MIGHTY MIGHTY KONG!
In the mid seventies as pro surfing became more established, there was one surfer who definitely stood out from the crowd. Wearing hyper-coloured superhero inspired wetsuits and riding fully decorated surfboards, Newcastle’s Mark Richards was making quite an impression in the surf and creating headlines with his performances and equipment.
Even as a teenager, Mark had been making regular trips to Hawaii and had established relationships with many of the best surfboard shapers there, including Ben Aipa, who was one of the most progressive shapers at the time. Ben’s hydroplane inspired “Sting” design was a unique blend of design ideas that produced high performance surfboards. Airbrushed by the talented artist Al Dove these boards were distinctive and effective. Mark and a hot young group of Hawaiian surfers like Larry Bertleman, Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Mark Liddel were regularly featured in surf magazines and movies pushing these eye catching surfboards to their limits.
The board shown here board has some real history, and of all Mark’s Aipa Stings, this and his flame sprayed board seemed to be his weapons of choice. MR was runner up to the great Michael Peterson at the first Stubbies event in 1977 on this board, surfed it in the Coke contest and at Bells Beach that same year. For a while you couldn’t pick up a surfing mag without seeing images of MR surfing King Kong , arms outstretched, pushing the board to new places on a wave. These boards seemed uniquely suited to MR’s style and amplified his colourful personality in the water.
With his outstanding performance, colourful wetsuits and surfboards, MR was probably the most visible surfer of the late 1970s. Described by Rip Curl founder Doug Warbrick as “The most complete competitive surfer”, Mark backed his superhero persona in the water with outstanding performances and would go on to become surfing’s first multiple world champion winning the title in 1978, 79, 80 and 1981.
King Kong has had a bit of an adventurous life. If you are a vintage surfboard enthusiast you might want to skip this bit! In 1979, I remember this board being out in the second hand rack of MR’s Hunter Street shop with a price tag of AUD$250!! MR sold it and the board disappeared. Years later the board resurfaced, found up a tree in an undisclosed national park. The board was so recognizable that it was quickly returned to MR, where his mate Mick repaired damage to the nose and tail, and some years later it found its way here to the museum. If you want to read through MR’s blog you can find out more about this and other boards http://markrichardssurfboards.com/blog/
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