Original Bob McTavish Keyo Plastic Machine

Greetings, Shredderz! Today we’ve got a Transition Era doozy for you: an original 1967 / 1968 Keyo Plastic Machine, shaped by legendary Aussie shaper Bob McTavish. If you’ve followed the blog at all over the years, you probably know that I have an unending fascination with the Transition Era and the boards it birthed. The late 60s gave way to a ton of shapes, and while not all of them stand the test of time, they were critical in forging a path for modern surfboard design principles. There are few Transition Era boards more influential than Bob McTavish’s Plastic Machine model. The Plastic Machine is first ever vee bottom surfboard, and it was shaped under the Keyo Surfboards label.

Pictured above is an original, late 60s Keyo Plastic Machine. Thank you to Dave Brown for sharing the photos throughout the post, as well as the story behind this very cool surfboard. According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, McTavish created the Plastic Machine in March of 1967, inspired by the vision of a more vertical style of surfing. McTavish continued to refine the design over the next few months, and eventually brought over some vee bottoms to Hawaii later that winter.

Here’s what McTavish recently had to say about the Plastic Machine:

Ah the mighty Plastic Machine! A pivotal design in the evolution of the modern surfboard. In 1967 the surf world was ready to go vertical, start utilising the power, the wonder, the elation of carving up the wave face… not just straight-out trimming across the wall. The Plastic Machine and its contemporary shapes were the first to allow that. Certainly not perfectly, but the deep vee rolled fast onto its rail and the rocker drove it up the face and the first true re-entries and lip-smacks appeared. Sure, the design was a little extreme, and within six months the Rincon and Tracker shapes dominated, but the Plastic remains a true icon. The stringerless construction means I have to handshape these so I can monitor the rocker throughout the glassing process. The deep whippy fin “follows” you around tight bends, and holds. A unique package… a true piece of surfing history.. only available from the originators.

Via McTavish Surfboards on Facebook

The board you see here measures in at roughly 8’6″ x 23″ wide. There are tons of great resources online about McTavish and the genesis of the Plastic Machine, such as the aforementioned Encyclopedia of Surfing article on McTavish, some cool odds and ends on the peerless surfresearch.com.au, and this somewhat recent interview on Liquid Salt. I haven’t, however, been able to find much information on Keyo’s production versions of the Plastic Machine, other than a line on surfresearch.com.au that says they were selling 70 models per week during the height of production in 1967. Judging by the various reissues over the years, there are at least two different logos. See here for a Plastic Machine reissue I wrote up, with what I’ll describe as a hurricane-shaped laminate; compare it to this other reissue, which has a logo similar to the board featured in this post. McTavish continues to produce reproductions of the Plastic Machine, and apparently the stringerless design means that each must be shaped entirely by hand.

One final thing to note about the board in this post is that at some point an aftermarket fin box was installed, doing away with the original fin. The shot above shows a closeup of the tail on a Plastic Machine reissue, and you can clearly see the vee bottom, as well as the outline of the fin.

Thanks again to Dave for sharing pics of this cool piece of Australian surfing history, crafted by one of the all time greats!

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