The Brookvale Six
The golden decade of surfing in Australia gave birth to six pioneering artisans who supplied the entire nation with surfboards. Their craft shaped the history of surfing in Australia forever, they are known as The Brookvale Six.
SurfCraft Brewing’s inspiration comes from these legends who founded the Australian surfing industry in the 1950’s, known as The Brookvale Six. Barry Bennett, Gordon Woods, Bill Wallace, Scott Dillon, Greg McDonagh, and Denny Keogh. The Brookvale Six started making boards, first with balsa from the forests of Ecuador and then with foam, supplying the whole of Australia their boards and turned Brookvale into Surf City.
Every Friday, they took turns in turning on a keg of beer.
These men pioneered the surfboard manufacturing industry in Australia and helped transform how surfing was shaped and we are thrilled to share their story, so we can revere, have a beer, admire, respect, and never forget them or their craft.
You cannot overstate Barry's influence on Australian surfing and surfboard building. A pivotal member of the legendary Brookvale Six. Barry invented the polyurethane foam blank business in Australia, underpinning almost every boardmaker in the country at some point over the past 62 years. An intensely private man, he never sought the limelight, but rather provided a stability the board industry came to rely on over decades. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that his efforts, both in business and personally, touched millions of surfing lives.
Barry was still hands-on in the Bennett factory at 180 Harbord Rd up until very recently. RIP: Barry Bennett, 1931 - 2022. Greg and Tom continue the great family legacy of Bennett Surfboards today in the factory located on Harbord Rd, Brookvale.
Fastidious pioneering Australian board manufacturer from Sydney's Manly Beach; founder in 1956 of Gordon Woods Surfboards, the first company of its kind in the nation, and an industry leader until the late 1960s. "At the hub of the sport," Australian Outdoors magazine wrote in 1960, "is Gordon Woods who, with a combination of brilliant design, improvisation, and pure surfing knowledge, soon established himself as the leading designer-builder and the most progressive authority on surfboards in the country."
In 1958 the three biggest board makers, with Woods leading the way, relocated to a new industrial park in Brookvale, with other surfboard companies soon following. Two years later Woods began producing his own polyurethane foam blanks, which replaced balsa as the board’s core material. His shop and reputation continued to grow, Woods Surfboards’ team riders in 1963 included soon-to-be world champions, Midget Farrelly and Nat Young.
Few Aussie surfing legends shaped the present-day beach culture quite like board-making pioneer Bill Wallace. 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.
"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.
One of the original Brookvale Six, a larger-than-life character, a ratbag, a pioneering surfer and surfboard manufacturer, stockcar racer, big-wave hellman, boxer, traveller, adventurer, inventor of Da Fin swinfins, father, grandfather and friend to so many.
A diminutive figure but a larger than life character, Scotty was always a storyteller, and sometimes the yarns seemed embroidered with the years. But what is undisputable is Dillon’s bold and fearless approach to life, from tackling the biggest waves he could find in Australia, California, Mexico and Hawaii to stamping his authority in the boxing ring and putting his neck on the line as a professional speedway driver.
In 1959 he moved to the northern beaches of Sydney where a new Dillon Surfboards factory and showroom was set up at Brookvale. This suburb would become the mecca for the surfboard shaping industry as we know it today. During the expansion of his business Scott was always looking for that adrenalin rush and was a well known big wave rider and manufacturer of highly valued big wave guns. In the early 60’s he was shaping for guys like Nat Young and was instrumental in giving shaping knowledge to Bob McTavish.
In 2004, Scott was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame as one of the original six legends of the Australian surfing industry. RIP: Scott Dillon, 1928 - 2018.
Greg started making hollow timber boards under the family home in Harbord and went on to become one of the so-called ‘Brookvale Six’, pioneer surfboard builders who set up shop, servicing the growing interest in surfing in the late 50s and early 60s, in what used to be a market garden area in Brookvale. Pioneering the construction of boards from a foamed plastic core, he built first his own hollow marine ply board and was forced into the industry because there was no one making the newer Malibu- type boards in Australia.
He made traditional Malibu style boards but also experimented with surfboards that had collate cores and epoxy resin, producing lightweight boards decades before that type of manufacturing gained public acceptance.He constantly experimented with board and fin shapes and McDonagh’s designs were the result of extensive tests by leading surfers over the years. He was the co-founder (with his brother Denis) of the Surf Dive ’n Ski stores that popped up around the country and he retained a keen interesting surfboard design and materials.
In 2014 McDonagh was inducted into the International Surfboard Builders Hall Of Fame, In recognition of his contribution to surfing.He was also featured in the recent film /documentary about the early Brookvale surf crew ‘Men of Wood and Foam’. RIP: Greg McDonagh, 1936 - 2018.
In 1957 a young Denny Keogh started shaping surfboards from a garage and in 1959 officially opened the Keyo Surfboard factory & retail shop in the Northern Beaches suburb of Brookvale, Sydney. A neighbourhood that quickly became the nations surfboard manufacturing hub.
Midget Farrelly; winner of the 1963 Makaha international, was the first surfboard shaper brought in to help with the workload. Denny in fact shaped the board that Midget rode to victory in the first World Surfing Championships, held at Manly Beach in 1964. Bob McTavish joined Keyo in 1967 where he shaped his Vee bottoms, wide-backed nine footers - which in part kicked off the shortboard revolution. The McTavish designed ‘Keyo Plastic Machine’ vee bottom models were soon selling at the astonishing rate of 70 per week.
During its early tenure other high profile shapers to work under the Keyo label consisted of Kevin Platt, Neil Purchase, Geoff McCoy, Col Smith, Phil Cooper and the legendary Mickey Mac. In 1968 Nat Young came on board with his high profile to which produced another popular model; the Tracker. Later that year, sadly the Keyo factory burnt to the ground but was quickly re-opened in the premises behind the gutted factory.
Fast-forward to the mid 90's and a young Johnny Gill married Denny's daughter Vanessa - and has been producing boards under the Keyo label ever since. With a respected following, Keyo Surfboards are once again in demand.