As a lead in to the upcoming Point Leo Vintage Surf Day we thought we might put the spotlight on one of the main attractions for the day, the chance to have a chat with Victoria’s legendary surfboard manufacturer, George Rice.
In 1958 an 18 year old George Rice made his first board in his parents garage at Highett, a hollow timber design and after completing another three for mates his enthusiasm for surfing saw him place an order for a Vic Tanta Surfboard.
Months passed and without any sign of the new board surfacing from Vic, George undertook the making of his own solid balsa surfboard. Once again he honed his naturally given manufacturing skills to supply balsa boards for his fellow surfers until the demand saw the establishment of his first shop in High St. Preston during the summer of 1963-64.
He was well underway but a series of robberies resulted in a forced move to West Heidelberg in 1965. George took inspiration from Bob McTavish’s progressive designs. He became the standout leader for the new wave of surfboard manufacturers in Victoria and by the time he moved into a bigger factory in Northcote during 1969 he was peaking at 80 stringerless surfboards a week in the Christmas holiday rush.
The winters were much quieter but the hectic summer production meant the training of shapers and glassers became essential to GR surfboards success. Some of those who owe their kick start to George include Fred Pyke, Pat Morgan, Doug Warbrick, Ken Bates (Syd), Paul Pascoe, Phil Grace, MIck Pierce and Colin Bell.
In 1972 George set up his final store in Bonbeach but decided to retire closing the shop in 1975 for an easier lifestyle and more time for fishing and golf.
During a quiet period in the winter of 2000 Phil came up with the idea of making some old 60’s logs. Having come into surfboard manufacturing in 1968 we had started on the shorter 8 footer’s so we came up with the idea of approaching George Rice (who we had never met but idolised) to see if we could make a few GR’s under license with a royalty on each board for George.
For all we new George may have passed away but contacting his last employee Colin Bell produced a phone number and 3 months later we were all set to go equipped with the original George Rice art work , decal layouts and templates. George also produced some timeless photographs that were enlarged, framed and remain on display at the Pt Leo store.
Although we only made the George Rice replicas over a few seasons the opportunity to get to know George and hear of his incredible history in manufacturing was like winning Tattslotto for Phil and I. We put together a team to produce the 40 or so surfboards which included two of his past employees in Phil Grace and Mick Pierce, plus John Jolly, Phil and I and Darren Hack polishing.
A sunny Sunday morning on the West Coast for the “ Have a Rice Day” held in the Anglesea foreshore park (2001) saw some breathtaking antique GR’s ( approx 200 ) on display combined with some 1000 visitors all with a GR connection and story. Commemorative tee shirts with the original George Rice Prints were a hot item but it was George who stole the day with some wonderful stories from the 50’s and 60’s. George has also attended our Vintage Surf Day at Pt Leo as guest speaker and will be there again on the 12th of November so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to see a legend of the surf industry in the flesh.
VINTAGE SURF DAY
NOVEMBER 12th 10am
Point Leo Foreshore Reserve
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