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Video clip synopsis – Huge, heavy and finless, the first Aussie surfboard was actually handmade by a visiting Hawaiian in 1914 using a piece of local wood.
Year of production - 2004
Duration - 3min 56sec
Tags - heritage, popular culture, sport, surfing , see all tags


First Surfboard

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download clip icon Premium MP4 firstsur_pr.mp4 (29.0MB).

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About the Video Clip


First Surfboard is an episode of the series National Treasures produced in 2004.

First Surfboard
Surfing may well be a quintessential Aussie pastime but who introduced us to the modern-day art of boardriding? Warren Brown gets the lowdown from former world champion surfer Midget Farrelly. He tells the story of Duke Kahanamoku, a champion Hawaiian swimmer, who showed Australians how to ride a wave at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach in 1914, using a board he built himself from a lump of local timber. Huge, heavy and completely finless, the first Australian surfboard has pride of place in the local surf club.

National Treasures
Take a road-trip of discovery with the irrepressible Warren Brown – political cartoonist, columnist and history “tragic” – as he reveals a fascinating mix of national treasures drawn from public and private collections across Australia. On its own, each treasure is a priceless snapshot of an historic moment. Together, they illustrate the vitality and uniqueness of the Australian experience.

National Treasures is a Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus


Inquiry question:
What have been the major social and cultural features of a post-war decade?

A student
5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australian life
5.2 assesses the impact of international events and relationships on Australia’s history

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


It is generally accepted that Polynesians from Tahiti and Hawaii were the first people to surf waves, riding wooden surfboards carved from the timber of sacred trees.

In 1915 Hawaiian Olympic medallist Duke Kahanamoku made a surfboard from a local tree, and became the first person to surf a wave in Australia.

During the 1950s and 1960s a surf culture developed around the sport of surfing. Surf culture is multifaceted. It includes clothing brands and styles, music preferences, literature, films, language, attitudes and values.

Surfing has a global connection, with many surfers trekking the world to find the perfect wave, and cross-pollinating various cultural aspects.

Surfing may also be affected by environmental changes due to global warming. Global warming may produce bigger waves, or a return, through altering ocean currents, to a new ice age. Oil spills and toxic algae growth can threaten surfing regions. ‘Sea change’ discovery of small coastal areas may lead to population pressures that deter surfers from using certain areas.

Technological changes are also evident in the sport. Surfboards have undergone great changes in design and manufacture; in some places there are now artificial reefs that encourage waves; and the development of jet skis has meant that some monster waves that could not be caught before are now able to be reached and ridden.

Classroom Activities

  1. Understanding the video clip
    1. What is the object shown?
    2. Who made it?
    3. When does it date from?
    4. Where was it used?
    5. How is it different from modern surfboards?
  2. Exploring issues raised in the video clip
    Research and prepare a PowerPoint presentation of Australian surf culture for a chosen decade. Include such elements as:
    1. Its history
    2. Music associated with it or favoured by surfers
    3. Literature and writing about it
    4. Special and unique language associated with it
    5. Attitudes and values characteristic of it
    6. Popular images – how it was represented, both to surfers, and to others
    7. Changing fashions and technology in the field
    8. Influences from other countries
    9. Influential people in the culture
    10. Environmental considerations and implications.

Further Resources


For more National Treasures and video clips go to Investigating National Treasures