Jim Keenan’s surfing memoirs continue on from Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast.
These are Jim’s surfing memoirs Part 2 Guam, Red Bluff & SW Anecdotes.
Mid 66 I took off with my bride Pat for Guam and another phase of surfing. I was treated like a king on Guam by the surfing fraternity whom were mainly Californians. Great times. Returned to Perth in 70 and enjoyed another spell down south before heading east again and then eventually Carnarvon.
Photo: 1966 Guam. Jim Keenan featured surfing on cover of Guam Book. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.
Carnarvon was not on the surfing map until about mid 70’s. My first visit to Red Bluff revealed a break devoid of surfers.
The next image was taken very early in 70’s when I was on a safari. The reason I went there is because Ralph McNab whom in his early days was a shearer/wool classer, used to speak of the big swells that hit the Gascoyne coast in winter. Ralph used to do contract work on the coastal stations. Of course no one believed him and that included myself until visiting the area on the safari. Many breaks are now surfed along the Gascoyne Coast north of Carnarvon, especially during the winter months.
Photo: Early 1970s Red Bluff near Carnarvon. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.
Despite enjoying the opportunity to surf at a multitude of venues throughout my life, my fondest memories are of Yallingup. The sheer beauty of the area is implanted in my mind and I dare say for all those who followed the pioneers of the fifties. The exhilaration one feels when driving down the hill and being confronted with a roaring swell is something else and only a surfer can attest to that phenomenon.
Second only to surfing “down south” was the wonderful comradeship that developed amongst the various groups. Sure, there was some rivalry but, it was all part of the act with the early group being tagged as the “Wheels” and those that followed “The Little Wheels”.
SW SURFING ANECDOTES.
Darts at Caves House Hotel
The front bar of the Caves House Hotel was always a fun place to be after a day out surfing. The locals mainly cow cockies considered us to be insane and at first were not very receptive to our rather outrageous behaviour to say the least. However, over time the mood changed to one of complete acceptance by all and sundry.
Of course in any group there are always those who take advantage of a situation. The locals loved to play darts and gamble on the side. Hustlers such as Harbo, Patto and Artie Shaw would “Throw Away until the locals sensed they were unbeatable. Out came the money and the boys cleaned up. To this day I cannot believe the locals could be so gullible unless, it was the cow shit on their boots.
Hammond’s Tea Rooms at Yalls
The Hammond family ran the Tea Rooms down near the coast and it was well sought out upon arrival by the “boys” who would invariably be half asleep, half pissed and hungry. They were a great family and in the main complied with our requests even though they were ready for the bed. Of course every group has a pick pocket amongst them and ours was rather partial to Old Gold chocolate. Wearing a Great Coat this individual whose name will not be mentioned but has the initials T.H. managed to procure enough chocolate to feed the multitude. T.H. has a lot to answer but, we sure enjoyed the snacks. Thanks.
Rabbit hill was another source of fun. The northern extremity of Yallingup Beach has a very large sand hill overlooking a grassed hill. This grassed area was home to many rabbits at dusk and to their dismay I guess their last supper. The sand hill concealed many of the boys fitted out with various instruments of death in the form of rifles. Don Bancroft had a home-made shot gun which would have ended WW2 in a single shot. It sprayed shit everywhere except at the spot he aimed for. To this day I do not understand how Don was not a victim of his own gun.
After one evenings shoot out we returned to camp with our rabbit dinner and were confronted with a burning car. It was Laurie’s pride and joy and a dismal sight it was with the paint peeling off in all directions on his recently purchased Mayflower. We all thought it was hilarious except for Laurie who hiding his tears broke into a rage threatening to kill the culprit. Apparently, the younger group led by Gary Birch decided on a Tom Piper BRAISED STEAK AND ONION meal and placed the can in a fire to heat up. The only trouble they failed to puncture the lid and after some time in the fire bed the can blew up showering the camp with braised steak, onion, and many hot embers which in due course set fire to the grass and as a consequence Laurie’s pride and joy.
Diving near Canal Rocks
Another scene I remember with laughter was when we went diving down near Canal Rocks. Dave, Tony and I went diving while Bernie, Jungle and Moonshine were meant to pick us up at a certain hour as they wished to visit Caves House. Only trouble, they did not return until dusk leaving us to freeze waiting. Not to be outdone we managed to light a fire, spear a Buff Bream and await their return. Upon spotting their cars headlights we threw the fish heavily marinated with our bodily fluids onto the fire. Of course they were hungry after a session at the pub and the fish was devoured with great gusto. They loved it and knocked the lot down only to bring it up after we discussed the ingredients. Never late again.
Photo: 1958 Yallingup beach. L-R Dave Williams, Jim Keenan, Bernie Huddle, Artie Taylor, Tony Harbison, Bruce ‘Moonshine’ Hill, Kevin Merifield, Ray Evans & Graham Killen. Photographer unknown.
Note: This image was presented to Harbo on his 70th birthday.
Methane gas problem
The dairy industry is quite often quoted as a contributor to the methane gas problem which now plagues the planet but, a major factor in the fifties was the surfing fraternity camping at Yallingup. The main blame was directly associated with the high consumption of tinned food namely Tom Piper Braised Steak and Onions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Availability, I guess promoted this evil consumption and it was all brought about by John Hughes (Body Surfer) freely distributing damaged cans from the boot of his car. ‘JJ’ as he was known was a sales rep. for what I considered was dog food at its best. Still it did provide a source of fun and laughter during the blue flame trick. Mind you there were casualties and Rings of Fire were dominant. Johnny Cash you were second.
Transport Down South
Transport “Down South” was by various types of vehicles i.e. sedans, Ute and panel vans. However, one particular journey I remember was quite unique. A Fruit and Vegetable merchant Sunny Passaris (body surfer) from the Perth markets volunteered his large truck fitted out with a canopy and cane chairs. About ten of us equipped with our surfing gear embarked and took off with suitable refreshments namely an 18 gallon keg of beer. Obviously, it was a slow trip with many stops at the various pubs along the way. The patrons at the pubs were flabbergasted and thankfully no booze buses existed in those days. Fun trip but we suffered the next morning.
Old Juke Box
Music was appreciated by most of the group, with some favouring jazz over Elvis. I think this stemmed from Bernie Huddle and Don Bancroft’s love of Dixieland music. Personally, I enjoyed Jazz but, there was nothing wrong with the Beach Boys, Elvis and Roy Orbison. The old Juke box located in the Busselton Cafe belted out a great sound with a good selection of Elvis, Beach Boys and Roy Orbison to choose from. Not sure if the locals did though. Stiff shit.
IMBEDDED SURFING MEMORIES.
Apart from the Gallows incident with Puppy Dog, two other surfing days sit vividly in my mind. The first occurred on a giant winter swell at Yallingup. We all awoke to a massive swell that none of us had witnessed before, the main break extended out into the bay and presented a real challenge to anyone silly enough to tackle it. Not to outdone by nature Cocko and I entered the water on the double ski and managed to somehow make it beyond the break. We were well clear of the normal take off point, possibly by 200 metres as Caves House was in full view. Relieved to be clear of the white water it, now dawned on us that getting back to shore safely was a bigger challenge than getting out. We could see that the bay was alive with breaking swells and there for offered no escape route should we get done in the main break. Losing the ski would probably result in a drowning as massive amounts of water was returning to sea via the bay in giant rips. We did contemplate paddling north to Geographe Bay but, decided against and elected to “go for it “How we managed to hold onto a giant swell and massive white water was I guess our lucky day. It was a great relief to touch that beach again.
The second venture was at Margaret River main break over an Easter and probably 1964. The swell was awesome and each day of Easter was better than the previous. I enjoyed the company of Harbo and Murray Smith and the surf was as close to perfect as one can dream about. I still do. The crowd on the water was small, but the surf was big and challenging. Great fun.
Photo: 1964 Margaret River: L-R Murray Smith & Jim Keenan wave sharing. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.
My board riding days came to a halt when I could no longer sit upon the board. This was due to hip degeneration and which later required replacement with a prosthesis. Surf Ski was an alternative and provided an avenue to continue wave riding but, no way matched the freedom of a board.
My ocean days continue with daily distance swimming and paddling a surf ski along the Perth Northern beaches. Love it.
Photo: 2015 Hillarys Marina. Grandad Jim with pacemaker inserted to keep him on the planet. Photo credit ‘Joshua Keenan Photography’.
Of course “Mouth Surfing” takes place during our social lunches and there is no doubt “The older you get, the better you were.”
Photo: 2015 old boys ‘mouth surfing at Miami‘ at Cafe Falcon, Mandurah. L-R Jim Keenan, Tony Harbison, Dan Darragan (real name John Roberts, but not used), Laurie Burke, Bill Pratley, Ray Geary. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.