Surfing at Rottnest Island has been a popular pastime since the mid-50s. By the mid-60s Cottesloe surfers were making regular surf trips to Rotto on the ‘Islander’ ferry. The early crew surfed Transit Reef and Salmon Bay. It appears Strickland Bay wasn’t surfed until late 60s or early 70s.
1962 Modelling Gig at Rotto
Surfboard manufacturer Len Dibben was at Rottnest Island on the Australia Day weekend in 1962.
Len Dibben ”I was on a modelling assignment for Walsh’s Menswear store and some of my Cottesloe surfing mates were able to come over. I was flown over for the Gig and put up at a Chalet and the boys came over on the Saturday and moved in. As I remember, the swell was up all weekend and we surfed Transits. On the Sat nite, the guys were doing Belly Bumps at the Quokka Arms. We were offered a passage back on a private launch. We tied the 9 x 9 ft plus boards onto the roof of the cabin and set sail, but when we hit the open sea we discovered they were not tied on properly. So a few of us had to get up on the roof and do the job properly with waves breaking over the bow, it was bloody dangerous!”
Photo: 1962 Rottnest Left to Right. Brian Webster, Len Dibben, Graeme Booth, Rick Skelton, Jeff Dalziel, Ron Allen, Bob Birch, Harold Gregory in front sitting Girl unknown & Dave Aylett. Photo credit Len Dibben.
1963 First Surf Trip to Rotto
Talented Cottesloe surfer Ashley Jones and his older brother Kim were amongst the early wave seekers. The Jones boys first surfed Transit Reef in ’63.
Ashley Jones: “In ’63 my brother Kim came out to Transits in a rented dinghy with a 3hp Johnson and tried to catch some waves with us and also keep an eye out for sharks. Chris Dermer was with us. I think Chris was still on Coolites then. I started surfing in earnest with Dermer on Coolites a few years before. My first Cordingley board was blue with white Detroit flash detail and very light weight for the time, maybe 8’6” (see image). My parents bought it from Renee Lee-Steere, his mother didn’t like her son surfing. It had been floating around in a swimming pool at their farm in Toodyay.
A couple of years later Theo Mathews and Michael Trimby and I think someone else were circled by a shark at Transits, it was serious as two of the guys were in a flooded canoe after trying to hook into a few waves. The shark passed under them several times. They were very lucky as a passing yacht got them out of the water in the nick of time. It added weight to the saying, up shit creek in a wire canoe. This whole story was covered in the West or maybe the then Daily News. Theo may even have a cutting of the article.
Guy Leyland & I have surfed a fantastic break just to the right of the Basin on a good north swell. Another interesting place to surf in the following years was Garden Island, a whole other can of worms.”
Ashley Jones won the individual trophy at the 1967 State School Boys contest held at Scarborough and was Yallingup Board Club’s Junior champion in 1968. Ashley & his wife Nina now live in the SW and are directors of Gunyulgup Galleries at Yallingup.
Photos: (Left) 1963 Rotto surfing trip L-R: Ashley Jones, Chris Dermer and Kim Jones. Ashley (age 12) is holding his first Cordingley Surfboard. Photo credit Tony Jones (oldest brother). (Right) 2010 Ashley surfing Rotto. Photo credit Ashley Jones.
**Edited to add:
Theo Mathews was there that day on Transit Reef and true to story, has submitted a news clipping about that day.
Theo Mathews: “The third person out at Transit Reef on that day when we were circled by the shark was no other than journalist Piers Ackerman. Fisherman Alan Abjornsen had been watching us through binoculars and could see we were in trouble. He came and saved us in his dingy.”
Daily Mail, 28 January 1964
1963 Summer Holidays at Rotto
Scarborough surfers Jeff & Errol Considine witnessed the Jones boys surfing Rotto in 1963.
Errol Considine: “Ashley Jones was always a terrific surfer who I admired…..in fact he & his brother Kim were the first surfers I met. We went to Rottnest with the family for summer hols in 63 and there were two mals strapped across the bow of the ‘Islander’ ferry – next morning my brother Jeff and I spotted the Jones boys out getting an early morning wave at Transit in Thompson Bay. I think by next summer Jeff got his first board – a second hand 9’6″ Barry Bennett three-stringer with red rails and we were both hooked!!”
Ashley Jones: “We first met Errol and Jeff Considine in 62-63, when we spent several days body surfing a reef at Penguin Island whilst staying at Safety Bay. This was pre-surfboard surfing for all of us.”
Photos: (Left) 1960s Rottnest Islander ferry. Image credit Ferries of Aust. (Right) 1966 Marg River Errol & Jeff kissing the road after digging their Mini Minor out of a dirt track. Image credit Geoff Moran.
1966 School Holidays at Rotto
Young City Beach surfers Barry ‘Baz’ Day & Colin ‘Pig’ Moss spent the August 1966 school holidays at Rottnest with Colin’s family. The boys surfed Transit, hung out at the Tearooms and went to the pictures. Baz met his future wife Terri Williams of Cottesloe on these holidays. They cannot recall how they got talking in the Tearooms, but agree it would probably have been Terri that approached shy Barry. Now nearly fifty years on they live in the SW and Baz is still chasing waves.
Photo: (Left) 1966 school holidays on Rotto Barry Day (age 13) & Terri Williams (age 12). Photo courtesy of Terri Day (nee Williams). (Right) 1969 Barry Day & Colin Moss at City Beach. Photo credit Moss family.
1969 Quokka Arms at Rotto
The Hotel Rottnest building (formerly the Quokka Arms Hotel) has been a magnet for generations of Western Australians. This historic hotel was once where the Governor of WA would lodge on Rottnest during summer.
Photos: 1969 City Beach crew socialising at the Quokka Arms Hotel. (left) Bruce King on someone’s bike with Peter Mac drinking on the lawn. (Right) Terry Franklin, Jude & Robyn McDonald (Peter Mac’s sister). Photo credits Robyn Brockman (nee McDonald).
**update 19/04/2015 text and image courtesy of Theo Mathews