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1960s Murf the Surf

Alfred Cove surfer Noel Sweeny was ‘Murf the Surf’ surf reporter for local radio station 6KY-NA in the mid-60s.

NoelTrust these recollections give a little bit more flavour of 50s/60’s surfing and how we lived/loved all that Hughie could/would throw at us. Halcyon days. All 4 seasons, surfing dawn through into the night surfing. Rain. Winds. The much anticipated Nor-west swells. Dead flat withdrawal syndromes and sheer ‘BLOODY HELL’!! Coming over a hill to sight up on a pumping un-surfed/known break!!  We all used to bush-bash with our cars back then in search of ‘The Ultimate’. Margaret’s was an un-known in our times. Yallingup was the be-all end all of surfing. I was at Yalls the day the dolphin leapt from the wave over the head of Davo Williams in ’69. I have since reminisced over one or two beers on the mural in the public bar of Caves House at Yallingup.   

Photo: 1966-67 Noel with the 6KY-NA Search for Surf Plymouth sedan. Noel Sweeny pic.

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Editor’s note: In the late 60s Trevor Burslem provided a similar service from a 6PR VW sedan.

This is Noel’s story……

Murf the Surf

The Plymouth sedan was supplied by Radio station 6KY – NA (now 94.5 Radio) with a 2-way radio fitted and a roof-rack. I provided 4 morning surf reports from 7am at 1 ½ intervals from northern most Trigg Island, which still had the mushroom rock headland, down to Leighton beaches. This area covered all popular main breaks back then Trigg Point reef break, Scarborough Beach, City Beach north of the groyne, Swanbourne, North Cottesloe off the reef, Cottesloe Beach between Slimy Reef and the Groyne, Isolated reef break, Leighton beach breaks and the Cable Station long before the artificial reef.

Of course I could not cover all that area with time constraints, so would head for those breaks I knew would be working and go live on cue with surf, swell, wind, parking conditions and boards on the water reports.

Being an avid surfer 3-times a day (early morning, noon & sundown) whenever possible depending on conditions, I had an intense knowledge of surf conditions before even getting near the water.

One of my greatest moments as Murf the Surf was to be asked to broadcast the Trigg Island Surf Riders Championship in 1967 with Nat Young in attendance. It was such an exciting day for all us surfers having ‘The Master’ surfing with us and sharing his skills. He was a really down-to-earth guy!

Contest Results: Nat Young 1st, Peter Bothwell 2nd, Brian Hood 3rd.

Photos: 1967 Nat Young Invitational event at Trigg. Noel Sweeny pics.

Left: Noel Sweeny compering on microphone. Behind L-R John Shackley, Kim Woods & Vance Cox. Right: Nat Young NSW.

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Image: 1967 Kevin Ager’s Contestant Certificate from competing with Australian & World Champion Nat Young at 6KY-Speedo Invitation Surfboard Championships held at Trigg. Image courtesy of Kevin Ager.

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Another fond memory was the Labour Day long weekend of March 1967. Monday morning I was heading down toward the Beach when the call came over the 2-way. “Murf where are you?” I replied I was heading to Cottesloe and passing Methodist Ladies College in Stirling Highway. “Well you had best turn around and come back to the radio station. Your Father-in-Law has called and your very pregnant wife has gone into labour and needs to go to hospital! Park outside the radio station and we will record your reports for the morning as you know the conditions…wing it!”  How humorous it was listening to my reports ‘Live from the beach in Your Search for Surf’, as I drove my extremely anxious labouring wife and In-laws to hospital. After a period of time I was presented with a son. My wife and new son were finally able to come home from Bentley Community Hospital. In what vehicle you may ask? Yep, it was the Murf the Surf car. My wife was NOT impressed!!!

Surfing in the 50s & 60s.

Back then were the halcyon surfing days. A relatively new sport since the early 50s, it was a time of no animosity or anger. At any time it would not be difficult to count the surf riders on all your digits. We all respected one another and waited our turn, working towards the take-off point and no-one dared to drop –in on the guy in-the-box.

No wetsuits in those days in all weathers. No leg ropes either back then for fear of having your leg ripped off by an out-of-control 30+lbs (15+kgs) board if you got canned!!

Waves for everyone. Pure and simple camaraderie!! Looking out for each other.

Surfboards

I began surfing in 1957 when I bought my first fibre-glassed surfboard, a Barry Bennett 8’6” twin stringer from Sydney. It was the 5th foam-blank fibre-glass board to be bought in from the Eastern States. I remember having to go out to Perth Airport to pick it up wrapped in hessian sacking for protection and proudly tying it on top of my 1954 Morris minor.

I changed to riding Cordingley boards from early 1962 until 1969. My Cordingley surfboard was 9’4in twin-stringer, round-nose, pin-tail board, single broad fin, 3 inch rails and weighing 34lbs (15.5kgs). I used to tie it on the Murf the Surf Plymouth sedan with cotton rope.

A fantastically quick and stable small/big wave board. With its broad nose, it proved to be in perfect balance for knee-paddling back then and nose-riding the tunnels/tubes of Bunker Bay, the left-hander swells of Yallingup Main Break with waves as high as telegraph poles, the Farm, bush-bashing down old sand tracks at Injidup, Bunkers Bay, and Red Gate or surfing the metropolitan reef/beach breaks of Perth through to Avalon Point south of Mandurah.

Even riding the bow-waves alongside of my Father’s 52 foot launch on the Swan River.

I was fortunate in those times to have the opportunity to ride Indian Ocean swells out from Narrow Neck towards the West-end of Rottnest. My father had his own mooring there for his 52ft ‘ATAMI’. I would take the tender out to the outer reefs and surf to my heart’s content without fear.

Board Club

In the early 60s our small club ‘The Surfaris’ would head out late Friday afternoons for a hot-spot, surf our butts off all weekend and head back Sunday or holiday afternoons. Members were Noel Sweeny, John Ventouras, Bill Oddy, John Balgarnie, Ray O’Neil, Trevor Baskerville, Russ Chapman, Trevor Orr, Graeme Copley, Barry Cain, John Pozzi, Michael Bibby to name a few.

Other surfers I remember around the local surf-breaks were:-  Kevin Ager, Dave Aylett, Colin and Rex Cordingley, Rob Birch, Mark Paterson (with his ply-wood chest board at Cott), Len Dibben, Laurie Burke, Kevin Merifield, Dave Williams, Murray Smith, Victor Kailis, Vance Cox, Kim Woods & John Shackley.

In 1964 I was appointed inaugural Secretary of the WA Surf Riders Assoc. John Shackley was the President at a meeting convened at BP House in Adelaide Terrace, Perth.

Cottesloe

In the Nor-Westers, the outer reef at Cable Station Reef 500-600 metres out would really work, coming through in sets of 5 or 6 head-high and bigger with an odd seventh (huge double-up) just to test us. It would then form a second break about 300 metres from the shore, so we had choices & could paddle to the inner or outer break.

One particularly perfect post Nor-Wester swell on a spring day at Cottesloe. There were only 5 of us in the water and cutting loose from ‘the box’ off the end of the Groyne to the Pylon. Ove r a period of time we had been observing a dolphin quietly rising and then sinking back to the bottom in the crystal clear water. Not paying too much attention to the mammal, after a period of time we saw that she had given birth to a calf. Belly-up, she would position it between her flippers and gently rise to the surface raising it from the water, allowing it to take a breath of air. Roll over and the calf would tumble struggling to the bottom. Repeating this action, the calf slowly learned to breathe and swim until finally she herded her offspring away to the safety of deeper water. A wonderful example of Mother Nature at her infinite best for us to witness.

Not mention the perfect swells ‘Hughie’ had dished up for us. Stoked!

During the summer months with great conditions and warm nights, it was not unusual for us to be surfing into the night maybe 9 or 10 o’clock purely by the light from Seacrest Restaurant, one of Perth’s finest silver-service restaurants. You could not see the swells coming through but you would feel the change in suck-off of the water movement, kneel up and begin paddling like hell as the tail of the board began to lift, the nose went down and momentum was instant. The natural re-action of standing, yowling into the dark of the night before bursting across the faces of the waves into flood-lights across the front of the Surf Club. Fantastic feelings of exhilaration!

Took my future wife on our first real date to ‘The Seacrest’. All cool, suave, dressed to the nines. Beautiful girl. Beautiful meal accompanied by a nice wine (No not Barossa Pearl!) and surroundings. Most pleasant evening and time to settle the bill. Oh!! No wallet! Only option was to leave my gold watch as collateral and return the next day to settle and retrieve my watch. Fortunately I was known to the Proprietors.

Johnny Ventouras and I were a team when surfing. JV and surfed together over many years at a number breaks throughout the South & Mid-west. He would drive from Cottesloe to my home in Alfred Cove or vice-versa around 5 or 5.30am, we would strap the 2 boards on my MG-B with custom made roof-racks and decide a destination.

I always enjoyed going to JV’s home, as most mornings his Greek father would have been down on the Cottesloe reefs at low tide catching kena (Maori name for spiny sea urchin) and baby octopus. He sure could make great Greek style pickled occy and home-grown marinated olives.

Photo: 1965 John Ventouras & Noel Sweeny with Noel’s MG-B sports car & custom-made surf-racks. Noel Sweeny pic.

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Geraldton

John Ventouras and I travelled to Geraldton the 320miles (512kms) via the inland road back in 1965 (there was no Brand Highway or Ocean Road back then) through Moora, Mullewa, Dongara and then Geraldton.  After surfing Geraldton Back Beach and Coronation Bay’s 5 Breaks we headed home on the Sunday afternoon. Past the Gero Town Hall at 3.00pm and finally passed the Perth Town Hall at 6.30pm.  Averaged 92mph (150kph) and fuel at 25mpg (16l/100km).

Photos: 1965-66 John Ventouras and Noel Sweeny trip to Geraldton in Noel’s MG-B sports car with custom made roof racks that carried up to 3 boards. The boys surfed 5ft Coronation Bay & 4ft Geraldton back beach. Noel Sweeny pics.

(Top) Road into Coronation Bay.  (Bottom) Coronation Bay car park.

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South Coast

Denmark Back Beach could only be reached by driving along sand tracks through the sand-hills and then walking with your 15+kgs boards maybe a mile (1.6kms) to get to the cliffs to be climbed down to get to the consistently perfect southern swells and breaks.  But it was the climbs back up the cliffs that were killers. Surfing anywhere from Albany Salmon Holes, Avalon Point, Long Point, Lancelin and as far north as Coronation Bay out from Geraldton was our scene.  And of course the metro area breaks, hanging ten!

South West

One occasion remains an epic. JV said that Cott was flat, but Yalls would be working. So we strapped on boards and were away. The time was 6.00 am. Heading south through Pinjarra, Waroona and planting the foot on the Wokalup Flats to Picton Junction, Bunbury, Busselton and onwards to Yallingup. As we passed the Caves pub and headed down the hill to the car park, I looked at the surf and the time.

Surf was up!! It was 7.40am!! 160 miles (260kms) in 1hr 40 mins. Average speed 160 kph! One helluva quick time to Yallingup. But that was the way we always travelled on the open road!

With the 9ft boards on top and aerodynamically designed roof racks, the noses were down at the front and so acted as an aerofoil. The faster we went, the lower the front of the MG-B moved and gave us incredible stability in holding the road.

During a surfing comp at Yallingup, the left hander swell was pumping and with an occasional wave at an estimated 25ft (6.35mtrs), the height of an electricity pole. I had the ‘the Box’ as I paddled onto a wave and manoeuvred for the inner reef, a younger surfer dropped in on me and cannoned me from my board. I lost it in the wild white-water and spent 45 minutes in the water trying to get to my board and heading for Rabbits. The members of ‘The Safaris’ saw my dilemma and keeping me in sight, scrambled across the rocks and cliffs following my progress. Finally I managed to get through the savage shore-break to the beach. Totally buggered! The board also came ashore and my mates escorted me slowly back to the Main Break. I was totally done!

Bunkers Bay reef break holds special memories for me when I was riding my Cordingley 9’4” tear drop board with Johnny Ventouras, on one of our many trips down south. The sou-Westerlies had been blowing for days and the ensuing swell was swinging around the outer reef and into the bay. The constant barrels that formed were exhilarating in their power and consistency together with smooth wave faces made for exciting surfing. JV could but only sit outside and watch as he could not generate the speed I getting from the dynamics of my 15.5kgs power machine. One word FAN-BLUDDY-TASTIC!!! Finally got too far inside the lip and ended up being crunched in the shore break and smashed my board. Wounded? Yes! Pride only luckily! Was it worth it?? Oh yes!!

These Days

These days I am retired and live on the west coast in Doubleview with my wife and dogs.

Unfortunately I no longer surf after rupturing ACL’s in both knees whilst boogie-boarding at Cottesloe in 2000, after a screamer from The groyne to Slimy Reef and a savage cut-back in front of the surf club into a total suck-out in shallow water.

Oh, the agony as I felt the intense pain and dragged myself up the beach on my elbows!

Doctor to a 60 y.o. with busted knees. “Last thing I need is you struggling in like this, Forget the bloody surfing, take up fishing!!!”

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