8 October 2015
The Australian surfboard manufacturing industry could learn a lot from the efforts of elders in Papua New Guinea who are working to reverse the disintegration of their local surfboard industry, according to renowned surfboard shaper and University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student Tom Wegener.
A former Californian professional surfer, Mr Wegener travelled to PNG earlier this year as part of the USC research project he started in 2013 in to the sustainability of surfboard manufacturing on the Sunshine Coast.
He will present his findings from the trip at a special presentation entitled “Surfboards of Papua New Guinea: How culture supports local industry” on Wednesday 14 of October at USC. Media and the public are welcome to attend this free presentation.
“A chief elder from PNG got in touch with me and expressed his concerns about the lack of locals surfing the traditional way, which is on wood surfboards that are crafted locally,” Mr Wegener said.
“There’s a real worry that the culture is being displaced with the introduction of foam surfboards from Australia and traveling surfers, and they’re extremely conscious of losing their surfboard industry to imports from overseas.”
Mr Wegener spent two weeks in the village of Tupira in the Madang province of PNG to help local surfers and board makers update their design and construction methods in an effort to retain their culture of being surfboard builders.
“While I was there I found that the native balsa wood that they have in abundance throughout PNG could be the resource that helps get the surfboard construction industry back on its feet,” he said.
“The Australian industry isn’t facing the same level of threat just yet, but the threat from overseas imports is very real. In Australia we’re somewhat ambivalent about the culture and if we don’t appreciate its heritage, contribution and importance to the country, then it is entirely possible the surfboard industry could be lost altogether.
“I really hope this work opens the eyes of Australian manufacturers, as well as local surfboard shapers. I’d so love for local surfers to attend this presentation in the hope it gives them a renewed appreciation of what they do every day,” he said.
“PNG has village chiefs looking after the industry and maybe Australian surfboard manufacturers should do the same – find ways of maintaining local surfboard culture and appreciating its value to Australia.”
— Megan Woodward