Paipo Interview – Bob Green with John Ruffels
“Geez, a story which involves Charles Kingsford Smith, Frank Beaurepaire, Phar Lap, Bondi, Stan McDonald, Black Sunday, Sue and Joy Smithers AND the inventor of both the Jaffle Iron AND the Surfoplane…..!! This bloke is a legend!”
John Ruffels lived at Bondi for 40 years and has described the surfoplane as “part of the landscape.” The surfoplane was not only the forerunner of the modern surfmat but a surfcraft that many surfers first learnt the basics on. John was a postman for 37 years and in his travels met a woman who had been a contortionist at the Tivoli. She told John that her husband, Aubrey Ping, had played a role in the development of the surfoplane. Examination of patent documents and communication with the Smithers family did not confirm the role of Aubrey Ping in the development of the surfoplane. However, Aubrey Ping did know Ernest Smithers and was an interesting figure in his own right.
Read on over the drop…
In a U.S. patent filed in 1934, the surfoplane was described by Smithers as “an improved type of pneumatic surf board or float.” Smithers designed a craft which balanced speed and control — two essential qualities of any surf craft.
Prior to the surfoplane there were a variety of lifesaving and recreational craft made of rubber, or that were inflatable. Smithers’s particular achievement was that through experimenting with various design features such as length; width; number, length, and size of internal partitions; friction grip; and stiffness he developed a surf craft that was relatively easy to ride, safe and fun. Smithers also played a significant role in the marketing of the surfoplane.