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Paying homage to Roberts Road

Murray Robertson traces the development of the sculpture, to be blessed tomorrow, marking the revered Gisborne surf break at Roberts Road . . .

Roberts Road will forever be known as the birthplace of surfing in Gisborne, where so many of the local boardriding fraternity, over many years, started out on the break’s consistent right and left hand waves.

The stature of the “Roberts” surf break in Gisborne surfing folklore has been recognised with the placement there of a special Timelines sculpture, positioned alongside the Oneroa walkway.

The artwork will be officially unveiled, dedicated and blessed in a ceremony today.

The overall cost of the project from creation, to manufacture and installation is estimated

at $75,000.

“With generous funding and donations of time from local businesses and the community the cost came in well under budget,” said Kay Crosby from the Art in Public Places Trust.

The sculpture represents three generations of surfing, with the three metal boards representing the eras of surfboard design and size.

These are the Bob Davies 9ft model, circa 1966; the Surfboards Gisborne 7ft 2in long model, circa 1972; and the Three Fin Thruster model, first designed in 1980. This 6ft 1in shape was made by The Boardroom Gisborne.

Artist Paulus McKinnon project-managed and designed the sculpture in association with staff at McCann’ics Engineering, where it was built.

It was made from 12-millimetre weathered plate Corten steel, to blend in with the surroundings over time.

The metal of the sculpture was chosen for its capacity to weather in the environment, and was considered to be part of the look.

“The outlines of the surfboards were designed transparent so as not block the view,” the artist said.

“The shapes show different perspectives from different angles.”

The sculpture was initiated by Gisborne women’s surfing pioneer Gail Patty.

“I welcomed the input from local surfers, and teamed up with surfing councillor Amber Dunn to build the project to a professional level,” Gail said.

Gisborne District Council’s Art in Public Places Trust committee got behind the concept.

“Gisborne has the number one surfing lifestyle in the country,” Gail said.

She and twin sister Joan both started out on the waves there back in l962.

“The new Timelines surfing sculpture is a tribute to the many people who shaped and sustained one of New Zealand’s most popular surfing locations — Gizzy!

“A storyboard is soon to be installed so the community, future generations and visitors can learn of the beginnings of modern-day surfing here,” Gail said.

“This sculpture is for the surfing community to embrace. It represents their lifestyle.

“It is not about personal achievements or best surf breaks and so on.”

Surfboard riding came to Gisborne in the late 1950s when a visiting team of surf lifeguards from Piha in Auckland brought their stand-up surf boards, known as “zip boards” with them. A year or two later and the early pioneers of Gisborne surfing began to emerge.

'In the perfect place'Kevin Pritchard was said to be principal among them, always out on the big days in the city and up at Wainui and Makorori, and he was joined by the likes of David Swann, Peter Goodwin and John Logan.

As the ‘60s flew by more and more youngsters joined the line-up in the waves. Names and legends like the late great surfing champion Allan Byrne, unsung wavemen like the late Dave Slater, others like Billy Goodwin, Brent Simpson, Eddie Rare, Glen Sutton, Kevin Croskery, Chris Ransley, Grant MacAlister and Ron Amann (who grew up right at Roberts, just up from the beach).

“We used to leave our boards behind a fence just near the Roberts carpark when we biked home after a full day in the water,” said another of the mid-60s originals.

“You could not feel safe doing that today.

“So many of us started out at Roberts, mostly guys I have to say, and then we moved up the beach to The Pipe,” he said.

“Later when we had cars we’d go out to Makorori and Wainui.”

Over the years surfing became more and more a family affair, with fathers taking sons and daughters into the waves. Now those same children take their children.

Many others joined the Gisborne surfing fraternity from outside the district.

Visitors like Aussies Ben Hutchings and the late Bob Rasby, who came here for a look, stayed and raised their families while they made surfboards. Ray Dalton came and stayed too.

Gisborne has always been part of setting innovation standards for surfboard design and some leading shapers produced their wares here — the likes of Bob Davie an early standout.

“I believe ‘Roberts’ is definitely the hub for surfing in Gisborne,” said Gail. “And it always will be.

“The sculpture dedicated to surfing in Gisborne is in the perfect place.”


DEDICATION: The sculpture designed to mark the generations of surfing in Gisborne, located at Roberts Road, the spiritual home of surfing here, will be officially unveiled, dedicated and blessed tomorrow. The artwork was designed to capture the three eras of surfing in Gisborne, starting with the long board days of the 1960s and carrying through to the present day. Picture by Dave Beard
IN THE BEGINNING: Sculptor Paulus McKinnon working on the sculpture now installed at the Roberts Road surfbreak. The artwork will be officially unveiled, dedicated and blessed at a ceremony tomorrow. Picture supplied
FINISHING TOUCHES: Luke Sainsbury from McCann’ics Engineering tackles a welding task on the sculpture. Picture supplied