Australian Screen

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Crystal Voyager (1973)

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clip Learning from fish education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

George Greenough explains how he takes his design ideas from nature, from the curve of a marlin’s fin, for example. He is shown building his own equipment from scratch, then trialing it in the waves.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows George Greenough, designer, innovator, photographer, filmmaker and surfer, shaping a surfboard fin. This is intercut with footage of Greenough surfing on a kneeboard and showing its manoeuvrability. As he puts the final touches on the fin, Greenough explains that his designs are inspired by the shape and movement of fast-moving fish such as marlin. His designs provide maximum thrust and minimum drag, delivering higher speeds and better manoeuvrability. The clip then shows Greenough surfing on another board of his own design, with point-of-view shots taken using a camera strapped to his back.

Educational value points

  • The clip comprises sequences from the first surfing film biography, Crystal Voyager. The film was produced and directed in 1975 by David Elfick, who later produced Newsfront.
  • Some of the stages involved in creating a surfboard fin are included. Earlier surfboards were generally less carefully designed and they sacrificed manoeuvrability for stability. Greenough’s designs delivered greater thrust through the water with less drag, providing much more speed and control.
  • Greenough is shown on a special kneeboard, known as the 'spoon’, which he designed. Greenough’s revolutionary design reduced the kneeboard’s buoyancy, delivering higher speeds and better manoeuvrability.
  • Point-of-view sequences are filmed from inside a breaking wave, which surfers call 'the green room’. Greenough shot these sequences with a camera that had waterproof housing of his own invention and that was first used in his earlier film The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (1970).
  • The clip shows water droplets on the camera. In the 1960s, mainstream filmmakers would have regarded this as a fault, but here it adds to the authenticity of the film and gives the audience the feeling of being inside the wave with the surfer.

This clip starts approximately 7 minutes into the documentary.

This clip shows George Greenough, designer, innovator, photographer, filmmaker and surfer, shaping a surfboard fin. This is intercut with footage of Greenough surfing on a kneeboard and showing its manoeuvrability. The clip then shows Greenough surfing on another board of his own design, with point-of-view shots taken using a camera strapped to his back.
George Greenough I’ve always built my own surfing equipment. I base my ideas on high-performance fish and the way they move through the ocean.

Some fish are so fast, they hit 50 miles and hour in the sea. If you look at the tail fin of a marlin for example, the fin is tall in relationship to its width. The surfboard fins in the early 60s were crude lumps that provided the board a stability but made it very difficult to manoeuvre.

I began to apply what I saw in fish fins to my surfboard fins. The fins I’m building at present are high-aspect fins built to utilise the laminar flow. Their most important advantage is their handling, at high speeds, allowing me to draw off the board harder and maintain control even when the board is airborne. My fins give me maximum thrust and minimum drag, and handle well in bumpy as well as smooth waves.

The surfboards that I ride are fibreglass shells that I kneel inside of. Riding this type of board I am more compact than the normal surfer and every inch is important when you’re back inside a hollow wave.

In 1968, I made my first film called The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun. Riding my red board and using special camera equipment strapped to my back, I was able to show surfing from every camera angle, including inside the wave looking out.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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