BOB MCTAVISH | BYRON LIFE
Posted on May 5, 2017 by Trace
B O B M C T A V I S H
B Y R O N L I F E
C I T I Z E N S
O F T H E S L I D E
— Not So Ordinary Citizens Interview —
Life in Byron Bay in the 60s & 70s had become a hub for early surf culture; a haven for the musically talented, alternative ‘country soul’ surfing community as portrayed in Alby Falzon’s Morning of the Earth; and also the beginnings of MO [Multiple Occupancy]
We chat to Founder/Shaper Bob McTavish about his early arrival to Byron Bay and what life was like for him and his young family.
HC: Take us back to when you first settled here; what was the lifestyle like at that time for you?
BOB MCTAVISH: We rented an old house on a dairy farm first of all.
Shopped at roadside stalls and ordered stone ground flour from Brisbane by the sackful.
Vege’s and home made bread on the fuel stove overlooking the bay.
Next a farmhouse on the edge of Lennox, surfing it daily, empty.
Finally built our first house on Lennox cliff top in 1978. Then the crowds began.
HC: How does a day in the life of Bob McTavish look?
BOB: Up at 7am. Make breakfast with Lynn. Head off to check for a surf. Then to the factory for shaping or quality control.
Home for salad with Lynn. Then back to factory for shaping or other interesting project’s to do with the boards.
HC: What was it like raising your children in the Byron Shire?
BOB: Terrific. The schools accepted all kinds without judgment. Very little travel time. No organized sports, just surfing the local beaches.
HC: With an enviable list of achievements and experiences, what are the moments that have brought you the most joy and peace?
BOB: Being married for 45 years. Financing the raising of 5 kids. Making thousands of surfers happy with successful designs.
HC: At 73 years young, you’re still a keen surfer… how regularly are you in the Ocean these days?
BOB: I surf or swim about 5 times a week…
HC: What advise can you give, on maintaining longevity in terms of both health & surf fitness through the years?
HC: What are you currently riding & preferred surf break?
BOB: 9’6 Noosa 66 in small trimming waves.
8’6 G2 gun in bigger waves.
Crazy 9’1 Surftech Original: when I’m confused in my midrange choices.
My favorite breaks at the moment – The Pass, Wategos Bommie.
And I’m learning to surf some other breaks in onshore wind conditions, because there’s no one in the water!
HC: Surfboard shaping runs in your genes, with son Ben McTavish continuing the family tradition. How does it feel, knowing that your brand will continue to thrive for future generations?
BOB: Relaxed at last… he really knows his stuff!
HC: The shaping of a surfboard involves many toxic chemicals. Has it been a concern for you dealing with these daily for so many years?
BOB: No issues whatsoever. Styrene and acetone pass through your system within 24 hours.
HC: Does the concept of the surfboard industry going ‘green’, both in surfboard manufacture and in surf fashion inspire you and how does a sustainable business look for McTavish Surf?
BOB: I lost a million dollars trying to make greener boards in the 80s and 90s.
Closed clamshell molding for no waste and greater end durability.
But at the moment whilst awaiting green foams and resins the best thing to do is make boards that last a long time. As in, not going to landfill. Our boards will last a lifetime, if looked after.
Pictured above : Bob and long-time pal, and fellow McTavish [and pre-McTavish San Juan Surfboards], glasser/laminator Bill Mclean, whom still runs cattle on his farm out behind Byron, as well as glassing perfect cut-laps daily.
HC: When I dropped into the factory for a chat and snap, the Bob and Bill show went into high gear as they regaled me with tales of the oldest board in residence within the factory; this ‘honey’ which was shaped and glassed by the pair, in the early 70s. Crafted for ‘elegant wave riding’ at Lennox in it’s day.
To hear the discussion check the video post on HC instagram
h e r e.
Proof that indeed, a McTavish board can last a lifetime.
HC: Favourite tunes to shape a surfboard to? And to sing to in the car?
BOB: Shaping: Gillian Welch, Jason Isbell.
Driving and singing: old Billy Joel
HC: Your surfboard factory at 91 Centennial Circuit, Byron Bay NSW 2481 has recently undergone a transformation, tell us about the new look McTavish Surf, & what are your plans for the future; both for your career & personally.
BOB: The new retail store and coffee shop are looking groovy!
We want to re-model the old production factory behind the retail. Continue developing great boards and new designs with Ben. Keep developing our boardshorts and groovy Tees.
Keep the art alive and thriving. Keep surfing. Keep vertical!
Pop in for a coffee and a chat… Find McTavish Showroom & Cafe here
“That period has taken on a romantic glow that people really seem to relate to. I can understand why people of my generation relate to it because that’s a nostalgic exercise. I don’t quite understand how a 30-year-old relates to it but they yet seem to” – John Witzig
Immense gratitude to John Witzig for allowing us the inclusion of his iconic images of Bob McTavish. Also to Bob for sharing his photo album of this golden era.
To purchase John Witzig images – johnwitzig.com.au
See more on his Instagram gallery – @johnwitzig
Story by Tracee Annetts
Photography with thanks:
3 images by John Witzig; the Bob McTavish archives; Lockie Marley
+ The Handsome Collective – Tracee Annetts
FOLLOW MCTAVISH SURF ON INSTAGRAM
↱ @mctavishsurf ↰
Learn more about McTavish products and purchase on-line