The History of Jack Egan

JACK EGAN: PIONEER DIVER & WINNER OF THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN SPEAR FISHING TROPHY

Australia’s First Underwater Association:
Jack was one of the first handful of divers in Australia and a founding member of the Underwater Spear Fisherman’s Association of NSW, which was formed on April 4, 1948 at Sydney’s Long Reef.
This led to the formation of the Underwater Spear Fisherman’s Association of Australia in 1953.
The name was changed to the Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen’s Association of Australia in 1955.
At the time Jack was regarded as one of the most highly skilled underwater men in Australia

Classic Design Speargun:
Jack designed and made the ancestor of spear guns most spear fisherman use today.
His shoulder-gun was both powerful and accurate and Jack’s spearfishing success quickly made the design popular with the other spearmen.

The First Spear-fishing Trophy:
His gun to end all guns was powered with an ingenious array of internal cables & pulleys and an impossible amount of rubber inner-tube. It was loaded with the aid of a purpose designed stainless steel handle. During the early stages of development sometimes one or all of these features would pack it in. Other times they all worked in conjunction and it performed beautifully and it was on one of those days that Jack Egan wrote himself into the record books of Australian spear fishing history as the first spearman in Australia to win a spear fishing trophy. Jack was 24 years of age at the time. The competition was held at Laparuse near Sydney. The fish was a Black Drummer speared on October 17 1948. The trophy called “The Dick Charles Trophy” was awarded for the best fish of the day.

Jack also once held an Australian record for catching a Silver Drummer weighing 26 pounds.

Jack is a true believer in the adage “necessity is the mother of invention” and he is an incurable inventor.
Before face-masks were available divers had to make their own. One early design element was a large prune tin which sufficed as the base for the round glass panel and family and friends often got the “runs” for the cause. Homemade led weights were worn on homemade army webbing belts and sand-shoes protected the feet while hopping about the ledges & rocky bottom.

The First Wetsuit:
Jack’s wife June was an artist and clothes designer and together they designed and made the first wetsuits.
They were car, inner-tube rubber wraparound suits held together with Bostick glue and worked best with as many army-issue woolen jumpers you had in your collection, worn underneath.
Coincidentally, June and the pre-legendary Val Taylor worked together as artists for Press Features The office bought Val her first wetsuit as a leaving present.

The speargun design was later “borrowed” and marketed by Don Linklater Undersea Products as the “Carbine”.
The wetsuit design was also “borrowed” and manufactured as the “Seal Skin” suit.

Mentor & Movies:
A young Wally Gibbins was Jack’s apprentice spearman- mad keen and followed him everywhere through his early years of spearfishing. Wally became a great friend of the family and always returned from his adventures with wild stories, beautiful photos and rare shells.
In 1953 Jack and Wal did a trip together on a Trochus fishing boat along the Great Barrier Reef which concluded with them both working on the film “King of the Coral Sea”. Starring and produced by Chips Rafferty this movie also launched the long and illustrious career of Charles “Bud” Tingwell. In the dive scenes Wally doubled for Chips (where he didn’t do his own) and Jack doubled for Bud. The underwater footage was taken by pioneer underwater cinematographer and designer Noel Monkman. Chips also became a good family friend and neighbor.

While Jack kept a close association, in the early days, with the likes of Wally Gibbins, Kieth Vagg, Edward du Cros, Don Linklater and Noel Monkman, he remained essentially a lone diver.

Photos:
* Noel Monkman, underwater cinematographer from “King of the Coral Sea”.
* Wally Gibbins models an Egan wraparound wetsuit.
* An advertisement for the speargun.

Jacks creativity and ingenuity didn’t stop there however- for his two sons he built a never ending array of “toys” including back yard slides, grass hill toboggans, skid-boards, a tin canoe, a polystyrene-foam catamaran, a sailing billy-cart and passed on his genetic trait for inventiveness. Both Shane & Dale have been involved with original surfboard design since the early 1970’s. Shane built his own design snowboard in New Zealand in 1977- possibly the first in the Southern Hemisphere.