Exploring The Epicentre Of Surfing Heritage: A Visit To The Australian National Surfing Museum In Torquay

Situated in the seaside town of Torquay, the Australian National Surfing Museum, often referred to as the Torquay Surf Museum, stands as a beacon for surf enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

This unique museum has carved out a niche for itself as the first fully accredited surfing museum in the world, and accolade that speaks volumes about its significance and the richness of its exhibits.

The beauty of the Torquay Surf Museum lies in its universal appeal and its ability to transport visitors back in time.

Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, a curious historian, or simply looking for an interesting way to spend an afternoon, the museum is one of the best places to visit in Torquay.

We aren’t surfers but we really enjoyed the displays that sent us on a trip down memory lane.

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Torquay Surf Museum

With thousands of kilometers of epic coastline, surfing is part of Australia’s national identity as well as being one of the country’s favorite pastimes.

The country has also played an important role in the development of surfing culture around the globe. Contributing to surfboard innovations, clothing and accessories, and surfing competitions.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Torquay’s Bells Beach home to the world’s longest-running surfing competition The Rip Curl Pro. Torquay is also the birthplace of the iconic surf brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver.

So, it’s no surprise that it was local Torquay surfers who came up with the idea of a national surfing museum.

This idea born from friends Peter Troy, Vic Tantou, and Alan Reid, gained support from Surfing Australia, the Geelong Regional Commission, and the local surf industry. Thanks to this collaboration, the museum opened in December 1993.

The Australian Surf Museum is now a top tourist attraction in Torquay and the Surf Coast.

The Collection

Since its inception, the Torquay Museum has been dedicated to celebrating Australian surfers, their accomplishments, Australia’s impact on global surfing culture, and the legacy of surfing.

The museum’s exhibits span over a century of Australian surfing history, displaying an array of surfboards, historic photographs, clothing, surf films, and even classic surfing vehicles.

The first exhibition pays homage to Simon Anderson, the 1981 Bells Beach Classic champion and inventor of the three-fin “Thruster” surfboard design.

This design, a major leap forward since the introduction of polyurethane foam, is still used by many of the world’s top surfers.

The exhibit features a variety of surfboards, black and white photographs, detailed descriptions, and an interesting video where Simon Anderson shares his story.

Surf Culture

Throughout the museum you’ll find a well-curated collection of artifacts including trophies, artworks, books, and wetsuits, reflecting different eras from the past 100 years.

It’s a treasure trove of information and it’s extraordinary to learn of the influence surfing has had on our way of life. For example, it was surprising to discover that surfers invented skateboards, so they had something to do when there were no rideable waves.

Besides its permanent collection, the Torquay Museum also features temporary exhibitions. During our visit the “Waves and Wheels – A Celebration Of Surfaris” exhibition was showing.

A fun exhibition celebrating the wave-chasing adventures of surfers up and down Australia’s southern coastline, and the iconic “Surfmobiles” they drove.

In a bid to cash in on the surfing craze car manufacturers launched surf-themed vehicles like the (now classic) Sandman and Sundowner panel vans adorned with bold graphics and advertising.

The Board Room

The exhibit known as “The Board Room” outlines the progression of surfboard design and the materials used throughout history.

The artfully arranged showroom displays the surfboards to their best advantage on a curved wave-like wall. While a wooden walkway provides optimal viewing.

Featured in the display are a range of boards, from century-old solid timber boards and hollow plywood “toothpicks” to balsa and fiberglass Malibu-style surfboards, as well as modern-day and futuristic composite pieces.

Surfboard Shaping

A wonderful feature of the museum is the glassed workshop where visitors can observe the skilled craftsmanship of Eiji Shiomoto as he shapes surfboards.

Depending on his current project, visitors can see Eiji crafting a variety of boards ranging from Malibus to high-performance shortboards.

Disappointingly Eiji wasn’t in the day we visited but we were still able to view his equipment and tools, as well as the surfboard he was in the process of shaping.

Surfboard Art

Surfing has always been a platform for individual expression evidenced by the way surfers ride waves, shape their boards, and personalize their gear with decorations.

Surfboard art has been an important medium for surfers to showcase their culture and their bond with the sport throughout history.

Initially, surfboard decoration consisted of simply carved initials or painted names on solid timber boards, which later evolved into geometric patterns and club colors on hollow plywood boards.

By the 1960s, this trend had progressed to pigmented resin panels, and stripes, eventually leading to full airbrushed artworks on advanced hydrodynamic board designs.

A delightful favorite among children at the museum is the collection of decorated surfboards.

These surfboards, crafted by Gordon Stammers are adorned with comical letters written by teenagers to their parents.

Adding to the amusement, one of the surfboards features an eye-catching design with a massive shark bit taken out of it, making it a hit with the kids.

Australian Surfing Hall of Fame and Theatre

Rounding out the museum is the Hall Of Fame which pays tribute to Australia’s surfing legends and great champions.

Displayed here are replicas of the surfboards used by these masters, each accompanied by a biography outlining the pinnacle moments of their surfing careers.

Among these, take special note of Lane Beachley’s board. Incredibly small, almost the size of an ironing board, it’s a testament to her exceptional surfing skills.

Guests of the museum can unwind in the theatre room, encircled by these iconic surfboards while enjoying vintage surf films on a big screen.

Final Word

The Australian National Surfing Museum is not just a celebration of Australia’s deep-rooted surfing heritage, but a vibrant living testament to the sport’s evolution and its impact on culture and lifestyle.

From its fascinating surfboards that trace the history of surfboard design to the inspiring Hall Of Fame and the compelling stories of surfing legends, its appeal extends beyond surf enthusiasts to captivate visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Audrey is the principal blogger behind Victoria Uncovered. A site that helps people get the most out of their visit to Victoria Australia. Book Lover | Breakfast Nut | Aussie Gal | She’s usually craving coffee

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