Nick Carroll: They're All History Now

7 Jan 2020 10 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Like a lot of surfers, David Ford lost boards in the fires. It’s just that he lost 300 of ‘em. 

David Ford never quite thought of his 300 boards as a “collection”. “I’m just a hoarder,” he tells CW. “A hoarder of history.”

There was some gold in those 300. An Owl Chapman with a rainbow Rip Curl sticker and a bodgie glass job that David suspects may have been part of Owl and MP’s notorious road trip to Bells in 1976. An MR bat-tail that he found in a clouncil tip. A Reno Abellira McCoy from Hawaii. Another McCoy made for Bondi’s Vic Ford just after Geoff McCoy had left Keyo to set up his own label, with the number “14” written on it.

But they’re all history now, for real: burned up in a shed on David’s Lake Conjola property, overnight on New Year’s Eve.

SEE ALSO: Here Are a Bunch of Ways You Can Help Our Coastal Communities During this Bushfire Crisis 

David wasn’t there at the time. He’d been down in Melbourne spending some Christmas time with his parents, after a quick father and son fishing trip to, of all places, Mallacoota. He talks with CW on the phone, driving up the Hume, getting ready to see the carnage for real for the first time.

“I feel guilty I wasn’t there,” he says. “I’m just lucky my house didn’t go up too.”

Originally from Vicco, David grew interested in surfboards as a 16 year old kid standing in Kevin Platt’s shaping bay in Noosa in 1973. “I always had a passion for the hand made stuff,” he says. He recalls once having an MP stubby, Morning of the Earth style thing, and giving it to a neighbour’s kid to learn to surf on.

Various life curves later, 27 years ago, he moved to acreage in Lake Conjola. Working at the local tip, he was stunned to find all these boards being thrown away — basically dumped with the household garbage. “A lot of it was that I couldn’t stand to see them go to landfill. I could see how someone had taken the time to make them, to do the glass job, the care they must have taken. Even if they were someone’s trash they were still things of beauty.”

Finding the MR bat-tail was the trigger for him to take on a long term R-and-R project. “I’d worked around boards, I knew a bit about repair and so forth, I was the right person for the job.”

The board hoard he then assembled was intensely personal. Some he would repair then give away to the right people at the right moments. Some he would swap for others. Some he would keep and think about what they’d meant in the surf history context.

But it took a while before David saw his 300 boards as something of value to anyone else. One day Kurt Nyholm, Ulladulla surfer and shop owner and a mate, got him to dig the boards out of the shed for a video, and it took David over eight hours to get them all out on to the lawn near his shed.

David says, “After that I decided I should sort them all out, and start contacting museums. I began thinking, it was ridiculous that I had all these boards tucked away where people couldn’t see them. It wasn’t common knowledge they were there.”

He never had time to get around to it.

His wife and son were in Conjola at the time, got out in time to the other side of the lake, and watched as a wall of flames devoured the area.

Property loss is more traumatic than you might expect. Stories emerging from these fires have given us a window into that. But as he drives north toward what remains of those 300 boards, David seems oddly calm — maybe because he hasn’t seen it yet. “It is what it is,” he says. “I’m just bummed at the loss of history.”

Read Part 2 in this ongoing seriesThe Storm Front, Mallacoota Local Dale Winward's Perspective

Read Part 3 in this ongoing series: The Holidays That Never Were, Surf Shop Owner Kurt Nyholm's Perspective

Read Part 4 in this ongoing series: A southerly saved Phil Macca’s town. But what now?

Stay tuned to CW for more stories from surfers who’ve felt the heat of these flames. In the meantime, we'd like to encourage everyone to donate, if they can, to the following organisations:

Australian Red CrossThe NSW Rural Fire ServiceThe CFAWIRES, or register to give blood if donating money or items isn't a viable option for you.

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