As an American, I have long held a fascination with Australia’s surf culture. Growing up, my local surf shop carried a selection of Aussie surf magazines, and I loved their irreverent take on the sport. To me, many aspects of Aussie surf culture are familiar, and yet there are endless differences to be dissected and analyzed.
This is particularly true of surfboard shaping, which is inherently local. As a result, an Aussie surfboard collector’s wish list ends up looking very different from its American counterpart. Just to select some names at random, how many Aussies could tell you much about Renny Yater, and how many Americans can rattle off facts about Gordon Woods? To be sure, there have been many areas of overlap, and Hawaii has famously been a melting pot of cross-Pacific collaboration. That said, the Australian and American surfboard building scenes seem to have developed in parallel with one another.
It wasn’t until recently that I became familiar with the legend of Michael Peterson. His name was vaguely recognizable, and I knew of his status as an important surfer in the Seventies, but it wasn’t until I joined the Vintage Surfboard Collectors Facebook group — which skews a bit Aussie — that I realized the extent of MP’s legend. While it is easy to focus on Peterson’s transcendent surfing, or the tragic elements of his tale, another thing that stands out is the fact he belongs to the small fraternity of world class surfers with shaping skills to match.
MP’s career, and even just his forays into surfboard shaping, deserve a much longer and more in-depth post. That said, when I first saw this MP board shaped under the Burford Surfboards label, I knew I had to feature it ASAP. Many thanks to Mark from Oceangraffix in South Australia, who provided photos and information on this fantastic board.
Peterson shaped for a number of labels during his career, including Shane, Aragorn and Goodtime, as well as Michael Peterson Surfboards. As you can see in the closeup of the logo above, the board featured in this post has MP’s famous wave and fruit basket logo, combined with a Burford laminate.
MP shaped this board for Burford Surfboards, and the board can be traced to the mid-Seventies at the latest (more on that below). The Burford label was founded in South Australia in the Sixties by Don Burford. The business moved to Queensland, where it remains today. According to Wikipedia, MP founded Michael Peterson Surfboards in Currumbin in 1974, located right next door to the Burford factory. At some point, it appears that Burford shifted away from surfboard production to manufacturing blanks, which it continues to do today. It’s unclear to me when MP shaped for Burford, how long his tenure was, or approximately how many boards he produced. I’ve seen one other MP board for Burford, but it is very different.
The board clocks in at 6’9″ x 19″ x 2 5/8″. As you can see, Mark was not only kind enough to share photos of the board, he took some good shots, too, including a nice profile shot that illuminates the board’s rocker and the nose.
The board also has a signature, although it’s a little difficult to read. The signature has two separate components: the phrase “in and out of your mind”, in the center, both above and below the stringer; and then “Shaped Michael” bracketing the phrase on either side. I do not claim to be an expert on MP’s shapes, but this is consistent with other signatures on Michael Peterson surfboards. For what it’s worth, I have also seen a fair amount of boards that were simply signed “M.P.” I don’t know if “in and out of your mind” is a specific reference, but considering MP’s struggles with schizophrenia before his untimely passing, one wonders if it wasn’t an expression of his internal struggles.
While any MP-shaped board is exciting, not only is Mark’s example notable because it was shaped under the Burford label, I believe it’s also a board that MP rode himself.
Pictured above is a photograph taken by Dick Hoole featuring MP surfing Kirra in 1976. Hoole posted this to his Instagram earlier, where the spot and the date are clearly marked. (Someone pointed out MP’s long arms and huge feet and now that’s all I see whenever I look at the picture.) If you look closely at the board, it looks very similar to Mark’s board featured in this post, whether it’s the yellow tint on the rails and bottom, or what looks to be the unique Burford / MP combo logo on the deck.
See above for two more Dick Hoole photos from the same session (source: CoastalWatch). When you review all three Hoole photos and compare them to the photos of Mark’s board, I believe it’s the same board. The only reason I leave any room for disagreement is because these things can be notoriously difficult to prove, especially given MP is no longer alive. (For example, see a Facebook thread here, where someone incorrectly identifies an all-yellow MP as the board being surfed in the same Dick Hoole / Kirra photos from 1976.) Assuming Mark’s board is the same one in Hoole’s photos — and again, I believe this to be the case — then at the latest the board was shaped sometime in 1976, and likely a bit earlier than that.
Amazingly, this Burford / Michael Peterson Surfboards stick is the first ever MP board I have ever written on the blog, but it won’t be the last. Many thanks again to Mark of Oceangraffix, who was kind enough to share the photos of this special surfboard and the story behind it.