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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

 

 

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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

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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.

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1950s-70s Jim Keenan’s – Surfing Memoirs (Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast).

Jim Keenan started his surfing life with the City of Perth SLSC at City Beach in the mid-50s. He rode SLSC plywood boards and skis.

In 1956 he was exposed to a new phase of surfing at Interstate surf carnivals on the East Coast when Malibu surfboards were introduced by visiting American surfers.

This was a turning point for Jim and like a lot of other young lads with salt water in their veins, he left the SLSC and joined Kevin Merifield, Tony Harbison, Dave Williams, Brian Cole and other surf pioneers free surfing Down South.

In the late 50s, Jim travelled to the East Coast with other WA surfers searching for waves & fun. He continued to live in NSW during the early 60s, but returned regularly to WA and the surf Down South.

In mid-66 he headed to the Pacific Island of Guam and started another phase of surfing with a group of Californians. In 70 he returned to Perth and enjoyed another spell Down South before heading east again.

In the mid-70s he headed to Carnarvon in the NW. His first visit to the surf break at Red Bluff revealed a surf break devoid of surfers.

He is a well-travelled surfer and a colourful character.

These are Jim’s surfing memoirs (Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast).
(Note: Excerpts from Jim’s surfing memoirs appeared in the Surfing Down South book published in 2014).

I was a resident of Subiaco and Jolimont for the early stages of my life which began June 1937. The above suburbs were working class in those days, unlike today where prices are sky high. However, it was a fun environment to grow up in those important formative years. Sport was high on my agenda and it was at the Wembley Athletic and Football club where I first made contact with other like-minded people.

Like many of the group we spent a lot of our spare time at City Beach learning like Kevin Merifield to surf off the groyne summer and winter. Body surfing was a great way to learn the fundamentals of wave choice and the technique of riding the wave to its limits. The introduction of Turnbull rubber flippers created a whole new ball game for the body surfer, allowing early pick up and manoeuvrability of the wave.

Some of my friends from those days included Dave Williams, Graeme Killen, John Budge, Tony Harbison and many others. Apart from John Budge we all ended up joining the City of Perth SLSC.

I guess from memory we were all aged about fourteen or fifteen when we joined the club. Borrowing various surfing apparatus led us into another facet of surfing e.g. Surf Board and Ski skills were learnt along with Surf Boat rowing. It was great fun and we all eventually purchased at great expense our craft of choice to either compete with or surf with. Dave a 16 foot Board, Graeme Killen and I on a Double Ski and Tony Harbison a Single Ski.

Photo: 1958 City Beach North Side. L-R Dave Williams on ‘toothpick’ surfboard with Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on plywood double ski. Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1956 City Beach Dave Williams toothpick board and Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on double ski - Ray Geary1

The club was a melting pot for many like-minded people and many a friendship developed in that arena. People like Bernie Huddle, Bill Pratley and Brian Cole to name a few.

Rottnest was our choice of escape before Yallingup was born. The Transit and Salmon Bay were great places to surf and develop skills. The Transit was a lot safer than Salmon Bay, but Salmon Bay was a great place to confront big waves. Very scaring also in those shark ridden waters.

Paddling to Rottnest was not without its moments as some times we ran into early sea breezes making the physical effort a dam side harder to say the least. Confronting ocean going liners in the fog was not much fun either, with Tony almost a victim.

Trigg Island also figured in those early days with March, April probably the best months for surfing.

Surfing on the Tooth Picks and Skis were still in vogue when Yallingup came on the surf horizon. The early guys to learn of Yallingup included Bernie Huddle, Bruce Hill, Ron Drage and Bill Pratley. From then on it was like a gold rush with any surfer keen enough heading south to the new frontier. I guess the year was 1954 but, not exactly 100%. As for Cocko and I our first venture down to Yallingup was in Cocks old man’s Ford Prefect with the double ski tied to the roof. The Yallingup coast was like a new world and the waves suited the double ski perfectly. It took some time to adjust to the moods of the Yallingup surf and along with the board riders (16 ft) we copped our fair share of wipe outs. There were days in winter when all of Caves House was visible from the take off point and taking off left one in fear of the outcome. We all became reasonable swimmers due to wipe outs and board recovery.

When the sea breeze arrived and the waves lost their shape, those who were mad enough re-entered with body boards and tackled the swell. It was rewarding enough but I well remember the waters under us darkening up with the schools of Salmon especially around April. I guess the Noah’s were there in numbers and it was only because of the salmon that we were left un-attacked. No wonder the beer tasted good after a day of action in the water.

In 1956 quite a few of us headed to Torquay Victoria for an international surf carnival held in conjunction with the Melbourne Olympics. It was there that we were exposed to a new phase of surfing, the team from California and Hawaii cut the waves up on their 9ft Malibu’s. Measuring tapes came out and hence the birth of the Mal in Australia. We attended another carnival in Manly NSW and again witnessed some great surfing by the visiting American’s. The Americans had been riding Mals in California since the mid-1940s.

Photo: 1956 Melbourne Luna Park. WA boys in WW2 flying suits. L-R unknown, Dave Williams, K Jones, Jim Keenan, R Howe & Graham Killen. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1956 Melb Luna Park WA boys flying suits unknown, Dave Williams, K Jones, Jim Keenan, R Howe & Graham Killen - J Keenan pic

The Mal arrival in Australia led to a massive decline in surf club membership due to the adoption of the board and free surfing by Australian surfers. West Australia rapidly followed suit and I along with many others quit the SLSC movement. For Cocko and me it was only one step before suspension anyway because we refused to quit paddling to Rottnest.

Yallingup came of age with the Mals and life changed drastically. No more patrol work freed up the weekends and the expression “Down South” was born. There were many surfing widows during that period with the boys preferring “Down South” to the Drive-ins and all that goes with it.

Photo: 1957 Yallingup campsite. L-R Des Gaines, Jim Keenan, unknown, Laurie Burke, Bernie Huddle & Arty Taylor. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1957 Yalls Des Gaines, Jim Keenan, unknown, Laurie Burke, Bernie Huddle & Arty Taylor - J Keenan pic1

The early boards although spot on were expensive and made of balsa imported from South America. My original board made by Gordon Woods cost 30 pounds, equivalent to about a month’s salary in those days.

Photo: 1959 Yallingup beach. Boys & their boards L-R Ray Nelmes, Brian Cole, Jim Keenan, Des Gaines, Laurie Burke, John Budge, Artie Taylor. Photo courtesy of Brian Cole.

1959 Yalls beach boys & boards Ray Nelmes, Brian Cole, Jim Keenan, Des Gaines, Laurie Burke, John Budge, Artie Taylor - Brian Cole pic

Most of my friends were aged from 17 to 21 years of age and were super keen on surfing, thus the regular trips “Down South”. Strong bonding took place over the years and remains to this day. The only difference being that “The older you get, the better you were”.

It’s a shame that a good photographic history of those early days is not readily available, but it’s simply because the only person armed with a camera was John Budge and its credentials were very limited. However, we did manage to gather a few shots out on the double ski on a classic day.

Photo: 1957 Yallingup Main Break. Graham ‘Cocko’ Killen & Jim Keenan on the double surf ski. Water photo by John Budge.

1957 Yalls Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on ski- J Budge pic 001

As we aged, that is turned 17 to 18, driving to Yallingup became less dependent on the older guys. My choice was an FJ Holden like Bernie Huddle’s, the only difference, mine stayed on the road.

I can recollect driving up and down Caves Road and into the various surfing spots such as the Gallows, South Point etc checking out the breaks. We sure wasted a lot of time before making a decision and mainly to avoid the so called crowds. In those days, probably six surfers constituted a big crowd. Those numbers today would be heaven.

Photo: 1959 Yallingup Car Park. L-R Des Gaines, Ian Todman, Laurie Burke & Jim Keenan Photo courtesy of Bill Pratley.

My beautiful picture

In the fifties any surf film would have originated on the East Coast or California and Hawaii. I guess that’s why quite a few of the group embarked on the journey east with Bernie Huddle, Cocko and Brian Cole leading the charge in 58. Their reports induced others to follow including myself in 59.

My fellow travellers included Laurie Burke, Moose White and Ian Todman. Sydney to me was like an endless party with surfing thrown in. Accommodation was a problem in the early stages as the sequence of Party followed by Eviction was not broken until a more permanent abode at Woodstock in Curl Curl Parade South Curl Curl. Woodstock was a two storey house and I had the good fortune of a room with an ocean view. This home became a focal point for those that surfed the Northern Beaches of Sydney especially in winter. Many friendships developed between the locals and the West Aussies. Among the West Aussies to call Woodstock home were Les Gillies, Tony Burgess, Owen Oates, Ian Todman, Colin ‘Moose’ White, myself and many others passing through.

Photo: 1960 A mixture of surfers from northern beaches (Sydney) and WA at Manly Beach NSW. L-R Joe Larkin (surfboard & film maker), Chris ‘Batman’ Steinburg, Colin ‘Moose’ White, Brian Cole & Jim Keenan. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1960 Manly NSW L-R Joe Larkin (surfboard & film maker), Chris ‘Batman’ Steinburg, Colin ‘Moose’ White, Brian Cole & Jim Keenan. Photo Jim Keenan pic03

They were great days on the East Coast but, the South West ruled the waves.

March 1961. Returned to Yalls for a two month holiday with Puppy Dog Paton a talented surfer from Manly NSW. It was the summer that fires ripped the South West apart with many mill towns like Karridale wiped out. We were also nearly wiped out at the Gallows on a very big day. The bomboras were working for what seemed miles out to sea. We were stupid enough to try out the fourth break and it was there that we were threatened by the relentless swell. Puppy was only about 17 years of age and I was fearful of losing him in the surf. We chose our wave with respect and managed to make shore a little out of sorts. I understand the break we could observe out to sea is what is now called Cow Bombie.

Photo: 1961 Gallows outside break. L-R Jim Keenan & Puppy Dog from Manly NSW. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1961 Gallows outside break J Keenan & Puppydog on NSW Barry Bennet boards - J Keenan pic

I returned to the South West for the summer of 64 to surf Yalls and engage new breaks such as Margs and Guillotine.

Jim Keenan’s surfing memoirs continue with Part 2 Guam, Red Bluff & SW Anecdotes.

 

 

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Brian Cole’s East Coast Surf Trip 1959-1961

WA surf pioneer Brian Cole toured the East Coast of OZ from 1959-61.

Earlier this year Brian documented his surf travels in White Horses Magazine Issue 12 – Life of Brian.

This is an extract of Brian’s article in White Horses Magazine plus some additional holiday snaps.

‘Word of mouth’ stories of well-shaped point surf on the East Coast had filtered back to WA (there were no OZ surf mags back then) so in 1959, I followed my dream and hitched a ride on a semi-trailer to Sydney.

I surfed & worked in Bondi, purchased a balsa pig board from Wallace Surfboards and headed off to Queensland in a Hillman Minx sedan with a WA guy. My surf board was too big to fit on the car and I had to fly it to Coolangatta. When I arrived I told the local Surf Club I was a clubbie and they let us stay there free. I surfed good waves at Greenmount for 3 months and met Bondi surfer Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan.

Then I headed back to Sydney & moved in with other WA surfing guys at Queenscliff. There were many great parties and a lot of shenanigans took place. I took over a milk run in Manly where some of the local Grems used to borrow the milk truck to carry their boards to the beach. When this happened I had to recover it from the beach front early in the morning. Back then, there was only a small group of surfers who surfed through winter on Sydney’s north shore. While there I met big wave rider Bob Pike, surf promoter Bob Evans and other surfing pioneers. Bob Pike & I (and others) did a modelling job for Flair fashion magazine. A bunch of us guys witnessed Freshwater surfer Dave Jackman tackle huge waves at the Queenscliff Bombora for the first time on a surfboard. Joe Larkin (board maker and beach inspector) was there taking photos.

At the end of 1961, I returned to Perth with WA surfer Laurie Burke. We drove straight to Yallingup in the South West. On arrival we had a beer with Bill Copley the proprietor of Caves House Hotel and he offered me a job. I was a barman at the pub for 3 months and surfed Yallingup on my own mid-week while waiting for mates to drive down from Perth on weekends.

In 1962 Barry ‘Joe’ King and I started King and Cole Surfboards in Wembley. We purchased blanks from Bennett Surfboards and were the first to produce foam surfboards in WA.

Brian’s East Coast holiday snaps.

Photo: 1959 Qld Coolangatta. Brian Cole with his Wallace balsa pig board. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1959 Qld Coolangatta Brian Cole balsa pig board - Brian Cole img662

Photo: 1960 NSW North Narrabeen. WA boys with a 1934 straight 1939 Chevy sedan. L-R Speedy, Bernie Huddle, Arty Taylor, Phil Mostyn & Cocko Killen. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1960 NSW Nth Narabeen 1934 straight 8 Studybaker Speedy, Bernie, Arty Taylor, Phil Mostyn & Cocko Killen - Brian Cole Pic img156

Photo: 1961 NSW North Steyne. L-R John Sprigs & Brian Cole surfing. Photo courtesy of surf photographer Ron Perrott (NSW).

1961 NSW North Steyne John Sprigs & Brian Cole - Ron Perrott picimg697

Photo: 1961 NSW North Narrabeen. L-R Brian Cole & big wave rider Bob Pike modelling for Flair Magazine. Image courtesy of Flair Magazine & Brian Cole.

1961 Models Brian Cole & Bob Pike Nth Narrabeen NSW

Photos: 1961 NSW Dave Jackman surfing Queenscliff Bombora on a surfboard for the first time. Photos courtesy of surfboard manufacturer Joe Larkin (NSW).

1961 Dave Jackman Queenscliff Bombora NSW - Joe Larkin pics IMG_001

Photo: 1961 NSW Queenscliff. Surfers enjoying Xmas Day keg on the beach. Surfers include Bernie Huddle, Bob Pike, Joe Larkins & others. Photo Brian Cole.

1961 NSW Queenscliff Xmas Day keg Bernie Huddle, Bob Pike, Joe Larkins & others - B Cole pic img686

Photo: 1961 NSW Dee Why Point ‘mayhem’. Brian Cole is on the right. Photo courtesy of surf photographer Ron Perrott (NSW).

1961 NSW Dee Why Pt 'mayhem' Brian Cole on right - Ron Perrott pic - B Cole img695

Photo: 1961 NSW Brian Cole & mates heading towards a surf break inside Sydney Harbour in a 1934 Studebaker sedan. Photo credit Brian Cole.

1963 NSW Brian Cole & mates heading towards Sydney harbour surf break in 1934 Studybaker - B Cole pic img690