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Bill's surf legend will live on in Noosa and far beyond

LEGEND: Bill Wallace (front) and Peter Cullen at Noosa Longboards with the last two sufboards made by Bill.
LEGEND: Bill Wallace (front) and Peter Cullen at Noosa Longboards with the last two sufboards made by Bill. GeoffPotter

FEW Aussie surfing legends shaped the present-day beach culture quite like Noosa's board-making pioneer Bill Wallace.

Bill was a large part of the ground wave of surfing as he and fellow legends like Bob McTavish became guiding lights of the best surf rides and how to hang out on the beach.

Waves of sympathy and tributes will be washing the way of the 91-year-old dedicated lifesaver and International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame 2010 inductee, after he passed away last Friday following a stroke some months back.

His daughter Jenny remembers "a beautiful, kind and generous” soul who was much-loved by his massive circle of friends.

Born in 1926, Bill grew up at Bronte Beach in Sydney, which was the centre of his world, and it was his skills honed as a steelworks apprentice pattern maker that would prove pivotal to his amazing talent as a surfboard shaper and manufacturer.

Bill's talent and contributions to the surfing industry would see him revered by his modern-day counterparts, like Noosa's own Tom Wegener.

Bill started to repair and care for the old timber boards left behind by the Bronte SLSC members off fighting in the war, and then when they returned, he turned his skilful hands to make them new boards.

Jenny said Bill became a beach inspector while perfecting his boards and by 1954 they were so good that at the 1954 Australian Lifesaving Championships, all 12 paddle board finalists were using Wallace Boards.

Surfboard maker and friend Scott Dillon said Bill was the first to create a lift or rocker and to use a shorter version of the racing board.

His talents as a surf boat sweep and a coach also meant he helped deliver two Aussie titles.

Bill loved to get around in style, especially on two wheels or four.

It was only a couple of years ago he gave up his motorcycle licence, but Jenny said until recently he would ride his scooter every day down to Hastings St to catch up with his mates.

In 1952, he and fellow "beach boy” Bluey Mayes bought the first two new MG sports cars to arrive in Sydney after the war.

He married in 1953 and soon had a brood of Greg, Jenny, Kim, Peter, Matthew and Liza. Bill would eventually dote on five grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

Bill later moved into board building full-time, eventually settling in at Brookvale, where he met up with a young bloke asking "if there were any jobs going”.

When Bill asked Bob McTavish when could he start, the youngster produced a set of tools and got straight to work.

The board factory was soon employing 20 people and making up to 120 of the new foam and fibreglass boards a week.

In his spare time not spent surfing, Bill was a handy billiards player and came under the watchful eye of the great Horace Lindrum.

Bill and his family moved north to Noosa in 1971 and started a new board factory, and he became involved in the Noosa SLSC scene.

By the 1990s, Bill was in demand again as the long- board resurgence took off.

In 1998, Bill's surfing contribution was celebrated at the Noosa Festival of Surfing and applauded by the who's who of the surf world.

Jenny said Bill was still able to paddle his surf ski out the mouth of the Noosa River well into his 80s.

Surfing may have been the making of Bill, but he helped develop for the better so many people he came into contact with through his loves of lifesaving, surfing and life in general.

Jenny said his picture still hangs in honour on the wall of his beloved Bronte SLSC.


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