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1964 East Coast road trip with Rex Cordingley by Dave Aylett

In the 60s Dave ‘Davo’ Aylett was a Cottesloe surfer and lead singer in popular Perth band The Young Blaydes.

In ’64 he drove over east with Rex Cordingley (from Cordingley Surfboards) to see the first World Surfboard Titles held at Manly Beach in NSW.

This is Davo’s ‘blow by blow’ story of the road trip:-

It was 52 years ago. Wow! Mid May 1964 the 1st World Surfboard Titles – Manly Beach.

I think it was about April when Rex Cordingley said he was going to Sydney for the first world surfing championship. To help with driving and travel costs Rex asked me if I’d like to go east. I jumped at the chance and so did Peter Utting. About that time Australia was all the way with L.B.J. and I was lucky enough to dodge the draft. I was born on the 20th of April and my marble wasn’t drawn for conscription. The departure day came fast. Hardly enough time to last minute pack. Mum cooked a real big tin of sausages and we had a bottle of tomato sauce.

Image: 1960s Davo and the Young Blaydes Band playing at Top of The Town night spot in Perth. Image courtesy of Dave Aylett.

From the left Mike Byrom (drums), Dave Aylett (guitar), Greg Wynne (bass) and Terry Malone (guitar). All took turns at lead vocal backed by 3 part harmony.

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First stop Kalgoorlie. So far so good. Hitting the road again in the shops runabout, a pale blue FC Holden panel van, I think we had 6 brand new surfboards on the roof. We had a black top smooth road to Norseman then the nightmare begun. The road was truck wheel rutted and slippery with the occasional hole, so deep they were marked with 6 inch tree branches. Wandering livestock on surprise road crossings became common, punctuated by Kamikaze roos and emus. All of which we avoided. One night it was so cold. We wrapped ourselves with anything we could find including beach towels etc. Luckily I packed a pair of gloves and they were exclusively the drivers. You see the Holden didn’t come with a heater or demister, so in order to see through the windscreen, the outside air vent had to be fully open full blast on the driver’s feet. It started to rain. Well those bloody windshield wipers were vacuum operated. The only time they would work was on deceleration.

Photo: 1970 Yallingup. Rex Cordingley presenting award to State Surfing Champion Tony Hardy. & Bill Oddy on the right & Colin Cordingley obscured by Tony. Ric Chan pic.

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Most of the time we spent sideways rocketing through red mud. I was trying to warm up and get some sleep in the back after a stint of driving when I was woken with Peter at the wheel screaming. Poor Peter had gotten himself into a tank slapper and was over correcting and out of control. I was being thrown from one side of the van to the other, Rex had woken and was making a grab for the wheel to settle the slide and then with an up-heaving thump everything went black. I woke with a real sore head. I had cracked my scone on the inside tray bar behind the bench seat. There was a real weird sound of a scratching grind punctuated by Rex screaming f..k, f..k, f..k. We had slammed into a mound of dirt and we were some way from the road. I climbed out and Rex informed me I was bleeding. My head hurt like hell, but I was amused that the weird sound of the scratching grind came from the windshield rocking on the bonnet. Rex had a look at my head and said it was a minor wound and we all got back inside the van, slept and waited for dawn so we could survey what damage there was. When we woke we found that the roof rack had broken and the boards were in the bush in front of the van. We also found the battery had shattered, the shock absorbers had broken through their mounts and the bumper was history.

We were looking pretty stuck when through the dirt came another Holden limping on three tyres and one rim. He stopped and asked us for some help. Rex said sure we can help each other. We gave this guy our spare wheel and he towed us onto the track. We put the surfboards and windshield in the back of the van with the tailgate down. We tried towing our panel van behind his car, but the tow rope was useless on that rough road so we decided to push start our van. No good by hand, so we put the tailgate up with the rear window up, three of us in the front seat and our rescuer crunched us up to a speed fast enough for Rex to drop the clutch and away we went, our rescuers smashed headlights and our smashed tail lights. No wind shield, rotten road with occasional road train filling everything with dust, only one pair of sunglasses exclusive for the driver, unable to drop below a certain speed because of our broken battery, we were now three very sore, squeezed in, humourless surfers. I can’t remember where we went for repairs. Where ever it was it cost a bundle and the repairs were minimal and dodgy.

From that time on, poor Peter was banned from any driving. Secretly I think he was relieved. Well that Holden had seen better days and it handled like a bowl of soup. Rex and I wrestled our way to Melbourne. Rex and his brother Colin had designed a training yacht for Sandringham Yacht Club and the officials were prepared and waiting for our arrival. Wow! The club sure laid it on for us.

The Sandringham Yacht Club was amazing. Especially to 3 young blokes from little old Perth. Open 24 hours a day, pokies, great music, strippers the lot! It was like we were discovering a new planet. A number of club members and officials were involved in the motor industry so they took our beaten up old wreck and gave us a loaner car. It doesn’t get any better than that! We stayed at a club member’s house. Rex seemed like some sort of God like hero and Peter and I were just going along for the ride. We stayed there for about a week. That put us behind schedule, but it was worth it. The old wreck we rolled up in was transformed. Amazing! Rex couldn’t get the smile off his face.

Then it was a fond farewell and black top all the way to Canberra. Shit cold again! I can’t remember how it happened, but some really nice girls asked us to dinner. One of the girl’s fathers owned squash courts. It had an adjoining gym and we stayed there until about 5am and we were awakened by the cracking sound of a couple of early rise squash players. We loved the warmth, but were up and at em because we were running late by this time. The Blue Mountains or somewhere on the way to Sydney we came across snow. We 3 had never seen snow before. One of us had a plastic rain coat and we took turns in skidding down a slope with the raincoat pulled up between our legs. It didn’t work real well, but we had fun. Coming down to Sydney was real scary. The trucks and the speed they got up to, made us look for escape routes to turn off to allow the big rigs to pass. Both Rex and I quickly adapted to the quick pace and once we got used to it, it became fun. After getting lost a number of times we found our digs. Tasman Street Dee why. I don’t know how many West Ozzie’s lived there, but I remember Cliff Hills, Jimmy Lick, Keith Campbell and some more I can’t remember. God it was great. Party all night, surf all day. We would start off at the Manly Pacific Canopus room and drink that horrible Coopers. When that closed, we would hit Kings Cross. I remember a big swim through joint and a guy called Billy Thorpe hammering out ‘Poison Ivey’ at a volume that went right through you. What a BLAST! Then there were the girls. Wow!

Photos: 1964-65 East Coast trip. Photos courtesy of Cliff Hills, Jim Lik & Keith Campbell.

Top:  (Left) 1966 NSW Cliff Hills (standing) & friends with Goggomobile. (Right top) 1965 Cliff Hills with Falcon ute on the Nullabour (Right middle) 1964 NSW Brookvale James ‘Lik’ MacKenzie (18) working with Scott Dillion at Scott Dillion Surfboards.

Bottom: (Left) 1965 Keith Campbell with Mini Minor & surfboards on the Nullabour. (Middle) 1964 NSW Keith Campbell surfing Ovoca Beach. (Right) 1965 NSW beach girls.

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During those times speaking to the locals, there was some pub talk about this kid tearing up the race tracks. From all the talk this kid without a road licence was knocking off the established veterans. This kid drove a homemade Austin A30 with a Holden motor in it. Now I wonder who that was!

The standard of surfing was miles ahead of Western Australian skills. Cliff Hills loaned me his board when he went off to work under the proviso I took off deeper in the box seat than anybody. It was like some kind of war.

I made friends with a pack of locals. They were known as the Dee Why Gremmies. The leaders of this feral crowd drove a black Twin Spinner Ford with straight through side exhaust pipes. Christ it was loud! One day I went with them to Narrabeen for a surf. On the way the driver (I can’t remember his name) said he was running low on fuel and with that we stopped behind a parked Nash Rambler. With a Jerry can and hose from our boot, two of them proceeded to milk the Nash in broad daylight. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Cool as can be, still parked behind the Nash we had just milked, they drained the Jerry Can into the Twin Spinner Ford. I was doing a good job hiding my fear of getting caught and winding up in jail. Dad would have killed me! One of the guys in the back seat with me bragged that they had never paid for fuel and never got caught. Shortly after that I did my best to find new friends.

We went to the World Surf Championships and found out there was a big gang of Bodgies on one of the ferries due to arrive at Manly with intent of bashing up the surfies. I don’t know why! Maybe it was their way of having fun. The police boarded the ferry and returned the ferry to its home port. It was in the newspaper and everything. WILD! There was just so many people there, it was hard to get a vantage point but I did see some of the preliminary’s and was in the crowd for the Final. I know I got left behind from the group I went with and ended up walking home. That was miles! The surf at Manly was small, but well-shaped and the contestants really ripped it up. Midget was a clear winner! A master of the long board.

Images: 1964 First World Surfboard Titles memorabilia.

Left: World Titles program cover. Right: Admission ticket & World Surfboard Titles sticker.

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Photos: 1964 First World Surfboard Titles surfers.

Left: Open winner & first World champ Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly

Right top: Midget’s famous ‘cuttie’ courtesy of Keith Campbell. Bottom right: WA competitors review ex Titles Program.

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Most of the guys had work in NSW and I seriously thought of applying for a job driving a Snow Queen ice-cream van. When I phoned dad for some more money I happened to mention that I might get a job there. He didn’t think it was a good idea and persuaded me to return with Rex once the championships were complete. So we three began the journey home with No surfboards, (all sold) no roof rack, car running sweet. We decided to take our time but set a cracking pace thanks to the improved handling of the Holden and our Sydney style of driving. We decided to visit surf spots on the way home. How many times did we say? “Wish we had our boards with us!” The Great Ocean Road was wonderful. The tracks to the surf spots were far from easy and we couldn’t believe the shape and size of the waves, and why the hell nobody was riding them.

Adelaide was uneventful until Rex from somewhere produced a point 22 rifle. Boy what fun! First we had target practice with tin cans, bottles and stuff then Rex expressed his dislike of crows. He may have been waken while in the middle of a memorable dream by the ark, ark, ark of those black annoying and allusive birds. He raised the gun at the rowdiest taunter and was amazed that as soon as he pointed the gun at it, it casually took flight. He took a shot anyway. Shortly after that he raised the gun to another and once again the bird casually took flight. Damn annoying! You could hold a stick of wood and point it as though it were a rifle and the crow would just sit there and ark, ark away, but as soon as the rifle was levelled at them, once again they would casually take flight. It became a competition between us to see who would be the first to taste blood. The quest continued until the last round was fired and we gave up. Crows Victorious!

Hell, once again we faced the Nullarbor and the weather soured and the road in places was slicker than whale snot. The grader this time had preceded us and although smooth it was treacherous. In places it was easier to let the panel van drive itself and follow in the tracks of the mound the grader made on the side of the road. The speedo would be reading 50mph and due to wheel spin our actual speed was down to about 30mph. The mudguards filled and the once light blue paint of the Holden became a rust red. The windshield wipers battled to their limit and left just enough for us to see a path. Then it was almost magical. The rain stopped at the same time we hit the beautiful bitumen. Black and smooth. We all said we could kiss it.

God it was so good to be home!

Davo.

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