Gallery

1950s WA Surfing History by Kevin Merifield

At 10 years of age (1948) I started riding my bike from Daglish where I lived to City Beach, that in itself was quite an experience as the then only road leading to City Beach was the old “switch back” a narrow unsealed road which literally went up and down over the sand dunes. At the beach I used to swim and catch wave’s body surfing style with arms to my sides and chest out usually in the white water straight to shore. As I got a bit older I started cutting across the face of the wave with one arm out and hand of the other arm on the face of the wave to keep me in the action area of the wave, I guess that’s where I first experienced the thrill of surfing and I just kept riding that bike back for more.

At about age 12 or 13, I joined my big brother Lyn as a junior member of the North City now Floreat Surf Lifesaving Club and then a couple of years later followed him to the Swanbourne club. Lyn was a pretty good swimmer and won a state junior R&R title in 1952, unfortunately I wasn’t much chop as a swimmer and usually brought up the rear of the field in most races, come to think of it I’m still not much chop as I usually find out when swimming after my board at Margaret’s or Yals after snapping many of Creatures leg ropes, they reckon I’m their best test pilot!

The real stuff was yet to come and at age 17 I ventured down South to Yallingup with my cousin and best mate Ray (Spider) Evans for the Australia day long week end 1955. It took us about 5 hours to get there via the South West Hwy. as there was no coast road then. I can still recall driving the little green bug (Renault) over the hill looking at Yals for the first time and saying “shit spider, have a look at that” both our eyes were popping out of our heads as the waves looked monstrous, in reality it was probably a typical Yals 5-6 foot day but by Perth standards it was huge.

To this day I still don’t know who told us about Yals, I guess the word just got around!

Some of the guys I remember heading down south in the first couple of years included the following:-

List of WA surf pioneers ex Kev Merifield IMG_0002a

Apologies for any left out.

It didn’t take long for the word to get around, so the numbers swelled significantly in subsequent years and still is today.

Photo: Early 1960s Yallingup Beach line-up. L-R Tony Burgess, Don Roper, Dave Williams, Don Bancroft, Howard Kent, Rob Birch, John Peterson, Kevin Merifield, unknown, Alan Hamer, Gary Birch, Mark Paterson, Barry King, Laurie Burke & Colin Moore. Photo courtesy of the West Australian.

1960 Yalls beach line-up West Pic IMG_01

Our home at Yalls was an ex-Navy hammock pitched between a couple of melaleuca trees in the virgin bush overlooking Yalls main break. Tucker was usually a couple of tins of baked beans, great for Jim’s blue flame fart trick or spaghetti and meat balls around the camp fire, later jaffles became the go with Horse Williams regularly knocking off a half a dozen or so a meal.

Sometimes for a real treat Red Abbott would walk out on the reef at low tide and catch a couple of octopus which he would cook in olive oil and share if there was enough to go around, it was a bit like JC feeding the multitude.

Getting into the old hammocks at night after a skin full of booze provided a challenge which often resulted in being tipped upside down with the help of a mate flat on your face in the dirt. Trying to keep warm wasn’t easy until someone got hold of a couple of  ex air force bear suits which the fighter pilots used to wear in world war 2, they were great and it wasn’t long before quite a few of us had one. When it rained, we used to head for the shelter of the veranda of the old one room Yallingup primary school on the corner of Caves Rd. and Wildwood Rd. just down the road from where I now live, or sometimes if there was an unlocked door or window head for one of the old Hammond cottages, which were the only houses on what is now the exclusive Yallingup hill.

Often in the mornings at first light we would be wakened by the sounds of the then budding trumpet player Don Bancroft a non-drinker going through the scales to the annoyance of the hung over, bleary eyed rest of the crew. After much yelling of abuse and rock throwing to no avail it was time to scramble out of the hammock and from where we were camped check out the waves. Don later became one of the leading Trad jazz trumpeters in Australia and if I’m ever in Perth on a Saturday arvo and not watching my old footy team Subi, I head down to the Railway hotel North Fremantle to see Don and his Cornerhouse Jazz Band do their stuff.

Photo: 1957-68 Subiaco Football Club. Kevin Merifield SFC 213 games & 4 State games – Photo courtesy of the Subiaco Football Club and Weekend News.

1957-68 Subiaco FC Kevin Merifield SFC 213 games & 4 State games - Weekend News IMG

When it was time to go for a surf we would venture out at Yals on whatever equipment we had. For the first couple of years that was usually a 16 foot toothpick ex lifesaving paddle board, 9-10 foot home made hollow ply board, chest board, hand board and not to be outdone Jim Keenan & Cocko’s whopping big double ski which was about 25 foot long.

For me at first it was a chest board which was probably the equivalent of today’s body board. It was about 4 foot x 18 inches marine ply with turned up nose, they were originally hired out at Scarborough beach as ‘surf shooters’ in the 1920s / 30s but later banned, being too dangerous at the popular beach. After being stored at the Scarborough surf club for many years we managed to get hold of a few which were ‘re born’ at Yals.

Photo: 1950s wooden chest board similar to the board used by Kevin. It is understood this board was made by Ward boat builders. Photo courtesy of Bob Green.

Kevin – The board built by Ward looks very familiar and similar to the one I used to use, chrome handles and all. You will notice the concave at the bottom that used to fit around our mid drift when lying on the board, we also wore flippers. Hard to see if the Ward board had turned up nose as mine certainly did. 

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Surfing in those early years was hassle free, dropping in wasn’t a problem and it was normal to see 3 or 4 guys on the same wave sometimes even holding hands. Jim and Cocko were classic to watch on their double ski as was Pato doing head stands no wonder Jake and Paul turned out so good and Davo carving up the waves in great style, he was probably the pick of the bunch at that stage. Kneel paddling was the go and for some like Pato finished up with calluses on their knees the size of tennis balls. There were no wet suits, or leg ropes just ‘budgie smugglers’ or a pair of old footy shorts and jumper which meant you spent half the time swimming after your board in the bay at Yals and if you wiped out spent time under water trying to free the footy jumper wrapped around your head.

For the first couple of years we only surfed Yalls but then started exploring other spots, they included Injidup Bay now Car Park Gallows and South Point. Getting to Injidup was a challenge as there were no roads or 4 wheel drive vehicles just a sandy fisherman’s track with plenty of limestone outcrops. You would regularly get bogged and more often than not take out a muffler or stake a tyre. About the only car that could handle the track trouble free was the old reliable VW Beetle, they would go anywhere and looked a sight with six or more 9/10 foot Mals strapped on the roof. It seems funny now but we surfed South Point for a couple of years, usually when it was onshore at Yals before someone said “hey have a look at that over there” pointing to what is now famous North Point. We also didn’t make it to Margaret’s until 1960/61.

I can’t recall exactly when, probably late fifties, Davo, Horse and myself ventured south down the beach after a surf at Gallows and spotted a few good looking  waves coming in, Davo said that looks like a cut throat wave and hence ‘Guillotine’ a now popular break was born.

There is always conjecture as to who and when the first waves were ridden at Yals and Margaret’s. At Yals the names of Ron Drage, Rod Baker & Don Morrison and Bruce Hill, Bernie Huddle & Bill Pratley come to the fore. Bill Pratley swears it was he, Moonshine & Bernie in Easter 1953 and I reckon that’s probably right. As for Marg’s the most accepted claim is that Mal Bromley and Warren McKinney were the first in either 1960 or 61, Murray Smith, Cliff Hill & other names also pop up in conversation. Harbo claims Mal & Warren came back to Caves House raving about the monster waves they discovered and surfed at Prevelly. With more than a few ales under our belts their claims were dismissed as exaggerated bullshit, “nothing could be bigger than Yals we all said. Harbo reckons he and I went down there the next day and surfed it but my memory fails me on that one.

Image: 1969 Kevin Merifield surfing Margaret River main break. Image courtesy of Sunday Times.

1969 Kevin Merifield surfing Marg River Sunday Times1

Around 1957/58 we formed the West Coast Board Riders club with meetings held in Davo’s garage in Wembley. By then, there were regular groups heading down south for weekends, this usually entailed 4/5 hour trips via South West Hwy. with the obligatory refreshment stops (pubs) along the way. By the time we hit Yals we were well and truly primed for a good days surf the next day. On the return trip home we would often stop at the Highway Hotel in Bunbury for the Sunday arvo session. With Bernie Huddle (piano), Don Bancroft (trumpet) Moonshine (clarinet) Artie Taylor (trombone) and Harbo (tea chest slap base) we had the makings of a pretty good Trad jazz band. The band and the rest of us would get free grog which made it all worthwhile. How we got back to Perth in one piece I’ll never know!

After a few years of roughing it between the melaleucas at Yals we put the hard word on Bill Copley, the then manager of Caves House hotel to take over the old laundry as our new home. After a bit of tidying up, double decker bunks, concrete floor and a roof over our heads we really had it made, and we only had to stagger about 50 metres back to the ‘Shack’ as it became known after a night at Caves. With sometimes a dozen or so crammed into the shack it was every man for himself. They were hilarious times with everyone taking the piss out of each other, it was a laugh a minute with some real characters within the group. The mateship amongst that early crew was very special and still is today.

Photo: 1962 Yallingup WCBC shack with Laurie Burke’s FB Holden & the Ghost’s Holden panel van out the front. Brian Cole pic.

1962 Yalls WCBC shack L Burke's FB Holden & Ghost's Holden panel van - Brian Cole pic img268

A couple of years later another shack was built not far from the original to house the ever increasing crew heading south, most were younger than the original crew and many too young to hold a Driver’s license hence the originals became known as the ‘big wheels’ and the younger crew the ‘little wheels’.

A collection of my anecdotes follows:-

Mixing with the locals

For the first couple of years the locals, primarily dairy farmers couldn’t work out who these weird bods were invading their territory, trespassing on their land and going out in what they considered wild seas and shark invested waters. Even back in those days we dressed, acted and spoke differently (surf speak had already began). Sometimes on a Saturday we would head into Busselton for a night out on the town. It usually took about a half an hour at the Vasse or Commercial hotels before it would be on. The locals would have a go at us and it would be good old fashion one on one fisticuffs for about 5 minutes until you were both buggered then up to the bar to share a beer together. After a while the locals got to know us better and we became good mates with some and were eventually accepted into the community.

Proto-type leg rope

Getting tired of swimming after his 16 foot toothpick at Yals Bill Pratley proclaimed enough was enough. What was probably the first attempt to attach board to body Bill tied a big hunk of rope around his waist and the other end to the handle on the tail of his 16 foot tooth pick board, the rope was pretty thick and no way was it going to snap. Bill paddled out at Yals on a reasonable size day, took off, blew it, got wiped out and consequently got dragged behind his board all the way to shore. I can still picture his head bobbing up in the white water every now and then desperately gasping for air on the journey to shore, just as well he had good lungs!

Butch Guthrie

There were times when we would be sitting out the back at Yalls when someone would yell out “lookout here comes Butch”. All eyes would turn to the sky and in the distance this little single engine plane would be heading our way. Before long Butch would swoop over us at about 10 feet above the ocean do a loop and come back for seconds. We would be crapping ourselves usually diving under as he passed over us. We got to know Butch a local farmer and real character and after we discovered Guillotine, put the hard word on him to put in a track for us from Gallows. Butch who never wore shoes had feet about 6 inches wide with soles as hard as leather, he came to have a look and literally walked through this prickly bush scrub as though it was carpet, “no worries boys” he said, went home got his bulldozer and an hour later we had our track, total cost 1 carton of beer.

Photos: 1960s Butch Guthrie with bi-planes and tractor on his Moses property. Photos courtesy of Guthrie family.

1960s Boodge Guthrie 5 collage_photocat

While there are old car bodies littered along Butch’s old dirt track to Gallows as testimony to its roughness, Kevin didn’t need a 4wd to conquer the track, he did it with ease in his Mercedes sedan.

Photo: 1968 Kevin Merifield driving his Mercedes 280SE on the Gallows track. Photo Jim McFarlane.

1968 Gallows track Kevin Merifield's Merc 280SE- J McFarlane img623

Hammond cottages

There was this time when we were in our hammocks at Yalls and it started to piss down. Jim Keenan said let’s check out one of the Hammonds cottages, so he Spider and myself headed off and managed to find one with a window unlocked, after settling in with a bed each there was this knock on the door with a female voice shouting “come on out I know your there”, there was silence and then after about the third time, Jim casually called back in a soft voice “There’s no one here”, we  pissed ourselves laughing and with tails between our legs fessed up to a not so amused Mrs. Hammond.

Photo: 1971 a Hammond Cottage on Elsegood Road Yallingup. This cottage was purchased by Peter ‘Spook’ Bothwell. Photo courtesy of Peter Bothwell.

1971 Yalls Spook's Hammond shack - Peter Bothwell IMG_0002

Bernie Huddle

Spider Evans, Jim Keenan and myself would often hitch a ride down south with Bernie Huddle in his FB Holden. Bernie who was an industrial chemist by profession wasn’t very mechanical minded, Jim sitting in the front seat without Bernie realizing would ease his leg across, put his foot on the clutch and slowly push the peddle down. With the motor revving like hell Bernie would throw his hands in the air and declare “there’s something wrong with this bloody car” Jim would suck Bernie in several times without him ever knowing what was going on, Spider and myself would be pissing ourselves in the back seat. After a couple hours of driving Bernie would be seen continuously tapping the fuel gauge and further declaring “there’s something wrong this bloody thing keeps going down”.

Photo: 1958 City of Perth SLSC members L-R Bernie Huddle, Tony Harbison, Artie Taylor, Dave Williams, Colin Taylor & Bruce’ Moonshine’ Hill. John Budge pic.

1958 City Beach B Huddle, T Harbison, A Taylor, D Williams, C taylor, Moonshine John Budge pic

Spider’s lucky break

One night at Caves House Hotel Arty Shaw lined up this barmaid and arranged for her to meet him back at the shack after she knocked off. At closing time we all staggered back to the shack and settled in for the night. About a half an hour later, I heard this little faint voice in the darkness calling “John are you there” Spider not being one to miss an opportunity responded also in a faint voice “over here” Well Spider did pretty well for himself that night and for me on the bunk above him, it was little sleep with the boat rocking and rolling all night. At daylight we heard this almighty scream and the barmaid yelling “who the hell are you”, Spider had a grin on his face from ear to ear for the rest of the week end.

Ghost rescue

One day at big howling offshore Marg’s Ghost Kent took off on this huge set wave and didn’t make the drop. Paddling back after a wave I spotted Ghost swimming to shore after his board. I paddled over to him and said “Ghost your board went back over the wave and is heading out to sea”. Ghost who wasn’t a very strong swimmer turned around and headed back after his board. After sitting back in the line-up for a while and watching what was going on I realized Ghost wasn’t making any headway as his board with the aid of the stiff offshore was drifting faster than he could swim. I decided it was rescue time and took off after his board, by the time I got to it and caught up with him we were probably a K or more off shore in the deep black water struggling like hell to make any headway. I reckon it took us a good hour or more to make it back where we both collapsed buggered on the shore, but very pleased to be back on dry land.

Photo: 1961 The Ghost surfing Gallows on a King and Cole surfboard. Photographer unknown.

1961 Ghost at Gallows on King & Cole surfboard unknown photographer 2 (2)

Serenade at Caves House

Sometimes in the arvo after a good mornings surf we would head over to Cave House for a quiet ale. Caves a State Govt. owned hotel then catered mainly for honeymoon couples. We would sit on the road next to the pub playing 78 rpm Trad Jazz vinyl records on a wind up gramophone which was our kind of music in those days. Jim Keenan’s favourite was ‘I want a gal just like the gal that married dear old dad’ it was a great rendition but after about 10 times straight it got a bit much. The honeymooners also thought so and would lean out the window telling us to shut up.

Gallows delights

When we went to Gallows for a surf pre track days we had to walk through the scrub for about a mile, board perched on our head Indian style. We would sneak past the Cullity house in the middle of the scrub and if you were lucky sometimes get a glimpse of a very attractive Cullity daughter sun baking nude in the back yard. On our way back we would collect drift wood from the sand dunes and trade it for a Devonshire Tea at Mrs. Hunt’s Tea Room on Caves Rd (now Lavender Tea House), she used to use it for dry floral art arrangements.

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These days.

These days Kevin is retired and lives on a rural property in the South West with his wife Margaret. He still surfs in the South West and enjoys surfing up north during the cold SW winter.

Photo: 1990s Kevin Merifield surfing Turtles on the North West Coast. Photographer unknown.

1990s Gnaraloo Kevin Merifield surfing Turtles IMG_0011a

70th Birthday party.

In 2008 Kevin celebrated his 70th birthday with surfing friends at his Millbrook property.

Photos: 2008 Kevin’s 70th birthday pics and bottom right 2012 Kevin & Harbo at Yalls. Photos courtesy of Kevin Merifield & Loz Smith.

2008 -12 Kevin Merifield 70th birthday & Harbo 1 collage_photocat

Biography.

Kevin has written & published his biography ‘An Interesting Life’ for friends and family…see book cover below.

2014 An Interesting Life by Kevin Merifield IMG_001

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Gallery

1950s Ray Geary’s surf art

In the 50s WA surf pioneer Ray Geary made hollow plywood surf boards & decorated the boards with art work.

Ray was a sign writer by trade and also designed t-shirts, parkas and surf shop signs for the surfing community.

Photo: 1954 Ray with his ‘Jasper’ toothpick surfboard at City Beach groyne. Ray Geary pic.

1954 City Beach R Geary with Jasper surfboard - Ray Geary

Images: 1954-5 Ray’s cartoon character drawings on plywood surfboards #1. Images courtesy of Ray Geary.

1954-55 Ray Geary surf art #3 collage_photocat

Images: 1954-5 Ray’s cartoon character drawings on plywood surfboards #2. Images courtesy of Ray Geary.

1954-55 Ray Geary surf art #4 collage_photocat

Photos: 1955 Ray Geary & Rob Wakefield with plywood toothpick surfboards. Ray Geary pics.

(Left) Ray Geary & Rob Wakefield with Rob’s new 16’6 board. (Right) Rob Wakefield’s old 13′ & new 16’6 board.1955 Ray Geary & Rob Wakefield surfboards collage_photocat

Photo: 1956 Ray with his sign writing work Ute & homemade 4 man wave ski on top. Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1956 R Geary work ute picking up 4 man ski - Ray Geary1

In the mid 50s Ray Geary designed & printed parkas for the City Beach Board Club. Neil & Rob are wearing board club parkas designed by Ray in the following photo.

Photo: 1956 Rob Wakefield’s Holden Ute parked in front of City Beach groyne with homemade 4 man wave board on roof rack. L-R Colin Taylor, Neil Chapple, Ray Geary & Rob Wakefield. Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1956 City Beach 4 man ski on Ray's Holden ute C Taylor, N Chapple, R Geary, Rob Wakefield - Ray Geary1

In 1958 there was a typhoid scare at City Beach. Ray designed & printed City Beach Tifoyd Club t-shirts for local surfers.

Photo: 1958 City Beach Typhoid scare t-shirt designed by Ray Geary. Brian Cole pic.

1958 City Beach Typhoid scare t-shirt by Ray Geary - Brian Cole pic IMG_06

In 1961 Brian Cole & Barry ‘Joe’ King started King & Cole Surfboards in Roydhouse St Wembley & produced WA’s first foam surfboards. Ray Geary designed and painted the business sign for King & Cole surfboards shop/factory.

Photo: 1961 King & Cole Surfboards sign designed & painted by Ray Geary. Brian Cole pic.

1961 King & Cole Surfboards Roydhouse St Wembley sign writer Ray Geary - Brian Cole IMG_0001a

Geary’s surf break near Mandurah is named after Ray Geary’s beach shack, which was located on the hill overlooking the waves.

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Gallery

1950s Surf Mobiles

WA surf pioneers had a fine array of surf mobiles in the 50s. They travelled with their large wooden boards to metro & south west surf destinations in their motorised chariots.

Photo: 1955 Ray Geary’s Essex ‘Super Six’ at Wembley with plywood wave ski tied on the roof. L-R Mark Whittome, Barry ‘Stretch’ Gallon & Ray Geary. Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1955 Wembley Essex 'Super six' Mark Whittome,Barry Gallon,Ray Geary

In 1956 Ray Geary (19) and three young Wembley lads Neil Chapple (17), Colin Taylor (17) & Rob Wakefield (18) spent 5 weeks (and £49) making a 24ft plywood four man wave ski.

Refer to Surfing Down Surf book for images of the four man wave ski and other old automobiles.

Photo: 1956 Ray with his Sign Writing work ute & homemade 4 man wave ski on roof rack.
Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1956 R Geary work ute picking up 4 man ski - Ray Geary1

Photo: 1956 Rob Wakefield’s Holden ute at City Beach with homemade 4 man wave ski on roof rack. L-R Colin Taylor, Neil Chapple, Ray Geary & Rob Wakefield. Neil & Rob are wearing City Beach Board Club parka’s designed & printed by sign writer Ray Geary. Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1956 City Beach 4 man ski on Ray's Holden ute C Taylor, N Chapple, R Geary, Rob Wakefield - Ray Geary1

Photo: 1956 John Budge’s Morris minor & surfboards in Yallingup car park (outside Surfside tea rooms). John Budge pic

1956 Yalls car park outside tea rooms J Budge's Morris minor & boards - John Budge pic img358

Photo: 1957 Owen Oate’s Holden FX ute, Brian Cole’s Morris Minor & Laurie Burke’s Mayflower at City Beach. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1957 City Beach Owen Oates Holden FX ute, Brian Cole Morris Minor & Laurie Burke Mayflower - Brian Cole pic

Photo: 1957 Ian Scott’s Austin A40 at City Beach. L-R Ian Scott & Brian Cole with hollow ply surfboards (Brian’s 10ft Malibu & Ian’s 14ft Toothpick) & WW2 flying suit on the car roof. Photo credit John Budge.

1957 City Beach Ian Scott & Brian Cole with Austin A40, hollow ply surfboards (Brian 10ft Malibu & Ian 14ft Toothpick) & WW2 flying suit - JB pic img586

Photo: 1957 City Beach crew including Brian Cole (2nd from right) heading to Cable Station for a surf in a Morris 10 . Photo credit Brian Cole.

1957 City Beach Brian Cole & crew Morris 10 heading to Cable Stn - Brian Cole pic

Photo: 1958 City Beach Board Club members with an assortment of autos on a day trip to Avalon Point. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1958 Avalon Point Brian Cole & City Beach crew - Brian Cole pic

 

 

Gallery

1950-60s SW Surfing Memoirs by Steve Mailey

Like a lot of other SW surfing pioneers Steve Mailey started his ocean apprenticeship in the SLSC movement. He was a member of the Floreat SLSC and prior to that North Cottesloe SLSC where he bought his first 16’ “toothpick” surfboard at 13yo and surfed the Cable Station where others helped him carry it.

In the late 50s, Steve started driving down south on surf trips with his mates. Some of his friends were: Kevin Merifield, Bob Keenan, Don Bancroft, Howard (the ghost) Kent, Don Roper, Dave Maxwell, Les Gillies, Gary Birch, Terry Williams, Dave Williams, Jim McKenzie, Des Gaines, Brian Cole, Colin Moore, Joe King, Ken Hamer, Alan Hamer, Eric Hamer, John Peterson, Tony Harbison, Laurie Burke, Ralph (Seagull) McNabb, Ray Geary and Ray Nelmes.

Photo: 1961-62 Bunbury Steve Mailey in bear suit (WW2 flying suit) with Don Bancroft’s balsa pig board. Photo courtesy of Steve Mailey. (Note: wearing nose guard on sunglasses).

1961-62 Steve Mailey IMG_0009 - Colour Cropped

STEVE’S SW SURF RECOLLECTIONS

Steve recorded these recollections circa 1999 for a book on the history of surfing in WA by photojournalist Nathan Lynch. Nathan’s book the blue frontier (a south-west surfing odyssey) was based on his University thesis and published by UWA.

Bernie Huddle

Bernie Huddle was about 6’4” tall, very slim, well-tanned, distinguished features and loved his surfing. He was the first that I can recall to give up the city life to live & surf at Yallingup in the early 60s. He worked at Caves House Hotel for some time and they gave him one of those old lounge chairs, which he placed amongst the melaleuca trees at Yallingup Beach overlooking the ocean. He would sit for hours watching the surf and waiting until it was just right before he would go out, usually on his own.

On one of his trips to Yallingup he hit a huge tree stump in his car just out of Mandurah and tipped the car on about a 45% angle. It seemed to become something of a tradition for surfers to look for ‘Huddle Stump’ going to and from Yallingup. After many years this ‘piece of history’ was removed with the advent of road work.

Photo: Late 1950s. Yalls beach boys inc Bernie Huddle (3rd from right) & Howard’ The Ghost’ Kent (2nd from right), others unidentified. Photo credit John Budge.

1955 Yalls beach people inc Bernie Huddle centre, Howard Kent 2nd right & Ian Strongman right- J Budge pic img358

Left overs

On one of our regular visits for entertainment to Bunbury, someone was left behind on route to Yallingup. I can recall having to take-off on foot from Bunbury to Yallingup about 2am after a social evening. Fortunately, in those days, the few drivers on the road would give us lifts. The essence was that so few people had cars in the beginning.

The same happened again, this time in Busselton (which was more common). Bob Keenan & I were left in town and I can recall it was the coldest I have ever been. Fortunately, we found a couple of bikes and rode up and down and around the main street all night to keep warm until we were collected in the morning.

Bathing options

We used to wash in the creek flowing under the bridge at Yallingup, we had a large tin can with holes in the bottom at the end of a pole. One would ladle in the water whilst the other scrubbed up. We would take turns.

Caves House

Evenings were usually spent at Caves House drinking and playing darts with the local farmers. Glen ‘Boonga’ Smith drove his car off the track leading to Caves House and down into the valley. We had a hell of a job getting him out.

Entertainment

Sometimes we would drive direct from Perth to the ‘Churchill Park’ dance in Busselton on Friday nights. And on Saturday night we sometimes went to ‘Yoongarillup Hall’ for a dance. We often encountered problems with the ‘local farmer boys’ due to our funny clothes and wooing the local girls. Beverages were usually consumed from boots of cars.

Access to surf spots

Access to some surfing locations was sometimes via rough tracks and at times lifting out of fence posts. We would stand on the post and wiring whilst the vehicle was driven over. Vehicles often bogged down and it was wise to always have at least 4 persons per car.

We enjoyed a degree of skin diving for food as well as exploring by car and sometimes on our surfboards.

Ex Clubbies

Essentially all early surfers were surf lifesavers from various SLSC Clubs who had taken a pride in discipline prior to getting ‘hooked on surfing‘. A fabulous group of guys that I am sorry to say, may never emerge in surfing again.

Steve Mailey
Circa 1999

STEVE’S SW PHOTO GALLERY

Photos: 1958-60 Yallingup beach
(Left) 1958 Ross Gosden & Don Bancroft – Photo credit John Budge.
(Right) 1960 Yallingup beach run. L-R Tony Burgess, Steve Mailey (in bear suit), Ross Gosden, Colin Moore, Don Bancroft, Gary Birch, Ken Hamer. Photo courtesy of Steve Mailey.

1958-61 Yalls people pics collage_photocat

Photos: 1961-62 surfing at Yallingup. Photos courtesy of Steve Mailey.
(Left) Party wave. (Right) Mark ‘Patto’ Paterson headstand.

1960s Yalls surfing Steve Mailey collage_photocat

Photo: 1961 Steve Mailey surfing ‘The Lighthouse’ surf break near Cape Naturaliste. Photo courtesy of Steve Mailey.

1960-61 Steve Mailey surfing at Lighthouse IMG_0014

Photos: Gallows surf break. Photos courtesy of Steve Mailey.
(Left) 1958 Red Abbott & others surfing Gallows. (Right) 1961 Gallows track. Steve’s surfboard in foreground.

1958-61 Gallows Steve Mailey collage_photocat

Photos: 1961 South Point Cowaramup. Photos courtesy of Steve Mailey.
Top: (Left) Barry Brakewell & Steve Mailey wave sharing. (Right) Steve Mailey.
Bottom: unidentified.

1961 South Point 3 collage_photocat

EAST COAST SURF TRIP.

In 1961 he went on a surfari to NSW with Bob Keenan, Les Gillies, Tony Burgess & Alan Hamer.
The first overnight stop was at Ceduna, where we all slept under the truck service ramps after some heavy drinking at the tavern. Passing through Mt Gambier we stayed overnight in Adelaide then on to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road to Melbourne and then finally Sydney where we stayed with the old Yallingup crew.

We returned to WA on the state ship ‘SS Southern Cross’.

Photos: 1961 East Coast surf trip. Photos courtesy Steve Mailey.
Top Left: Great Australian Bight. L-R Bob Keenan, Les Gillies, Tony Burgess & Alan Hamer.
Top Right: Mt Gambier. L-R Alan Hamer, Bob Keenan & Tony Burgess.
Bottom Left: Mildura Pub on Eyre Hwy WA near Eucla. L-R Alan Hamer, Steve Mailey, Bob Keenan, Proprietor, Tony Burgess & Les Gillies.
Bottom Right: Alan Hamer & friends on SS Southern Cross.

1961 East Coast trip Steve Mailey 3 collage_photocat

PADDLE OUT FOR “THE GHOST” KENT.

In 1997 a paddle out was held at Yallingup Beach to celebrate the life of SW surfing pioneer Howard ‘The Ghost’ Kent.

Photos: 1997 Yalls Howard ‘The Ghost’ Kent paddle out. Photos courtesy of Steve Mailey.
(Left) SW surfing pioneers team photo. (Right) Steve Mailey, Kevin Merifield & Ken Gymm.

1997 Yalls memorial for Ghost collage_photocat

STEVE TODAY

Steve lives and works in the city.

Photo: 1999 Steve on Trigg Beach with Len Dibben surfboard. Photo courtesy Steve Mailey.

1999 Trigg Steve Mailey IMG_0031

In 2013 Steve wrote a book titled Boys of the Lake. It contains stories of a young life growing up in Shenton Park WA in the mid-twentieth century.

Images: Cover and insert from Boys of the Lake book. Images courtesy of Steve mailey

2013 Boys in the Lake by Steven Mailey 1 collage_photocat

Gallery

Terry ‘Horse’ Williams – SW surfing recollections

BACKGROUND

In the late 50s & early 60s Terry ‘Horse’ Williams was part of a group of footballers from the Subiaco Football Club (SFC) who helped pioneer surfing in the SW. Terry got his nick name as he was big and as strong as a horse.

Terry (127 games) and his SFC surfing mates Kevin ‘Legs’ Merifield (213 games), Barry Brakewell (16 games) & Ray Nelmes (15 games) spent a good portion of their youth chasing waves in the SW.

Kevin’s cousin Olympic hockey player Ray ‘Spider’ Evans (rated the best inside centre in the world) was also part of the group, he represented Australia in 3 Olympic Games.

As well as a stand-up surfer Terry was a keen body surfer and used a wooden body board & flippers.

Photo: 1958 L-R Des Gaines, Alan Hamer, Dave Williams, Bob Keenan, Ray Evans, Kevin Merifield & Terry Williams in front of surf shacks at Caves House Hotel Yallingup. Photo credit Brian Cole and Surfing Down South book..

1958 Yalls Caves House D Gaines, A Hamer, D Williams, B Keenan ,R Evans, K Merifield & T Williams B Cole IMG

These are Terry’s SW surfing recollections.

LATE 1950s

NATIONAL SERVICE

Yallingup as a surfing venue first came to my attention after I had met Dave Williams in 1957 while in Nashos at Leeuwin in the Navy. I didn’t know Dave before then, but I used to see him at City Beach. I lived in Floreat Park with my folks and City Beach was where I went for a swim after work. Trigg’s was my beach of choice.

Nashos was a great way to spend six months having a good time and getting paid for it. We used to ring up the local liquor store who would then deliver us a 5 or 10 gallon keg and place it outside the fence in such a way that we could pump it and have the spout coming through the wire. This system ensured many enjoyable evenings where Dave could expand on the thrills and delights of Yallingup surf.

FIRST TRIP TO YALLINGUP

My first trip to Yallingup was in 1957. I went down with Geoff Eastaugh in my old Singer la Monz. I don’t remember how long it took us, I don’t suppose the car would have gone much faster than 80 to 90 kph. When we got to Yallingup there was a reasonable wave running. Of course there was no one else there and we had no idea of where to surf. I can’t remember looking out to the outside break and if we did notice it, there was no way we were going to go out there. We both had belly boards, they were the ones that used to be hired out at Scarborough years before 1957. They were made of pine planks about half an inch thick with a slight turn up at the front and two cross pieces about ten inches from each end and were about one foot wide.

Geoff and I had flippers but no wet suits. They didn’t come in until the late 60’s. We very gamely swam out through the shore break in the bay. The shore break was pretty savage on the day. Once we got out a bit we were shitting ourselves. There are a few small nigger heads (now named ‘indigenous rocks’) out there with some long kelp on them. The kelp was waving about in the swell and we felt quite uncomfortable. I think we ended up with about three short and furious waves each before we called it a day. I have no recollection of how we got home.

I joined Trigg Island Surf Club in 1958 and started going down south with Ian Todman, Barry Brakewell and Moose White. We travelled down in my 1947 Hillman Minx. Eventually I rolled the Hillman when the approaches to the Narrows Bridge were being prepared, the car was repaired.

SURFBOARDS

From 1959 Yallingup was visited on a fairly regular basis, I must have still had the Hillman Minx. I continued surfing on various types of belly board. The most popular type of stand up board after the 16 ft toothpick was a ply Okanui board about ten feet long. Also around at that time, there were ply double and single skis. They were all hand-made and were beyond my very limited wood working skills. Occasionally someone would arrive with one of the old canvas covered stand up skis. They didn’t last long in the Yallingup surf. The people who paddle today’s stand up boards (SUPs) think they have something new, but they were around back then.

The board that really shook up the surfing scene then was when Laurie Burke arrived back in Perth with a nine or ten foot balsa board. That had everyone amazed. My first board was a balsa board made by Danny Keogh in Sydney. I can’t remember the price of the board but I remember the cost of air freight was pretty steep. I know my board arrived pre-dinged. The airlines had no idea how to carry them, there was no bubble wrap then. I must have used that board for a year or two. The trouble was that when they got dinged they soaked up water like blotting paper and became very heavy.

COOLITE SURFBOARDS

Board wise the next great thing to come along was the coolite board. I first read about them in a magazine (I don’t think surfing mags were out then!). They seemed to be the answer. They were light and would not absorb water. I duly sourced my supply of coolite and fiberglass and set too making my own board. What I lacked in ability I made up for with enthusiasm. No one told me that that fiberglass resin was a solvent, it just made the coolite disappear. Or that if you mixed epoxy resin too strong, it would catch on fire. The board turned out to be an oblong block of coolite with a sort of pointy end and a sort of rounded end with the corners rubbed off the sides and heaps of fiberglass and a funny looking fin. I remember the day I first put it in the water, I had just had stitches out from an appendix operation in the morning, so was in a bit of a hurry for the big launch. The christening was to be at Scarborough. I nonchalantly strolled across the beach with the board casually tucked under my arm. I was getting a few envious looks, boards were still very rare in those days. At the water’s edge I waxed up, took a couple of running steps leapt onto the board and it snapped in half. So ended my board building phase.

DOWN SOUTH TRIPS

All the while trips are being made to Yallingup mostly by the band of enthusiasts who all knew one another. If a car went by with a board on its rack it was one of your mates. We always camped in the trees at Yallingup. Hammocks were the preferred sleeping arraignment, baked beans and Tom Piper steak and onions a very popular menu, as were the ever reliable Jaffle. Showers and toilets were a luxury. There were toilets at Yallingup but they were very dark and were only used in absolute emergency. The mosquitoes were so bad in there you needed a blood transfusion after a visit. Placing a brick on the float valve of the cistern provided a shower for the very hardy.

In those days we generally planned our trips down south either the weekend before or during the week. Mostly we would arrange who was going with whom etc. We generally left on Friday night after work. In these early days we nearly all ways surfed at Yallingup and we would leave our boards on the beach by the old change rooms for the weekend and take them back to the cars on Sunday afternoon before we drove home.

WAFL FOOTBALL

Editor’s Note: Terry was a big strong ruckman and played with Kevin Merifield in the 1959 WAFL League Grand Final. Terry’s opponent was champion ruckman Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. Kevin Merifield played at Full Forward on John K Watts. Unfortunately for Subi, EP won the GF. I sold newspaper at Subi oval (age 12) and watched Terry & Kevin play in the ’59 WAFL GF.

Images: 1959 SFC League team Runners-up in WAFL competition. Images courtesy of SFC and WA Newspapers.

1959 SFC League Runners-Up to EP collage_photocat

Click on this link and scroll down to year 1959 to review the 1959 WAFL Grand Final.

EARLY 1960s

OVERSEAS TRIP

In 1960 I decided that I would go overseas to the UK for a working holiday. Maybe this wasn’t the right time to do this, but we are always wiser after the event. Subiaco had played off in the Grand Final the year before and I had had a pretty good year myself. The football club weren’t too happy. I had signed on as crew on a ship in Fremantle to sail to London. This was a long time before economy airfares. Before the ship sailed for London we went down to Albany to pick up fruit on the way we went past Yallingup on a Saturday, there was a good swell running and I could actually see the blokes in the water as they went over a big wave. I thought of jumping ship and swimming ashore. I was away for twelve months and the only surf I had was a little bit in Biarritz (France) and in Hawaii.

SW SURF BREAKS

I returned early in 1961, by this time other breaks were being surfed. In particular Injidup point and bay (there was no car park then), The Gallows, Cowaramup bay and I think Margaret River. I do remember waking up one morning at Yallingup and the whole bay was closing out, the swell was huge. We went around to Bunker Bay but that was also hopeless. We went to Injidup but the whole place was closing out. We went on to Cowaramup Bay and that was big, but we thought we could get out just south of North Point. Three of us started to paddle out, myself, Ralph ‘Seagull’ Mc Nab and a young guy whose name I can’t remember. As we got out towards the middle of the bay the swell started to pick up. I could see the two blokes in front of me about thirty yards were starting to paddle hard to get over the swells. The bay was starting to close-out. I scrambled over about six huge swells but then I could see that the next one would get me, so I turned around and let it break and held on for dear life. The wave took me all the way into shore with a very rough ride and me laying down all the way.

By this time a few other blokes had come along and were looking at the guys who had been in front of me. The whole bay was closing out from point to point and about four or five hundred meters in front of the bay. ‘Seagull’ lay down and caught a broken wave, but the other lad was still heading out to sea. He ended staying out there for another half hour before he could get back in. We were very concerned for his safety and when he finally got back in he was totally exhausted and as white as a ghost.

Photo: 1962 Bob Keenan board riding, Terry Williams’s body surfing & unknown board rider at The Farm surf break, Bunker Bay. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1962 The Farm Bob Keenan surfing, Terry Williams & unknown - Brian Cole pic img272

WEST COAST BOARD CLUB

In the early days at Yallingup we generally only surfed until the sea breeze came in, usually around early afternoon. When the breeze arrived we would leave our boards on the beach and adjourn to Caves House pub for a few quiet ones. One day we were laying outside the bar in the sun, probably drunk and disorderly when the publican of the day Bill Copley called a couple of us aside and said ‘’come with me you blokes”. I thought he was going to go crook at us over something we had done, but he took us across the old bowling green to a building that turned out to be the old laundry. He said we’ve had a lot of complaints about you guys camping down on the beach and if you get yourselves organized, you can use this place as a base. We couldn’t believe our good luck. In due course a meeting was held and we decided what needed to be done to make the place liveable. The power was connected so all we really had to do was some concrete work and install a hot water system with a bit of plumbing. That was the start of the West Coast Board Club (WCBC).

Photo: 1962 Laurie Burke’s FB Holden sedan & Howard ‘The Ghost’ Kent’s Holden panel van in front of WCBC surf shack at Caves House Hotel Yallingup. Photo courtesy of Brian Cole and Surfing Down South book.

1962 Yalls WCBC shack L Burke's FB Holden & Ghost's Holden panel van - Brian Cole pic img268

The WCBC made it possible for the regular Friday night trip south. We had installed beds, gas cooking and all mod cons. The trip was usually measured by the number of ‘king browns’ and later beer cans per trip. I can’t remember all the foundation members, but some were Artie Shaw, Mark Paterson, Bob Keenan, Jim Keenan, Des Gaines, Garry Birch, Don Roper, Dave Williams, Howard (the Ghost) Kent, Kevin Merifield, Laurie Bourke, Colin Moore, Jim McKenzie & John (Dandaragan) Robinson. Apologies to those I have not named.
As first the club was very informal, but as time passed bureaucracy reared its head and we started moves to have the club incorporated. Artie Shaw was the first president, I was secretary with an assistant secretary who could type. The assistant’s name was Jeanne Abbott, she was a little Gidget from Cottesloe. We used to have meetings at the old Subiaco Footy Club rooms at Subi Oval.

After we were established a year or two we received a letter from Ampol Petroleum saying that they were sponsoring board riding championship in the eastern states and wanted to hold one here and were we interested. We were interested. The details of the organising of the inaugural 1964 State Surfing Titles escape me at this stage, except to say that we were assisted by the younger club members of the Yallingup Board Club that included Robbie Birch.

One thing that I do remember is that we erected a judge’s stand on the reef at Yallingup lagoon. Try doing that today. The event went off really well and was the precursor for all the contests that have taken place since. The party after was a terrific show with Ralph McNab doing a most spectacular swing from the rafters showing everyone his family jewels and other places we didn’t want to see. From little things big things grow.

Another event the WCBC promoted was the first Rock band to play at Yallingup Hall. Legs and I were playing footy with Wally Martin and Wally’s brother Bobby had a rock band. We hired them for a gig at the hall on a long weekend. At that time the stomp was all the rage and we had a great turnout. The band were very pleased to play there because it was the first time they had ever had their amplifiers turned up full bore.

Photo: Early 60s Terry taking a photo of L-R Howard ‘Ghost’ Kent, John McKnight, Kevin Merifield, Charlie Roper, Keith Campbell, Dave Williams & Terry Jacks at Moses Rock. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1960s Moses Terry Williams taking photo of the boys - Brian Cole img691

SW RECOLLECTIONS

I recall one year I went to Yallingup for my holidays and spent two weeks staying in the shack. After a week or so we went into Busselton to get a decent feed .There was a very good bakery there and after polishing off about six pasties I came out of the shop with a box of a dozen little cakes. All the hungry bastards around me thought they were to share, bad luck, I ate them all myself. I needed a carbohydrate binge.

The times spent at Yallingup were certainly Golden Years. I feel so fortunate to have had those times down there. The surf was great, there were no other surfers and the mates I had have been lifelong friends. Drugs were unheard of, sure we drank a bit of beer, but there was always such a great feeling of camaraderie and humour.

As I reminisce, I think of a day when Yallingup was as flat as a tack and we were having a coldie at Caves when Artie Shaw, Patto and myself decided to go and look for some surf. We drove out to Cape Naturaliste and went out past the lighthouse to what we called the ‘Back of the moon’. We had one of the best couple of hours body surfing I’ve ever had. The place is now called ‘The Other Side of The Moon’ or some other name. For sure nobody had surfed there before.

Photos: Early 60s Kevin Merifield & mates searching for waves at the ‘Back of the Moon’ at Cape Naturaliste. Photos courtesy of Terry Williams.

1960s cape naturaliste Terry Williams pics collage_photocat

I also recall when Legs, Dave Williams and I walked towards Cowaramup Bay from the Gallows and found the break we called ‘The Guillotine’.

What fantastic days.

Terry

Footnote: Terry plays the ukulele & banjo in a band. Check out his musical talents at Hillary`s Boat Harbour 5.00 pm Friday Nights.