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Three Bears surf break & track in the 70s

In August 1971 surfers George Simpson, Mick Pearce & Mark Rudenberg discovered Three Bears surf break at Kabbijgup Beach. The boys had seen waves breaking along the cliffs north of Yallingup and walked in from Sugarloaf Rock to find the surf break.

American expatriate surfboard shaper Tom Hoye named it MGM after the initials of the three guys who discovered the place, but Perth guys later renamed it Three Bears after the 3 surf breaks Baby’s, Mama’s & Papa’s.

Tom was the first surfer to drive into Bears. He forged a track to Bears from his backyard in Dunsborough, along paddocks and fire breaks to connect with the beach track behind d’Espeisses’ property.

Circa ‘72 Tom and Craig Brent-White used their 4WD’s to create a rough track to Bears through coastal scrub land at Yallingup. In ‘73 Ralph Redman used his 4WD to improve the alignment of the coastal track from Yallingup.

Then the floodgates opened and Bears became an established surf location.

This a collection of anecdotes & photos from ’70s Bears user’s………

George SimpsonWhen we walked in to find Bears Beach in ’71, there were no tracks and the ground was rocky with spiky shrubs. I broke my Dunlop thong in the first half hour. The torturous 10klm trek along the cliffs from Sugarloaf Rock to Yallingup took us 7 hours.

I recall a big day at Bears in ’76. My brother Michael, Peta Baker from City Beach and Tracy (who later became my wife) and I were heading up the track to Bears and we passed Tom Hoye and Dave Hattrick coming back. They told us it was too big to surf and the bombies were wild. We found it was big and breaking outside the Mama’s boil. There was no one else there and it took Michael and I ages to get out the back… we got two waves that broke right through from outside Papa’s, right through Mama’s into Baby’s and were unable to get back out. It was pretty wild!

Photo: 1972 George Simpson surfing Injidup Car Park on a Geoff Culmsee single fin surfboard. Photo by Ian Ferguson courtesy of West Country Surf magazine.

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Tom Hoye – One afternoon, the boys came staggering into Caves House with raving stories of the perfect left-hander, saying, “You gotta go, you gotta go.” We trudged in at dawn to find a perfect 4 to 6ft left hander. A perfect day at Bears.

Photos: Tom Hoye in the SW.

Left: 1971 Tom Hoye outside old shack at Contos Beach, Margaret River. Gary Kontoolis pic.

Right: 1980 Tom Hoye surfing solid Baby’s. Photo (damaged) by Peter Davies.

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For detailed Three Bears recollections from George Simpson & Tom Hoye refer to the Surfing Down South book published by Margaret River Press in 2014. Reprinted 2014.

Bears track pioneers

Craig Brent-White – Circa ’72 Tom Hoye and I used our 4wd’s to create a coastal track to Bears from Rabbit Hill at Yallingup. Glen Lance was a passenger in Tom’s car and Tony Harbison was in my car when we made the first track to Bears from Yalls.

Ralph RedmanIn 1973 I strapped a steel railway line on the front of my Toyota Land Cruiser and pushed a coastal track through to Bears from Yallingup. It connected with an old air strip Budge Guthrie had made on top of the cliffs using an overgrown mineral exploration track. Earlier Tom Hoye had put through a track to Bears from Yallingup, but it was no good as it was high on the hill and too rocky.

Photo: 1976 Ralph Redman surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.

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Bruce KingMy version of the first surf session at Bears differs from George Simpson’s recollections in the SDS Book. 

I was with George and a few others the first time it was surfed. Craig Kalmund was also there and remembers arriving at the beach and George’s reaction was “F**k it’s a bit bigger today!” George was the first to enter the water and surf Bears. It was a classic day with the 3 distinct breaks, the bigger one outside, then the medium one, then the smaller break inside that’s why I called it “3 Bears”.

The area itself was referred to as “MGM’s” after the three George, Mark and Mick had walked from Sugarloaf to Yallingup a few days earlier. I remember them arriving back at Yalls and frothing about the waves they saw. In those days it was a walk along the cliffs from Sugarloaf & took about 40 minutes. Later on we worked our way into Bears in our cars from Rabbits at Yalls, sometimes spending the whole day just digging our cars out from the bog while trying to get up the sandy hill, no one had 4wd’s in those days.

Some days on the beach we had a real menagerie of people including Charlie “Dingbat”, Trevor “Yipyip” Anderson, Laurie “Pup” Nesbit, Ronny “Ratshit,” Steve “Horny” Campbell and other rascals. Charlie Dingbat and some of the others ran around naked. No one took water or any supplies, but hit the Dunsborough Bakery big time after a day’s surfing.   

Photos: 1973 Bruce King at Three Bears on Bill Oddy’s trail bike. Bruce King pics.

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Stewart BettenayIn the early 70s my brother Craig & I walked into Bears from Sugarloaf twice on the same day. It nearly killed us as we surfed heaps and had no food or water. We knew Tom Hoye had found a way to drive to Bears in his FJ Holden but didn’t know where the track was. Then one day we saw the sun glinting off the windscreen of his car and we discovered that he was using a track along firebreaks from Dunsborough. When the coastal track was pushed through from Yalls to Bears we used that track.

Photo 1983 Stewart Bettenay surfing Mama Bears. Dave Sheen pic

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Stewart Bettenay – Shortly after 3 Bears was being surfed by the next crew of surfers after the originals, a 17 year Craig Howe (Kalbarri and Gnaraloo pioneer) heard that the way to get there was from Sugarloaf Rock high along the cliffs, as there was no beach access.

Craig took this to be high up on the Ridge, so off he set by himself on a very hot March day. After 3 hours of walking and even throwing his board up on top of thick scrub and crawling along it, he finally arrived battered and scratched to be greeted by the sea-breeze. Surfers leaving the beach showed him the walk track back along the cliffs. Howie never got to go for a surf and described the experience as a “hideous journey” and never returned.

Photos: Mid ‘70s Trevor ‘Yip Yip’ Anderson (middle) and his mates surfing fun waves at Bears. Ric Chan pics.

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Ross UttingShortly after news of Bears leaked out I walked in from Sugarloaf Rock along the cliff tops with Bruce King & Micko Gracie. It was a solid one hour walk, although Bruce reckons he could do it in 45 mins. When we got there Baby’s was 4-5ft & beautiful, but there were 3 other guys already there. We knew them so it was ok. We surfed it all day, but because it was so crowded (ha!), we tag teamed so that there was never more than 3 or 4 guys in the water at a time.

Between surfs, one of the other guys showed me a pool just north of the big rocks at the Baby’s end, it was packed with abalone. Being a bit peckish, because we took neither food nor water, we managed to prise a couple off the reef & ate them raw. I recall them tasting a bit like coconut.

The next day I returned, this time with Russell Stranger, Stewart & Craig Bettenay. The waves weren’t as good, but we were the only ones there. I was better prepared this time, still no food or water, but armed with a screw driver & a canvas board bag.  Between surfs I collected about 10 kilos of abs & shoved them in my board bag. Big mistake! Lugging a board under one arm & 10kilos of abs stuffed in a bag over my other shoulder for an hour, after being completely surf out, was hell.

When we got back to Greenacres Holiday Homes, where Russell was staying, we tenderised the abs with a tyre lever & Russell’s wife Anne crumbed them & we cooked them on the BBQ. We ate the lot. Beautiful!

Photo: 1976 Mamma Bears line-up. L-R Steele George, Joe Fimmano & Graham Waddell. Jim King pic

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Mal Leckie – Surfside, Caves House and the Yalls carpark were the social pivot point for everyone who came down from Perth and most blokes slept there each night regardless of where they surfed each day.

At the end of each day most people would tell where they had been surfing and you built up a picture of who was going where. Mostly it was the same general area because of the swell. We knew everyone’s cars and you would see them driving along Caves Road or up to the Cape and turning off etc. Those were the days of thumbs up, thumbs down as you drove past each other haha.

I remember that we became a bit suspicious of a few guys who didn’t seem to have surfed anywhere; nobody had seen them and they weren’t talking at the pub. George was the one who stood out for his disappearing act as he was a prominent personality and usually very visible in a line-up, most often Margaret. Likewise Micko Gracie went quiet.

Those blokes kept the secret for a long time and went to all sorts of lengths to sneak away so nobody would follow. Even when three Bears was well known about as a break, how to get there was not. For a fair while I thought you had to walk there along the beach. I reckon it was ‘73 before most people knew where the track was.

Photos: 1972 Tom Blaxell Surfboards panel van on Bears track. Jim McFarlane photos.

Left: Greg ‘Egory’ McDonald, Bruce Elliot & Tom Blaxell on the Bears coastal track.

Right: Blaxell Surfboards panel van negotiating boggy section of Bears track.

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Andy Jones – Bears wasn’t crowded those days, as a lot of guys didn’t know about Bears and a 4WD was required until mid 70s. You knew everyone in the water. Then Ralph Redman & Tom Hoye pushed through a new coastal track from Rabbit Hill at Yallingup to Bears. Ralph drove a Volkswagon buggy or a 4WD and I used my VW sedan to access the dirt track to Bears. Later Ray Knott, Craig Brent-White, Mark Moody, Al Bean, Pat Bloomer, Laurie ‘Pup’ Nesbit & I started surfing the Bombie and Three sisters (south of Bombie) on big swells. Peter Mac nearly drowned at Three Sisters.

Photo: 1976 David ‘Dappa’ Plaistead surfing Mama’s. Andy Jones pic.

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Photo: 1976 Dave Seward surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.

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Photo: 1976 Mark Moody surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.

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Photo: 1976 Snowy from Eastern States surfing Mamma Bears.  Andy Jones pic

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Photo: 1976 Ralph Redman surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.

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Barry YoungIt was one of those classic autumn days. Ruler edged 4’ perfection and maybe 6 guys at Momma’s (my favourite) and after about 3 hours, although tired it was still too good to go in. I was praying for the onshore to kick in. By this stage only one other guy and I were out. He decides he has had enough and goes in. I stay out about another 20 minutes and finally some sort of light onshore wafts in. Not enough to really worry it but a good enough excuse. As I walk up the beach there’s the guy I had just been surfing with and his girlfriend. He’s sitting there with a cold beer in his hand and his girlfriend was kneeling behind him topless (as was often the case during the 70’s) and she is giving him a massage! As I walked by I couldn’t help but say to him…..” and I thought I was having a good day! “

Photo: Mid-late 70s. Barry Young surfing good sized Momma’s. Steve Russo pic.

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Barry Young – I remember Taj as a 2-3 year old playing with his tractor and dump truck in the sand on the water’s edge at Bear’s while Vance and Nancy were playing in the waves. Apparently he loved bouncing down the Bear’s track in their car and knew that was part of the deal once they got there. They always had their eye on him and besides Nance didn’t stay out too long. Taj was really at ease and happy anyway making truck noises etc.

Photo: 1977 Nancy Burrow surfing Mama Bears 4mths pregnant with Taj. Burrow family pic.

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Vance Burrow – I remember surfing 8ft Bears on my own hoping someone would turn up. It will never be like that again!

Photo: 1978 Vance Burrow 3 hour surf session at Baby Bears on a Tom Hoye surfboard. Burrow family pic.

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Vance & Nancy Burrow – In the 80s Park Ranger Mike Bachelor used to police the Bears track checking for dogs illegally entering the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. He disliked dogs and used to stand on the Bears track with his arms folded checking surfers cars for dogs. He would tell us to leave with our dog Papaya, but there was no way we were leaving if the waves were good. We would say to him “is our dog violating National Park air space?”

Editor’s note: Richie Myers told me about a SW surfer who used to sit his dog in the middle seat of his ute with a cap on, to get past the ranger.

Photo: 1977 Vance & Nance Burrow’s ‘Huey’ the VW checking the surf and ‘Papaya’ the dog checking the camera. Burrow family pic.

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Coming soon Three Bears surf break & track in the 80s.

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1968 Yallingup – Invitational Event at the State Championships

In 1964 Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly (NSW) won the World Mens Title at the first World Surfing Championships held at Manly Beach NSW. Midget won from Californians Mike Doyle & Joey Cabell.

Photo: 1964 Midget surfing Manly on his way to winning World Mens Surfing Title. Photo courtesy of Keith Campbell (former WASRA President).

1964 Midget Champion at Manly

In 1968 former Australian world surfing champion ‘Midget’ Farrelly was invited to WA to compete in a special Invitational Event held in conjunction with the State Championships at Yallingup on the LWE in March 1968.

The field for WA’s Invitational event included Midget, prominent WA surfer Terry Jacks, former South Australian Barry Young and representatives from most states.

Image: 1968 Midget arriving at Perth Airport for the Invitational event. Newspaper image courtesy of the Daily News.

1968 Invitational Comp Yalls - Midget Farrelly

There was a big crowd in attendance to watch Midget surf at Yallingup. He bought rounded pintail surfboards to the event and WA surfers saw the new design from the East Coast for the first time. It introduced another advance in WA surfboard design.

Photos: 1968 Yalls Midget Farrelly & spectators at the Invitational Event. Photos courtesy of Sally Jones (nee Gunter).

Top: (Left) Midget with WASRA President Ron ‘Doc’ Naylor. (Right) Midget descending steps to the beach.
Bottom: (Left) Midget heading out to surf in Invitational event. (Right) Midget returning to the beach with his rounded pintail surfboard.

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The invitational event was held in sunny offshore conditions at Yallingup. Midge rode the lefts in his smooth controlled style. Terry Jacks was frothing and went for it. At the conclusion of the event many spectators thought Terry had won the event, but Midge’s name was already engraved on the trophy and that was that!

Some of Terry’s supporters kicked up a bit of dust, but it was in vain.

Images: 1968 Midget Farrelly at the Invitational event. Still frame images courtesy of City Beach Surf Riders Super 8 movie film.

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Image: 1968 Terry Jacks surfing in the Invitational event. Newspaper image courtesy of the Daily News.

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COMMENTS ON INVITATIONAL EVENT

Peter ‘Spook’ BothwellMidget had just got back from Hawaii and was full of stories about Joey Cabell and his pintails.

Barry ‘Baz’ YoungBesides me, for the Invitational, another surfer from interstate was Alex Chobinoff (NSW) who had been here for 6 months roughly like myself. I placed third in that Invitational as well as coming 2nd to Spook in the State Titles. It was pretty small that day and I gambled and surfed the ‘Bunbury Break’, which was named because of the crew of Bunbury surfers who surfed it more than most. It’s now known as “The Cove”. Whilst Midget and the other 4 competitors hassled each other at Main Break I got a little lucky where I was.

When Midget arrived for the contest and pulled 4 Pintails out of his car we were all flabbergasted. The Press on what was happening design wise over East was very limited and I’m pretty sure no one had heard about boards that had pointed tails. It seemed weird to have a tail shape that looked the same as the nose. There was a lot of disbelief and almost jeering as he walked past the big crowds lining the steps and beach with one of these strange designs under his arm on the way to the water. I think he thought about not staying for the Invitational, but the WASRA contest directors talked him around and tuned a few crew to keep their opinions to themselves for the rest of the weekend.

I have been surfing in the Maldives twice now in recent years, at the same time as Midget and his wife, and he still surfs pretty good for age 71.

Photo: 2015 Former WA Surfboard Manufacturer Tom Blaxell with 1964 World Surfing Champ Midget Farrelly in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of Tom Blaxell.

2015 Maldives Tom Blaxell and Midget farrelly at Pasta Point

In 2001 Surfing WA made a presentation to Midget Farrelly at Yallingup Beach.

Photos: (Left) 2001 montage presentation to Midget at Yalls designed by Quindalup’s Loz Smith. (Right) 2006 Midget & Loz Smith at Jack Egan photo exhibition held at Vasse Felix Winery.

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1968 STATE SURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS HELD AT YALLINGUP.

The state championships were held in good offshore conditions at Yallingup over the March long weekend. Members of most WA Board Clubs competed in the Titles. Finalists in the divisions went onto represent WA at the National Surfing Titles held in NSW in May 1968.

Editor’s NoteA month after the State Titles finalist Arty Sherburn nearly died when he was stung by a blue bottle jellyfish while surfing at Cottesloe. He was unable to take his place in the WA State Team and compete in the ’68 National Titles in NSW.

Images: (Left) 1968 Cover of WASRA program. (Right) Preview of State Titles at Yalls. Images courtesy of WASRA & the Daily News.

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Images: 1968 State Surfing Titles at Yalls. Images courtesy of the Daily News & Trevor Burslem.
(Left) Media preview of the WA Titles. (Right) Jim King competing in Open Division.

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CONTEST RESULTS

Peter ‘Spook’ Bothwell (age 19 years) from Sand n Sea board club won the Open Mens. Competing in 6ft surf Spook beat former South Australian Barry Young and Arty Sherburn the Southern Surfriders champion. Surprisingly, John Balgarnie & 1966 champion John Staley were eliminated in the semi-finals.

Ian Cairns from Southern Surfriders was the outstanding junior surfer & won the Junior Title from Phil Taylor & Ian ‘Moochie‘ Strongman.

Dave Williams won the Senior Title.

Maureen Farrell won the Womens Title.

Images: 1968 State Surfing Titles at Yalls.
(Left) Media review of the WA Titles courtesy of WA Newspapers.
(Right) Contest spectators & judges scaffolding on the beach. Photo Jim King.

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COMMENTS ON STATE SURFING TITLES

Peter ‘Spook’ BothwellThe 67 titles were when I thought I could win and was surfing at my peak. I didn’t get out of my heat, John Staley went on to win. In 68 I was over it (the competitive hype) and more relaxed. I thought John Staley was surfing good enough to win in 68, but he got over anxious like I did in 67 and was knocked out. My other memory was that everyone who surfed went in it. A bit like a festival.

I next went into a state contest in 76, after not surfing much for a few years and the crowd and competitive crew numbered about fifty. The atmosphere had changed, still seriously competitive, but the wider social interest went for a time.

Barry ‘Baz’ YoungIt was borderline whether I was eligible to compete in the main event (State Titles) because you had to have been living in WA for 6 months and I got Arty Sherburn and John Staley to say I had been here that long, but I think I was about a week short.

I had been called up for National Service and came to the West to surf as much as possible before going in. I ended up doing my Draft medical in Bunbury, and swallowed silver foil in the hope it would show up as a spot on my lung (it had worked in the Big Wednesday movie) but they never remarked on it. What they did notice was my very large surf bumps on my feet. I had gone to the medical in suede Desert Boots, which were the rage at the time and they asked me if I could wear leather boots, and I said I doubt it, so they got me to try a pair on, and I faked pain enough that they didn’t sign me up….relief! We had been losing about 3 or 4 soldiers a day in different skirmishes in Vietnam and I didn’t want to be part of it. I remember I hitched back to Yallingup and went out and had just the best surf. A big weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

SOCIAL

With a big LWE crowd in attendance it was not surprising that some anti-social behaviour occurred at Caves House pub on the Saturday Night.

Image: 1968 Media report on an alleged brawl at Caves House pub. Newspaper cutting courtesy of the daily News.

1968 Caves House Yalls pub brawl

A fun long weekend surfing & socialising in the South West was had by all.

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2015 Tom & Midget in the Maldives

Former WA surfboard manufacturer Tom Blaxell recently returned from a surf trip to the Maldives. While there he met up with former World Surfing Champion Bernard ‘Midget’ Farrelly from NSW.

Photo: 2015 Tom & Midget in the Maldives. Photo by Dara from Atoll Adventures.

2015 Maldives Tom Blaxell and Midget farrelly at Pasta Point

Tom: “We had great waves and I’m told some of the biggest swell to come through this year. Amongst the usual suspects like Russ Parry, Al Bean and Baz Young, I ran into Midget Farrelly who by coincidence shares some common things with me. When he won the very first World Surfing Title in 1964, it was the year I made my first board (at the age of 14). Part of the inspiration for that was a book my Dad gave me, written by Midget called “This Surfing Life“. It was all about how surfing was not just a passing craze, but an all-consuming passion that engulfs your life and your outlook on it. And here we are 50 years later still doing it and enjoying it.
1964 also happened to be the year surfing WA (then WASRA) was founded, and when I was President in 1994, we had a big reunion gig at the Continental Hotel in Claremont to celebrate WASRA’s 30th anniversary. Midget was invited over and was a keynote speaker at the event.”

Photo: 2015 Tom surfing in the Maldives. Photo by Dara from Atoll Adventures.

2015 Maldives Tom Blaxell at Pasta point

Photo: 2015 Al Bean ripping in the Maldives. Photo by Dara from Atoll Adventures.

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Photo: 2015 Baz Young cuttie in the Maldives. Photo by Dara from Atoll Adventures.

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1978 OZ Surfing Titles at South Point WA

The 1978 Australian Surfing Titles were held at South Point Cowaramup Bay.

National contest winners were Open Mens: Colin Smith NSW, Junior Mens: Tom Carroll (NSW), Womens: Leith Temple (Qld) and WA’s Barry Young won the Seniors Mens Division.

Photo: 1978 Contest judges. L-R unidentified, WA’s Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and Barry Nettles in dark jumpers and other unidentified persons officiating in the judging tent. Photo credit Ric Chan. (Jock was WASRA President 1978-80 and 1984-85. Barry was a member of Dolphins Board Club).

Tom Blaxell: “Barry used to be called ‘Tanker Channel’ because he always sat way out the back (about 50 metres further out than anyone else) to catch the real biggies.”

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Photos: 1978 contest surfing at South Point. Photos courtesy of Ric Chan.

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Photos: 78 Oz Titles Contest officials, spectators & wave line-up. Photos courtesy of Ric Chan.

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Photos: 78 Oz Titles contest officials & spectators. Photos courtesy of Ric Chan.

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Photos: 78 Oz Titles WA contest officials & competitors.

Left: WASRA Official Ken Trainer from Scarborough Board Club. Photo credit Ric Chan. (Ken Trainer & his father Percy served as WASRA Presidents and are both Life Members of Surfing WA).

Right: (Top) Ian ‘Kanga’ Cairns (dual World Cup winner 1975 & 1980) chatting with hospitality entrepreneur and former Cordingley Surfboards front man Bill Oddy. Photo credit Ric Chan.

Right: (Bottom) Yallingup’s Baz Young celebrating his win in the Senior Mens Division with friends at Margaret River. Photo credit Barry Young.

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For more information on contests & WASRA officials refer to Surfing WA Celebrating 50 Years book.