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THE KOOK BOX

"The future is an unknown, but a somewhat predictable unknown. To look to the future we must first look back upon the past. That is where the seeds of the future were planted." Albert Einstein

So lets start at the beginning. This winter was a amazing adventure into the past for me. I was lucky enough to acquire one of the most iconic rare books about surfing and its history. The book was Thomas Edward Blakes’ “surfboard riders” published in 1936. This book shone a light on the goings-on in traditional Hawaiian life and how fundamentally important surfing is within their culture. Tom Blake and Duke Kahanamoku showcased surfing around the world. They traveled light, with only their trunks and knowledge. Using their experience for running surfing exhibitions from Central America to Australia, they exposed surfing to the world. It was the first time anyone had showcased surfing outside of Hawaii within western culture. Amazingly they did not take surfboards. Travelling without surfboards meant that everywhere they stopped, they had to build their boards from scratch. This allowed them to share some of their knowledge and craft–receiving accolade's from those who watched Duke and Tom make the hollow wood surf craft. 


The timing of this book landing in my hand at this time was serendipitous. The next month someone called me up, and asked if i could do a board restoration. They had no idea the age or the creator of the surf craft, but they did know that the board was something that needed to be preserved in time for future generations of New Zealand surfers to see. The board was beaten and battered, but i knew the moment I saw it, exactly what it was. This was a replica “kook box” that had been made in New Zealand, following the designs of Tom Blake, which was internationally published in the popular Mechanics Magazine. It was just crazy to me to think that somebody back in the 1940s, not too different from myself, someone who was jazzed on surfing, would be confident enough to dive headfirst into this project–painstakingly putting together this board using native timbers, and rudimentary wood working tools with no understanding of how to surf, or even have a surfboard. Restoring this craft 180 years into the future would be a walk in the park. I had power tools, years of experience working with wood, knowledge of fiber glass, and some boat building ideas. This restoration was a definitely a labour of love, and took a ridiculous amount of time, but is hands down the coolest project I have ever worked on. Imagining the stoke, anticipation, time and energy that went in to the original creation made me feel really privileged to have the opportunity to put myself in the shoes of one of those original creators who followed in Duke and Tom’s footsteps. Lighting a fire inside me to create beautiful traditional surf craft once again.


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