1960-70s Phillip Island Vic surf trips by Rod Slater, Mal Leckie and Steve Cockburn

During the late 60s and early 70s many WA surfers made the long trip across the Nullarbor to surf good waves on Phillip Island in Victoria.

This is a collection of Phillip Island memories by WA surfers Rod Slater, Mal Leckie and Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn.

My Phillip Island Memories by Rod Slater

In mid 1968 I caught a train from Perth to Sydney with surfer Rod McCarthy from Tweed Heads. There we met up with Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and in his black FJ we drove up north to Coolangatta, surfing Crescent Heads and other beautiful places on the way. We stayed at Rod Mac’s house for a few days then shifted into the Coolangatta surf club. We surfed some ‘lovely’ winter Queensland waves and saw some very good surfers.  We even got a job on a building site at Southport but that only lasted a day or two.  One day we saw a car with WA number plates on it at either Snapper Rocks or Coolangatta, with a family and a couple of very young surfers in it. I believe it was the Bettenay bros.

After a while we headed back down South and finished up at Phillip Island, a place Jock had stayed at before.  Jock had several nasty car crashes on the drive to the Island, not sure from where, hence the missing teeth in photos. Apparently in one such incident he drove off the road and straight up the guide wire holding the pole and then smashed to the ground. The whole time Peter Lummis was asleep on the back seat wrapped in a sleeping blanket. I believe they both walked away reasonably unscathed. We surfed and worked, more surfing than working. Especially through the winter months work was a little scarce.  At this time besides Jock, Lum and myself, there were other WA surfers on the Island including Mal Read, Bob Shenston, Craig ‘Clarrie’ Brentwhite, John Balgarnie and Jamie Doig with visits from people like Peter Bothwell and many others. I think Fred Annesley and I may have stopped there on the way back from staying at Kirra after the Australian titles in 1969.

On subsequent visits I travelled with Mark Waddell, with whom I lived and shared an abalone shelling job, working one day a week each. On my last visit, I travelled over with Mal Leckie and a young lady from Scarborough, Sue-Ellen Nyman.  We stayed off the Island this time with a guy, Peter Connelly from Inverloch, who used to sand and finish boards with Greg ‘Pantsman’ Laurenson when he had his own business behind City drycleaners in Scarborough Beach Road, over the road from Hawke Brothers. On one trip Mark Waddell and I travelled from the Island to Tasmania in convoy with a Victorian surfer, Steve ‘Blue’ Nicholson, and then came back to WA with Blue.  I believe Blue went straight to work for Tony Harbison on the holiday houses he built at Yallingup (Hideaway Holiday Homes). I think Blue may still be living Down South. On one occasion I helped a young surfer named Tommy Tyrell glass a board he had shaped, he went on to become a successful board manufacturer owning a company called Island Surfboards (purely coincidental).

One year when I was glassing for ‘Pantsman’ in Scarborough Beach Road, we decided to travel in Pants’ new Falcon panel van to Bells Beach for the Easter competition. There was Pants, myself, Peter Connelly, Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn and Rick Syme (I think that is correct!). On the way we stopped at Cactus and then went on to Bells and then Phillip Island. I remember Rick surfing exceptionally well at both Cactus and at Flynn’s Reef on the Island. My only memory of Bells was seeing Nat Young walking out of the bush/sand hills with his red setter and a big hat. I think he was going through an ‘anti competition’ phase, or something like that!

In my time there I had the great privilege to watch and enjoy a young Wayne Lynch surf Flynn’s reef on his backhand; a very young Mark Richard have a few sessions either before or after the Bells contest (can’t remember which); Mark Warren in his young heyday and many other good surfers who travelled through.

Rod’s Phillip Island photos and comments follow:

Photo: 1968 the crew at Klemm Bell Surfboards in Gardenvale Vic. Rod Slater pic.

From the left – Peter Connelly, Reg Bell, Rod Slater, ‘Steve the Kid’ (not sure of his full name) and Terry Klemm.

RodThis shop was on the Nepean Highway in Gardenvale. Klemm Bell also had another factory in Torquay.

Photos: 1968 Phillip Island surfboards. Rod Slater pics.

(Left) Rod Slater with new Klemm Bell surfboard. (Right) Jock Campbell and Mal Read preparing for a surf at Cat Bay or Right Point.

Photo: 1968 Rod Slater surfing at Woolamai beach on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

RodNot my proudest moment but still a browneye in a small Woolamai tube!

Photo: 1968 Rod Slater and Mick Maddren at Cat Bay carpark on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

Photos: 1968 John Balgarnie’s Holden FB Ute on Summerlands Beach at Phillip Island. Rod Slater pics.

(Left) The crew with JB’s Ute. (Right) John Balgarnie and Craig ‘Clarrie’ Brentwhite with JB’s ute.

Rod – Summerlands is now famous because it is where the Penguin Parades are held!

Photo: 1968 Phillip Island road drama, Rod Slater pic.

RodJock Campbell broke split windscreen somehow and he (in the brown jumper), Mal Read (yellow shorts) and Mick Maddren (on the bonnet) were dramatising a bit!

Photo: 1968 Jock Campbell with his FJ and Mal Read at Cat Bay on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

Photos: 1968 Phillip Island Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and crew acting irresponsibly at Summerlands on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

RodWe sometimes scored some nice beach breaks around the ‘bay’ like beach.

Photo: 1968 Jock Campbell and one of the Kavanagh boys from Wonthaggi Vic at Woolamai Beach. Rod Slater pic.

Photo: 1968 Victorian Peter Connelly (on the left) at Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

1971 Phillip Island surf trip by Mal Leckie

I reckon it might be good to get a few yarns from some of the guys who went to Phillip Island in early 70s.

Names that come to mind from 1971, the year I went across to Victoria are Sheepdog, John Balgarnie, and Rod Slater. I know that Rod had done the trip before and I think the others had too. We had good quality waves at Woolamai and at Flynns Reef and surfed some decent beach breaks all the way down to Wilson’s Prom. Some of the spots didn’t break that year but Rod had glowing recollections of them. Express Point was one I think.

I could fatten the story up too. Rod saved a kid’s life at Kilcunda when he was washed off the rocks, a truck crashed into the back of us while we were driving along in Victoria one night, Rod built a new board in an old cow shed etc.

Image: 1969 Phillip Island Invitational Surfing Contest. Barry Young pic

1970 Phillip Island surf trip by Steve “Sheepdog’ Cockburn

I remember one afternoon at the Phillip Island Pub with John Balgarnie and Greg Laurenson, plus many members of the Phillip Island Surfboard Club (PISC).

As the afternoon wore on the boys got merrier. The PISC boys were showing off their tricks, one ate a whole middy glass down to the stump, another drank a pint of beer thru his nose whilst a third sculled a cigarette tray full of butts & beer. Then the visiting Maroubra Surfboard Club (MSC) team started pranks. One of their members nicknamed ‘Bucket Mouth’ got up on the stage and took over the lead singer’s role in the band and sang quite well. Another called ‘Krinkles’ got a crowd in the beer garden where he climbed a small slender tree and wobbled backwards & forwards on it like a huge koala bear, until it snapped and Krinkles and the tree came crashing to the ground. Not to be outdone Greg Laurenson climbed a mature Moreton Bay Fig type tree and tried to wobble a big horizontal branch, alas he lost his grip and came crashing to the ground and injured his forearm.

Apart from the novelty at the pub. The surf was good. Nice rights at Flynns Reef and rights and lefts at Woolamai Beach plus lefts at Cat Bay.

Tides are huge at Phillip Island and affect the surfing greatly. Some of the visitors from WA had part time jobs at the Koala Café and went surfing on the incoming to high tide. A great place to visit and surf.

Photo: 1970 Sheepdog sitting on the bonnet of his Holden panel van at Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island. Sheepdog pic.

Coming soon 1960-70s Phillip Island Vic surf trips by Steve Campbell and Bruce King

Long live fun surf trips.



1970s Gallows surf break & dirt track

Gallows surf break at Wilyabrup has been surfed since the late 1950s. Just getting to the waves via the notorious dirt track has been part of the adventure.

This is a collection of anecdotes and images from surfers who used the Gallows track to access waves in the region during the ‘70s.

This post continues from 1960s Gallows surf break & dirt track

Jim McFarlane (Yallingup) – Early summer was hell with bush flies breeding in plague proportions. I remember many walks from the gravel road down to Gallows, when the track had become impassable in two-wheel drives. Bags on back, boards on our heads and towels wrapped around our face, like something out of Lawrence in Arabia to keep the buggers away. Often we arrived at the surf black from ilmenite sand only to find a howling onshore. (Extract from Surfing Down Surf book published 2014).

Photo: 1975 Gallows wave line-up. Jim King pic.

Ronnie Jeffrey (Yallingup) – My mate Albie used to take me surfing at Gallows in his old Holden. The track was boggy black sand and the car wheels used to spin in the large ruts and tear up the track for anyone following us. We would park the car in the dirt car park and walk through the sand hills to the beach. On the trip back, we used to get a good run up at the track but always needed a crew in the car to push through the boggy bits.

In the 70s it was a fun crew surfing Gallows. Regulars included Horny Campbell, Mahdu Anderson, Kim ‘Boonga’ Hunter, Bruce King, Micko Gracie, Barry Green & Andy Jones. John Balgarnie & John Pozzi were always there too.

Editor’s note: Ronnie ‘Ratshit’ Jeffrey has lived at Yallingup since 1971. Initially he slept in George Simpson’s old Chrysler sedan abandoned outside Surfside Café, then he moved onto farm houses in Smiths Valley and Millbrook.

Photo: 1976 Gary Gibbon and hound, Sue Ware and hound with Ronnie ‘Ratshit’ Jeffrey at Peter Dyson’s place on Yallingup hill. Gary Gibbon pic.

Stewart Bettenay (Dunsborough) – In 1971 surf movie maker Bob Evans (NSW) came to WA to film his surf movie Family Free (1971). He bought eastern states surfers Mark Warren and Col Smith with him and was joined by WA surfers Ian Cairns and Craig Bettenay at Gallows. All surfers rode twin fins except Ian Cairns. Bob Evans accessed the Gallows dirt track in his Jaguar (aka Kevin Merifield in his Mercedes).

Image: 1971 Craig Bettenay (age 14) surfing Gallows on a twin fin surfboard. Bob Evans pic. This image appeared in Surfing World magazine.

Jeffrey ‘RE’ Marshall (Augusta) – We used to go down the Gallows track in my HR Panel Van. Around 1970 to 1973. We would drop the tailgate and three guys would sit on it, if we started bogging down they would jump off, shut the tailgate and push. The reason for sitting on the tailgate was to get weight behind the back wheels. On the Gallows Track there was what we called the Sump Eating Rock and The Rack Eating Tree.

Photo: 1971 Guinea pig race at Wilyabrup farm. Ric Chan pic.

L-R. RE Marshall, Stewart Bettenay, unidentified and Vin Nolan.

Gary Gibbon (Margaret River) – Andy Jones and I would quite often try and head down there on summer’s afternoons, to make good use of the afternoon sea breeze glass-offs and the higher tides, which Gallows always likes.

The Gallows track in the 70’s was always hideous. I learnt my lesson way back in the mid 70’s attempting a weekday solo sojourn in a VW beetle and got thoroughly bogged on the way down, on a day when there weren’t too many other takers. After fruitlessly waiting for others to come by and hopefully give me a hand, a local farmer (unfortunately I forget his name) thankfully hauled me out with his tractor, quietly admonishing me to “take a bit more care next time young fella”. I took his advice and from then on, unless I happened to be with someone in a 4 wheel drive, usually left my vehicle near the top of the track and took the long, dusty walk in.

I was always a bit surprised when occasionally, usually on Sundays down at Gallows upon kicking back after a session, I would see Trevor Anderson’s gang arrive … in this old banged up FC. Trevor and a bunch of his mates from around Dunsborough at the time, who frequently included people like Trevor McKinnon, Steve ‘Horny’ Campbell, Tall Tex, and Howard Johnson often used to get together for Sunday surf trips and head off in various directions in this old FC, which I think was Trevor’s and which I’m sure, he being a fine mechanic, kept in very good working order. The thing that got me, is that I never heard of them experiencing any bog issues on that track. From memory, coming back in particular, there was a really steep, sandy, shifty hill to negotiate, which TA’s FC apparently had little trouble (at least none that I heard about) in conquering. Though curious, I never did get around to asking him what the secret was. May be it was just good track driving skills, or a case of every one get out and push up this next bit.

My brother John now lives in Bali, he sent me these photos of a bogging of his car on the Gallows track circa 1979, in his little Datsun 120Y, which we used to take (or try to take) everywhere back in the day. To be honest, I don’t remember this one as well as the one I outlined in earlier correspondence, but John assures me I was there and he said some “nice winery guy” got us out.

Photos: 1979 John Gibbon’s Datsun 120Y bogged on the Gallows track. John Gibbon pics.Steve ‘Horny’ Campbell (Yallingup) – I loved going to Gallows with my surfing mates Trevor ‘Yip Yip’ Anderson and John Fox. We got stuck on that track so many times, particularly in the water/mud hole when water ran across the track after rain.

On the afternoon of my wedding to Wendy, I went surfing at Gallows (surfing’s good for the nerves!) with Trevor Anderson, Tex branch and Howard Johnson. We were worried we may get stuck on the dirt track and not make it back to the wedding ceremony on time.

Photo: 1970s Steve ‘Horny’ Campbell and Alf Burley walking up the sand hill from Gallows beach. Steve Campbell pic.

JohnTex’ Branch (Yallingup) – Horny Campbell, Trevor ‘TA’ Anderson , Howard Johnson and I purchased a FC Holden as a track car to be used at Gallows and Bears. On the day of Horny’s wedding, we were late back from our surf at Gallows and had to quickly shit, shower and change for the wedding and reception at the Dodd’s place in Meelup Hills.

Photo: 1980s Horny accepting his wedding gift (surfboard) from Capel Surfboard maker Peter Mercer. Steve Campbell pic.

Mal Leckie (Coolangatta Qld) – It was undoubtedly the most notorious track around 1971-2. I deeply regret not taking more photos in those days but I have a fairly vivid memory of one section of the track that turned tightly to the left (as you were coming out) around a tree with a low branch that would clip the roof racks off if you didn’t swing wide enough.

For a while, there was an old pipe-style rack bar hanging on the offending branch, bent in half. I guess it was wrapped there in frustration by someone and left as a warning.

That section of the track was the worst because you had to have speed up and turn hard left at the same time. Most cars would let their team out so they were ready to push at the right time. Sometimes several carloads of blokes were needed to get a car through. Everyone ended up covered in dust as cars bounced violently up the hill.

Nearly everybody drove ordinary cars too, so it was no easy job getting back up the track. I went south with Paul Jacobsen most times and his Kombi was at great risk on that bend so we tended to avoid the Gallows track. I remember going down there in John Fox’s HD Holden station wagon once or twice and I think we even went down in Bill Oddy’s Volvo 144 once to. It was a surprisingly good track car.

The best cars were VW Beetles because they had the flat floor that skidded across the bumps and you could get a couple of fellas standing on the back bumper to keep weight on the rear wheels.

I do remember being down there one day when goofy footer Col Smith from Sydney was there and we were all amazed at how small and light his boards were. We considered them unsuitable for WA waves but he had no trouble getting them to work.

Although I am a long time gone from the west, I love the place heaps and your bits and pieces sort of help keep me there.

I have drawn up that memory of the dusty bend around the tree at Gallows. It’s very sketchy but I hope it will do the job and maybe jolt other memories. I tried to give it a feel of dirt and black dust, and put a towel over one guy’s head to maybe remind us of all the flies. I’m reasonably happy that the ‘feel’ is right although the detail might be lost in 45 years of memory haze.

This bit of the track I remember best because it was a tight uphill turn around a tree that had a thick low branch with a reputation for tearing off roof racks. There was an old roof rack bent over the offending branch, as a warning to others I guess.

I am thinking of doing the sketch up as an ink drawing and maybe running a small edition of prints. For what it’s worth, I think the wagon I remember was John Fox’s, but not sure. My apologies to Holden fans for what I have done to that HD’s front.

Image: 1972 Gallows track drawing by Mal Leckie. Image courtesy of Mal Leckie.

Ric Chan (Auckland NZ) – There were lotsa flies and it was very, very dusty. I actually took the red Jag in there once and had to have it pushed out!

Photo: 1970s unidentified surfers pushing a surf wagon loaded with boards back up the hill at the notorious Gallows track. Ric Chan pic.

Phil Usher (Gold Coast Queensland)Nev Hyman and I went to school together at Bentley High School. We started Odyssey Surfboards in Leederville in 1976. I also shaped with Murray Smith at HotBrewz surfboards for a while in the mid 80s. Nev and I teamed up again on the Gold Coast in Queensland for several more years along the way followed by many shaping stints in many countries worldwide.

Back in the 70s we went down south regularly, one year we went 51 out of 52 weeks. Gallows was a favourite surf spot. The dirt track was horrific and we used to choke on the flies. We wore straw hats with double fly nets with elastic bands around the bottom of the nets and our necks to keep the flies out. Despite the hats and nets, flies would be all over our faces and we couldn’t swat them because we had boards under one arm and wetties on the other. The walk was a killer but the waves were worth it, No crowds and great lefts, particularly on a small swell. We got sick of the walk, flies and summer heat.

To the rescue. Nev had a 64 Kombi and I had a 67 Ford Anglia. We used Nev’s Kombi for the Gallows track because my Anglia couldn’t do it! Nev would gun the Kombi and four of us would stand on the back bumper bouncing the Kombi all the way there and back. Dedicated and diligent with a touch of crazy was the order of the day. Poor Nev had a few repair bills along the way, but it was way better than the alternative.

The waves at gallows on a small day were great for fun and on the right larger days it had plenty of grunt. The best thing back in the 70’s was no crowds. Back then, some people had not even heard of it.

When asked what I remember most about Gallows, it is not the surf I recall, it is the taste of fresh fly in abundance. That never leaves you. All jokes aside, it was a cracker secret spot back in the day.

The following Smith Beach shot has me second from right with Blair Mieklejohn to my left and Bill Mieklejohn to my right and Nev with the fuzzy top leaning on the driver’s door.

Photo: 1970s Nev’s surf mobile bogged on the back track to Smiths Beach. Wayne Murphy pic.

L-R Lee Potter, Nev Hyman, Rod Hernaman, Blair Miekeljohn, Phil Usher and Bill Miekeljohn.

Gary Greirson (Dunsborough) – I’ve been bogged many times in the black dirt on that track. It was always hot and there were lots of flies as we only surfed there in the summertime. Our VW had the most trouble under the peppies on the first hill back from the beach, there was a bend like a dog’s hind leg.

Many times we were struggling back up the track and Kevin Merifield would drive past in his Mercedes sedan.

Photo: 1970 Max Hickson, unidentified girl and Les Wright at Gallows. Ric Chan pic.

Jim King (Dunsborough) – In the early 70s I used to go to Gallows with the late Lindsay Thompson in his VW kombi. The rigid chassis of the Kombi wasn’t suited to the big ruts & black dirt of the Gallows track. One of the Kombi’s wheels was nearly always off the ground and a lot of pushing was required to get back up the track.

At other times, my wife Kath & I would tackle the track in our 2wd Toyota Corona. While surfing I would be wondering how we would get back up the sandy track, as they weren’t many people around in those days to help push us out, if required. Driving back up the track, the engine would be screaming and rear wheels spinning in a cloud of black dust….but as long as we were moving forward it was all good! The sight of old car bodies rotting in the bush next to the track wasn’t reassuring!

Photo: 1970 Gallows. Blaxell team rider Jim King.  Tom Blaxell pic.

Ross Utting (Metro)Of all the trips I did to Gallows, I can only remember three cos they were bad trips. The first two were in Morris Minors owned by David Moss & Glen Carroll. Who in their right mind would even contemplate taking a Morrie into Gallows! They were gutless and their tyres were about 2 inches wide. Both times we made it to about a 20 minute walk to Gallows & then got heaps of help to manhandle us out. After that we sacked the Morris & tried an FJ Holden panel Van owned by Gerard Waddell.

Made it all the way, but going back up the hill after our surf was a real battle. We had blokes all around the car pushing as well as four blokes standing on the rear bumpers bouncing the FJ to get traction each time we hit a hollow. Just got out, but Gerard was real worried about the toll it had on the fragile FJ.

Our Gallows strategy was never be the last to leave, cos there was only one way out and if you got stuck, those behind you had to help or they couldn’t get out.

Photo: 1976 Ross Utting with his Blaxell orange flyer single fin surfboard at Gallows. Jim King pic.

Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn (Metro) – I didn’t go there a lot!  But I have had Gallows & Guillotine surf really good. I remember surfing Gallows with John Balgarnie and having left hand waves, overhead height, that were cylindrical tubes & very fast.

Another time Peter Bothwell and I surfed Gallows on Tracker surfboards from West Coast Surfboards and the surf was hollow & amazing.

The dirt track was by far the worst track I’d experienced down south. The first part being flat but extremely boggy, then it weaved & winded steeply down between trees that were very close together.

At one State Surfing Contest Murray Smith & Terry Jacks surfed off in the Final at Guillotine. The waves were small at first, less than shoulder high, but soon they picked up to twice the size, with long lefts & short rights. There were some great rides, but I don’t remember who won. Because the surf conditions changed so much during the Final, it made it very hard for the WASRA judges scoring that event!

Photo: 1970 Sheepdog surfing Guillotine right hander in his multi coloured wettie. Ric Chan pic.

Craig Blume (Metro)The Gallows track back in the 70’s was a place to perfect and hone your dirt track driving skills, it was unforgiving and a great money earner for local mechanics and businesses.

I remember one day ‘Springhead / Grimmie’ (Graeme Lesley) took a bunch of us for a surf at Gallows in his EH Holden sedan.  ‘Springhead’ negotiated down the track to the surf like a true veteran even though it was badly rutted with lots of loose dirt and rubble where guys had been previously bogged. The return was somewhat different. He started off well picking good lines through the deep ruts until about the half way up the hill where the track detoured around a couple of big trees.  At this point he slipped off our line, because of all the bouncing, bottomed out and got stuck – couldn’t move forward or backward.  We were there for hours trying to free his beloved EH but with each attempt the car slipped closer to becoming impaled against a trees.  Finally exhausted, pissed off and sweaty and black from all the digging, pushing and dust from wheels spinning, not to mention the flies relentlessly attacking our eyes, getting up your nose and in your mouth, ‘Springhead’ decided he’d go and ask a farmer for help. At that time the rapport between some farmers and surfers wasn’t too good.  Well, after waiting for an hour or so with the sun slowly setting in the west and the boys getting more agitated by the minute we heard and saw the cavalry – ‘Springhead’ in the distance driving a tractor coming to retrieve his beloved EH before it was sacrificed to Huey.

Photo: 1975 Craig Blume and NW surf pioneer Craig Howe with their Cordingley surfboards at City Beach. Craig Blume pic.

Brian Bell (Dunsborough) – I remember turning off the gravel on Cullen Road and heading into the bend at the top the hill that leads into those huge ruts and black sand that became hot as hell in summer!

Photo: 1970s unidentified surfers recuperating after successfully negotiating a sandy section of the Gallows track. Ric Chan pic.

Mark Hills (Quindalup) – In ’81 I nearly drowned in a Surfside Board Club competition at Gallows. I was on the inside and my Pipelines leg rope got caught around a rock. I couldn’t release it. It was only 3ft deep, but I was held under water in the swells and couldn’t make it to the surface for a breath.

Photo: 1980s young Mark Hills. Hills family pic.

Theo Mathews (Margaret River) – The following photo was taken by Ashley Jones around 1977 of yours truly on a 5’3″ modified foamy (stringer, fins and leg rope) at Gallows. The board was shaped by Chris Reynolds and finished by Ashley with acrylic house paint that lasted for years. They conceived the idea for small shore-break surf but ironically we rode fair size waves with late take-offs, including Margs main break, Injidup carpark, South Point, Uluwatu in Bali etc.

Photo: 1977 Theo Mathews surfing on modified foamie at Gallows. Ash Jones pic.

Black dirt, bush flies, waves and fun times at Gallows…….





Tom Blaxell’s Gallows recollections

Tom Blaxell is one of the pioneers of WA surfing. He was involved in the surf industry from the 1960s to 1990s. He is a past President of Dolphins Surfriders and was made a Life Member of the club in 1975. Tom is also a Life Member of WASRA (1982) and served as President of WASRA from 1995-97.

These are Tom’s Gallows recollections:-

My first introduction to the Gallows was with the Dolphin Surfriders in the mid 60’s. The Dolphins were largely a group of down south surfing pioneers who had originally banded together in the 50’s as the West Coast Board Club nicknamed the Big Wheels… because they had cars!

This older crew included Kevin “Legs” Merrifield who I consider to be the spiritual Grand Master of surfing in WA today, Ron “Jungle” Drage who was one of the first to ride Yallingup, Dave “Globehead” Williams who led the discovery of Guillotine as a surf spot, Ray Geary who Gearys surf break is named after, Tony Harbison who went on to build Hideaway Cottages at Yalls, Ray Nelmes the ultimate hairy back amongst hairy backs, Alan Robbins, Stan Duffy, Don Campbell, Rob Wakefield, Keith Smith, Glen Marshall, Ken Gimm, Alan Cough and several others.

It was they who had earlier organised South West farmer Boodge Guthrie to bulldoze the Gallows track skirting away from the Cullen cottage right down to the beach for 15 quid. The West Coast Board Club ended up fading out when they were made to pull down their shack in the grounds of Caves House, some went over east, others went overseas, most ended up getting married, going into business and headed off in all different directions.

The reform in the 60’s as Dolphins gave us younger guys including Garry Nicholas, Johnny Wynne, Geoff House, Jim McFarlane, Bruce Elliott and Steve Fordham the privilege of a fantastic mentor peer group because not only were they fearless trail blazing adventurers who lived and enjoyed life to the full, with a real sense of humour, but by that time were mostly successful trades men, business men and go getters who gave us great examples to follow on all sorts of levels in life.

“Legs” for example at that time was in partnership with Kerry Stokes and could have gone to the very top of the Australian corporate ladder, but later chose to turn south and apply his talents there, as well as soak up its natural blessings on a daily basis.

Photo: 1970s Kevin Merifield with his Blaxell Surfboard at Trigg Point. Ric Chan pic.

Later on in the 90’s I asked him if he would become the patron for Surfing WA. He asked me what that entailed so off the cuff I said “Well it means you have to keep surfing!” (as a bit of a joke, because I already knew that he did!)…He responded “What on a short board?” (He wasn’t getting any younger and I could sense a little bit of strain in his voice, so I kept the pressure on)… “Yeah of course!”… “Well it’s not getting any easier, but I think I can keep it up !”… “Great you’re in!”

Deal done. To this day he’s still out there most days, even if he can’t stand up any more, post inner ear and hip replacement operations.

The other good thing about the old guys was that they had wheels. My first trip down south was in Ken Gimm’s Falcon station wagon. We stayed in a Caves House shack that was still standing at the time, where I was introduced into the wonders of a blue flame competition and the supposed risk of abdominal explosion if you happened to suck in by mistake.

In those days the “search” was still on in full force to explore for new uncrowded perfect waves and to learn what breaks worked best in the various conditions and swells. Dirt tracks and bush bashing featured heavily in these explorations and our original search engines were 2 wheel drives. Looking back from today’s cruisey four wheel drive viewpoint, it really is amazing the places we used to pump our 2 wheel drives through. Some of course didn’t make it and there was always the odd dead wagon that had died and been abandoned.

Dirt tracks are an embedded facet of West Australian surf trips and Gallows was just the start. Places like Rocky Point, the Farm, the Other  Side of the Moon, Injidup Point, Wilyabrup, South Point, Lefties, Big Rock, Ellenbrook, Grunters, Conto’s, Booranup, Black Point and Bears all had their challenges.

Photo: 1972 Tom’s ‘Blaxell Surfrider’ HK panel van negotiating the boggy Gallows track. Jim McFarlane pic.

The Gallows track was always a major challenge because of its deep soft sand, steep hills, creek beds, valleys and wooded with trees, sometimes hot n dusty, other times wet n muddy and there was always the ever present danger of getting seriously bogged.

The first time I hit it, I was actually reasonably conditioned for it. I had been rattled around in the back of Graeme Pateman’s Vauxhaull ute on the Long Point track many times by then. He was a madman at the wheel and the ride was like being on a roller coaster in a bumper car, and just so much fun!  Pity about the boards that sometimes got knocked around.

Don Campbell brought down a brand spanking new Ford ute one time to put to the test and feeling a bit concerned about it I said “Don’t you worry about scratching and messing up your brand new pride and joy ?”  His wizened response was “Tom, cars are made for using, not for looking at.”

So from that day on I adopted the same attitude and when not long after I got my own first pride and joy, a FC Holden ute, I didn’t hold back either, and to this day I still wear scratches with a sense of pride. There’s no St Georges Terrace tractor for me.

Photo: 1967 Tom Blaxell, Garry Nicholas & Johnny Wynne in the back of Tom’s FC ute at Miami just around the corner from Gearys. Tom Blaxell pic.

The FC ute was later repainted bright Kodak yellow and became known as the Yellow Submarine.

On one memorable occasion in 1968 I was back at Long Point in my FC ute when the Meckering earthquake struck. It was a big deal and everyone was pretty freaked out about it but I didn’t feel a thing or even know about it because I was doing the roller coaster along the track when it struck. I thought that was pretty cool.

Another moment in the FC ute came at Salmon Beach out past Windy Harbour with Garry and Johnny. I had been giving it a fair bit of stick getting through the sand when I got the red light on the dash… followed by steam coming from under the bonnet. So in typical silly teenage fashion we decided to take the radiator cap off and have a look.

That of course allowed the last remaining coolant to burst out to the heavens.  Then we were faced with the prospect of no water to replace it, out in the middle of nowhere and no one else around. We were stranded. Then came the light bulb moment.  Piss in it! The three of us took turns to empty our bodily fluids into the radiator. We didn’t manage to fill it, but with a bit of gentle motoring along the track we did make it back to town.

Going back to the Gallows, getting down to the surf was always very refreshing. It was a reliable wave that caught the swell easily and even handled the sea breeze reasonably well because of the protection from the reform.

Photo: 1968 Tom Blaxell surfing Hangman’s at Gallows. Tom Blaxell pic.

It also had a bit of a mystical fairy tale atmosphere about it with the little Cullen’s cottage that you could see from the water out at Hangman’s, set amongst the wooded hills and even complete with a damsel!

Photo: 1969 Tom Blaxell on a Hangman’s sparkler at Gallows. Tom Blaxell pic.

Recently by chance I discovered that a friend, Dr Cullity’s daughter Jude, 50 years ago planted the very first premium grape vine in the Margaret River region at his property across the road from Gallows at Vasse Felix in Autumn 1967.

For more information on Vasse Felix click on The Weekend West 25-26 February ‘Age makes fine wine and fond memories’ by Wendy Barrett.

Jude tells me that the Cullity’s and Cullen’s were both vineyard pioneers across the road from each other and that the local folklore is that some previous owners of the Cullen property ran an unofficial abattoir and used to hang the stock from the trees which led to the property being nicknamed the Gallows.

If this is true, then this may well be the reason that Dr Cullen’s friend Rankin Wilson (who is said to be the first to surf Gallows) named it Gallows, rather than for the characteristics of the break. Interesting!

Tom now works in the Marine Industry at Hillary’s and still enjoys surfing.

For more Gallows history watch out for 1970s Gallows surf break & dirt track (Parts 1 & 2) on Saturday 20 May 2017.




Elton John’s 1971 Australian Tour – Perth concert images by Ric Chan

Our principal surf photographer Ric Chan is a man of many talents.

He was the lead singer in a popular NZ Band before heading to the East Coast of OZ to pursue a surf photography career in the late 60s.

During the 70s in Perth, he was a journalist for Independent Newspaper, a DJ at Gobbles Night Club, surf photographer for West Coast Surf Magazine, a fashion model, and even a Voiceover talent for Jeans West and a number of other Perth companies.

Photo: 1970s dapper Ric in Perth City with his red jaguar. Ric Chan pic.

Ric Chan produced weekly Surfing and Music columns in the Independent Newspaper.

Image: 1971 Ric’s music column dated 10 October 1971 in Independent Newspaper. Image courtesy of Ric & Independent Newspapers.

Elton John’s first tour of Australia and New Zealand started in Perth, Western Australia on 16 October 1971 at Subiaco Stadium.

Local radio station 6KY promoted/sponsored the Perth concert and Perth band Mark IV was the support band.

Photo/Journo Ric Chan covered Elton’s Perth concert for the Independent Newspaper.

These are some of Ric’s photos of the Elton John’s Perth media reception and Concert.


Photo: 1971 Elton John Concert media reception. L-R Elton John, Nigel Olssen & Dee Murray. Ric Chan pic.

Ric Chan:Nigel and Dee were Elton’s backing group”.

Photos: 1971 Elton John Concert media reception. Ric Chan pics.

Photo: 1971 Elton John Concert media reception. Ric Chan pic.

Photo: 1971 Elton John Concert media reception. L-R 6KY DJ’s unidentified and Dennis Commetti. Ric Chan pic.

Editor’s note: “Dennis Commetti went on to become a renowned AFL Football Commentator. He announced his retirement from AFL football commentating at the end of the 2016 football season”.


Ric Chan: “I was allowed free movement around the stage, but the best position was from where I shot from. I think I was the ONLY photographer to shoot that concert”.

Photos: 1971 Elton John rocks at the Perth Concert. Ric Chan pics.

Photos: Elton John’s Perth Concert drummer Nigel Olsson with drum kit. Ric Chan pics

Ric Chan: “Nigel and I spent some time together and I recall him telling me he had his drums custom made.”

Photos: 1971 Elton John performing Perth Concert. Ric Chan pics.

Photos: 1971 Elton John rocking at Perth Concert. Ric Chan pics.

Back in the ‘70s, Ric photographed many of the International artists visiting Perth, including the Rolling Stones, Bee Gees, ACDC, Nina Simone, Deep Purple, Santana, Beach Boys, Led Zep and John Mayall.

Surfing Down South plans to feature Ric’s photos from some of those music concerts in future blogs.



1977 Arty Sherburn first WA surfer to win an Australian Title – Updated 10 May 2017

Update 10 May 2017. See Arty Sherburn’s comments below.

Hi Jim, thank you for the article on the 1977 Aussie Titles. It brings back some fond memories.

If I remember correctly, Australia experienced its first Pilots Strike just prior to us departing.

WASRA and our Team Manager, Tony Harbison organised at very short notice a number of Hire Cars in lieu of the cancelled flights. We all met on a Wednesday morning at Trigg Point Car Park (great to see some of Ric’s Photos covering the departure) and left in convoy (sort of!) at about 11am. I remember in our vehicle(a Falcon Stn Wgn) we had Tony Hardy, Peter Davison, Blair Mikeljohn and myself. We shared the driving except for Pete who was a Junior Grom in the back whose main contribution to the journey was continually asking “are we there yet Dad?”

Thankfully the Nullarbor section was mainly sealed and we drove continuously stopping only for fuel, something to eat and the necessary “lightening of the load so to speak”. We must have thought that all the road maps were out of date because we all seemed to have a different idea of  of the short cuts and “this way is quicker” routes. As the Titles started on Saturday we were under the pump to get to Sydney by Friday so we decided to head north from South Aust up through Cobar, fuel up and beat the rest of the Crew into Sydney.Great idea except by thetime we got to Cobar (what a God forsaken place!)the town was closed including the Servo and we were out of Fuel! We had our first sleep for the trip on the forecourt of the Garage waiting for them to open, and from memory it was about about as comfortable as the floor of the Dunnie’s at Yall’s on a winters night in the early 60’s. Finally we arrived at our destination, a Caravan at North Narra Beach at around 2pm Friday, after leaving Trigg about 48 hrs earlier.

We all had a surf and were  ready for the Contest to start the next morning. Not the sort of Pre Competition preparation I would recommend but we got there on time.

Thankfully the Pilots Strike ended and the Association were able to fly us back after the Contest.

Regards Jim, keep up the good Work with the Site. Arty Sherburn.


1977 State Team Departure

The West Australian Surf Riding Assoc (WASRA) arranged a media event at Trigg Point car park prior to the departure of the ‘77 State Team to the Australian Surfing Titles in NSW.

Surf photographer Ric Chan was there to record the Team’s departure.

Photo: 1977 WA surf team members and officials at Trigg Point car park. Ric Chan pic.

Photo: 1977 WA surf team officials & sponsors at Trigg Point. Ric Chan pic.

Photo: 1977 WASRA President Tony Harbison speaking to the media at Trigg Point. Ric Chan pic.

Photo: 1977 WA judge Greg Laurenson & competitor Colin Earle at Trigg Point. Ric Chan pic.

Photo: 1977 Media and sponsors at State Team departure. Ric Chan pic.

Photo: 1977 Sponsor’s representatives at State Team departure. Ric Chan pic.

1977 Australian Surfing Titles held in NSW

Contest heats were held in stormy conditions at Warriewood, Palm Beach & Collaroy. The finals and grand finals were held in near perfect 6-8ft Narrabeen lefts and rights.

WA’s Arty Sherburn won the Senior Men’s division of the Australian Surfing Titles.

He avenged his second placing in the same event the previous year and became the first West Australian surfer to win an Australian Title after 14 years of National competition.

Photo: 1977 WASRA President Tony Harbison presenting the National Senior Men’s Title trophy to Arty Sherburn (WA) in Sydney NSW. Photo courtesy of Arty Sherburn.

Arty’s surfing mate Barry Young finished 6th in the Senior Mens and WA’s Ross O’Brien came fifth in the Kneeboard division.

In the Open division WA surfers Tony Hardy and Bruce Hocking made it into the second round semi-finals and Chris Fulston was unlucky to miss out on a berth in the final.

WA judge Greg Laurenson was rated the fourth best judge at the Titles.

Contest Results:

Open: 1. Col Smith (Sydney) 2. Col Smith (Newcastle) 3. Andrew McKinnon (Vic)

Junior: 1. Chris Bryne 2. Tom Carroll 3. Steve Wilson (all NSW).

Senior: 1. Arty Sherburn (WA) 2. C Coulsen (Vic) 3. G Black (Qld).

Kneeboard: 1. Peter Crawford 2. J Waterworth 3. G Wilson (all NSW).

Women: 1. L Goebels (Qld) 2. V Burke (NSW) 3. G Couper (Vic).

WA surf journo Randell Owens covered the National Titles in his West Coast Tubes surf column in the Sunday Independent Newspaper on 29 May 1977.

Image: 1977 Randell Owens’ coverage of the National Surf Titles. Courtesy of Arty Sherburn.

Photo: 1977 WASRA Annual Award Presentation at Karrinyup Tavern. Adrian Wilson is presenting an award to Arty Sherburn. Tony Harbison is the MC in the background. Ric Chan pic.

Arty is now retired and lives in Cowaramup in the South West. He is still a talented surfer.