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WA Surf Gallery – Update

The name of the proposed WA Surf Museum at Aravina Estate Winery Yallingup has been changed to WA Surf Gallery.  This name will better reflect the changing themes of the Gallery.

The focus of Exhibition #1 will be “Surfing in Western Australia – through the decades – 50s, 60s, 70s & 80s.”

Surfing WA have appointed Damon Hurst (the curator of the Frontier Surfing exhibition held at Fremantle Arts Centre April-May 2016) to co-ordinate the setting up of the Gallery.

Damon is now focusing on compiling a database of surf memorabilia to display in the Gallery.

An architect has drawn up a floor plan for the Gallery. The type, number and best way to display vintage surfboards has been discussed. Some vintage surf photos have been selected for framing. Surfing WA will maintain a register of ownership of articles on loan and displayed at the Gallery.

Photo: 2017 some Committee members in the gardens at Aravina. Peter Dunn pic.

L-R Mick Marlin, Jim King and Bill Gibson.

Surfing WA and Aravina will collaborate to develop a media plan closer to the opening of the gallery.

The opening is planned for Friday 1 December 2017, 6-9pm on the eve of the 2017 Yal Mal Classic.



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South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #3 Whales

As a child and teenager I spent a lot of time at Pt Picquet fishing with my father, especially over the winter period. Despite spending many hours looking out to sea I never saw any whales and I never met anyone who had. I now know that most species were almost totally wiped out with the numbers of survivors often down to a few hundred. Today some species such as the humpbacks have made a spectacular recovery and at the height of the whale watching season we can see over 10 pods an hour passing Pt Picquet. Officially there are 35,000 humpbacks migrating up and down the West Australian coast and the numbers are growing at 7% per annum. However this is the number that has been quoted for something like 10 years simply because there hasn’t been a more recent comprehensive survey. Other species such as the Southern Right Whales and Blue Whales are still endangered

Southern Right Whales

The Southern Right Whales (SRW) are my favourites primarily because they mostly migrate to the Great Australian Bight and as the numbers increase we see a few (probably less than 50) each year in Geographe Bay. They are critically endangered and there are believed to be less than 10,000 worldwide. They are rarely seen north of Rottnest. The mothers and calves are here to look after the calf and fatten it up for the return to Antarctic waters over summer. Left undisturbed they will remain in a bay for lengthy periods (often weeks). The males have other things on their minds, and are well equipped to carry out these activities (google Southern Right Whale penis to see what I mean!).  The mothers are extremely sensitive to disturbances eg from boats, SUPs, or even paddlers. The calves are curious and will often approach boats, but the mother will usually round up the calf and then they leave the area.

Image #1 Southern Right Whale barnacles

This image shows the white “barnacles” that all SRW’s have. These are leathery patches of skin called callosities which is Latin for beauty spot! These callosities remain for life and are used by researchers to identify individual whales.

Over the years I have been fortunate on two occasions to photograph a rare white SRW calf in Geographe Bay. These are not albinos as they are not completely white. There are probably 3-4 born each year worldwide.

Image #2 rare white Southern Right Whale calf.

This image was taken in October 2013 at Castle Rock.

Image #3 rare white Southern Right Whale calf.

This image was taken in October 2016 at Rocky Point. The calf had been sighted several months earlier at Augusta and named “Pearl”.

As the calf grows older the creamy coloured areas will turn a dark grey.

The earliest I have seen a SRW was at the end of May at Sugarloaf Rock.

Humpback Whales

Humpbacks travel further north in their annual migration. The main calving and breeding grounds are just north of Derby. Around Cape Naturaliste we rarely see humpbacks on their northern migration as they travel out to sea, possibly to avoid the south flowing Leeuwin current. However on the return migration we see large numbers with estimates that approximately 15% of the 35,000 are travelling close enough to the coast to be trapped in Geographe Bay as they travel south.  They then turn west to go around Cape Naturaliste. The majority are small groups with mothers and calves.

Humpbacks are the aerialists of the whale world. We frequently see then breaching, tail slapping, slapping their pectoral fins and putting on displays. These actions seem to be a form of communication eg to enable a calf to find its mother when they are separated. We occasionally see humpbacks wandering aimlessly for a while unsure as to which way to go. One will breach, and soon after a humpback in a nearby pod will give an answering breach, and both pods will them make their way towards Cape Naturaliste. Mothers appear to teach the calves to breach while on their southern voyage. The calves seem to have inexhaustible energy supplies and sometimes breach continuously for hours.

Image #4 Humpback whale breaching

Image #5 Humpback whale breaching.

Image #6 Humpback whale dorsal fin.

Image #7 Humpback whale tail flip.

As the numbers of humpbacks grow we see some extremes of behaviour – for example a small number females give birth south of Augusta each year – perhaps prematurely – who knows! In 2016 two such calves born early got separated from their mothers and washed ashore at Lefthanders in a huge storm. I saw these two little guys try for hours to get out through the massive surf, and they kept getting washed back to the beach. Eventually they got out when the surf quietened down, but their mothers were nowhere to be seen. In that storm all means of communication were useless.

Image #8 the seas at Lefthanders

Image #9 Baby humpback in surf at Lefthanders

The next day I saw two baby humpbacks (with no mothers anywhere around) heading north past Sugarloaf. I like to think the two had joined together and were off to find their mothers. It seemed they were heading the right way and I hope they found them.

Blue Whales.

Blue Whales are the largest things that have ever lived. We see them from late September through to early December. They often pass Pt Picquet very close in (<50m) and seeing them close up is amazing. They are believed to be migrating from breeding grounds in Indonesia to somewhere in the Bass Strait.

Image #10 Blue whale

Blue whales are very hard to photograph from the land as they do not rise very far out of the water. All you see is a blue grey cigar shape, often a long way out and moving fast. Drones are the best way to photograph them, but in October 2016 DPAW made it illegal to fly a drone near a whale. This is unfortunate as drones were providing us with the ability to not only photograph them, but also to understand their behaviour. For example this blue whale was a female with her calf swimming under her in her slipstream.

Hamelin Bay beaching.

In March 2009, 80 long finned pilot whales beached themselves at Hamelin Bay. Eventually only about 6-8 were saved. Volunteers spent time in the water pouring water over the mammals in an effort to save them, but had to leave the water as the light faded because of the danger of sharks. These mass stranding’s are still a mystery to scientists.

Image #11 the scene at Hamelin Bay with hundreds of volunteers trying to save the whales.

Image #12 Volunteers assisting a whale.

Image #13 the media reporting the event.

Although this was only 8 years ago, drones were something the US military flew. One photographer had a system which used a kite to carry a camera in the air. It seemed like a good idea at the time! Perhaps we could resurrect the idea to get around DPAW’s rules on flying drones over whales!

Image #14 Photographer using a kite to carry a camera in the air.

2017 Whale Watch Update

The humpbacks have arrived 2-3 weeks earlier than 2016. In August there were approximately 400 humpbacks recorded passing Pt Picquet compared to less than 10 in 2016. Even though the humpbacks were late starting in 2016 they finished at the same time as normal, so they came through in a rush. Let’s hope 2017 is similar.

For the first time a blue whale was sighted at Pt Picquet at the end of August and another sighted from the lighthouse a little bit earlier. This is a major development – previously (only 5 years ago) they came through Geographe Bay in November-December. No one has any idea what is happening, but it is probably related to availability of food (blue whales don’t have a lot of blubber and migrate from food source to food source).

There have been approximately 12 minke whales seen from Pt Picquet so far this year. They are moving fast (no Japanese whalers chasing them!) and are difficult to spot so there may have been a lot more.

There have also been around 20 Southern Right whales seen around the coast. The Southern Rights mostly migrate to the Great Australian Bight, and are critically endangered. As the numbers build up some come around the Cape Leeuwin-Cape Naturaliste corner and attempt to find a nice quiet bay to bring up the new calves. Unfortunately they are usually harassed by boats and leave. (It is mostly the mother calf pairs that seem to be sensitive to boats). So please urge any of your boating friends to give them plenty of room.

Whale watching is good at Pt Picquet where there is usually someone to tell you where to look, and the whales sometimes come very very close. The whale lookout at Cape Naturaliste is also good, but anywhere down the west coast is good. However they will usually be 1-2km+ out.

Image #15 2017 breaching humpback.

Click on this link to view or purchase Ian’s prints Ian Wiese’s Photography blog.

Click on these links to view Ian’s previous Marine Life Images.

South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #1 Dolphins

 South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #2 Sharks and other predators

Coming soon South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #4 Sea Birds



“What a small world we share” by Trevor Grant

This is a story about an East Coast surf traveller who met NZ surf photographer Ric Chan in Margaret River in 1977. Forty years later, he met Ric’s son Tao in Mauritius.

Ric Chan (Auckland NZ) – “Wooohooooo!! Here’s a mind blowing situation. A Chinaman from NZ takes off to OZ to shoot and surf, travelling across OZ to WA, and eventually made it to Syd Tate’s farm house at Witchcliffe in the South West.

There, in 1977 he meets an interesting dood Trevor Grant from the East Coast and takes a pic of him holding a balsa board.

Then 40 years later, 10,649 km away, my son born in Brisbane, me in NZ, Trev and Tao meet in Mauritius on the same beach at the same time…………HOWZAT!!!!!

I’ve got this grin on my face. It’s sooo damned freaky, what a GREAT story!”

Photo: 1975 Ric Chan and Syd Tate at Syd’s farm house in Witchcliffe. Ric Chan Pic.

Trevor’s message to Ric Chan

Trevor Grant (Mauritius) – “Howzit Ric, I met your son Tao in Mauritius, cool kid. Haven’t seen you since that time with the Balsa Board at Syd Tate’s farm at Witchcliffe in 1977. It was by accident that I met Tao in Tamarin Bay and the rest is history. Tao will explain to you our meeting and conversation in Tamarin Bay Mauritius”.

Photo: 1976 Syd Tate’s farmhouse at Witchcliffe. Ric Chan Pic.

Tao’s message to his dad

Tao Ah Chee (Mauritius) – “Hey dad, I just met a Trever Grant who owned a balsa board back in the 70s.

You took a photo of him and his balsa board a long time ago in Western Aust. We were just all talking and I told him “I’m Chinese from NZ” and he asked if I knew a Ric Chan.

I said “yeah he’s my dad”, and he flipped and started talking about your gold van and all the photos.

I’m sure he knows about the Surfing Down South book, because he said all the photos are from you. lol

He was nice to me, one of your old photo models. Lol”.

Photo: 2014 Ric Chan’s son Tao with his dog Fella, in their unit in NZ. Ric Chan pic.

This is Trevor Grant’s story.

Hi Ric,

Great to have your news and to connect with you after 40 years, that is amazing bro. Last time I saw you was at Syd Tate’s farmhouse at Witchcliffe in 1977 when you took that photo of me holding my Balsa Board and I was leaving for Mauritius at the same time. I also haven’t seen Syd since that time nor heard of his whereabouts. (Editor’s note: It is understood Syd Tate now resides in NZ.)

Photo: 1977 Trevor Grant with his new balsa board at Syd Tate’s farmhouse in Witchcliffe. Ric Chan pic. 

I did a lot of surf travelling during the 70’s mostly Mauritius, Reunion Island, South Africa, and East Africa. In the early 80’s I started working on the Docks in Sydney where I worked for almost 33 years until last year when I retired from my job. During my working years I could manage to get away each year for 6 weeks going to Samoa on many occasions Fiji and Tonga and Mauritius and Reunion Island. I bought some Land on the South Coast of NSW just south of Ulladulla near Bawley Point at Merry Beach where I have now retired to. I have been married twice both to Mauritian ladies and divorced to both of them with no children involved, I don’t have kids. So now being retired, I decided why spend winter on the south coast so I bailed out early June and headed back to Mauritius. While here I decided to take a look at Madagascar where I spent 2 months on the south west coast of Mada, what an unreal amazing place. After Mada I returned back to Mauritius where I’m currently staying till the end of October then returning back to Oz for Summer and Xmas at my south coast home.

How I met your youngest son Tao in Mauritius, I couldn’t believe it blew me away!

Each afternoon as a ritual I take a couple of beers and sit on the beach at Tamarin Bay to catch up with local creole friends and watch the Sunset each day. Tao was there this particular afternoon and I heard him talking to people I know. I picked up on his accent and asked if he was from Oz. He said “No I’m from NZ”. I then said are your parents Maoris? Tao said “No, I’m Chinese Kiwi” in saying that the penny dropped and I could see a resemblance of a face that had crossed my path in my early surfing days, there was just something with his eyes and facial features of a person I met years ago. So my next question to Tao was would you know an older Surf Photographer by the name of Ric Chan. Well Tao looked at me in amazement and nearly choked and said “That’s my Dad”. I said you’re kidding me, Tao said “Yes, that’s my Father”. I went Far Out you’re kidding me, Tao said “No that’s my Dad”. Then I went on to tell Tao that I met you in ‘77 down south at Margaret River. I even told him about your gold Kombi wagon. Tao was blown away, I was blown away and the rest is History. What a small world we share!

Photos: 2017 Trevor meeting Tao in Mauritius. Trevor Grant pics.

So just the other day, I saw Tao on the beach at sunset and asked him to give me your Email address, so now here we are talking to each other after 40 years of lost contact, Fucking Amazing hey! As for Tao I haven’t seen him surf or we haven’t been in the water together here. He did tell me that he has only been surfing for a few years and still learning his way on the ocean. But there is one thing Tao has impressed me as a person, he has a good mellow nature, shows great respect to others and older people like me. You should be very proud to have a son of his nature and style. I’m not saying he is a total angel, as we were all crazy larrikins in our early days and done some wild radical things, as you can recall the crazy 60’s early 70’s we were all very out there in many ways.

Tao told me he is leaving Mauritius next week heading for the Seychelles and then onto Sri Lanka. I said I will catch up with him at sunset before he bails out. So there you go Ric, amazing story how I met your son Tao in Mauritius and how I have been able to connect with you here. Lots of waves and stories have passed since I last saw you 40 years ago in ‘77 at Syd Tate’s Farmhouse at Witchcliffe holding that Balsa Board.

Regards Always

Trevor Grant. 🏄🌴🌺💃😆


Trevor Grant –What a small World we share sounds a part of your history of surfing in South West Oz and a little bit of history I’ve thrown your way. Its one true story how I met Ric Chan’s son Tao in Mauritius and what unfolded in that conversation with Tao. Then to connect with Ric after 40 years is absolutely amazing. As I said to Ric, lots of waves and stories have gone down over those 40 years on both sides.

 Keep up the good work on the history of surfing in South West Oz. I enjoy reading all those SDS blogs. Only by chance an old West Oz connection I met in Mauritius in the early 70’s, started forwarding me those blogs on the surfing history in South West Oz, I think about 12 months ago. I enjoy reading them and many names and characters give me great flash backs on part of that era and time I spent down south. Good stuff, keep it going”.



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Loz Smith’s 11ft Bay Cruiser

Winter time can be a fun time for surfers living in the South West. Winter storms can create novelty waves in the north facing Geographe Bay. Normally placid points and sand banks between the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse and Busselton jetty can come to life in the right conditions. The waves are fickle and don’t hang around, swell size and direction, tides, sand banks and timing are critical.

Some SW locals have the fickle conditions wired. A local female surfer reckons she can feel it in her bones when Geographe Bay point waves are breaking….Ha!

Quindalup resident Loz Smith lives on Geographe Bay and can monitor wave conditions from his house. Loz has enjoyed many happy hours surfing peelers on a sand bar near his place with family and friends.

Photo: 2017 Loz and his son Jimmy surfing the local sand bar. Bruce King and Loz pics.

Recently Loz Smith commissioned Chris ‘Chappy’ Chapman from Chapstar Surfboards in Clark Street Dunsborough to design an 11ft cruiser for use on the Geo Bay peelers. Chappy designed and finished the board. The foam blank was cut out on Al Bean’s shaping machine in the Industrial Area at Dunsborough.

This article covers the making of Loz’s custom ‘11ft Bay Cruiser’ surfboard by craftsmen in the South West surf industry. It is based on Loz’s photos of the various stages of the custom surfboard manufacturing process.

Stage #1. Machine cut foam blank to design specifications.

Al Bean’s shaping machine cutting out a polyurethane surfboard blank to Chappy’s computer specifications. Al Bean Surf Design is located in the light industrial area, Dunsborough WA.

Top: (Left) Chappy designing the board and entering specifications on computer software to meet Loz’s requirements. (Right) Al Bean and Chappy examining the extra-long 11ft+ blank prior to shaping in the shaping machine.

Middle: (Left) Al Bean setting up the blank in shaping machine. (Right) Al and Chappy monitoring the computer and watching the blank being shaped in the shaping machine.

Bottom: (Left) Shaping machine cutting out surfboard shape from blank. (Right) Chappy loading the machine shaped blank onto a truck for transport back to his surf factory for finishing.

Stage #2 Hand finish surfboard shaping

Chappy cleaning up the machine shaped board’s outline and hand finishing the shaping process.

Stage #3 Artwork on surfboard

Artist Chubby Button adding yellow tint and black slash design to shaped foam board prior to glassing.

Stage #4 Glassing surfboard

Master fibreglasser Charles Campbell and Chappy glassing the shaped surfboard in Chappy’s surf factory.

Stage #5 Filler coat and leash attachment

Chappy adding filler coat to glassed board and customised leash attachment.

Stage #6 Sanding surfboard

Chappy sanding the glassed board.

Stage #7 Buff and polish surfboard

Chappy finishing the manufacturing process with a buff and polish.

Stage # 8 Finished product

Chappy with finished surfboard at Chapstar surf factory.

Stage #9 Happy customer.

Top: Loz with new Chapstar surf board

Bottom: (Left) Loz’s maiden voyage on new board at Yalls – Mick marlin pic. (Right) limited edition Natas Kaupas single fin purchased from Yahoo Surfboards.

Loz:  “Many thanks to Chappy, Charlie and Chubby “the three amigos” for doing such a great job on my new board”.

Thanks Loz for sharing your photos. Aloha Loz.

Click on this link to view Chapstar Surfboards Facebook page.



South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #2 Sharks and other predators

In this post I will attempt to boost the SDS hit rate by including the keyword “Shark”. Over the years I haven’t had much success photographing sharks. They usually swim on the bottom, and as I have since found out are rather shy – at least the bronze whalers are. That’s the good news!

First never believe the story that if you see dolphins there won’t be any sharks around. This is a shot of what is probably a large whaler such as a dusky whale. I’m guessing he is 3-4m long and is swimming with a pod of dolphins. I didn’t notice him until I got home and looked at the photo on my computer.

Image #1 large shark swimming with a pod of dolphins at Sandpatches. Ian Wiese pic.

This year I was using a drone to follow the salmon schools and found I had discovered one way to photograph sharks. Another way is to be on the beach when commercial netting operations are underway. The sharks were following the salmon and the netting operations brought some of them in close to the shore at Smith’s Beach. Often the sharks were so close in they showed in the face of oncoming waves just a few meters out.

Image #2. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smiths Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #3. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smith’s Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #4. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smith’s Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #5. Shark feeding on salmon close to shore at Smith’s Beach. Ian Wiese pic.

About 90% of the sharks I saw following the salmon were bronze whalers, and 10% tiger sharks. The good news is that in all cases where a bronze whaler approached someone, they turned away when around 10m away. They appear to be very shy. The following photo shows a bronze whaler approaching an unsuspecting tourist at Bunker Bay with his 2yo child in his arms. The shark swam out to sea and back again to avoid the tourist.

At Bunker Bay this year there were up to 150-200 fishermen each day catching and releasing salmon, and schools of salmon coming past often every 20 minutes of so. The steady stream of exhausted and injured salmon meant easy prey for sharks and for most of the salmon season we could see with a drone up to 8 sharks at a time in Bunker Bay. If you don’t want to swim with sharks it is best to avoid surfing in the area at this time.

Images #6. Drone image of Bronze Whaler passing tourist with child in the shallows at Bunker Bay. Ian Wiese pic.

The bronze whalers can be quite beautiful – in the sun the brilliant copper colouring stands out. The next image is a bronze whaler in the surf at Wyadup.

Images #7. Bronze Whaler in the shallows at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

Images #8. Bronze Whaler in the shallows at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

The following images are my “Monet” interpretation sharks at Wyadup.

Images #9. Bronze Whaler images at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

The next image shows a salmon fisherman a bit too keen to get his lure out to a school of salmon. There is a bronze whaler on the back of the wave directly under his lure. The shark was probably following the same school.

Image #10 Salmon fisherman vs shark at Wyadup. Ian Wiese pic.

For a change here is a tiger shark, shot from a drone.

Images #11. Drone image of Tiger shark at Bunker Bay. Ian Wiese pic.

Finally here are a couple of nasty predators. They are 2-3m long and were harassing dolphins at Sandpatches, stealing the fish they were rounding up. They are extremely fast, making the dolphins look slow. I have been told they are a “Hartail” or Trichiurius lepturus. Nasty pieces of work. The dreadlocks (strings of “rope” hanging down from the neck area) are probably just water running off – a quirk of the shutter speed.

The WA museum’s Curator of Fishes made the following quote regarding the Hairtale.

“Largehead Hairtail Trichiurus lepturus occur all around Australia and in all tropical and temperate seas of the world, although it is probably a complex of multiple species that are yet to be described. There are a few other known species also, including in WA.  They are not so common in the south.  We sometimes get contacted by members of the public either catching one or finding one on the beach. They grow to around 1.2m and generally live in very deep water (to 350 or 400m), but the adults apparently have a DVM [diurnal(daily) vertical migration] that is opposite to most deepsea fishes – that is, they come to the surface to hunt during the day and stay deep at night.  Interestingly, the juveniles and small adults have the opposite DVM (surface at night, deep during day).  Large adults feed on any pelagic prey – anchovies, sardines, trevally, barracuda, whitebait, squid and even juvenile tuna and other hairtails.  From what little I know, they sometimes enter estuaries in early to mid winter.”

I can assure him they grow to well over 2m!

Images #12. “Hairtail” or Trichiurius lepturus harassing dolphins at Sandpatches. Ian Wiese pic.

As a result of these photos I was recently invited to make a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the efficacy and regulation of shark mitigation and deterrent measures. The main focus of my submission was Bunker Bay during the salmon migration. A friend and I flew drones almost daily at Bunker Bay and we were constantly seeing up to 8 bronze whalers along the beach, normally close in to the shore break. The helicopter reported a fraction of the numbers we saw. This is hardly surprising as we were observing for several hours a day. My concern was that tourists were unaware of the sharks and often let their children swim in the shore break without realising they could be within metres of sharks. I pointed out that once a shark was sighted and reported on the Sharksmart web site, there was no one responsible for any further management of the situation. My submission (including recommendations can be downloaded from the Senate Inquiry web site – My submission is submission 72.

In 2016 I went out to the Cape Naturaliste Seal colony every fortnight for 12 months and photographed the seals. I used the photographs to count the seals and was able to produce this graph of the way the numbers fluctuate during the year.

The data went to Curtin University, and will be the subject of a paper documenting the way in which the seals haul out of the water at Cape Naturaliste.

Image #13. 2016 Cape Naturaliste Seal Colony statistics courtesy of Ian Wiese.

In August 2016 there were nearly 250 seals, so many in fact that the colony split and roughly half moved to the rocky point at Point Marchant (ie near Shelley Cove). By December the numbers had dropped to just over 30 and there were 5-10 pups born just after Xmas.

This information was not previously available and little research had been done on the colony previously. As great white sharks are known to target seal colonies I have included this graph in the SDS blog as it is read by surfers who can use it to be better informed about the risks through the year.

Click on this link to view or purchase Ian’s prints Ian Wiese’s Photography blog.

Click on this link to view Ian’s South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #1 Dolphins

Coming soon South West Marine life images by Ian Wiese – Series #3 Whales