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First Surfboard

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 - popular culture, sport, surfing , see all tags


First Surfboard

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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


Through responding to and composing a wide range of texts in context and through close study of texts, students will develop skills, knowledge and understanding in order to speak, listen, read, write, view and represent.

Outcome 1: A student responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis and pleasure.
Outcome 5: A student transfers understanding of language concepts into new and different contexts.
Outcome 7: A student thinks critically and interpretively using information, ideas and increasingly complex arguments to respond to and compose texts in a range of contexts.
Outcome 8: A student investigates the relationships between and among texts.
Outcome 9: A student demonstrates understanding of the ways texts reflect personal and public worlds.

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
    One of the most interesting and challenging books written about surfing culture is Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey (the ‘Salami Sisters’). It was written in the late 1970s, and details many aspects of the surf and youth cultures of that time and place, and particularly their sexism and tribalism.
    Prepare a talk on the book, focusing on:
    1. characters
    2. setting
    3. attitudes and values
    4. gender relations
    5. teenage culture
    6. conflict with parents
    7. conflict and pressures among peers.
  3. Watch the film version of Puberty Blues (Bruce Beresford, 1981). How do the different media versions of the same story (print and film) compare? Analyse the ways in which a variety of film elements are used to tell a story and create messages and meanings. Look at:
    1. style and design
    2. setting
    3. camera work
    4. music
    5. editing
    6. script changes — what is kept, what is added, what is omitted from the book.
  4. One of the key changes is to change the age of the two main characters in the book from 13 to 16. What effects does this have? (You can compare a similar change in the novel and film versions of Hating Alison Ashley see Study Guide at

Further Resources


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