It must have been late 1971 or early 1972 my surfing buddy Peter Bevan found out about Three Bears – from memory, either George Simpson told him, or maybe the word had come from Tom Hoye who was working at Blaxell’s in Osborne Park…and we had all just ordered our first Hoye boards – down rails, chamfered nose, raked single fin…stoked!
Up until I read the recent Surfing Down South article about when George Simpson, Mick Gracie and Mark Rudenberg had found Bear in August ’71, I’d always been under the impression that we first rode the fabled break only a few weeks after the boys had first discovered it ….but it now seems apparently that was not the case!
Most weekends Peter Bevan, Chuck Morton-Stewart and I would drive down south on Friday night, camp on the grass at Yallingup with sleeping bags and air mattresses, surf all day if we could, and hit the pub on Saturday night ….and then surf again next day before driving home Sunday night, stuffed (and broke)!
We had gone to Hale School together and all landed jobs as cadets at WA Newspapers – Chuck (West Australian) and me (Daily News) as journos, and Peter as a press artist, covering both papers.
After we heard about this new spot called “Three Bears”, on our next weekend trip south we headed straight for Sugarloaf Rock on Saturday morning; parked PB’s Holden panel van; and headed back towards Yallingup cutting through the sharp coastal scrub on the sand dunes ridge line along the clifftops. I remember it was summer – hot (boardies only – no wetties), offshore (ENE) and bugger all swell at Yalls … perfect conditions for Bears, as we were soon to find out.
The trek on the cliff ridgeline was an absolute killer. As anybody who experienced it back then would recall, the flies were in plague proportions. You had to walk with towels over your head…despite this, you usually still managed to swallow one or two of the little buggers along the way! The back of the guy walking in front of you was just black – blanketed in bushflies!
I also recall seeing a few dugites across the narrow clifftop pathway, which called for some quick evasive footwork!!
We couldn’t believe it when we got there, how epic it was. What an adventure we all shared back then as surf secrets of the Capes coast slowly opened up and provided us with all its treasures.
That first day, it stayed offshore and we surfed until we couldn’t paddle anymore.
We then had to make that gruelling walk back ….and as Stewart Bettenay recounted in his Bears’ memories – we didn’t take any food or water….young, strong, fit and…stupid!
Slaked, sunburnt, stuffed and stoked!
When we finally staggered back to the car, it was then a cannonball run back to Dunsborough Bakery where we almost scoffed down a pile of pies and cakes, and just about swallowed whole some cans of cold Coke….with our hunger and thirst slaked we were sunburnt, stuffed and stoked.
From memory, that first summer we pretty much only rode the left at Momma’s and occasionally drifted across to catch a few rights at Babys’.
Later came the trips to Bears flogging and pushing Tom Blaxell’s panel van, or a mate’s VW Beetle, up the really steep sand hill at the back of Rabbit’s to get there ….very few people had 4WDs back then.
And later, the new track opened up through the fields (off the Yallingup-Dunsborough road) and through the bush, with a few farmers’ gates to open and shut along the way.
On one of our next trips south on that first Bears’ summer – it might have even been the very next weekend after that first trek – we took along photographer Ian Ferguson who had also been at school with us, and surfed for a while, and was a cadet snapper at WA Newspapers…the photo taken by Ian shows me on my new Blaxell Hoye surfboard at small, clean Bears.
Photo: 1971-72 Errol surfing his new Blaxell Hoye surfboard at Bears. Ian Ferguson pic.
All these years later, I can’t count the number of great sessions we’ve had at Bears since early 1970s.
These days, having done quite a bit of travelling around the world, I can now also more fully appreciate how absolutely bloody awesome and amazing that Cape Naturaliste end of the coast is – especially the stunning stretch of beach with its three distinct breaks.
We were all so lucky to get it with just us and our mates back in those earlier times. But I still get the huge buzz of excitement when driving over the hill and seeing the incoming Indian Ocean swell lines ….although those visits are now unfortunately few and far between.