Take a step back from the board and wink at Australian 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 many boards (called quivers) to choose from. But the tables have certainly turned, as Wayne, now in his 60s, deals with what has to be the ultimate quiver.

“My love of surfing led me to start making my own boards when I was a teenager, then I started making them professionally in the mid-1970s,” says Wayne. “It was an exciting time as I shaped all sorts of boards just to see how they performed. Today my focus is on repairing and restoring surfboards and of course surfing as soon as I can.

Back when Wayne set up his first workshop, Liquid Dreams, in Perth, surfers were seen as the dropouts of society with more enthusiasm for surfing than money, so Wayne often accepted old boards as payment partial for one of his bespoke Winchester boards. Over the years Wayne realized he had a large collection of old boards.

“I started to appreciate these vintage boards and could see their potential as a collectible. I have over 150 now, as I added to the collection by purchasing boards through private sales and Nearly 80 of the surfboards are now on display, starting in the 1830s with early boards from the Pacific Islands through to today’s boards and with a surfboard for each year from 1962 onwards.”

Wayne is neatly organized Evolution of the surfboard opened to the public just a few months ago and has had 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 way akin to a prestigious art gallery or a museum. In fact, Wayne was inspired by the MONA Museum in Tasmania, relying on its attention to detail and providing more information than expected.

“I’m a skilled marine cartographer, so my need for precise lines and deliberate detail may be a bit TOC, but hey, the results speak for themselves. All surfboards are treated like valuable charts and hung and lit accordingly.There is a room for each decade with written explanations of the evolution of surfboard design and the evolution of surfing culture.

The nod to MONA goes beyond the physical because, like the iconic Tassie Museum, The Surf Gallery is privately owned, making it Australia’s largest private collection of vintage surfboards.

Wayne’s exhibit also aims to tell a story, evoke memories and spark a dialogue among intergenerational visitors. Grandparent or grommet, hippy or hipster, surf bum or surf pro, you can follow the surf journey while doing 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 minivan topped with layers of longboards can remind you of the days when cars didn’t have seat belts. You can also remember the nights when you backed into a bay at the drive-in and lowered the tailgate to watch a movie with your “stabilizer”.

Or, if you look at the ’80s collection, the brightly colored boards will conjure up memories of neon-colored clothes, puffy shoulder pads and power suits.

“If ’80s boards had a hairstyle, it would be one hell of a big hairstyle,” Wayne said.

In addition to the surfboard collection, a restoration workshop with a viewing window allows visitors to see the various repair and restoration projects that Wayne is currently working on.

“I am doing restorations for clients all over Australia. I have about a year of work to do. Some boards are being restored to ride, others are for display on walls. This is rewarding to breathe new life into an old, ragged board, even if it’s destined for a life out of the water.

Whether you’re a surfer, a culture buff, or just interested in stepping back in time, this exhibit is definitely worth a visit. You can even just call in for coffee and cake in the adjoining Wayne Surf Shack.

The Surf Gallery is located at 50750 South Coast Highway, Youngs Siding.
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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