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1960s & 70s Kevin Ager – Surfer, Shaper & Sailor

During the late 60s & early 70s Kevin Ager was a talented surfer/surfboard shaper in WA.

First Surfboard

In 1961/62 Kevin purchased his first surfboard from Cordingley Bros when they lived on Stirling Highway at Mosman Park. It was a hollow plywood Malibu.

Kevin: “Cordingley Bros worked out of their parent’s garage and the board cost twenty pounds, three weeks average wage in those days which proves today’s boards are relatively cheap. They (Cordingley bros) were just starting with foam and fibreglass and were not having a great amount of success initially, but I wanted the ply board not realising the foam & fiberglass revolution had begun. Besides, my heroes (from Leighton SLSC) all had these ‘planks’. Ironically I was involved in another revolution nine years later working as a surfboard shaper for Cordingley Surfboards in Subiaco.”

Photos: (Left) 1961/62 Kevin;s mate & Kevin (age 13 on right) with their plywood surfboards at Leighton. (Right) 1961/62 Kevin surfing Leighton. Photo credits Kevin Ager.

1961-62 Kevin Ager surfing Leighton compilation IMG_001

Surfboard Shaper

As mentioned above, Kevin worked as a surfboard shaper at Cordingley Surfboards in Subiaco in the 70s. See below 1970 Newspaper article by surf journalist Gavin McCaughey.

1970 Newspaper article Shaping by Gavin McCaughey IMG_01

First Surf Trip to Rotto.

This is Kevin Agar’s anecdotal account of his first surf trip to the ‘Rock‘ in 64 with his surfing mates John Ryder, Richard Thorpe and Honkus Papadimitrus. (Factual with a hint of poetic licence.)

Kevin: “Having heard of great waves on Rottnest Island from some old salts a couple of us young groms (known as grems back then) decided to go over as we couldn’t get lifts down south with guys with cars for the coming long week end.
Or maybe it was school hols. Anyway it was early March 1964. We arrived sometime that day on the Zephyr ferry. I was too sick to care and swore I’d never ever get on a boat ever again (how times change over 50 years). Immediately on disembarking I started to recover, but still had to carry swag and 9′ triple stringer complete with nose and tail blocks around to the camping grounds. There was No courtesy transport waiting back in those days.

The following morning we checked the surf breaks we had heard about. Transit Reef was flat as, and the other, being Salmon Bay point was a long hike with said 9′ boards even though 9′ was a ‘short’ board in ’64. So we decided to see what was available to hire, problem was we didn’t have a drivers licence if there was anything. That really wasn’t a problem ‘cos there wasn’t anything anyway suitable for carrying our 9’ers. Except for the Islands ‘night cart’, and the guy whose business it was, was also the driver. After tracking him down (at the pub) we waited off premises, for him to stagger out, pissed as. We tried to explain our requirement but he told us to “bugger off” and that he didn’t like “you surfies”. That was until we said we would pay him, with that he completely changed attitude and said “ok ten bob (shillings) each” (this was before decimal currency). That was more than we could do, but were able to go five bob. He agreed provided we pay up front right now. We asked what guarantee do we get you’ll front, he slurs “I live here, you’ll find me if I don’t front”. That made sense so we handed him two ten bob notes (a quid). He agreed he would pick us up around 9.00 in the morning and turned and staggered back to the pub. We kinda wondered if we’d just been conned, but could only hope he would remember and front the next day.

Next morning sure enough at 9.00 sharp he picks us up but apologies as he has two jobs to do on our way to look for waves. Sober, he seems a nice guy, so different to yesterday, must get nasty when drunk. First job was to dispose the contents of the drums on the back. He must have come straight from work! The other was to drop two mating quokkas off out of the settlement. He had them bagged in the cab so we all had to sit on the tray with the smelly drums. So off we go, must have been a funny site… four kids hanging off the tray as far back from the poo drums as we could get. Luckily the disposal site was first (for the drums). Next stop was Parker Point where the quokkas were released. We watched them for a few minutes while they get their bearings and then WHAM they are at IT, going completely nuts. So all is ok with them.

Now two of us could sit in the cab with ‘what’s ‘is name’, I’ve forgotten his name, can’t remember if he even told us. We get to Salmon Bay at last and it’s small and chopped up by the n/e wind. ‘What’s ‘is name’ sees how disappointed we are. He then reveals he is the best reef fisherman on the island and knows a couple of reefs that break on small swells. He offers to show us for an extra quid. We tell him we genuinely can’t afford it, so he’ll just have to take us back to the settlement. He says “too bad ‘cos with the n/e wind there would be smooth conditions and the tide was right for these reefs”. Reluctantly we climbed back on the truck, all four of us on the tray (the cab stunk of quokka).

Expecting a u turn he takes off straight ahead, we yell what are you doing? He yells “taking you for a ride” .Not quite sure what that really meant we just hang on. A few klms on he stops gets out and tells us to follow him down a track. We do and within 200 mts. are looking at a tubing clean shoulder high left. He tells us to grab our gear from the truck and he’d be back in a couple of hours. Thanking him so much, he only says “be ready when I return”. We’re realising this old bugger is not what we thought he was. We surfed for about an hour and half making sure to be ready for his return. As good as the wave was, a bit like side reef at the Cove (Cott) but longer, we struggled with hollow sections on our 9′ boards, but stoked to think we had surfed a ‘new spot’.

On his return we load the boards and again continue our gratitude. Surprising us totally he says “you wanna see another wave reef?” As it was only early afternoon we jumped at the opportunity. He drives to a track just passed Green Island, stops and again we follow him along the snake track, but quite a bit further to walk to this reef. About a klm on we reach a small bay called Mary Cove and yep, there’s another nice reef break and it’s a right hander also around shoulder high. That was great as we were all natural footers. However by the time we mused over this wave the s/w breeze was beginning to come in and it was going to be quite strong according to ‘what’s ‘is name’. He was right of course and it blew like hell through to our departure on the (here we go again) good ship Zephyr.

We couldn’t believe it when our new ‘mate’ turned up to get our boards and swags and take them down to the jetty. What a guy! We promised to be more cashed up next trip to which he replied “you surfies are ok, hope to see you again ‘cos I didn’t show the good reefs”.

In later years the two breaks we saw became known as Chicken Reef and Around the Corner. Little did we know that around the corner was only a short distance to the Strickland Bay surf break. Perhaps he was saving that jewel as it would be worth heaps more on its day.

Many thanks to the other three of the ‘we’…John Ryder, Richard Thorpe and Honkus Papadimitrus for being participants in the adventure and my early ‘gremhood’.”

Surfing Achievements

Kevin’s achievements from his short competitive surfing career follow:-

1967 3rd State Junior Titles (1st Carl Schumacher, 2nd Mike Bibby)
1967 2nd Ampol South Coast Championships held Mutton Bird Island, Albany. (1st Ian Cairns)
1967 1st Yallingup Board Club Champion held at Yallingup. (2nd Kim Standish)
1968 1st Bunbury City Open Championships held at Hungry Hollow. (2nd John Staley)
1968 Finalist State Surfing Titles held at Yallingup (1st Peter Bothwell)
1968 1st State Spring Titles held at Scarborough (2nd Peter Bothwell)
1968 1st Yallingup Board Club champion held at The Cove Cottesloe (2nd Ashley Jones)
1969 1st Annual Trigg Point Open run by Scarb Board Club (later to become King of Point).
1969 Finalist State Spring Titles held metro
1969 Equal 8th Australian Surfing Titles held Marg River (1st Nat Young, 7th Peter Bothwell)
1970 2nd 6KY Trigg Point Open contest (1st Jim King, 3rd & 4th Craig & Stewart Bettenay)
1970 4th State Surfing Titles held at Yallingup (1st Tony Hardy)

Nomination WA Sports Star of the Year.

In 1968 he was nominated by WASRA for WA Sports Star of the Year Award.

Images: (Left) Newspaper review of Surfing Riding Nominee. Image credit WA Newspapers. (Right) Kevin’s Nominee Trophy. Photo credit Kevin Ager.

1968 Sports Star Award Nominee Kevin Ager 3 IMG_001

Sailing Hobie-Cats

In the 70s Kevin took up sailing/surfing Hobie-Cats and went on to become Australian National Hobie-Cat 16ft Championships in 1977. Kevin and forward hand Rex Duechter won the championships sailing in strong southerly winds on the Swan River.

Kevin also sailed the Hobie-Cat to Rotto and sailed/surfed Transits.

Kevin: “Kim ‘Swish’ Standish was my best mate during the 70s and sailing was our passion. He was also my best man when I married. Back then we still got wet amongst the waves as well. We’d often sail the Hobie-Cat over to the ‘Rock’ and sail/ surf the Transit reef, go to the pub then race the fast ferries back to Freo on the sea breeze, surfing on their wakes with the passengers crowding the stern taking photos.”

Photos: (Left) 1975 Forward hand Kim Standish & Kevin Ager (big hair was still fashionable) doing a photo-shoot for Kev’s Hobie Cat 16 sponsors. (Right) 1977 Kevin & forward hand Rex Duechter sailing to victory in the National Hobie 16 Championships. Photo credits Kevin Ager.

1970s Hobie Cat Kevin Ager compilation IMG_002

Sailing Itch

Kevin has resumed surfing at the ‘Rock’ after a thirty year hiatus.

Kevin: “My 30 year hiatus was only from surfing. I still got wet regularly windsurfing. Also, after my Hobie days I had several large (real) yachts. My mate & I would deliver yachts purchased in Queensland to Freo. We also sailed thru the Indo. Islands and back to Freo. non-stop.

You’d be amazed how many ‘old crew’ took to sailing after surfing, including guys like Warren McKinney (refer SDS Book), Graham Young, Dave Ellis, Wayne Chapman, Barry ‘Joe’ King, Greg ‘The Pantsman’ Laurensen, Kim ‘Swish/Dish’ Standish, Micko Gracie, and Russel Catto. Heard Russell Catto was in Tahiti a while back in his SS 34 yacht catching up with James who tows guys in at Choppes for a living. I’ve known Warren McKinney for years, we met surfing at Rotto and have since travelled to J Bay ( where he has a beautiful house over looking The Point) and Cocos Islands a couple of times. His yacht is The Carribeen Islands.

Some of us still couldn’t over come the rush of surfing and got back to getting totally wet even after decades. I tell you this so as you don’t think I spent 30 years ‘DRY’.”

Photo: 2015 Kevin’s Rotto Island home. Photo credit Kevin Ager.

2015 Kevin Ager's Rotto Island home IMG_01