So, this fella in the middle (spot the haole) is my pick for one of the most overlooked figures in Australian surfing history. Arthur Parkyn from Mooloolaba surf club was part of an Australian team sent to Hawaii in 1953 to demonstrate Australian life saving techniques. He must have made a favourable impression because when the International Surf Carnival was planned for Torquay in 1956 it was Parkyn who was despatched to coach the Hawaiian team so they could compete in a truly international surf carnival. At his own expense he also traveled on to California to coach the US mainland team.
I actually met Arthur at the Noosa Festival years ago when he came up and starting talking to me and telling me some of his story. He told me how the Hawaiian lifeguards trained by being dropped out at sea and picked up again three hours later to simulate the experience of shipwreck survivors. I took it all with a grain of salt as I had never heard of him and only later learned how profound his contribution had been. It was reportedly Parkyn who suggested the US Team bring their malibu boards to Australia in 1956 to display the latest in wave-riding, even though there were no surfboard events planned for the international carnival.
Parkyn was such a hit in Hawaii they insisted on hosting his wedding to his fiance Dell, organised discount honeymoon accommodation and presented the newlyweds with a handsome clock. And in the US he and Dell were gifted a trip to Vegas complete with $100 complimentary gambling chips. And Mooloolaba surf club members were given reciprocal rights with the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki – think Mooloolaba got the better half of that deal. For me, Arthur was a lesson in how easily surf history can slip through our fingers. I met the humble unassuming man in the twilight of his years and didn’t pay enough attention to his stories, and later had to learn about him second hand through letters and papers held at
SurfWorld Museum Torquay. Parkyn passed away in October 2009 two weeks shy of his 98th birthday. I think the great surfer/clubbie divide sometimes gets in the way of Australian surfers recognising their true elders and having a cultural continuum to the great ocean people of our past. Parkyn’s another who deserves a place in Australian surfing history.