During the late 60s and early 70s many WA surfers made the long trip across the Nullarbor to surf good waves on Phillip Island in Victoria.
This is a collection of Phillip Island memories by WA surfers Rod Slater, Mal Leckie and Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn.
My Phillip Island Memories by Rod Slater
In mid 1968 I caught a train from Perth to Sydney with surfer Rod McCarthy from Tweed Heads. There we met up with Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and in his black FJ we drove up north to Coolangatta, surfing Crescent Heads and other beautiful places on the way. We stayed at Rod Mac’s house for a few days then shifted into the Coolangatta surf club. We surfed some ‘lovely’ winter Queensland waves and saw some very good surfers. We even got a job on a building site at Southport but that only lasted a day or two. One day we saw a car with WA number plates on it at either Snapper Rocks or Coolangatta, with a family and a couple of very young surfers in it. I believe it was the Bettenay bros.
After a while we headed back down South and finished up at Phillip Island, a place Jock had stayed at before. Jock had several nasty car crashes on the drive to the Island, not sure from where, hence the missing teeth in photos. Apparently in one such incident he drove off the road and straight up the guide wire holding the pole and then smashed to the ground. The whole time Peter Lummis was asleep on the back seat wrapped in a sleeping blanket. I believe they both walked away reasonably unscathed. We surfed and worked, more surfing than working. Especially through the winter months work was a little scarce. At this time besides Jock, Lum and myself, there were other WA surfers on the Island including Mal Read, Bob Shenston, Craig ‘Clarrie’ Brentwhite, John Balgarnie and Jamie Doig with visits from people like Peter Bothwell and many others. I think Fred Annesley and I may have stopped there on the way back from staying at Kirra after the Australian titles in 1969.
On subsequent visits I travelled with Mark Waddell, with whom I lived and shared an abalone shelling job, working one day a week each. On my last visit, I travelled over with Mal Leckie and a young lady from Scarborough, Sue-Ellen Nyman. We stayed off the Island this time with a guy, Peter Connelly from Inverloch, who used to sand and finish boards with Greg ‘Pantsman’ Laurenson when he had his own business behind City drycleaners in Scarborough Beach Road, over the road from Hawke Brothers. On one trip Mark Waddell and I travelled from the Island to Tasmania in convoy with a Victorian surfer, Steve ‘Blue’ Nicholson, and then came back to WA with Blue. I believe Blue went straight to work for Tony Harbison on the holiday houses he built at Yallingup (Hideaway Holiday Homes). I think Blue may still be living Down South. On one occasion I helped a young surfer named Tommy Tyrell glass a board he had shaped, he went on to become a successful board manufacturer owning a company called Island Surfboards (purely coincidental).
One year when I was glassing for ‘Pantsman’ in Scarborough Beach Road, we decided to travel in Pants’ new Falcon panel van to Bells Beach for the Easter competition. There was Pants, myself, Peter Connelly, Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn and Rick Syme (I think that is correct!). On the way we stopped at Cactus and then went on to Bells and then Phillip Island. I remember Rick surfing exceptionally well at both Cactus and at Flynn’s Reef on the Island. My only memory of Bells was seeing Nat Young walking out of the bush/sand hills with his red setter and a big hat. I think he was going through an ‘anti competition’ phase, or something like that!
In my time there I had the great privilege to watch and enjoy a young Wayne Lynch surf Flynn’s reef on his backhand; a very young Mark Richard have a few sessions either before or after the Bells contest (can’t remember which); Mark Warren in his young heyday and many other good surfers who travelled through.
Rod’s Phillip Island photos and comments follow:
Photo: 1968 the crew at Klemm Bell Surfboards in Gardenvale Vic. Rod Slater pic.
From the left – Peter Connelly, Reg Bell, Rod Slater, ‘Steve the Kid’ (not sure of his full name) and Terry Klemm.
Rod – This shop was on the Nepean Highway in Gardenvale. Klemm Bell also had another factory in Torquay.
Photos: 1968 Phillip Island surfboards. Rod Slater pics.
(Left) Rod Slater with new Klemm Bell surfboard. (Right) Jock Campbell and Mal Read preparing for a surf at Cat Bay or Right Point.
Photo: 1968 Rod Slater surfing at Woolamai beach on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.
Rod – Not my proudest moment but still a browneye in a small Woolamai tube!
Photo: 1968 Rod Slater and Mick Maddren at Cat Bay carpark on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.
Photos: 1968 John Balgarnie’s Holden FB Ute on Summerlands Beach at Phillip Island. Rod Slater pics.
(Left) The crew with JB’s Ute. (Right) John Balgarnie and Craig ‘Clarrie’ Brentwhite with JB’s ute.
Rod – Summerlands is now famous because it is where the Penguin Parades are held!
Photo: 1968 Phillip Island road drama, Rod Slater pic.
Rod – Jock Campbell broke split windscreen somehow and he (in the brown jumper), Mal Read (yellow shorts) and Mick Maddren (on the bonnet) were dramatising a bit!
Photo: 1968 Jock Campbell with his FJ and Mal Read at Cat Bay on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.
Photos: 1968 Phillip Island Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and crew acting irresponsibly at Summerlands on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.
Rod – We sometimes scored some nice beach breaks around the ‘bay’ like beach.
Photo: 1968 Jock Campbell and one of the Kavanagh boys from Wonthaggi Vic at Woolamai Beach. Rod Slater pic.
Photo: 1968 Victorian Peter Connelly (on the left) at Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.
1971 Phillip Island surf trip by Mal Leckie
I reckon it might be good to get a few yarns from some of the guys who went to Phillip Island in early 70s.
Names that come to mind from 1971, the year I went across to Victoria are Sheepdog, John Balgarnie, and Rod Slater. I know that Rod had done the trip before and I think the others had too. We had good quality waves at Woolamai and at Flynns Reef and surfed some decent beach breaks all the way down to Wilson’s Prom. Some of the spots didn’t break that year but Rod had glowing recollections of them. Express Point was one I think.
I could fatten the story up too. Rod saved a kid’s life at Kilcunda when he was washed off the rocks, a truck crashed into the back of us while we were driving along in Victoria one night, Rod built a new board in an old cow shed etc.
Image: 1969 Phillip Island Invitational Surfing Contest. Barry Young pic
1970 Phillip Island surf trip by Steve “Sheepdog’ Cockburn
I remember one afternoon at the Phillip Island Pub with John Balgarnie and Greg Laurenson, plus many members of the Phillip Island Surfboard Club (PISC).
As the afternoon wore on the boys got merrier. The PISC boys were showing off their tricks, one ate a whole middy glass down to the stump, another drank a pint of beer thru his nose whilst a third sculled a cigarette tray full of butts & beer. Then the visiting Maroubra Surfboard Club (MSC) team started pranks. One of their members nicknamed ‘Bucket Mouth’ got up on the stage and took over the lead singer’s role in the band and sang quite well. Another called ‘Krinkles’ got a crowd in the beer garden where he climbed a small slender tree and wobbled backwards & forwards on it like a huge koala bear, until it snapped and Krinkles and the tree came crashing to the ground. Not to be outdone Greg Laurenson climbed a mature Moreton Bay Fig type tree and tried to wobble a big horizontal branch, alas he lost his grip and came crashing to the ground and injured his forearm.
Apart from the novelty at the pub. The surf was good. Nice rights at Flynns Reef and rights and lefts at Woolamai Beach plus lefts at Cat Bay.
Tides are huge at Phillip Island and affect the surfing greatly. Some of the visitors from WA had part time jobs at the Koala Café and went surfing on the incoming to high tide. A great place to visit and surf.
Photo: 1970 Sheepdog sitting on the bonnet of his Holden panel van at Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island. Sheepdog pic.
Coming soon 1960-70s Phillip Island Vic surf trips by Steve Campbell and Bruce King
Long live fun surf trips.