Vale Joe Larkin

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Joe Larkin

By Terry ‘Tappa’ Teece

SURFING HAS lost one of it’s pioneers, with the passing of legend surfer, shaper and larrikin, Joe Larkin.

Joe was farewelled on Tuesday July 25, a man who started shaping plywood toothpicks in the late 1940s, using his carpentry skills, and beginning a career as one of Australia’s first surfboard manufacturers, moving from the hollow plywood boards, then from balsa wood to foam.

Joe made his first board at 15 years of age with his mates in his Dad’s garage, and the later progressed to making a quid with his plywood okanuis. He really hand shaped, his first lot of tools for surfboard making being a saw, smoothing planer, a german jack, and heaps of hand held sandpaper. No machines involved at all.

Joe then stepped ahead of the trend and moved the the sand bottomed points of Queensland in the early 1960s and many legends of surfing and shaping passed through Joe’s factory at Kirra, including Peter Townend, Michael Peterson, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Andy Mac, and Terry Fitzgerald just some of the legendary surfers that have something to thank Joe for.

After chatting to my mum last week, she told me that Joe made my Dad his first ever surfboard, and I don’t think there was many surfers of that era that did not have a board from Joe Larkin, or had a board from his factory. Joe’s boards have been a prized possession of many a surfer and before his battle with cancer he had gone back to shape some classics at his factory beloved shed Bogangar.

Joe was inducted into the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame, but if you saw Joe at his beloved Caba Pub, he was just like everyone else, and did not want or chase the limelight. He loved a beer and a joke, and would always be up for a yarn with anyone.

The last work you can see of Joe is the on the History Channel documentary “Men of Wood and Foam” which follows the stories of Joe and the other pioneers of the surfboard industry. All the shapers and surfers owe a debt of gratitude to Joe, he was a true pioneer and Australian legend.

The Cabarita Pub was where he was farewelled on Wednesday, and his legacy will live on. The picture below is Joe at work at his Kirra Factory in the 1960s. Vale Joe!

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