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1960s West Coast Surfing Girls

Former Cottesloe surfer Jeanne Abbott recorded her memoirs of surfing with her cousin Tina Daly and friend Stefanie Meyer in the early 60s.

This is Jeanne’s story:-

My cousin Tina Daly, Stef Meyer and I hired surf shooters at Cottesloe at a very early age and simply loved being out in almost all conditions and being dumped in the rolling surf on the beach. We had been jumping off the groyne at Cottesloe at an early age and the beach was in our blood.

In the early 60’s surfing was very much a male dominated sport, particularly at the local beaches, Cottesloe, the Cove, Isolated, City Beach and Scarborough and then later at Yallingup and Cowaramup Bay. The guys were very content as they had the beaches all to themselves.

We used to watch the guys surfing with enormous envy. A guy called John McGilvray (brother of Alan) used to ride a wooden plank at Cottesloe beach almost every day. We knew that those wooden boards were way too heavy for us but that did not deter us in any way.

Eventually we got the guts to ask a couple of surfers if we could pay to have a few rides on their boards. We thought nothing of paying 40c to 50c for a few rides on their boards. We were the Gidget’s of Cottesloe and we were hooked and there was no way in the world we were going to let this sport go by without us.

It was a battle to convince our parents we wanted to surf and wear jeans, duffel coats and desert boots. Anyway we managed to save our money and we ordered our own custom built surfboards which were made by Colin and Rex Cordingley who lived in Stirling Highway, Mosman Park. Our first Cordingley boards were all white with a single stringer and a fin. They cost approximately $35.00 which was a lot of money in those days.

Photo: 1963 Tina, Jeanne & Stefanie at Cottesloe. Photo credit WA Newspapers.

1963 Cottesloe Tina Daly, Jeanne Abbott & Stef Meyer - WA Newspaper pic IMG_001

We used to carry our heavy 9’2” Malibu boards on our hips from my cousin’s house in Cottesloe to all the beaches within walking distance. Sometimes the guys used to give us lifts and we put in for petrol. We did not care because they took us to the places where the best waves were.

One day we got a lift down to the 27 mile peg just before Mandurah (Surf Beach). It had a narrow limestone track and the cars got scratched by overhanging bushes, but it was the best spot and hardly anyone knew about it. We drove down in Tina’s boyfriend Joe Wilson’s work vehicle, a Holden Ute. We had never seen waves like this before and we surfed there all day on our own.

Finally the guys accepted us after we surfed up to 4-5 hours a day with them at the Cove, Isolated or wherever the best waves were on the day.

There were no such things as wetsuits and leg ropes and we made our own baggy board shorts and wore them over our normal bathers.

One day a beach inspector at Cottesloe came up to me and ordered me off the beach because I had bikinis on. I was shocked because they were cute little pink and white bikinis. He told me to put a t-shirt on and cover up as he said I looked indecent. My parents were not impressed, which made it worse.

Photos: (Left) 1963 Jeanne in the bikinis she was wearing when ordered off Cottesloe beach by a beach inspector. (Middle) 1963 Jeanne winner of surfing competition at Surf Beach. (Right) 1963 Jeanne competing surf contest at Scarborough. Photos courtesy of Jeanne Abbott.

1963 Jeanne Abbott compilation 3 IMG_001C

We surfed all year round and in the winter months used a fire to keep us warm between surfs at the Cove. We also went to Norm’s Tearooms which were directly across the road from the Cottesloe pavilion, Norm made the best pasties and hot chocolate drinks. After a couple of years he accepted us and used to ask us to help him serve in the shop when it was busy.

We were lucky in those early days as drugs had not hit our scene and we were content surfing and attending the Swanbourne Stomp each Saturday night. We also went to some stomps at the North Cottesloe Surf Club, which was an old house on the opposite side of the road to where the NCSC building is located now. Our favourite word was “stoked”.

In 1964 the Coca Cola Company decided to sponsor the first ever State Surf Board Championships to be held at Yallingup for the guys. We wrote to them asking if they would sponsor a female event. They wrote back and agreed. They paid for us to stay at Caves House at Yallingup. We were only allowed to go if Tina’s father took us down.

Newspaper Images: 1964 State Surfing Titles at Yallingup. (Left) Surf journalist Alan McIntosh’s article on women competing at surf championships. (Right) Women competitors at the championships. Images credit WA Newspapers.

1964 Yalls First State Titles compilation IMG_001

The day of the big event the waves in the bay at Yallingup were huge and the event was cancelled and the boys did not venture out. However Tina, Stef & I from the West Girls Board Club ventured out. It took us nearly an hour to get out the back, then we saw this huge set coming from hell, the next minute it took us with it. We surfaced to find our boards were gone and then the next big wave landed on us. We couldn’t see each other and were swept by strong current into the bay. I think it took us an hour to get back to shore and walk back to the guys at Yallingup Beach.

The guys on the beach were laughing and told us we were mad and could have been killed out there. That night the guys asked us to go and have a beer with them at the pub, but all we wanted to do was to have a hot shower and recover from the ordeal.

Tina’s father was very strict and that evening when it came to 8.30 to 9.30 pm it was time to stay in. But there was no way we were going to stay in, so after dinner, off come the dresses and on went the jeans and duffel coats and we climbed down the roof near the entrance of Caves Hotel and joined the guys, we had a great night.

The next day the waves were still too big at Yallingup so the titles were moved to Cowaramup Bay. It was a long walk through the scrub and across rocks on the beach with our boards. But it was a great surf spot (Huzza) and the waves were safer and easier to ride.

Eventually another year went by and I was old enough to get my driver’s licence and my father purchased a Morris Minor convertible which made our lives a lot easier to get around to any beach we wanted.

Photos: Social pics (Left) 1965 Pre-dinner drinks at Jeanne’s place before Yallingup Board Club Ball L-R (boys at the back) Don McDonald, Joe Wilson & Allan McGilvray, (girls at the front) Jeanne, Tina Daly & Louise Bojear. (Right) 1965 Surfers Ball held at South Perth Community Centre L-R George Goddard, Jeanne, Tina Daly & Joe Wilson. Photos courtesy of Jeanne Abbott.

1965 Surfing Balls compilation IMG_001

In those days Midget Farrelly and Nat Young from NSW were our idols but we also had good surfers here in WA. Surfing was not recognised in WA like the eastern states, we got our recognition some years later.

We had some great surfers in those days in WA, I cannot remember all the names, but a few come to mind. Of course, Joe Wilson being the boyfriend of my cousin Tina, Bill Oddy who drove a white Simca sedan and never let anyone in his car if they smoked or left rubbish, his car was always immaculate, Alan McGilvray (cruising around in his white Valiant), Trevor Baskerville, Terry (Rat) James, Kim (Dish) Standish, Rob Birch, Dave Ellis, Murray Smith from Scarborough and Terry Jacks from City Beach, Craig Brent-White, Hume Heatley (who unfortunately passed away with a brain tumour), Peter Dyson, Mark Paterson (who we are all proud of as his sons have done so well), Howard (the Ghost) Kent, John Pozzi, Don (Floater) Ramsey, Don McDonald, Bob Mayer, John Balgarnie, Steve Mailey, Tony Harbison, John (Artie) Shaw, Cliff Hills and also a special little guy called Karl Schumacher. There are naturally a lot of others, but after all these years it’s a little hard to remember each and every one, they were all very special in their own way.

In the 1980s Tina & I were invited to a Yallingup Board Club (YBC) reunion at Bill Oddy’s Newport Hotel in Fremantle.

Photos: 1980s YBC reunion in Fremantle. (Top left) Rob Birch, Jeanne & Kim Standish (Top right) Kim Woods & Jeanne. Photos courtesy of Jeanne Abbott. (Bottom) Tina Wilson, Trevor Baskerville & Tanya Hills. Photo courtesy Tina Wilson.

1980s YBC reunion compilation 2 IMG_001

I look at the surfers of today with their light weight boards, wet suits, leg ropes and the 4 wheel drives and so on and I guess like the other surfing girls from the 60’s, our hearts say we would never have changed a thing.

Jeanne Darcy (nee Abbott) as I remember it.

  • June

    I love to read about the things women actually did. I wasn’t in Australia in the 60’s but you can bet your life I would have been a surfer. In Britain I was always active kayaking, swimming, horse riding etc. Life is too short to do what other expect you to do. Bravo West Coast Surfing Girls. Stay strong and powerful. 🙂