Reg Bell and Terry Klemm with a couple of mindbenders in 1967.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

350 friends and fans, 35 shapers and glassers, 120 vintage boards! On a brilliant Melbourne summer day back in January they all rolled up for a party at the Williamstown Bowling Club, close to where Terry Klemm and Reg Bell started their surfboard building partnership so many decades before.

Following on from 10 months of hard work by Ken Lewis, the much-anticipated Klemm Bell reunion day was a unique gathering and a huge success.

Let's go way back to 1959, and in true backyard style, Terry, a draughtsman at the time made his first balsa board under his veranda. Reg meanwhile was working at General Motors Holden and made his first board in the backyard shed of his girlfriend's Giffard Street home.

The boys formed a partnership in 1964 and Klemm Bell Surfboards was born, working from another shed in the backyard of Reg's mother-in-law. After 80 or so boards they'd outgrown the backyard and moved to a factory in nearby Spotswood. Sadly though, a fire burnt down everything there in 1968!

Undaunted, and with a growing demand from Melbourne's Bayside suburbs, soon after they'd opened up a shop across the bay in Gardenvale on the Nepean Highway. While business was strong, they wanted to be closer to the surf and the hub of things so they made one more move to Torquay and again business thrived.

So here we were on a summer day in 2017 and by late morning the clubhouse was filling up with hundreds of appreciative friends and fans of the label. With the temperature rising steadily and the bar doing a brisk trade, old friends who hadn't seen each other for years (it had been 25 years since Terry and Reg had last seen each other!) renewed friendships and talked about those waves ridden 40 to 50 years ago that were suddenly getting bigger and old stories that were becoming more outrageous.

In fact there was more bullshit being thrown around the room than at a Longreach rodeo.

Around 35 ex shapers and glassers, as well as people involved in the industry turned up. Guys like Richard Harvey, Don Allcroft, Peter Ashley, Ray Wilson, Colin Bell, Jim Pollock. Quicksilver founder Alan Green, longtime boardmakers like Mick Pierce and the legendary George Rice were seen catching up, as were Tidalwave Ted Bainbridge, Phil Grace and Neil Oke . . . just too many more to mention here!

The surfboards themselves were the showstopper though. Some of the state's most renowned collectors arrived with more than 120 KB boards covering all eras from the early 60s to the late 70s.

Bob Smith brought 10 beautiful examples as did the KB collector Kurt Lane and Geoff Vockler.

The organiser himself, Ken Lewis had a few on show including a 9'3" triple stringer with nose and tail blocks made by Terry last year. A beautiful, functional work of art, hand crafted by a master craftsman.

Another highlight was a board that east coast surfer Tony Reid had on display. A 7' 2" single flyer pintale shaped by Reno Abellira. Like a lot of touring surfers, Reno was here for the '77 Bells contest and needing a bit of extra cash wandered into the KB shop and shaped 5 boards which were glassed by Peter Ashley (present on the day). Reno's name and the board details are clearly pencilled on the underside. The best part of this story was the board was found dumped on a Mornington Peninsula beach about 15 years ago.

Phillip Island surfer Jan Cusscaden, aka Pineapple or Banger couldn't believe it when eccentric collector Johnno turned up with his old KB he had custom built in 1971. He took it to Bali in '72 and hasn't seen it since. Because of the huge banana cartoon on the underside it was known everywhere, especially the Island as the Banana Board or simply Banger's Board. So its whereabouts for 45 years remain a mystery . . . but here it was – back home!

Also on show was a beautiful and rare Wayne Lynch shaped single fin from 1971 - one of only 8 ever made and equally as rare as the Reno board. Wayne sent his apologies to Ken Lewis for not being able to make it down from Byron.

A couple more highlights were when SurfWorld Torquay's curator Craig Baird presented on behalf of Surfing Victoria Reg and Terry with an inaugural award acknowledging them as 'Pioneers of Surfing in Victoria.'

Emcee Laurie Thompson aided by Neil Oke presented the boys with a '67 KB Tracker which the boys at Oke surfboards had restored. With access to Terry's photo collection and some old ads from Breakway magazine, the photos, old ads and old decals were printed into a 7'2" sheet of rice paper and glassed onto the underside of the board. It will soon be on display at the Surfworld museum, Torquay.

The drinks kept flowing as day continued on, with Murray Walding's Southside Hodads up on stage playing plenty of great tunes.

Ken Lewis was explaining how both Terry and Reg were a bit reluctant about having this day. Both were wondering why anyone would want to turn up and see "two old blokes".
Well turn up we did, in our hundreds. It was a fitting tribute to two amazing and humble craftsmen that have given so much to Victorian and Australian surfing.


50 years on, the reluctant honorees: “Why would anyone want to come and see two old blokes?” But turn up they did to say thanks.
Ken Kewis on this commemorative board: “We had it made by Oke from an old tracker - notice a young Wayne Lynch next to Klemmy bottom left image.”
Happy days. A print ad from the early 70s.
Bob Smith with a few from the 10 KBs he bought along – overall there were more than 120 specials from across the eras.


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