Stolen surfboard makes its way home forty years on

Anthony Pancia
Swellnet Dispatch

A chance sighting online has led to a surfer being reunited with a board that had been stolen from his mother's garage 40 years ago.

Peter Gilson was gifted the board by his mother, who had secretly scrimped and saved the equivalent of approximatley $1,800 in the late '70s from a store in Newcastle.

"I only had it for about a year and it got pinched from the garage with a bunch of other things," Mr Gilson said.

"To be honest, at the time, being a young kid, I didn't really give it too much thought but as the years went by it occurred to me how much of a sacrifice my mum had made to get me that board."

Distinctively illustrated board

Forty years on while recovering from the side-effects of treatment for cancer, Mr Gilson began repairing vintage surfboards, joining Victorian-based Facebook site, Vintage Surfboard Collectors, dedicated to such craft in the process.

One evening, while perusing a gallery of old boards on the Facebook site, Mr Gilson said he "nearly jumped right out of bed," when he spotted the distinctively illustrated board in the WA Surf Gallery, located near Margaret River, Western Australia.

"Some guy had been through the gallery and took a bunch of photos," Mr Gilson said.

"But by luck, of all the boards there, he'd singled mine out and taken a photo of it. I sat bolt upright in bed when I saw it and a whole range of emotions came flooding through."

Though the board had probably passed through many sets of hands over the years, its new owner, West Australian surfer Mick Ray had given the board to curator of the WA Surf Gallery, Bill Gibson to restore and display.

Mr Gilson emailed the owners of the gallery and managed to convince them of his connection with a historic photo showing the board and a nephew.

"His story all added up but the emotional backstory pretty moved us all to tears," Mr Gibson said.

"Ultimately it was Mick's call, but he agreed to hand it back free of charge, which was a great gesture. It was just too much of a feel-good story not too."

Vintage Surfboard Collector site administrator Lee Murphy said the gesture was not uncommon, but always a bonus given vintage boards can fetch a premium price.

"There are a lot of collectors out there looking for their first surfboard as they hold a lot of sentimental attachment," Mr Murphy said.

"Generally a surfer's first board will have come from a family member or they've worked long and hard to save up for it. Every surfer remembers that first board and pretty much everyone would do anything to get it back again."

Board now a family keepsake

Mr Gilson was finally reunited with his beloved board courtesy of Mr Gibson, who had flown over to compete at a national longboard championship at Cabarita Beach, on the NSW north coast.

Bill Gibson flew to northern NSW to return the board to Peter Gilson (ABC Local: Damien Larkins)

While admitting to being "a bit too big to ride it now," Mr Gilson said it would instead remain in his family's possession for eternity.

"It looks just like I remember," Mr Gilson said as he held the board for the first time in more than four decades.

"It'll go up on the wall, along with a picture of my mum."

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


spuddyjack's picture
spuddyjack's picture
spuddyjack commented Monday, 13 Aug 2018 at 10:30am

Good Karma ultimately prevailed. A lovely story. Beautiful artwork/motif on the deck - Jesse James or Billy the kid???!!! Really glad the board made its journey back to its rightful owner.

Stay salty

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Monday, 13 Aug 2018 at 1:21pm

Was that Mick Ray from Vicco...Tony's little bro or a different one?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 13 Aug 2018 at 1:53pm

Every six months or so I do a search of the Vintage Surfboard Collector FB page and see if my first board turns up. And all for the exact same reason Lee Murphy describes.

spitti handshapes's picture
spitti handshapes's picture
spitti handshapes commented Monday, 13 Aug 2018 at 4:58pm

Had a beautiful 7.2. X22 clear white rounded hpin. With my new yellow spitti handshapes logo. Stolen straight out of my workspace. Before even completing it. Needed a final sand and finish coat. Only had the 7 in fin box. In the tail. Ready to sand .. Ive been gutted ever since .. I even believe I know who took it but the police need photos .. they don’t act on it otherwise. Which means any board lying around can get picked up and. Unless it turns up somewhere. You are left. Looking everyday like looking for a lost parrot .... feel so happy for this guy .. curse the low life who took it ...

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Tuesday, 14 Aug 2018 at 9:42am

I'd say everyone owes Mick a set wave. Top effort.

wbat's picture
wbat's picture
wbat commented Tuesday, 14 Aug 2018 at 10:06am

Who made the board?

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Tuesday, 14 Aug 2018 at 1:14pm

Still have my first board after 28 years :)
Edit: & the magic is still there

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Tuesday, 14 Aug 2018 at 9:48pm

Karma at its most effective with regards to surfboards.