Sydney Australia is a playground for all water sport enthusiasts and for those with free time on their hands it offers such a huge range of conditions that you will find an abundant amount of strange surf-craft to be ridden and experimented with. Living in such a privileged part of the world I had access to all the toys and having an enquiring mind, the hydrodynamics of each aquatic related object was always an interest to me. Out of High School and having just come back from a few months working on a prawn-trawler in far north Australia and a season in the Australian alps, the opportunity arose to work with Roger Shackleton, an innovative Englishman and terrific person. It was with him at ‘Raider Skis’ that I learned the craft of mould making and had hands on experience shaping custom orders for a variety of objects apart from wave-skis including paddle race boards and rescue craft.
Fashionable work it wasn’t, according to those of the surfing inquisition and basically something to be scorned upon for allowing the growth of a product used by a dubious bunch of characters classed as ‘kooks’ by the majority of the surfing population. I liked to call them ‘goat boaters’ and they really didn’t care what you called them, as they, like everyone, loved to catch a few waves when they could and on what they wanted. The object used to propel them onto the waves, slicing air and water (a paddle) when in the wrong hands can be an ominously threatening object and is not really a desired addition to a crowded ‘line-up’, so inexperienced riders in waves ‘out of their league’, loosing control on take-off, or beating the air like a propeller, had the result of causing a bit of animosity in the water, though in a crowded line-up any form of surf-craft and rider out of place is undesirable. Generally the laws of the jungle prevail.
Competitiveness abounds in the Australian surf but a set of rules have been established to allow all types of surfers to be able to catch waves at the multitude of surf spots though sometimes if you’re the black sheep of the pack you just have to suffer the discrimination. Due to the Surf Life Saving clubs of Australia wave-skis have a long history and come in many different forms. Some for racing, some for rescue and others for wave riding manoeuvres and performance.
At ‘Raider Skis’ I was privileged to be able to make skis for the first Australian performance-ski Champ ‘Mick Petrie’ and then after for three times World Champ ‘John Christianson’ who ended up forming his own brand ‘Christo’ wave-skis. John use to ride his wave-skis in powerful conditions while hardcore surfers watched with jaws agape as John sometimes launched up to three meters out of the water in an aerial re-entry or got spat out of a ‘Winki-Pop’ tube´(a gnarly reef tube) at Fairy Bower, Manly which he dominates.
Pretty unique fellow is John. John Christianson is a former Australian Kayak Champion, who being multitalented also is an excellent surfboard rider and snow skier. As seemed natural to me for the way John is, the first time we snow-skied together he rode a mono-ski. I wasn’t a wave-ski rider but occasionally would have a go when there wasn’t the chance of hurting anybody except myself. Pretty frustrating contraption I thought. Wave-skis for me offered another interesting design puzzle to be solved in the vast realm of hydrodynamics. One can use the experience gained in learning the dynamics of the function of one water-sport concept or object and use it to translate another. We all get caught up in what’s cool, in ‘vogue’ or hip, but I prefer to avoid the politics and marketing influenced segregative mentalities, that is until I have to use them myself to launch a new concept. My old spiel or shortcut explaining why I made ‘goat-boats’ was “If I don’t make them someone else will” International wave-ski competitions still go on. John Christianson terminated his ‘Christo’ business, attributing the renascence of the ‘Longboard’ or ‘Malibu’ type surfboard market to a decline in the wave-ski market and now dedicates himself to making websites for others. To think that I first met once World Surfboard Champion ‘Barton Lynch’ when he worked at Raider Skis….I think he used the same old spiel as me.