1970s Rotto fly-in surf trip

In the 70s the Rottnest Island Board (RIB) flew Independent Newspaper photo journalist Ric Chan and some of his surfing mates to Rottnest for a photo shoot to promote surfing on the Island.

RIB financed the plane trip and provided a vehicle & accommodation for the weekend photo shoot.

Ric’s surf team consisted of Bruce King, Phil Henderson, Steve Cockburn and Mark Johnson. The boys enjoyed the Island’s hospitality.

These are boy’s recollections.

Bruce King

I remember on the flight over the pilot wanted to turn back because he reckoned it was too windy, we persuaded him and eventually landed, once on the ground we were treated like movie stars, transport provided not quite 5 star limo, but an old service truck, we were given a cabin for overnight stay, all this supplied by way of Ric Chan’s smooth talking. There was a horse hire place then, which Ric persuaded the owners to let us avail ourselves with the promise of exposure in the “Independent” newspaper.

We scored well with waves, at that time we didn’t know if others had surfed some of the places, I’m sure they would have. One surf break was Strickland Bay which Ric called King’s Reef because I was the first one out. Another was Chicken Reef which I think Sheepdog named because Ric was too chicken to go out, I think it is still called that today.

Phil Henderson

It’s funny but YEAH that trip was a bit of a blur. I remember it was blowing its box off and we had to convince the pilot to land in such a bad crosswind. He was not happy but we made it. Cannot remember much else other than Ric’s photos. It was good fun though.

Steve Cockburn

Ric Chan arranged our venture to Rottnest Island. Flying from Perth to Rottnest was ok, but when our light aircraft attempted landing, with the extremely strong wind, the plane was blown sideways at an angle to the runway making it unsafe to complete the landing, so the pilot aborted that first landing attempt and circled to try landing a second time, which was successful.

We made our way to the Rottnest Island Board Offices and Ric went off to discuss some marketing that the Board wanted done, they had lent us the old truck (as seen in the photos) and we all soon headed to the south side of the Island. The surf was flattish, blown right out by really strong north to north west winds.

I don’t remember much about the surfin, but on the second day we decided to go horse riding and hired horses at the local stables then headed off to the north side of Rottnest and along sand tracks leading out to the West End near the lighthouse. The horses were stubborn and it was hard to get going, even to get them to canter on the way out, but as soon as we were returning towards their stables they all bolted and went uncontrollable in full gallop towards their home. My horse suddenly swerved to the right when we arrived at a fork in the track. I was flung off the saddle and swung around the under horses neck, with both legs wrapped tightly around its neck, the horse came to a stop and I walked it the last short distance to the stables.

When it was time to return to Perth, we thought we may get stuck on the Island due to the still very strong wind and the possibility the plane not being able to land and pick us up. But when the time came the pilot made a safe landing and soon we were off back home.

Ric Chan

Muhahahaha. The only reason in know I was there is the pics. Maybe we can wangle another wagon, a boat and a weekend over there.

Photos: 1970’s aerial snaps of Rotto Island. Ric pics

1970s aerial snaps of Rotto Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s fly-in to Rotto airport. Ric pics.

Top: Bruce & Phil unloading surfboards.
Bottom: Sheepdog collecting luggage & the boys playing footy at the airport.

1970s rotto fly-in airport Ric Chan

The RIB provided the boys with an old ex-military truck to drive around the island in.

Photos: 1970s Island transport. Ric pics.

1970s Rotto island transport Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s surfing Strickland Bay (aka King’s Reef). Ric Pics

Top: Bruce King take-off & Mark Johnson.
Middle: Phil Henderson & Bruce King.
Bottom: Sheepdog x 2.

1970s Rotto surfing Kings Reef Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s surfing Chicken Reef.

Top: Chicken Reef line-up and the boys on surf watch.
Middle: Sheepdog & Mark Johnson.
Bottom: Bruce King & Phil Henderson

1970s Rotto surfing Chicken Reef Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s horse riding. Ric pics.

Top: Phil Henderson. Bottom: Steve Cockburn & Bruce King.

1970s Rotto horse riding Ric Chan

The Rottnest Island Authority is now creating an interpretative sign and short DVD on the importance of Rottnest to the surfing community, to be installed on Rottnest Island WA. They plan to use some of Ric Chan’s 1970-80s Rottnest based historic images for their interpretation products.