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1971 Cactus surf trip by Mal Leckie

Update: Added Mal Leckie’s thongs on a star picket tale 11 March 2017.

Late in 1971 I drove across from WA to Phillip Island VIC. in Rod Slater’s FC Holden to surf their excellent summer waves. I think Rod took me for the petrol money haha! Sheepdog was over at Phillip Island on this trip and I think John Balgarnie was too.

The old car only went 70km/h so it took us 7 days. We had a string through the dashboard to the Carby that we would pull and tie to the Cigarette lighter when it was at the right speed. 1970’s cruise control? On the way back we stopped at a remote spot called Cactus at Penong in the central SA bight.

Image: This is a sketch in acrylic on canvas from the afternoon we arrived. Sketch by Mal Leckie.

There were NO facilities and no water. I think we had about 60 litres of drinking water and we camped there until it ran out. The next time I went there with another bloke, we took a Still to turn the salt water into fresh and lived like kings trading water for seafood. The still was made from a set of aluminium kitchen canisters with Rice, Flour and Sugar on the sides.

Image: Sketch of Still we used to turn salt water into fresh. Mal Leckie sketch.

We did some fly swatting at Cactus back in those days. Scary when I look back on it – no leg ropes, no phones, hours of driving to get medical help, Blue Water White Death playing at the cinemas.

There was a star picket banged into the edge of the reef at Caves and you put your thongs over it. If you lost your board you could put the thongs on to chase it across the sharp reef before it got into the current on the western side.

Mal Leckie is an Australian Landscape artist born in Perth Western Australia He now lives on the Gold Coast with his wife Louise and his home beach is Coolangatta. Visit Mal’s web site www.malleckie.com.au to view his artwork.

Jim King: In 1970 on the way back from the World Surfing Titles held at Bells and Johanna beaches in Vic, we called in at Cactus beach at Penong. I was with WA surfers Ian Cairns, Sheepdog, Giles Geiger and my brother Bruce. Ian had competed in the World Titles as a Junior, the rest of us were spectators at the event.

The boys surfed Caves and I took some Super 8 movie footage, before going for a surf myself. It was a short surf for me, as sharks chased us out of the water. I remember it was damn cold sleeping outdoors at night and damn hot during the day sheltering from the desert sun.

Click on this video link to view Super 8 footage of the boys surfing Caves. Music by Vance Burrow (run time 3.07 min).

Coming soon 1970s Phillip Island surf trips.

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