If you were getting into bodyboarding today, you might be forgiven for thinking the sport is pretty quiet. The comp scene is small, the magazines are all but gone and mainstream coverage is non existent, but it wasn’t always that way.
Vintage Bodyboard Collectors is a group on Facebook that has emerged as an incredible community of bodyboarders that are sharing photos, videos and stories from the very beginning of the sport, right up to recent happenings. Amassing over 7000 members and counting at the time of publication, this group has been responsible for reigniting the stoke for many of those who may have found that life had just got in the way of getting in the water and it shows no sign of slowing down.
Riptide reached out to the founder of the group, Damien Alexander, to try and dig a bit deeper into the Vintage Bodyboard Collectors phenomenon. Born in Adelaide but now residing in Armidale, NSW, Damien can be found chasing waves in around the Coffs Harbour area. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.
So how did vintage bodyboard collectors come about?
Ever since I found a board that I really connected with (30 years ago) I have always looked at certain boards and instinctively known how they would perform for me. As I grew older and with family, work, life my time in the water reduced but my love for certain boards and templates stayed. So as my time reduced out of the water, I started looking for boards which I connected with. Call it nostalgia, I don’t know but it was like keeping my stoke whilst only getting wet occasionally. Some people collect to have all the key boards, I collect boards that I feel I have a connection with.
I started the page as a way to share my collection and touch base with similar like minded people. A few of us had crossed paths over the years in the past and had similar passions. It was about boards, but also sharing old adverts or articles from Riptide, Bodyboarding Magazine etc. Reliving the glory days.
When did you start the page?
Around 3-4 years ago although its really taken off in the last 12 months being a place for all things old school bodyboarding.
Do you have a collection yourself?
Yes, mainly from the 80’s and early 90’s and a few Morey’s thrown in.
If so, what is your favourite board?
Hard one! I cant decide between the Diamond Max and the Ben Board (I have several of them).
When did you notice the page start to build in popularity?
Around 8 months ago it boomed, particularly with some older familiar names such as Pat Caldwell, (Dave) Ballard, Tom Boyle, Jay Reale, Cameron Steele, Skipp (Spencer Skipper) (yes I am name dropping).
The page has become a repository of sorts now for all kinds of topics, not just boards, why do you think this is?
So many of us are older folk who grew up when the sport was just starting or was at its peak. That in itself is a rare thing to have access to people who were part of the origins of the sport. We all remember those times fondly. Many kept surfing and many let it go as other priorities took over our lives. I guess in our hearts its really never left us and now so many of us are reconnecting, getting back out there and and sharing the stoke, many of us with their kids. The technology (FB) has helped us find a place to reminisce, inspire and actually chat to our child hood heroes.
There has been plenty of discussion about why bodyboarding has seemed to drop away in popularity. Whats your take on this?
We were the fastest growing sport in Australia, we had major sponsorships, clubs were booming, anything to do with bodyboarding was selling. Then the surfing media turned on us, such as the infamous Tracks Magazine article ‘Will the next generation of surfers please stand up’ and as financial pressures hit the surfing industry, they dropped the sport almost overnight. The sport originally was seen as something fun, then the wow factor started as we surfed waves previously thought of as unrideable. Then we were ostracised. Many people thought it wasn’t cool to ride a bodyboard. We’ll be back!
Mike Stewart himself recently posted on the page. What is it like to have legends of the sport join the group?
Its been amazing how we can now chat to our heroes through FB. People that you had on posters on your wall, or plastered on your school books are now reachable and share the stoke as much as you.
Anyone else you have been stoked to see pop up?
So many. I have been blown away by just how nice Tom Boyle, Pat Caldwell and (JJ – Pats wife), Jay Reale, Tim Jones are to name a few. I’ve made plenty of new friends as have others on the page. To be honest the biggest surprise has been how many people have been inspired to get back into the water.
What’s been your favorite post?
So many. From David Castles stories, Tom Boyles insight into different photos, Ballard’s board collection. So many. By far the best thing has been so many people being inspired to get back in the water. Where previously people wouldn’t surf anything under 2 ft, now us old guys are out there in any conditions, re-born groms. Less ego and more just for the love of it. Ive had multiple people message me and thank me for getting them off their arses and into the water again. I dont deserve the credit, everyone who contributes on the pages inspires our little group.
Where to next for the page? Any plans?
Yup – Vintage Bodyboarding Radio! People can post questions a week or so before I chat to some of the industries legends. It will be a podcast. Also will have some shirts for sale too. Working out the details so we can give profits back to the sport or charity.
Thanks for the chat Damien, Any last thoughts?
We’ve see a resurgence in old school skateboarding. Bodyboarding is much safer, arguably for more accessible and is generally more fun. It’s more underground now which is part of its attraction. I think we are seeing an increase in its popularity again. Us old boys and girls need to support the younger crew.
You can request to join the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/545274492161425/