Cattle farmer, vigneron & ex Busselton GP, the late Dr Kevin Cullen purchased a rural property at Wilyabrup in the early 50s. A powerful left hand reef break in front of the Cullen family beach house was appropriately named Gallows.
Tony Harbison – Dr Cullen’s dentist friend Ron Rankin-Wilson from North Cott SLSC was invited down to the beach house for a weekend. He walked to the beach and saw the wave going-off. Ron was the first to paddle out on his 16ft single ski and surf Gallows.
As word spread about this hot new wave, the dirt track to the house (Cullen Rd) became a main thoroughfare. The track stopped approx. 2 kilometres from the coast and surfers had to sneak through the bush past the Cullen beach cottage to the beach lugging their heavy Malibu’s. The surfers would often disturb Dr Cullen’s attractive daughter sun baking nude in the back yard.
Photo: 1961 Gallows bush walk pre-dirt track. Steve Mailey pic.
In the early 60s the West Coast Board Club used all the money they had in their bank account £20 to pay local cattle farmer Boodge Guthrie to bulldoze a rough dirt track through the remaining bush to the coast (Gallows and Guillotine).
The track’s black ilmenite sand was very hot in summer & there were bush flies in plague proportions. But the popular reef break was now accessible to all SW surfers.
For more background information on Gallows refer Surfing Down South book published 2014 by Margaret River Press. (Reprinted 2015). See early Gallows anecdotes by Tony Harbison, Geoff Culmsee, Kevin Merifield & Jim McFarlane.
Gallows initially breaks 500 meters out to sea, before reforming and breaking on the inside where the take-off zone is. Tow-in teams use the outside break as a practice ground.
Bigger waves wash all the way through from the outside and the inside is best ridden on a smaller swell. The inside reform has a shifty peak and in bigger swells has a sweep that drags you north.
Gallows can be a fun wave and it doesn’t get too crowded.
The old dirt track off Cullen Rd in no longer in use. Surfers now access Gallows & Guillotines from Juniper Road.
A collection of surfers anecdotes and photos follow:-
Dave Williams – In the late 50s there was a surfer at Yallingup called John ‘Red’ Abbott, we used to call him ‘Brer Rabbit’. He would come to Yalls with a sleeping bag, a hammock, a piece of ply 6” x 6” (which he used as a hand board), a towel, his money & clothing. He was very microscopic as far as the gear he took down south.
Photo: 1958 John ‘Red’ Abbott surfing on his plywood hand board at Gallows. Photographer unknown.
Jim Keenan – In March 1961 I went 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.
Photo: 1961 Gallows outside break. L-R Jim Keenan & Puppy Dog from Manly NSW. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.
Brian Cole – Howard ‘The Ghost’ Kent was a keen SW big wave rider in the early 60s. He got his nickname from the white zinc cream he plastered on his face.
Bill Gibson – In the 60s ‘The Ghost’ was always surfing at Gallows. He was the furthest one out chasing the big ones!
Photo: 1961 Howard ‘The Ghost’ Kent surfing at Gallows. Photo credit Brian Cole.
Zac Kochanowitsch – My first trip down south was quite by accident. In the summer of 62 I travelled to Avalon (near Mandurah) with my mates John McGuire and Boz Cummins in John’s mum’s new Morris Minor 1000. When we got there the surf was too small so John said “bugger this, we are going to Gallows”. John immediately dismantled the car’s speedometer cable as he was told to go no further than Avalon and his dad always took a speedo reading to check how far we travelled that day.
To save time we headed off down the Old Coast Road on a rough dirt track between Lake Preston Road House and Australind. Finally we found our way to the The Gallows. To our surprise we were the only ones there, it was offshore wind and a perfect head high wave. We surfed for 2 hours then John said “we have to go home now as I have to have the car home before 6pm”. So we headed home to wash the car & reconnect the speedo and pretend Avalon was as far as we went.
Photo: 1962 Gallows close-out set heading towards surfer Brian Cole. Photo courtesy of Brian Cole.
Mark Hills – My dad (Cliff Hills) was one of the early pioneers to use the dirt track to the Cullen property to access and surf Gallows.
Photos. 1962 various surfers at Gallows. Photos courtesy of Brian Cole.
Top: (Left) Bob Keenan. (Right) Bob Keenan & Brian Cole.
Bottom: (Left) Dave Williams. (Right) Brian Cole.
Photo: January 1963 North End Board Club lads surfing Gallows. Murray d’Arcy pic.
Photo: 1963 Terry ‘Rat’ James performing ‘Quasimodo’ maneuver at Gallows. Photo courtesy of Sonny James.
Geoff Berry – In the early 60s Merv hart, Mark Waddell, Martin Pardoe, Brian Boynes & myself bought a Hudson Pacemaker sedan to save our own vehicles and use as our ‘Surfari Wagon’. It was big enough to sleep full strength across the back seat. We even took it down the gallows track.
Unfortunately it made its last fateful trip to Yallingup circa 1964. Refer Surfing Down South book for more details.
Image: 1964 Hudson Pacemaker similar to the boys ‘Surfari Wagon’. Image courtesy of Geoff Berry.
Extract from Arthur Sherburn’s Surf Diary – Gallows Sunday 2 Jan 1966. Courtesy of Arthur & Surfing Down South book.
One of the best sessions we (Rex, Bartle & I) have ever had here. Fantastic tubes. Rainy, cool water and air. We had half of the session to ourselves. ‘TOO MUCH’. Then 3 Yallingup guys came Droppin’ In. Session started!!!
Photos: 1964 Gallows vehicles on water logged Cullen Rd. Arty Sherburn pics.
Left: Bruce Brown’s FC Holden bogged.
Right: Ford Anglia & FJ Holden on soggy track.
Geoff Berry – Former Cottesloe surfer/photographer Dave Condon took these pics of Ken ‘Kiwi’ White, Mic Lindsay & myself at Gallows in ’65.
Kiwi (retired tuna spotter) now lives at Port Lincoln in South Aust. His home beach is Cactus and he travels OZ and the surfing world chasing waves.
Mic (former City Beach surfer) now lives on the NSW mid north coast with his wife Wendy. He surfs and swims many kilometers per day.
I now live on the NSW mid north coast with my wife Julie. During the 70s & 80s I surfed Indo, Fiji & Hawaii. These days I surf the East Coast from Manly to Crescent Heads.
Photos: 1965 Gallows photos by Dave Condon.
Top: (Left) Geoff Berry’s trusty VW Beetle on Gallows track. (Right) Gallows beach car park. L-R Ken ‘Kiwi’ White, Mic Lindsay & Geoff Berry
Bottom: (Left) Geoff Berry. (Right) Mic Lindsay.
Jim King – My first surf trip to Gallows was ‘66-67 with Colin Cordingley and the Cordingley Surf Team. The team included Kevin Ager, but I can’t remember the other surfers. The left was big & unruly so we surfed a punchy right north of the main break. (I think it is now called Hangman’s). The right hand peak was a challenge on our heavy Malibu boards.
In the late 60s Yallingup Board Club surfers Brian Boynes & Mark Waddell used a Morris Mini-Moke as a beach buggy to traverse the Gallows track. They would leave Yalls car park suited up in scarfs and racing goggles to protect themselves against the elements on the trip to Gallows. When they returned from Gallows, they were covered in black dirt and looked like coal miners after a long shift underground. The only clean spots were around their eyes after they took their goggles off.
Photo: 1968 unidentified surfer at Gallows. Jim McFarlane pic.
Mike Bibby – My only recollection of Gallows is the black sand which was bloody hot in summer and going with Bill Oddy in his Simca sedan. Being the fastidious Mr Clean we had to wash the sand off our feet after a session in a bucket provided by Bill otherwise we weren’t allowed in the car. No photos unfortunately!
Photo: 1970 Gallows track unidentified surfer’s XL Falcon panel van. Jim McFarlane pic.
Photo: 1968 Murray Smith surfing Gallows. Photo courtesy of Murray Smith.
Jim McFarlane – Kevin Merifield spent a lot of time surfing Gallows and Guillotine. As we sometimes walked down the track, boards on head and towels wrapped around our faces, we could hear Kevin roaring up the dirt track in his Mercedes. He seemed to be able to get up & down the track in almost any conditions.
Photo: 1968 Kevin Merifield’s Mercedes 280SE on the Gallows dirt track – Jim McFarlane pic.
Coming soon 1970s Gallows surf break & dirt track.