Get on board Byron Bay Surf Festival

WELL-KNOWN SHAPER: Bob McTavish says retro-style boards like The Tracker are in high demand.
WELL-KNOWN SHAPER: Bob McTavish says retro-style boards like The Tracker are in high demand. Kate Oneill

SURFBOARD design is riding the retro wave, and that suits Byron Bay's legendary shaper and ambassador for this weekend's Byron Bay Surf Festival, Bob McTavish, just fine.

He's been taking his designs back to the 1960s, to a time before the shortboard revolution he is credited with starting even began.

Boards like The Tracker - a single finner straight out of 1968, and the Noosa 66 - a replica of the mal Bob was riding in 1966 - are the kind of styles coming out of his Byron Bay workshop these days.

"I love seeing the retro boards back because we went through changes too quickly," Bob said.

"I think the younger generation are picking over what happened during those years."

Some shapers are going even further back for inspiration, including another guest at this weekend's festival, Noosa Heads' Tom Wegener.

Wegener has been central to the revival of the alaia, a round-nosed, square-tailed surfboard ridden in pre-20th century Hawaii.

According to Wegener, it's all about stripping back surfing to its essence.

It's not about competitiveness, aggression or winning a contest.

It's about the pure joy of surfing.

This philosophy seems to be at the heart of the retro revival, and it's one which a has a rich history in Byron Bay, thanks to the free surfing hippies like McTavish, who arrived here in the 1960s, drawn by Byron Bay's great waves and inspiring surrounds.

According to Bob, the strength of the retro revival and soul surfing movement appears to have seduced some of the even the most hardened competitive surfers - like three time world champ Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, who will appear opposite Bob in a special in-conversation style event on the Byron Bay Surf Festival's opening night tomorrow.

"He thinks surfing started in 1974," Bob said.

"As he matures he's starting to see it differently.

"Maybe he's opening his eyes to other ways to surf... finally."






Surf Culture Now with Bob McTavish, Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew and MC Phil Jarratt, The Brewery Byron Bay, 8pm.

Band of Frequencies album release, The Brewery Byron Bay.


Surf artisan markets, noon-9pm, Railway Park.

Youth Art Exhibition with live bands, skateboarding, breakdancing, face painting noon-4pm Byron Youth Activities Centre.

Free surf workshops, all day, Byron Community Centre.


Surf swap meet, Wategos Beach, 8am-3pm.

Tandem surf workshops/exhibition, Wategos Beach from 11am.

Freestyle and Stoke Surf Expression Session 10am-noon.


Surf Culture Now: Art and Photography Exhibition, The Brewery.

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