. 

Wayne’s exhibition also works to tell a story, evoke memories and spark dialogue between intergenerational visitors. Grandparent or grommet, hippy or hipster, surf bum or surf pro, you can follow the journey of surfing while taking your own personal journey at the same time.

If you were born in the ‘60s or ‘70s a black and white photo of a Holden station wagon or panel van topped with layers of longboards may have you recalling the days before cars had seat belts. You may also be reminded of nights when you’d reverse into a bay at the drive-in and drop down the tailgate to watch a movie with your ‘steady’. 

Or, if you’re viewing the ‘80s collection, the vividly coloured boards will evoke memories of fluoro coloured clothes, puffed shoulder pads and power suits. 

“If boards from the ‘80s had a hairdo it would be a darn big one,” said Wayne.

Adding to the surfboard collection is a restoration workshop with a viewing window allowing visitors to see the various repair and restoration projects Wayne is currently working on. 

“I do restorations for clients all over Australia. I have about a year’s worth of work waiting to be done. Some boards are being restored to ride, others are destined to be displayed on walls.  It’s rewarding to give a banged up old board a new lease on life even if it’s destined for a life out of water.”

Be you a surfer, culture vulture or simply interested in stepping back through time, this exhibition is certainly worth a visit. You can even just call in for a coffee and cake in Wayne’s adjoining Surf Shack.

The Surf Gallery is located at 50750 South Coast Highway, Youngs Siding.
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 4pm.