In 1980 the National Scholastic Surfing Titles were held in WA for the first time. The contest was run over a week in the SW at Moses, Lefthanders & Smiths surf breaks. The event was sponsored by radio station 6PM & Pipelines Legrope Co.
A strong contingent of 100 talented school boy & girl surfers from around Australia competed at the Titles.
The NSW team contained future World Champions Mark ‘Occy’ Occhiluppo & Damien Hardman. The WA team contained Mitch Thorson, Damon Eastough, Mike McAuliffe, Dave Macaulay & John Shindig. Squizzy Taylor represented South Aust.
This coverage of the event is based on comments from WA contest official’s surfboard manufacturer Tom Blaxell and WASRA President Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and photos from photo journalist Ric Chan.
Tom Blaxell – Contest Official & Sponsor
Other members of the West Australian contingent from memory were Steve Hannett, Sean Murphy, Shaun Atkinson & Matt Branson.
The fact that Occy and Hardo went on to become World Champions, illustrates that the Aussie Scholastics can be the breeding ground for true world beaters.
In those days we were struggling to get surfing recognised as a genuine school sport. There was no such thing as official surfing during school time, and some of the school administrators wouldn’t even acknowledge the competition, which of course was held out of school time.
The most extreme case was when the head of Christchurch Grammar School refused to accept the Champion surf school trophy after their team had won the State Schoolboys Title in 1965 and likewise the head of Scotch College later on.
I was a sponsor as well as officiating at the event. You can see the Blaxell Aboriginal logo on the back of one of the comp vests.
Contest officials and competitors were housed at the Four Squares Holiday Camp in Vasse.
Photo: 1980 Contest officials & competitors at the Four Squares Holiday Camp. Ric Chan photos.
Top) Competitors and Sponsor & Contest Official Tom Blaxell
(Bottom) Contest Official Margo Blaxell & competitor’s mess hall.
Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell – Contest Organiser.
There were about 60 kids from all over Australia and they were booked into one of the Church Camps in Busselton (Four Square Holiday Camp – Vasse) as a base. We had organised a couple of 23 seater’s and a couple of 14 seater’s to cart the crew around in.
Each morning in the breakfast room I would announce the day’s contest venue. It was a good week surf wise with most of the usual breaks featuring.
One day when it was big “I announced that those who want to surf 6 foot waves – get in the 23 seaters, those that want to surf 8 foot waves – get in the 14 seaters and those that want to surf 10 foot plus Margies – get in the mini minor parked out front!”
When they arrived at MR main break there were 3 blokes out and who should be taking off on a 10ft plus one but Tony Hardy, who off the record was the master of the game at Margies at the time. He Tony Hardied it and the crew headed for the WC!
From memory I think Occy was either a 15 or 16 year old and armed with a 5’6″ twin fin, he charged an 8 foot set wave. Not deep on the take-off but for a first up wave he set the pace for the day and continued to do just that for 20 years.
Another incident from the event was a ‘tug of war’ between teams using a leg rope as the rope.
There were three or four to a team and one crew got it to about 6m before it snapped and Damon Eastaugh took the full brunt of the recoil. It was a major concern and very painful. The only good part of it was that the bloke it hit, was probably the toughest 15/16 year old on the planet at the time. If you see Damian around ask him as I would think it is one of those things you never forget!”
From an historic point of view I reckon this was probably as significant as the ‘Margaret River Thriller’ and other events I assisted with.
It was a massive logistics exercise for that time and I had a good crew of volunteers. I only had one concern and that was how the hard core Margie crew would entertain 100 schoolies tearing up the waves in their area. Surfers were fairly protective of their surf and environment and surfing was arriving as a bona fide sport which was less than popular by the majority.
I had limited dealings with Rob Conneeley in 1978 when I ran my first Australian Open event, but this was a different kettle of fish.
I lobbed on the doorstep of his health food shop in Marg’s to seek his advice on the best way to avoid any drama.
He was pretty straight forward, as he tended to be. He simply said basically “respect the locals, respect the environment and respect the ocean”.
I told the competitors of the rules to the game and that Robert was our connection. Robert was either or close to a legend at the time and still is I guess, so the kids took it on board and went out of their way to behave.
It was the start of the formation of Margaret River as the home of big time surfing in WA and Robert’s part in that and his support should not be overlooked.
Robert always stood back from the organization of events, but one always knew he had a presence and if you ever see the tape of the Margaret River Thrillers competitors meeting in 1985, you will hear me read out the Rules of the Margaret game Robert told me in 1980.
Photos: 1980 Contest officials at Smiths Beach for the Finals. Ric Chan pics.
(Top) Contest organiser Jock Campbell. (Bottom) unidentified & Bill Girdwood talking to officials.
Photos: 1980 Contest officials at Smiths Beach & Yalls. Ric Chan pics.
(Top) Contest car park scene & Jock Campbell. (Bottom) Bill Girdwood with competitors at Yalls.
Photos: 1980 Contest surfing Smiths Beach. Ric Chan pics.
Photos: Contest surfing Smiths Beach. Ric Chan pics.
(Top) WA’s Mitch Thorson. (Bottom) unidentified.
U/19’s 1. M Eymes NSW. 2. P Burnett NSW. 3. M McAuliffe WA & others shared third place.
U/17’s 1. M Thorson WA. 2. M Lyons NSW. 3. D McAullay WA & others shared third place.
U/15s 1. D Hardman. 2. S Taylor SA. 3. Occy NSW, J Shindig WA, S Bedford-Brown & others shared third place
Womens 1. J Gill NSW. 2. M Ducat Q. 3. Spiers NSW & Harrison Vic.
Kneeboarders 1. M James NSW. 2. T Branigan Vic. 3. Astra NSW & Ogborne WA
On completion of three rounds and the finals, contest presentations were held at the Naturaliste Motor Hotel in Dunsborough.
Photos: 1980 Contest sponsor Helen Hattrick & contest official Bill Girdwood presenting awards to U/15 boys finalists. Ric Chan pics.
Top: L-R Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo NSW, Damien Hardman NSW, Squizzy Taylor SA, John Shindig WA.
Bottom: L-R Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo NSW, Damien Hardman NSW, Squizzy Taylor SA, John Shindig WA, WA’s Stuart Bedford-Brown receiving award from Helen Hattrick.
Photos: 1980 Contest presentations girl finalists. Ric Chan pics.
(Top) Michelle Ducat Qld receiving award from Helen Hattrick.
(Bottom) Michelle Ducat Qld & Bill Girdwood, Unidentified finalists with Helen.
In 1984 Carine Senior High School won the Rip Curl Shield, the state scholastic surfing trophy for the best team performance.
Image: 1984 victorious Carine SHS surfing team with sponsors, officials & their headmaster. Image courtesy of the Stirling Times and Tom Blaxell.