Where it all began…..
Charles Justin ‘Snowy’ McAlister is the ‘father of Australian surfing’ who nurtured the sport for over 70 years. Snowy saw it all…. Changing surfboard riding styles, progressive board shapes, the birth and development of competitive surfing and the growth of surfing from fad to mainstream support.
In 1915, he witnessed the legendary Duke Kahanamokus display of surfriding at Sydneys Freshwater Creek. Inspired by the Hawaiians grace and style on the board, the young Sydneysider threw himself headlong into the sport of surfing.
He soon developed a strong affiliation with the ocean and joined the manly R&R team in 1920 which won titles in 1924, 1825 and 1926. He also became a member of the Freshwater Lifesaving Club a year later.
During this time he participated in surfboard riding exhibitions at the Newcastle Surf Carnival up until 1936. His payment of these exhibitions was a gift voucher worth 10 shillings and sixpence, the equivalent of three weeks wages.
In 1924 he built his own hollow timber surfboard, 12 feet long, 2 wide and 3 inches thick with a solid nose for a cost of 2 pounds. With great enthusiasm he embarked on a career as a competitive boarder, holding the National Surfboard Riding Champion title for four consecutive year beginning in the late 1920’s.
With the sudden popularity of the sport along Australia’s eastern beaches it soon became apparent that more scope was required for competitions. With this in mind Snowy began to erect signs on the beaches around Manly advertising surfboard rallies. These rallies were nomadic relying on available swell and attracted a small crowd of 12 to 15 surfers. The meetings marked the beginning of a surfing competition structure which has produced more World Champions than any other country.
In 1962 Snow became a founding member of the Australian Surfriders Association, an organisation that today is the recognized governing body of surfing in this country. Snow was known for his active interest in our young surfers and was a visitor to most surfing events in Sydney. It was snow who often accompanied budding professionals to the airport to see them off overseas on the World Tour.
He was also a founder of the Australian Surfski Association and was an avid surfski rider in his later years.
The 1920’s saw Snowy throw himself into competitive surfing where he held the National Surfboard Riding Champion title for four consecutive years. Following his success and the ever growing popularity of surfing along Australia’s East Coast he constructed surf rallies at Manly beach attracting a small crowd of 12 to 15 surfers. This first meeting marked the beginning of a competitive surfing structure which today attracts over 200 professional surfers each June.