Plenty of life left in coffin-lid board

By Lindy Laird -
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Don Edge used to surf on this old coffin lid which had been steamed into shape at the back and turned up slightly in front. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Don Edge used to surf on this old coffin lid which had been steamed into shape at the back and turned up slightly in front. Photo / Michael Cunningham

When the new, the groovy, the crazy and the old faves are brought along to next weekend's surfboard show-and-tell at Waipu Cove, a coffin lid will be among them.

Up to 200 boards are likely to be on show at the third annual Cove Fish Fry, organised by surfing enthusiast Michael Cunningham.

While the non-commercial, non-competitive event celebrates all shapes and makes of surfboard, the term "fish" refers to the popular twin keel surfboard style many modern boards are based on.

Pioneer Northland surfer Don Edge will be the bloke toting a coffin lid to the line-up. He used to surf on it a lot in the early 1960s, having been given it by his aunt Hazel Flower, who had also ridden it many times.

Mr Edge thinks his aunt got the lid from a local funeral parlour. It is solid wood, about 2.5cm thick.

It was not long after Mr Edge and his brother Ross, who died last year, got the surfing bug that they started making boards, taking their design from pictures in magazines.

"Between the two of us we came up with a concept of what we thought looked like a surfboard," he said. "We made a concrete mould, bought a two-pack of foam mix, poured it in and crossed our fingers.

"We made the blank, cut it in half, put the stringer down the middle, stuck it back together, glassed it over and stuck a fin on."

Mr Edge makes it sound easy but this old surfer, like generations who have followed since he and his brother pioneered the activity at Whangarei beaches, well knows how important the nuances of a board's design and shape are.

He reckons the brothers got it pretty right back in the early 60s in their backyard, with their gung-ho, can-do experimentation. Today's popular "fish" boards are not too dissimilar in shape to those innovative backyard long boards.

Mr Cunningham is hoping for a good turn-out next Sunday at the event which attracts surfers and board shapers from all around New Zealand and from overseas.

"One thing that really blows me away is how much surf history there is in Northland."

That history includes the old surfers themselves, as well as many boards people bring along which hark back to former generations' surf days.

"Quite a few of them in the past two years literally got pulled out from under someone's house — their uncle's or grandfather's old board, for instance. They're not flash, they might be nothing to look at or even ride."

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