Search the Register
Advanced Search

St Chris

Vessel Number: HV000051
Date: 1953
Designer: Herb Robson
Previous Owner: John Mervyn O'Brien ,
Vessel type: The Surf Ski
Vessel Dimensions: 3.91 m x 0.76 m (12.8 ft. x 2.5 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
ST CHRIS is a wooden surf ski built in 1953 in NSW. It an example of an important stage in the design evolution of the Australian surf ski. It is also a surf ski that set early benchmarks for endurance paddling in Australia with its owner John Mervyn 'Jack' O'Brien from Manly, NSW.
DescriptionST CHRIS is a 3.91 m (12 ft 9 in) long plywood surf ski that was built by Herb Robson for John Mervyn 'Jack' O'Brien in 1953. O'Brien was a surf and fitness enthusiast and ST CHRIS was one of at least three skis that he owned and used off the northern beaches of Sydney where he lived.

ST CHRIS is an example of an important stage in the evolution of the surf ski and forms a link between the original heavy planked boats and the much lighter craft that now exist. ST CHRIS shares the square section shapes and wide beam of the original craft, but is made much lighter using marine plywood. The cross section has a flat bottom and slightly convex deck for the paddler, a single chine and vertical sides. The foredeck is flat with a breakwater coaming.

It is also a little more refined in a number of areas. The widest point is forward of the middle, and the width is maintained toward the bow in a well rounded shape, while the aft lines taper to a fine stern and skeg. In profile the bow carries a significant amount of curve upwards to its tip while the stern runs out in a relatively straight line. This combination of features forms a very good shape for entering and leaving the surf break, riding waves to shore with good control, and general paddling in open water.

'Jack' O' Brien used the boat to pioneer endurance paddling and to establish long distance records with journeys from various beaches such as Cronulla to Manly in 1955 and then a 9 & 1/4 hour non-stop voyage from Cronulla to Palm Beach in 1957. This established an Australasian record.

Near the stern, mounted on the deck is a St Christopher's medal, which reads 'St Christopher guard us on our journey'. The boat is simply fitted out with two sets of leather footstraps and a breakwater coaming on the fore deck. It has been maintained in excellent condition and is complete with its own trolley and connection to hitch it up behind a bicycle, (another of O'Brien's fitness passions.) He used this simple arrangement to tow the craft to and from the beach, and it is a great example of self sufficiency.

ST CHRIS, its trolley and bicycle were all acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum for the National Maritime Collection in 2005.
Vessel Details
Current status:inside building
Current status:non-operational
Deck layout:full decked
Deck material and construction:timber plywood
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:paddle
Hull material and construction:plywood/chineply/chine
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:chines
Hull shape:flat bottom
Hull shape:monohull
Related materials:interviews
Related materials:news clippings
Related materials:photos
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:other
Additional Titles

Primary title: St Chris

Previous title: Young Dolphin

Discuss this Object


Please log in to add a comment.