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John Balgarnie’s surfing memoirs

Talented goofy footer John ‘JB’ Balgarnie (born 10 July 1946) began his surfing life at Trigg before moving to Cottesloe in the early 60s.

He won his first state title at the WA Winter Championships held at Scarborough in 1966. JB competed successfully at the state level from the 60s until 2010 when he won the ‘over 60s div’ at Whale Bone Classic longboard contest held at Isolated Reef near Cottesloe.

In between those contest wins, JB did a lot of surfing and help design WA’s first artificial surfing reef at Cable Station near Cottesloe.

Image: 1960s contest winner John Balgarnie surrounded by the spoils of victory. Image courtesy of Wet Side News mag.

1960s John Balgarnie Profile 1993 Wet Side News

These are JB’s surfing memoirs.

Contest Achievements

Contest results as shown on trophies.
1966 winter championships……1st place open
1968 6PR WASRA open surf riding comp…..1st place open
1970 state round…..1st place open
1982 Australia day titles…..1st place masters
1985 spring titles….3rd place masters
1985 winter titles….3rd place masters
1990 wet dreams WASRA….1st place masters
1994 state round…..3rd place masters
1995 state titles….2nd place masters
1996 1st state round…..2nd place masters
1996 2nd state round…..2nd place masters
1996 3rd state round……2nd place masters
1999 whalebone invitational….2nd place over 50s
2000 over 50s Cottesloe longboard….2nd place
2009 whalebone over 60s…..2nd place
2010 whalebone over 60s….1st place
Note: I have three more trophies with nothing written on them,
they could be two seconds and a first at Phillip Island Vic.
I have not been in a contest since 2010.

Image: 1966 WA Winter Championships held at Scarborough (JB won Senior Men’s Title). Contest report #1 courtesy of Surfabout Magazine Vol 3 No.7.

1966 WA Winter Champs at Scarborough ex Surfbabout Magazine Vol 3. No 7. IMG_01

Image:1966 WA Winter Championships held at Scarborough (JB won Senior Men’s Title). Contest report #2 courtesy of Surfabout Magazine Vol 3 No.7.

1966 WA Winter Champs at Scarborough ex Surfbabout Magazine Vol 3. No 7. IMG_02

JB represented WA at National Surfing Titles held in on the East Coast.

Photo: 1966 WA State Team at Crescent Heads Country Club. L-R John Balgarnie (front), unknown girl, Boz Cummings, Mike Bibby, unknown, John Staley, Neil Peglar, Arty Sherburn, Barry Young, Murray Smith & unknown girl & boy. Photo courtesy of Barry Young.

1966 Crescent Heads Country Club L-R J Balgarnie,girl,B Cummings, M Bibby,unknown,J Staley,N Peglar,A Sherburn, B Young, M Smith & girl. B Young pic

Surfing history.

My first experience of surfing was at Trigg Point around the age of 13 years old, 1959. In those days only a few surfers would be surfing the point. When one of the surfers fell off his board I would retrieve that board and paddle it back to the surfer. When retrieving boards I learnt how to paddle and later how to surf after buying one of Trigg boards.

My first board was a Wallace 8’6’’ balsa that I kept at a friend’s house at Trigg for about a year, until moving it to Cottesloe and keeping it under the Cottesloe Pavilion, which began my surfing life around Cottesloe area.

My next board was a Gordon Woods 3 stringer 9’3” then a couple of King Cole boards until I snapped one at South Point and Colin Cordingley offered me free boards to ride for the Cordingley surf team. During my Cordingley association I met Greg Laurenson who was shaping for Cordingley’s. From that time on Greg shaped all my boards under Cordingley’s label and later under his own board building business. My association with Greg’s surfboard designs was exciting, new and innovative. I can remember riding my first twin fin board with Greg standing on the reef to see what happens to the fins during a full bottom turn, it was exciting times. After the very sad death of Greg I began to surf on Mt Woodgee surfboards and still do today.

Photo: 1970 Yalls State Titles L-R Peter Holzman, Ron Waddell, Rod Slater, Rob Sutherland, Steve Cockburn, Giles Geiger, John Balgarnie, Peter Dyson, Bruce King & Greg Laurenson in front. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1970 Yalls State Titles P Holzman,R Waddell, R Slater, R Sutherland, S Cockburn, G Geiger, J Balgarnie, P Dyson, B King & G Laurenson - R Chan img424

In 1975 WASRA started a ‘Build a Reef’ campaign for the WA coast. JB was involved in the campaign with Geoff Berry.

Image: 1975 WASRA ‘Build a Reef’ campaign pamphlet. Image courtesy of Arthur Sherburn.

1975 WASRA build a reef campaign - Arthur Sherburn pic img233

JB is an architect and was involved in the planning of the artificial reef at Cable Station near Cottesloe.

Artificial Reef (Construction completed December 1999).

My interest in an artificial reef came from discussions with a friend in Victoria who is a marine engineer and knew the conditions of Perth, being the lack of good banks and hence good surf. It was discussed that if only we had good sand banks to give us more surfing locations the help the ever increasing crowd conditions.

My friend from Victoria, Geoff Atkins came across a thesis by Walker on artificial reefs proposed in Hawaii as part of his studies on marine engineering. This thesis gave us the means to use his proposal and adapt it to Perth conditions by means of submitting a proposal to the government.

The proposal was put together with a friend of mine, Geoff Berry and was a very preliminary submission to raise some finance to hopefully get approval and build the reef. Professor Sylvester from the WA University being from the Marine Engineering Department submitted within our report to give us some credibility to that report.

Unfortunately nothing much happened and the report sat “dead in the water” for a few years. The next interesting development with the help of Keith Campbell from Trigg was a meeting with Mike Board being the Local Member of Government to discuss the artificial reef. Mike Board was looking for a project to help the community and the artificial reef was just what he was looking.

A committee under Mike Board was chosen being myself and another Keith Campbell from the Cottesloe area representing surfing together representatives from the surf life-saving, fishing, University of Marine Engineering and Local Government. The committee would meet to discuss what needed to be accomplished for the construction of the reef and to acceptable to the Government. The very first task was to select a site for the reef. Cable Station was selected because the area had a stable beach area being the existing shore line reef and an existing reef off the coast that could be enhanced with little or no effect on the environment.

Once the site was selected contour surveys were taken for a scale model to be constructed by the University Marine Engineering Department to test all legitimate aspects of the reef proposal. Over a number of years all the testing, costing and method of construction was completed though it wasn’t all easy going. When the committee hadn’t met for a while, a newspaper friend of mine would run a story on the reef and that article would seem to result in the committee meeting again.

To my surprise and after a considerable length of time the proposal for the artificial reef was accepted by the Committee together with Government funding for the construction of the reef.

So the reef was now going to be built though it was Keith Campbell and myself that pushed for the reef to be a longer breaking reef than proposed by the University Marine Engineering Department of WA. Again I was surprised that our proposal to lengthen the surf break was accepted and I can only think it was the very good relationship we had within the committee to get this reef up and working.

My only regret it that no one has taken the concept of the artificial reef and developed it to be used on the open beach areas. I have spent a lot of time getting this reef up and working for the only reason that someone could then run with a proposal on the open beach areas. I would think it’s not so difficult to construct an artificial reef that would change the swell directions producing good surf banks without harming the environment. At the moment we have no sand banks in the summer time, so when we have swell it just closes out making conditions basically terrible for surfing.

Places I have surfed.

I have surfed throughout Australia especially Phillip Island whereby I would spend each summer while studying architecture. Further I have surfed all of the east coast and been part of the Australian titles in Queensland and NSW. My surfing experience on Philip Island started in 1968 and has been ongoing to this day. I spent so much time on the Island I became a member of the Phillip Island Board Club and to this day have friends from the island.

My favourite surf break is Woolamai on Phillip Island as it’s the most perfect beach break you can imagine. The sand banks are so perfect and consistent year in and year out that the locals have named each of the sand banks eg, Anzac alley to name one.

Apart from Australia I have surfed Hawaii on three occasions being the North Shore and the Honolulu area, California coast, Indonesia surf spots eg, Mentawai Islands, Bali, Lombok etc and the Maldives on several occasions.

Photo: 2010 John surfing Pasta Point in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of John Balgarnie.

2010 Maldives pasta point John Balgarnie Img_1

These days.

These days I surf around the Cottesloe area through winter and travel over east or down south during the summer months with the occasional trip overseas. Next year in June I plan to go to the Mentawai Islands on a two week boat trip with friends from Phillip Island.

Photo: 2009 Reunion at City Beach. L-R John Balgarnie, Dave Cummins, Jamie Doig & Geoff Berry. Photo credit Bruce King.

2009 Reunion J Balgarnie, D Cummins, J Doig & Geoff Berry - Bruce King

To date I have never surfed Europe, South Africa or Tasmania, though I would like to surf Europe for the experience and hopefully will one day soon

That’s it, my condensed surfing life. Hope you find the above interesting.

JB.