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KIDS IN PARADISE – Surfing City Beach in the 1960’s by Ross Utting

Ross Utting grew up in Floreat & surfed City Beach with his mates from a young age. In the late 60s, early 70s he was a Blaxell Surfboards team rider and State schoolboys & State open men’s finalist.

These are Ross’s ‘Kids in Paradise – Surfing City Beach in the 60s’ recollections.

Its school holidays in December 1962 and there are a bunch of kids, surfing all types of coolites off the City Beach groyne. The kids are aged between 9 & 12 years and are burnt black by the sun. Some are lying prone on their boards angling across the nice shaped waves, while others are trying to stand up but are spinning out. There is Norm (Dot) Kitson, Mick (Midge) Semple, Barry (Baz) Day, Craig (Ern) Henfry, Steve (Simmo) Simpson (dec’d 2010), Ross Sarson, Phil Moriarty and heaps of others. After a while the “stand ups” get tired of spinning out and try to glue homemade wooden fins into their coolites, only to see them get eaten away by the glue. Eventually we jam the fins into the coolites and hold them in place by pouring melted wax into the gaps and “we are away”.

We “survive” our days at the beach by collecting bottles and cashing them in for the deposit at Johnson’s kiosk in front of the old surf club. On days when there are no bottles, we troop the 200 metres up to Simmo’s place in Branksome Gardens and his Mum makes us bread and jam.

Photo: 1939 City Beach surf lifesaving club and Johnson’s kiosk in foreground. Photo courtesy of Cambridge Library – Local Studies.

1939 Old Surf Club with Johnson's Shop to the left - Cambridge Library pic

Some of the boys leave their coolites under the City Beach Tearooms, but this is fraught with danger, as Norm Kitson found out when “little Eric” (son of tearooms proprietor Eric) took to his board with a kitchen knife in a moment of boredom.

I lived in Floreat, with Baz Day originally at the back of us and Peter Docherty (co-founding member of City Beach Surf Riders Club) next to him. The Moss Brothers were a few houses up our street and Norm Kitson a couple of blocks away. In 1963 Peter Docherty built boards for Baz Day and his brother Bill. Baz’s board was coloured yellow & was a balsa 7’6” and Bill’s 8’, incredibly short for the time. Bill didn’t surf much so I got to use his board a fair bit.

In that year we saw our first surf movie at the Regal Theatre, “Gun Ho”. Unbeknown to us, on the other side of the world, Brian Cole, an old City Beach boy, is sharing a six pack with surf movie star and legend Miki Dora, on the beach at Malibu.

Photos: 1986 Malibu California. Photo credits Ross Utting.
Top: Miki Dora wall at Malibu Beach California.
Bottom: Malibu Point & Pier

1986 Malibu California USA Ross Utting pic collage_photocat

Photo: 2009 City Beach surfing legends Ron Moss (CBSR Life member) and Peter Docherty (CBSR co-founder) holding the Docherty/Cordingley perpetual trophy at City Beach. Photo credit Jim King.

Editor’s notes: The trophy was shaped from surfboard stringer timber by Dave Ellis at Cordingley Surfboards in Subiaco. Baz Day won the Docherty Trophy a couple of times, but Ross was the last to win it in 1969. He claims to have been undefeated for 46 years.

2009 Ron Moss Peter Docherty with Cordingley Trophy

In 1964 I got my own board, a 9’8” Bill Wallace, and shortly thereafter all the boys got boards. Mine cost 25 pounds at Cordingly Surf Shop in Hay St Subiaco. We used to leave our boards in the black dirt under Simmo’s house and drag them across Jubilee Park to the beach because they were too heavy to carry. Simmo used to piss on them regularly so we shifted them across the street when the resident (Chapman) built storage racks for us in his backyard.

During summer we rode our bikes to the beach at 3.30am to be ready to hit the water at first light. We had to do this because the early morning swimmers came at about 6am and from then on mostly we weren’t allowed to surf off the groyne. Sometimes between 7 & 8am we could get back in the water for a while. In those days wave quality off the groyne (pre alterations) was excellent and very consistent.

Also, in those days the beach between the 2 groynes (City Beach & Floreat) was more of a bay, and in the afternoons when the sou-wester was strong, there was a good wind wave in the middle of the bay.

Once the summer passed we virtually got the beach to ourselves and Warren (Wonk) Sommerford (dec’d), the beach inspector, used to allow surfers next to the groyne as long as there were no swimmers. But we used to push the boundaries and he was always running out of the old surf club building shaking his fist at us.

Photo: Mid 60s surfing City Beach groyne. Norm ‘Dot’ Kitson & Ross Utting entering the water. Photo credit Tom Collins.

mid 1960s City Beach Norm Dot Kitson & Ross Utting Tom Collins pic

During the non-summer school holidays we got incredible surf at times and whenever it got good Terry Jacks (dec’d) was always there. He was an incredibly powerful surfer and was our idol. I recall one day of perfect conditions at a solid 6’ and breaking way out past the groyne. Terry just tore it to shreds. He was virtually taking off on the south side of the groyne and passing well in front of it. We had never seen anything like it. It was just Terry and us kids, he was a legendary surfer, one of the best in Australia at the time & looking back, probably world class. I don’t think Terry ever worked. His parents had a house just off the Boulevard near Floreat Forum Shopping Centre.

My greatest moment in surfing came years later, must have been 1969/70, I was sitting on the steps back at Yallingup contemplating a morning surfing perfect 8-10ft Margaret, when Terry came & sat next to me & said “you surfed well this morning, handled the size no trouble at all”. Wow! After that I fancied myself as a big wave rider for a while, that is until Fred Annersley dragged me & a couple of others out at Margaret on a solid 12ft day, I survived, but after that I resolved “Nah, you can leave me out of that”.

When the waves were no good at City Beach we used to try & get a parent to take us to Scarborough. Threepenny Reef (North Scarborough) and Brighton were our favourites. My Mum used to hate having 6 or more boards stacked on the car. These were simple times, surfing was an incredible adventure and was never better fun.

In late 1966 Brian D’Arcy (deceased early 1970’s) conned his Dad into taking Phil Moriarty, Craig Henfry and me to Yallingup for a few days. We camped under the melaleuca trees and Brian’s Dad cooked on an open fire. We surfed on our own at Yallingup the whole time. We saw only 2 other people in 3 days, Mark Waddell and Brian (Beast) Boynes. They surfed elsewhere but slept at Yallingup.

Photos: 1967 Floreat Park. Photos courtesy of Utting family.
(Left) Glen ‘Roy’ Carroll, Ross & David ‘Bull’ Moss Yallingup bound in Bull’s Morris Minor. (Right) Ross with new 8’10” Cordingley stringer-less surfboard at his Floreat home.

1967 Ross utting CBSR pics collage_photocat

After a time, us young blokes became aware of the City Beach Surfiders Club, primarily through the distinctive red board shorts of its members. Eventually we were recruited. I think Ron Moss and Baz Day nominated me. After serving 3 months’ probation, I was accepted into the Club in early 1967, at age 15. Couldn’t wait to get my Club outfit of board shorts and parka in the distinctive red with white and black trim. Cordingleys had the design of the various Clubs outfits and you simply placed an order through them.

Club meetings were held on Sunday nights at various members homes, in a storeroom under Floreat Forum Shopping Centre and for a short time at Mathews Netball Centre. We were expelled from the Netball Centre for making too much noise after a meeting deteriorated into a game of British Bulldog on the slippery wooden indoor netball court. Meetings were always undisciplined affairs, with the highlight being the showing of surfing footage of members on the Club’s projector.

The gathering place for Club members was the City Beach Tearooms and the young blokes used to hang around the shop waiting for a lift to the best waves in the metro area. Joining us juniors in the Club were the Waddell brothers Gerard (Spewy) and David (Goona), Michael (JJ) Martino, Geoff (RE) Marshall, Glen (Roy) Carroll and a bit later the Bettenay bros.

Photo: 1966 City Beach Tea Rooms with ‘Simmo’ drying himself in front of Rob Halliday’s Fiat while talking to Russell Hately . Photo credit Trevor Burslem.

1966 City Beach Tea Rooms - Trevor Burslem

“Oldies” in the Club included the King bros, Moss bros, Cleaver bros, Franks siblings, Steve (Sheepdog) Cockburn, Rob Farris, Norm Bateman, Bob Halliday, Reg Gillard, Phil Henderson, Duck Craigie, Russell Stranger, Howard Johnson (dec’d), Kevin O’Dwyer (dec’d) & Brian Brown (dec’d). Although they were only a couple of years older than us, at that age it seemed like a generation. They taught us a lot & not all of it good, let me tell you.

Ultimately, the popularity of the Club scene faded & by 1968/69 many of us were heading to the South West waves around Yallingup at every opportunity. The wave quality and power of the south west made surfing exciting again.

Baz Day and I are still surfing Yallingup Main Break on yellow boards after more than 50 years. That first yellow Docherty board from 1963 must have left an indelible impression.

Photos: 2015 Yellow surfboards at Yallingup L-R Baz Day & Ross Utting. Photo credits Bruce King.

2015 Yalls yellow boards Baz Day & Ross Utting collage_photocat

Ross has travelled & surfed widely. He has a holiday home in the South West and surfs Yallingup regularly.

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