"THE GREAT AND GENTLE BILL WALLACE GONE AT 91" Sunday, 3 September 2017
"From plywood through balsa to foam - longboards
to short and back again - a shaper’s shaper, a fine surfer and a true
waterman, R.I.P Bill Wallace, 1926-2017.
Tall, open, funny,
modest and generous, an old-school gent was Bill and to meet him was to
like him. He moved to Noosa in the early 70s and finally hung up his
tools just a few years ago. At age 86 Bill was still handcrafting
beautiful wooden board similar to those he started on as a teenager in
the early 1940s. He also brewed a pretty smooth bootleg rum throughout
his later years which he’d share with anyone who fancied a drop.
was born in 1926, grew up in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney at Bronte,
joined the surf club and spent all his teenage spare time in the water.
During World War II many older club members shipped off to war, and at
15 Bill got an apprenticeship working in munitions factories building
boats. He made his first surfboard, a 16' toothpick, in 1942 which took a
year to build. “That board wasn't easy to make, no materials and no one
to show me what to do!" He soon sold it though and that was the start
of a life-long career and passion that saw him at the forefront of
Australian board manufacturing and design.
Billy moved to
Sydney’s Northern Beaches and became one of the Brookvale Six (check out
the doco “Men of Wood and Foam for the full fascinating story), was
among the first to blow foam in Australia, and rode the 60s boom through
the first golden era of the longboard right on through the shortboard
The list of great surfer/shapers who worked for and
were mentored by Bill includes Bob McTavish, Rooster Dell, Frank Latta
and Dick Van Straalen, and through the 60s the Wallace label was
renowned for super quality boards. Said Bill: "At that stage in summer
we would make 120 boards a week. We made D-fin pigs in the early '60s
and by 1967 we were making shorter boards which Bob McTavish and Nat
Young where riding".
Bill was inducted into the Surfboard Shapers Hall of Fame in California in 2011 alongside names like Tom Blake and Greg Noll.
A much-loved man, a life well lived – rest in peace Bill Wallace."
- Author John Brasen - Pacific Longboarder Magazine
I never met Bill Wallace but he was a great friend and mentor to Tom Wegener and passed on his knowledge to be forever a part of Australian surfing history.