Portrait by Dick Hoole.


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.

Bill 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 revolution.

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




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