ob McTavish was recently in Bali surf-
ing, shaping and serving as an inspira-
tion for the Deus outfit. Here he discusses
friendship, where we can find God in a wave
and why Chuck Yaeger’s grandson should
be test pilot for his latest designs.
- What I have learned about Friendship? I
think loyalty is the most beautiful quality of
- We fall in love with surfboards because
of all the time we spend with them. Count
the hours. Surfing, talking
about them, holding them in
our arms. We talk to our surf-
boards through our feet. So,
like any friend that is on your
mind all the time, you fall in
love with them.
- The only way to fall in love
with your fins is if you have
an eye for it. They are like the
- Who is my ideal test pilot?
John John Florence. But only
because I can’t remember half
the names of the guys on the
- When I shaped a board for
Kelly Slater, he wanted an
edge that would help him beat the next guy.
And that’s not the criteria I operate under.
- Most shortboards these days are just ten-
nis racquets. Just stripped back to work in a
tradesman’s way. It’s heartbreaking.
- But seriously, I think Rasta is the man. He
can surf anything beautifully.
- The most enjoyable kind of surfing is with
your child on the nose of your board. Pure
- Do you know that whole shortboard revo-
lution was only a six month period? Every-
thing that followed was just mop-up.
- Greenough was just some guy that came
over to Oz, riding on his knees, because he
had no relevance in California. But when he
came to Oz we loved him because he was
a different kind of yank. He couldn’t relate to
the functioning world…but he was just such
a wonderful guy. His influence on the revolu-
tion was actually more imagined than actu-
ally based in reality. I think his most valuable
contribution to surfing was as a personifica-
tion of surfing imagination. His photography
proved that forever. But we Aussies made
George Greenough famous by association.
He became famous and was perceived as
influential and important because our little
gang of Aussie surfers and shapers took
him in and cared for him and loved him. Still
- The best board in the world ended up in
Sanur, Bali. Ok, so after the Honolua ses-
sions in 1967, I went to Cali-
fornia the next day and imme-
diately shaped myself a really
sweet 7’10” by 21” with low
rocker and a shallow vee. That
board was THE board that re-
ally started the shortboard
revolution in California. The
real mind opener. There was
no more trimming, no more
noseriding, it was all off the tail
and into the stratosphere from
there. I called that board the
“Son of the Plastic Machine”.
I did the best surfing of my life
on that board. I was 27.
I shaped that board at Morey/
Pope’s, and one of the factory
guys picked it up after I went
back home to Oz. And this
guy brought it to Bali. And he
surfed Sanur on it, this historic board. And
do you know he rode that board for the next
12 years? Until the glass eventually peeled
off. He just loved it to death. So he rode it to
death in Bali. A fitting end.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
Bob McTavish, 72
Shaper, Holy man, Inventor of the Shortboard
Early 70’s prototypes. Way ahead of the curve.