Crystal Wallace (nee Simpson) is the daughter of WA surfer/fisherman legend George Simpson. George is well known for discovering local waves in the South West, including Bears and pioneering The Billabong Challenge at Gnaraloo.
The Billabong Challenge took eight professional surfers from around the globe to the remote desert coast of West Australia to compete in a series of events which was ultimately filmed by Crystal’s uncle, Jack McCoy.
Aunt Kim and husband Patrick Leahy founded West Surfing Products in 1982.
Crystal could easily have faded into the shadow of her family’s achievements. However, this impressive Yallingup local with a mega-watt smile has carved out her own reputation as surfer, business owner/operator and now mother, to forge her own legendary status in the South West.
Born in the North West of WA, her early years were spent living on her parent’s 70ft prawn trawling boat called Westerly, working the Pilbara waters near Point Sampson.
Photo: 1990s George Simpson’s Westerly prawn trawling boat at Point Samson. Crystal Simpson pic.
At age two the family de-camped to Yallingup and spent the next decade between Point Samson for the prawn season and Gnaraloo or Yallingup in the off season.
In her teen years Crystal attended school at McKillop Catholic College, surfed the local beaches and rode horses.
Quitting school at 15, Crystal headed north for prawn trawling, touring the Kimberly and surfing her beloved Tombstones.
She returned south to Yallingup, running a surf shop at the beach before adventure took her to Byron Bay and the United States. The overseas stint was brief, and Crystal resettled back in Yallingup in 2008 as co-owner then owner of Yallingup Surf School.
In 2013 she married Tim Wallace, and the two of them have a son Bam George and live on Yallingup hill in the house next door to her family home.
This part of Crystal’s story covers the period 1985-2000. Part 2 will cover the period 2000-2016.
Crystal’s beach life – Part 1. 1985-2000
Point Samson and the commercial fishing boat Westerly were Crystal’s first homes during the 1980s. Her parents, George & Tracy, started a fishing business at Point Samson in the Pilbara.
For several years Crystal and her elder brother Jason lived between the boat and a tiny one room shed at the local caravan park.
Photos: Point Samson beach life in the’70s pre Crystal. George Simpson pics
Left: 1977 George Simpson, John Molloy, John Simpson & unidentified.
Right: (Top) 1975 Andy Jones, Loz Smith, George Simpson & Adrian. (Bottom) 1977 Loz Smith, John Molloy, unknown & George Simpson.
“As soon as I could crawl, I was on-board Westerly with my older brother Jason. He was actually born on the boat and we were both born during the prawning season” Crystal reminisces. We pretty much spent our babyhood nude on the boat’s deck in the sun and mucking around in fishing nets and playing on the coral reef at Nichol Bay”.
Photo: Late 1980s Crystal playing under fish nets at Nickol Bay. Crystal Simpson Pic.
As the siblings grew, Crystal’s parent’s entrepreneurial ways rubbed off on Jason and Crystal, who used to net bait by the bucket load and sell to the old folks in the caravan park.
“It was hot, dry, coastal existence up north and I loved it!” Crystal smiles.
When Crystal was age two, the family moved from Point Samson to Yallingup. From that point on, the dual North West/South West existence became a part of the Simpson clan who spent eight months in Yallingup surfing & fishing, two to three months at Gnaraloo & the rest, working the prawn season at Point Samson.
It was a dreamy and idyllic existence for any child!
Sisters Sunny and Gypsy were born later (1989 and 1992 respectively).
Photo: 1981 De Grey River. George Simpson with a large groper on the Westmore fishing boat. George Simpson pic.
In 1995, when Crystal was 10, her family helped to run the first Billabong Challenge. The Challenge featured eight of the world’s best surfers of the time, including Occy, Rob Machado, Kelly Slater, Luke Egan, Shane Powell, Margo, Johnny Boy Gomes and Sunny Garcia. Sunny famously refused to camp, opting to stay in Carnarvon, the closest town, and drive a four hour round trip each day!
It was a memorable time of Crystal’s life, watching the greatest surfers in the world at one of the most respected waves in the world, and a wave that was so loved by the Simpson family.
“I remember Kelly Slater gave me 50c and Peter King gave me an orange and said, ‘This is Gods candy’. It was my tenth birthday”.
The personal connection Crystal had with the surfers glows clear in her memory.
Occy lived with the Simpsons in Yallingup during his rehab stint, after which he won the 1999 World Title.
“Mum & dad put him on the Simpson diet of fish, rice & salad and took him surfing a lot”.
Photo: 1995 Billabong Challenge competitors at Gnaraloo surf camp. Crystal Simpson pic.
Crystal is in centre of photo next to Rabbit Bartholomew and her father George is sitting front left.
Photo: 1995 Gnaraloo surf camp. Billabong Challenge Comp. George Simpson pic.
L-R George Simpson’s family, Rob Machado. Kelly Slater & Jack McCoy’s family.
“In 1996 I met the pro surfing guys again at Gnaraloo at the next Billabong Challenge named the ‘Psychedelic Desert Groove’”.
Photos: 1996 Billabong Challenge at Gnaraloo. Crystal Simpson pics.
Top: (Left) L-R Luke Egan, Rob Machado, Occy & unidentified. (Right) L-R unidentified x3, Rabbit, Luke Egan & Jack McCoy.
Bottom: (left) Table tennis tournament Rabbit & Maurice Cole. (Right) George Simpson & the boys around camp fire.
Although introduced to the surf at age 10, it was in Hawaii in 1997 that Crystal really got bitten by the surfing bug.
“We surfed fun waves at Waikiki Beach. I was age 12 and knew then, that I wanted to be a surfer!”
Photo: 1997 Hawaii. Crystal (centre) with Kelly Slater & his partner. Crystal Simpson pic.
At the tender age of 13, Crystal was introduced to her local go-to-wave at Yallingup.
“Dad taught me to surf properly at the Cove surf break at Yallingup. On school holidays he took me surfing every day for 3 weeks and taught me the basics, like how to cover my head when falling off & don’t go straight, but to angle across a wave.”
After a family split, Crystal and her Dad lived on Yallingup hill and surfing became her escape and etched a bond between her and her father that is still evident today.
“We used to walk to the beach, head down the steps to the beach & paddle across the lagoon together. Me on an 8 foot Yahoo single fin. But after 3 weeks, I was on my own.”
Photo: 1990s Simpson family at Gnaraloo surf camp. Jason & Crystal with their catch of the day. George Simpson pic.
Photo: 1990s Simpson family at Gnaraloo surf camp. L-R Sunny, Jason, Gypsy, Crystal with George. Crystal Simpson pic.
Having camped at Gnaraloo with her family and watching the world’s best surfers at the famous Tombstones, it was in 1999 having only surfed for five months, Crystal tackled the more ‘gentle’ Centre Peak at Gnaraloo station.
“Dad took me out at Centre Peak in overhead waves. I caught 4 waves and still remember the feeding frenzy of whales and wild life in the water…it was by far my most memorable surfing moment growing up!”
Since that time, Crystal has 10 winter seasons at Gnaraloo under her belt and she is a formidable presence in the line-up, often picking off the more quality waves and her knowledge of tides and best take off spots is awe inspiring.
Back in the real world, Crystal’s statement of attendance, or lack thereof, came to a head at MacKillop Catholic College one day with a letter questioning her commitment to school work.
“School wasn’t giving me the answers to what I wanted out of life, so I dropped out at age 15 nearly 16 (the start of grade 11) and headed North”.
Photos: 1990s Simpson family at Blow Holes and Gnaraloo surf camp. Crystal Simpson pics.
“I went surfing at Gnaraloo, worked on the prawning boats at Point Samson and toured the Kimberley’s on the family prawning boat”, Crystal recollects.
She spent several months in the North West of WA before returning home to take on her first entrepreneurial project; owner of the Yallingup Surf Shack at Yallingup beach.
Photos: 2000 Gnaraloo surf camp. Crystal Simpson pics.
(Left) Crystal & George. (Right) sisters Gypsy, Sunny & Crystal.
Photos: 2000 Crystal & Jason Simpson prawning at Nickol Bay. Crystal Simpson pics.
Photos: 2000s Kimberley Tour. Crystal Simpson pics.
Left: Crystal with Red Emperor. Right: George, Crystal & unidentified investigating on old plane wreck on Kimberley tour.
If you require surfing lessons or any information, Crystal’s contacts are:-
Coming soon Crystal’s beach life by Elizabeth Nunn – Part 2. 2000-2016