In the late 50s & early 60s Terry ‘Horse’ Williams was part of a group of footballers from the Subiaco Football Club (SFC) who helped pioneer surfing in the SW. Terry got his nick name as he was big and as strong as a horse.
Terry (127 games) and his SFC surfing mates Kevin ‘Legs’ Merifield (213 games), Barry Brakewell (16 games) & Ray Nelmes (15 games) spent a good portion of their youth chasing waves in the SW.
Kevin’s cousin Olympic hockey player Ray ‘Spider’ Evans (rated the best inside centre in the world) was also part of the group, he represented Australia in 3 Olympic Games.
As well as a stand-up surfer Terry was a keen body surfer and used a wooden body board & flippers.
Photo: 1958 L-R Des Gaines, Alan Hamer, Dave Williams, Bob Keenan, Ray Evans, Kevin Merifield & Terry Williams in front of surf shacks at Caves House Hotel Yallingup. Photo credit Brian Cole and Surfing Down South book..
These are Terry’s SW surfing recollections.
Yallingup as a surfing venue first came to my attention after I had met Dave Williams in 1957 while in Nashos at Leeuwin in the Navy. I didn’t know Dave before then, but I used to see him at City Beach. I lived in Floreat Park with my folks and City Beach was where I went for a swim after work. Trigg’s was my beach of choice.
Nashos was a great way to spend six months having a good time and getting paid for it. We used to ring up the local liquor store who would then deliver us a 5 or 10 gallon keg and place it outside the fence in such a way that we could pump it and have the spout coming through the wire. This system ensured many enjoyable evenings where Dave could expand on the thrills and delights of Yallingup surf.
FIRST TRIP TO YALLINGUP
My first trip to Yallingup was in 1957. I went down with Geoff Eastaugh in my old Singer la Monz. I don’t remember how long it took us, I don’t suppose the car would have gone much faster than 80 to 90 kph. When we got to Yallingup there was a reasonable wave running. Of course there was no one else there and we had no idea of where to surf. I can’t remember looking out to the outside break and if we did notice it, there was no way we were going to go out there. We both had belly boards, they were the ones that used to be hired out at Scarborough years before 1957. They were made of pine planks about half an inch thick with a slight turn up at the front and two cross pieces about ten inches from each end and were about one foot wide.
Geoff and I had flippers but no wet suits. They didn’t come in until the late 60’s. We very gamely swam out through the shore break in the bay. The shore break was pretty savage on the day. Once we got out a bit we were shitting ourselves. There are a few small nigger heads (now named ‘indigenous rocks’) out there with some long kelp on them. The kelp was waving about in the swell and we felt quite uncomfortable. I think we ended up with about three short and furious waves each before we called it a day. I have no recollection of how we got home.
I joined Trigg Island Surf Club in 1958 and started going down south with Ian Todman, Barry Brakewell and Moose White. We travelled down in my 1947 Hillman Minx. Eventually I rolled the Hillman when the approaches to the Narrows Bridge were being prepared, the car was repaired.
From 1959 Yallingup was visited on a fairly regular basis, I must have still had the Hillman Minx. I continued surfing on various types of belly board. The most popular type of stand up board after the 16 ft toothpick was a ply Okanui board about ten feet long. Also around at that time, there were ply double and single skis. They were all hand-made and were beyond my very limited wood working skills. Occasionally someone would arrive with one of the old canvas covered stand up skis. They didn’t last long in the Yallingup surf. The people who paddle today’s stand up boards (SUPs) think they have something new, but they were around back then.
The board that really shook up the surfing scene then was when Laurie Burke arrived back in Perth with a nine or ten foot balsa board. That had everyone amazed. My first board was a balsa board made by Danny Keogh in Sydney. I can’t remember the price of the board but I remember the cost of air freight was pretty steep. I know my board arrived pre-dinged. The airlines had no idea how to carry them, there was no bubble wrap then. I must have used that board for a year or two. The trouble was that when they got dinged they soaked up water like blotting paper and became very heavy.
Board wise the next great thing to come along was the coolite board. I first read about them in a magazine (I don’t think surfing mags were out then!). They seemed to be the answer. They were light and would not absorb water. I duly sourced my supply of coolite and fiberglass and set too making my own board. What I lacked in ability I made up for with enthusiasm. No one told me that that fiberglass resin was a solvent, it just made the coolite disappear. Or that if you mixed epoxy resin too strong, it would catch on fire. The board turned out to be an oblong block of coolite with a sort of pointy end and a sort of rounded end with the corners rubbed off the sides and heaps of fiberglass and a funny looking fin. I remember the day I first put it in the water, I had just had stitches out from an appendix operation in the morning, so was in a bit of a hurry for the big launch. The christening was to be at Scarborough. I nonchalantly strolled across the beach with the board casually tucked under my arm. I was getting a few envious looks, boards were still very rare in those days. At the water’s edge I waxed up, took a couple of running steps leapt onto the board and it snapped in half. So ended my board building phase.
DOWN SOUTH TRIPS
All the while trips are being made to Yallingup mostly by the band of enthusiasts who all knew one another. If a car went by with a board on its rack it was one of your mates. We always camped in the trees at Yallingup. Hammocks were the preferred sleeping arraignment, baked beans and Tom Piper steak and onions a very popular menu, as were the ever reliable Jaffle. Showers and toilets were a luxury. There were toilets at Yallingup but they were very dark and were only used in absolute emergency. The mosquitoes were so bad in there you needed a blood transfusion after a visit. Placing a brick on the float valve of the cistern provided a shower for the very hardy.
In those days we generally planned our trips down south either the weekend before or during the week. Mostly we would arrange who was going with whom etc. We generally left on Friday night after work. In these early days we nearly all ways surfed at Yallingup and we would leave our boards on the beach by the old change rooms for the weekend and take them back to the cars on Sunday afternoon before we drove home.
Editor’s Note: Terry was a big strong ruckman and played with Kevin Merifield in the 1959 WAFL League Grand Final. Terry’s opponent was champion ruckman Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. Kevin Merifield played at Full Forward on John K Watts. Unfortunately for Subi, EP won the GF. I sold newspaper at Subi oval (age 12) and watched Terry & Kevin play in the ’59 WAFL GF.
Images: 1959 SFC League team Runners-up in WAFL competition. Images courtesy of SFC and WA Newspapers.
Click on this link and scroll down to year 1959 to review the 1959 WAFL Grand Final.
In 1960 I decided that I would go overseas to the UK for a working holiday. Maybe this wasn’t the right time to do this, but we are always wiser after the event. Subiaco had played off in the Grand Final the year before and I had had a pretty good year myself. The football club weren’t too happy. I had signed on as crew on a ship in Fremantle to sail to London. This was a long time before economy airfares. Before the ship sailed for London we went down to Albany to pick up fruit on the way we went past Yallingup on a Saturday, there was a good swell running and I could actually see the blokes in the water as they went over a big wave. I thought of jumping ship and swimming ashore. I was away for twelve months and the only surf I had was a little bit in Biarritz (France) and in Hawaii.
SW SURF BREAKS
I returned early in 1961, by this time other breaks were being surfed. In particular Injidup point and bay (there was no car park then), The Gallows, Cowaramup bay and I think Margaret River. I do remember waking up one morning at Yallingup and the whole bay was closing out, the swell was huge. We went around to Bunker Bay but that was also hopeless. We went to Injidup but the whole place was closing out. We went on to Cowaramup Bay and that was big, but we thought we could get out just south of North Point. Three of us started to paddle out, myself, Ralph ‘Seagull’ Mc Nab and a young guy whose name I can’t remember. As we got out towards the middle of the bay the swell started to pick up. I could see the two blokes in front of me about thirty yards were starting to paddle hard to get over the swells. The bay was starting to close-out. I scrambled over about six huge swells but then I could see that the next one would get me, so I turned around and let it break and held on for dear life. The wave took me all the way into shore with a very rough ride and me laying down all the way.
By this time a few other blokes had come along and were looking at the guys who had been in front of me. The whole bay was closing out from point to point and about four or five hundred meters in front of the bay. ‘Seagull’ lay down and caught a broken wave, but the other lad was still heading out to sea. He ended staying out there for another half hour before he could get back in. We were very concerned for his safety and when he finally got back in he was totally exhausted and as white as a ghost.
Photo: 1962 Bob Keenan board riding, Terry Williams’s body surfing & unknown board rider at The Farm surf break, Bunker Bay. Photo credit Brian Cole.
WEST COAST BOARD CLUB
In the early days at Yallingup we generally only surfed until the sea breeze came in, usually around early afternoon. When the breeze arrived we would leave our boards on the beach and adjourn to Caves House pub for a few quiet ones. One day we were laying outside the bar in the sun, probably drunk and disorderly when the publican of the day Bill Copley called a couple of us aside and said ‘’come with me you blokes”. I thought he was going to go crook at us over something we had done, but he took us across the old bowling green to a building that turned out to be the old laundry. He said we’ve had a lot of complaints about you guys camping down on the beach and if you get yourselves organized, you can use this place as a base. We couldn’t believe our good luck. In due course a meeting was held and we decided what needed to be done to make the place liveable. The power was connected so all we really had to do was some concrete work and install a hot water system with a bit of plumbing. That was the start of the West Coast Board Club (WCBC).
Photo: 1962 Laurie Burke’s FB Holden sedan & Howard ‘The Ghost’ Kent’s Holden panel van in front of WCBC surf shack at Caves House Hotel Yallingup. Photo courtesy of Brian Cole and Surfing Down South book.
The WCBC made it possible for the regular Friday night trip south. We had installed beds, gas cooking and all mod cons. The trip was usually measured by the number of ‘king browns’ and later beer cans per trip. I can’t remember all the foundation members, but some were Artie Shaw, Mark Paterson, Bob Keenan, Jim Keenan, Des Gaines, Garry Birch, Don Roper, Dave Williams, Howard (the Ghost) Kent, Kevin Merifield, Laurie Bourke, Colin Moore, Jim McKenzie & John (Dandaragan) Robinson. Apologies to those I have not named.
As first the club was very informal, but as time passed bureaucracy reared its head and we started moves to have the club incorporated. Artie Shaw was the first president, I was secretary with an assistant secretary who could type. The assistant’s name was Jeanne Abbott, she was a little Gidget from Cottesloe. We used to have meetings at the old Subiaco Footy Club rooms at Subi Oval.
After we were established a year or two we received a letter from Ampol Petroleum saying that they were sponsoring board riding championship in the eastern states and wanted to hold one here and were we interested. We were interested. The details of the organising of the inaugural 1964 State Surfing Titles escape me at this stage, except to say that we were assisted by the younger club members of the Yallingup Board Club that included Robbie Birch.
One thing that I do remember is that we erected a judge’s stand on the reef at Yallingup lagoon. Try doing that today. The event went off really well and was the precursor for all the contests that have taken place since. The party after was a terrific show with Ralph McNab doing a most spectacular swing from the rafters showing everyone his family jewels and other places we didn’t want to see. From little things big things grow.
Another event the WCBC promoted was the first Rock band to play at Yallingup Hall. Legs and I were playing footy with Wally Martin and Wally’s brother Bobby had a rock band. We hired them for a gig at the hall on a long weekend. At that time the stomp was all the rage and we had a great turnout. The band were very pleased to play there because it was the first time they had ever had their amplifiers turned up full bore.
Photo: Early 60s Terry taking a photo of L-R Howard ‘Ghost’ Kent, John McKnight, Kevin Merifield, Charlie Roper, Keith Campbell, Dave Williams & Terry Jacks at Moses Rock. Photo credit Brian Cole.
I recall one year I went to Yallingup for my holidays and spent two weeks staying in the shack. After a week or so we went into Busselton to get a decent feed .There was a very good bakery there and after polishing off about six pasties I came out of the shop with a box of a dozen little cakes. All the hungry bastards around me thought they were to share, bad luck, I ate them all myself. I needed a carbohydrate binge.
The times spent at Yallingup were certainly Golden Years. I feel so fortunate to have had those times down there. The surf was great, there were no other surfers and the mates I had have been lifelong friends. Drugs were unheard of, sure we drank a bit of beer, but there was always such a great feeling of camaraderie and humour.
As I reminisce, I think of a day when Yallingup was as flat as a tack and we were having a coldie at Caves when Artie Shaw, Patto and myself decided to go and look for some surf. We drove out to Cape Naturaliste and went out past the lighthouse to what we called the ‘Back of the moon’. We had one of the best couple of hours body surfing I’ve ever had. The place is now called ‘The Other Side of The Moon’ or some other name. For sure nobody had surfed there before.
Photos: Early 60s Kevin Merifield & mates searching for waves at the ‘Back of the Moon’ at Cape Naturaliste. Photos courtesy of Terry Williams.
I also recall when Legs, Dave Williams and I walked towards Cowaramup Bay from the Gallows and found the break we called ‘The Guillotine’.
What fantastic days.
Footnote: Terry plays the ukulele & banjo in a band. Check out his musical talents at Hillary`s Boat Harbour 5.00 pm Friday Nights.