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1960s Phillip Island surf trips by Craig Brent-White and Peter Dyson

WA surfers started travelling to Phillip Island in Victoria in the mid 1960s. They were chasing the quality waves and casual lifestyle.

These are Peter ‘Dyso’ Dyson and Craig Brent-White’s recollections of their Phillip Island adventures in the ’60s.

IN THE BEGINNING by Peter Dyson

In the mid to late 60s my surfing mates and I stayed in the top camping area at Yallingup, near Caves House and opposite Sue’s Tuck Shop – later to become known as Andy’s Store. We would leave our hammocks permanently strung between the pine trees and store our surf boards under the hammocks from weekend to weekend. We never locked our cars and 5-6 of us used to dob in five bob each for petrol money for weekend trips from Perth to Yalls.

During this time a group of Eastern States surfers came to the South West from Victoria. They worked in conjunction with Surfing World Magazine and came across to do stories on WA surfing spots. My mates and I met the Victorian surfers while we were camping at Yallingup.

The Vic guys told us stories of Phillip Island over drinks at Caves Pub. That’s what gave us the idea to go there!

FIRST SURF TRIP TO PHILLIP ISLAND by Craig Brent-White and Peter Dyson

In 1966 Cottesloe surfers Craig Brent-White, Peter ‘Dyso’ Dyson and Scarborough surfer Peter Lumis travelled by train from WA to Phillip Island in Victoria. It was the first surf trip to Phillip Island by WA surfers.

DysoI met Scarborough surfer Peter Lumis at Hale School. Peter Lumis was a bloody good surfer and was related to first WASRA President Percy Trainer.

Craig – When the Peter’s and I arrived on the train at Kalgoorlie en route to Phillip Island, we were only aged 16, but started our adventure with a pub crawl and some hi-jinks in the mining town. 

Image: 1960s Greetings from Phillip Island postcard. Courtesy of Peter Dyson.

Dyso – We rented an old house on the Phillip Island for £10 per week. We had so much fun!

Craig – A Phillip Island surfer nicknamed ‘Dogs’, lent us a van and we travelled everywhere together.

Dyso – On one occasion we went to Koala Cafe and one of the boys acquired a large bottle of concentrated dark green cordial. At a subsequent BBQ party at the house, some rogue poured the contents of green cordial into our water tank. (I think I know who it was!). From then on we drank and showered in dark green water…phew it was sticky! We subsequently received a Summons for £37 and 10 shillings for costs to repair damage to the water tank and house furniture.

Craig – The guys at the BBQ party started a fire in our lounge room and burnt a lounge chair. 

Photo: 1966 Dyso day dreaming at Flynns Reef on Phillip Island. Peter Dyson pic.

Dyso – After surfing all day I was buggered and went to the Isle of White pub for a counter meal and a few beers. I walked outside for a piss and an old guy from the amusement park over the road must have thought I was going to rob the place and pointed a shotgun at me. I yelled out and the boys from the pub came and got me out of there.

At a later time, I became friendly with the old bugger who held me up and he recommended a place in Melbourne where I could buy a gold ring for my girlfriend Jan. It was a sleazy jewellery shop in Little Collins Street and there were t-chests full of watches for use in amusement parks. I bought a gold wedding ring for Jan Bevan who became my wife.

Craig – Sergeant Ernie used his six battery burglar torch to clear troublesome surfers out of the lsle of White pub.

Photo: 1966 Dyso dropping-in on an identified goofy footer at Flynns Reef. Peter Dyson pic.

Dyso – In 1966 I competed in a local Victorian surfing competition held at Cat Bay as a WA entrant. I came 3rd behind Wayne Lynch (Vic) 1st and Allan Atkins (Vic) 2nd in the Junior Event. 

Image: 1966 Vic newspaper article on combined board rally on Phillip Island. Image courtesy of Peter Dyson.

Dyso – Cottesloe Board Club President Victor Kailis sent me a telegram congratulating me on my success in the Vic contest….see telegram below.

Dyso I stayed six weeks on Phillip Island with Craig and Peter Lumis then returned to WA because of work commitments in my family’s business. I left Craig and Peter on the Island.

 WA surfers John Balgarnie, Peter Horton and Mick Maddren visited the Island after I left.

Craig – Dyso and I have great memories of the ’66 trip…..he wouldn’t want me to tell you some of it, but over a beer it’s possible!

Photo: 1966 Craig Brent-White surfing Cat Bay. Photo by Ian Wilson Surfing World Magazine photographer.

SUBSEQUENT YEARS AT PHILLIP ISLAND by Craig Brent-White and Alex Chobanoff

Craig – In 1967 John Balgarnie and I started the first surfing school in Victoria at Phillip Island. We had a ball while our pupils sat on the beach at times while we surfed, all part of the process really.

I ended up abalone diving there for the next three years….perfect, you had to go surfing when the surf was up because it was unsuitable for diving.

It was a wonderful time in our surfing lives and an opportunity for surfers from various communities across borders to discover friendships that endure today for many of us.

Image: 1960s postcard showing bridge from mainland to Phillip Island. Courtesy of Peter Dyson.

To the best of our knowledge we were the first WA surfers to go there in 1966. I don’t remember any other WA surfers being there. Subsequent years there were a lot of us going back, to mention a few:

Bob Shenston – City Beach

Mick Maddren – Scarborough

Peter Reed – Scarborough                          

Hume Heatley – Cottesloe

Peter Bothwell – Cottesloe

John Balgarnie – Cottesloe

Jamie Doig – City Beach

Dig Digelli – Scarborough

Rod Slater- Trigg

In 1968 John Balgarnie (Cottesloe), Jamie Doig (City Beach) and I travelled overland to Phillip Island. It was another epic surf journey. John, Jamie and I didn’t have much money and we struggled to get across the Nullarbor to Melbourne.

My shining achievement was beating Wayne Lynch in the inaugural interstate surfing competition between SA, WA and Vic held on the island in 1968. Peter Bothwell told me recently he was pissed off I beat Wayne Lynch, because he was tipped out in one of the earlier rounds of the competition I won. John Balgarnie was there and recalls it well, as does Peter.  It was the real inaugural interstate surfing competition between Vic, SA & WA held on the Island.

Image: 1966 Postcard of Summerland Beach on Phillip Island. Courtesy of Peter Dyson.

In late 1968 I travelled over east with Alex Chobanoff in his VW fast back. On the way we called in at Penong and found 6-8ft waves at Caves, with no one out! There was a massive salt cloud and visibility was poor. The two of us were sitting out the back, when I saw shapes in the water. Alex caught a wave in on his belly and I was left there on my own pondering my future. I soon laid down and caught a wave in too. It was beautiful surf but sharky!

I went back to Phillip Island to go Abalone diving.

Alex Chobanoff – I spent time with Craig on Phillip Island in the late 60s. We had many fun times. One night we were driving back to our house in my VW fast back with the paisley design on bonnet, when we came across a penguin on the road. Craig picked it up in a towel and placed it on the back seat. We took off and the panicking penguin got loose and caused mayhem in the car while I was trying to drive. When we got back to the house, the crew was watching TV in the dark. Craig then released the stressed penguin into the group and cleared the room. It was hilarious Ha!

SOUTH AUSTRALIA CONNECTION by Craig Brent-White

Craig – There is a sequence that follows on from the ’68 interstate surf comp at Phillip Island that came back here to WA and turned into something very special. It is the beginning of a new chapter, a new story and will connect the dots about the brotherhood that developed between SA and WA surfers. It kept me away traveling and searching for waves further afield too.

Click on this link to view 1966-67 WA surfers in South Aust.

In SA, the WA guys hung around with surfers from the Sand n Sea board club. Alan Boag from S-n-S discovered Cactus. While there, I mooted to Spook Bothwell and Hume Heatley the idea of starting an S-n-S club in WA. In 1968 I returned to WA and we recruited surfers and formed our own S-n-S club. I was the President of the Club. We had very good surfers including Terry Jacks, Dave Beamish, Spook Bothwell, Hume Heatley, Brian Boynes, Steve Cockburn and other top surfers. The other WA clubs didn’t want to compete against us. The club was a great idea, but everyone travelled and our surfers were always coming and going. The club never really folded, we just didn’t get back together. Ha!

In 1969 I travelled with Brian Boynes to South Africa.

Photo: 1967 South Australia’s Sand & Sea bus at Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln. Baz Young pic.

There were a lot of surfers who hooked up across from East to West, not just Phillip Island. There was a huge affiliation with SA and WA surfers for a long time, I still stay in contact with a lot of crew from SA mainly. Had two of them come and stay with me recently at different times. Those long standing friendships are the best, the most comfortable, as close too or closer than brothers.

John Balgarnie and I used to go to Geary’s shack all the time, very often with Terry Jacks who was a very close friend of mine, we had Scarborough one day 8 ft +, when we got there, Jenny Shackley took off on a monster wave going left, she was out there all by herself, bloody unreal! My most vivid memory of that day was Terry Jacks in a stand up barrel of perfection on his 10 ft 3 inch Gordon Woods three stringer board.

Photo: 2017 Jim King and Peter Dyson at Loz’s place in Quindalup going through Dyso’s scrap book looking for photos for this article. Loz Smith pic.

Many thanks to Craig and Dyso for sharing their Phillip Island stories.

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