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Greg Laurenson – Master Shaper by Errol Considine

In the 1960s we wanted to get some national recognition that our home grown WA talent was as good as the stars on the east coast.

While our surfers couldn’t seem to crack the big placings in the National titles when they went east, we all reckoned Greg Laurenson was the equal of any of the big name craftsmen from Brookvale, the Sydney epicentre of Australian surfboard making, or the Gold Coast. And he eventually earned respect over there and began getting mentions in the national magazines.

Can’t recall him ever being called ‘Greg’. He was first dubbed ‘Thunderpants’ but that later morphed into ’Thunder’, ‘Pants’, ‘Pantsman’, or ‘GL’.

Photo: 1967 Greg Laurenson surfing Rocky Point. Greg Woodward pic.

I think GL got his start at Hawke Brothers Surfboards in Osborne Park. Hawke, his main shaper Murray Smith and Greg were all members back then of Scarborough-based North End Board Club. Pretty much all the North End guys rode Hawke boards.

His life had been tied to the ocean from an early age. His father had been a radio officer on merchant ships and later, for a time, was a lighthouse keeper on Troughton Island, on the far north Kimberley coast – which today is an isolated base for choppers servicing oil and gas facilities in the Timor Sea. Back in the 1950s/60s it must have been like going to another planet! GL spent some time there during school holidays.

In the late 1960s, he was one of the select Scarborough crew who were he first to discover and surf the named faced break ‘The Spot’, near Yanchep. And was in the crew who were believed to have been the first to surf the south side of Rottnest, in 1969 [Editor’s note: look for another story on that Rottnest trip to ‘The Yellow Bucket’ later this year on SDS].

GL first started to build his reputation as a master shaper after he moved to Cordingley Surfboards in Subiaco.

In 1969, he left Cordingley and set up under his own name in a factory on Scarborough Beach Road in Osborne Park – it was behind a dry cleaner’s with the site today occupied by a Caltex servo with factories still behind it.

I collaborated with Ric Chan to work up a bit of PR for Laurenson Surfboards. I was a first year cadet reporter at the Daily News afternoon newspaper. I got one of the staff photographers to go out and get a picture of “(Thunder)” at his factory.

I don’t know whether Ric’s surf movie idea was ever actually a goer but it gave me enough to spin into a yarn which got a run in Perth’s afternoon newspaper.

Image: 1969 Errol’s ‘Thunder’ article in Daily News. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

My starting wage as a cadet in January 1969 was $28 a week, going up to $32 a week when I turned 18 that March. So it took me a while to save up enough for my first new Laurenson board, which I got late that year.

I excitedly picked it up on a Friday afternoon and headed down south for the weekend. My first waves on the new board were at good quality Windmills. But it was the pre-legropes era. I lost my board in the first session.

It was early summer and while the banks were pretty good there was still not a lot of sand on the shoreline and my beautiful Laurenson stick smashed into rocks and got a bunch of small dings and fractures on the bottom. Bugger!

So, early the next week I was back at the Osborne Park factory to get some repairs done!

I took that board when I drove east in May 1970 with my mates Peter Bevan and Chuck Morton-Stewart, to go to the World titles at Bells, and then up the east coast to Sydney, Gold Coast and Noosa. It went great on that trip and I did get some favourable comments from a few locals along the way.

Pants preferred to see himself as a sculptor/craftsman

and would let me watch him shape for hours, all the while

discussing what was going on in sculptural terms….

I met many of the east coast’s shaping greats

but I have never seen anyone to match the

pure elegance of what Pants produced.

Mal Leckie, who now lives in Coolangatta. Queensland recalls: “I was studying sculpture at WAIT (now Curtin University) in those years and was very tuned in to curves, edges and their relationships etc. Pants preferred to see himself as a sculptor/craftsman and would let me watch him shape for hours, all the while discussing what was going on in sculptural terms.

“I wish I still had the chamfer-back twinny Pants shaped me at Cordingley’s in ’71.

“After I left WA at the end of ’73, I met many of the east coast’s shaping greats but I have never seen anyone to match the pure elegance of what Pants produced. Maybe DVS (Dick Van Straalen) and Richard Harvey come closest.”

Running a surfboard business while also being the main man in the making process was a tough gig financially and the full page ad published in West Country Surf magazine in 1972 shows, GL was being promoted as the star shaper back at Cordingley’s by then.

Image: 1971 Cordingley Surfboards advt in West Country Surf Magazine. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

In 1977, GL’s reputation was still a headline act for Cordingley Surfboards, as the ad below published in the Sunday Independent newspaper shows with him as member of the “All-Stars”, along with young gun surfer-shaper Craig Bettenay plus the rest of them led by business manager-master spruiker Bill Oddy.

Image: 1977 The Cordingley All-Stars advt in Sunday Independent Newspaper. Image courtesy of Sunday Independent.

Note: Front row should read (left) Charles Campbell, top Glasser and Finisher; (right) Mike Godwin, Finish Polisher.

He moved to Queensland for a period during the 1970s, and his reputation as a shaper grew.

In an obituary published in “The West Australian” Robert Conneely was quoted on GL’s standing at that time…

“By mid 70s Greg had really come into his own

as one of the finest shapers WA had produced.”

Through this era, GL had also built a reputation as surf contest judge and organiser. He played a key role in the staging of the 1978 Nationals at Yallingup.

He also became a mentor for many young shapers.

But GL’s reputation really took off nationally when Ian Cairns – then the best surfer in the world on the big waves of Sunset Beach on the North Shore, which was the core of pro contest surfing at that time – lured GL back to Perth to shape his Hawaiian-inspired designs.

GL moved on from Cordingley Surfboards and by 1980 – as shown in the ad below from West Coast surf magazine, with Mitch Thorson – was at Star Surf making boards for the late and sadly missed Dave Kennedy.

Image: 1980 Star Surfboards advt featuring Mitch Thorson and Greg Laurenson in West Country Surf Magazine. Image courtesy of WCS Mag.

Pant’s shaping and surfing lifestyle odyssey also included periods making boards in Japan, and in California for the legendary Rusty Priesendorfer.

In ’83, Rusty came to WA – according to the current Rusty website – to make boards for Santosha. And Mitch Thorsen, riding one of his shapes, was shown ripping on the cover of Surfing Magazi.

Santosha got the Rusty surfboard licence and the American surfboard pioneer hooked up with GL, taking him to California to learn the latest technology. He was an in-demand shaper for Rusty for a long time.

Greg Laurenson later moved to Dunsborough and kept making great boards for many years, including back under his own signature.

Photo: 1982-83 Greg Laurenson Surf Studio Dunsborough. Gary ‘Gooselegs’ Vaughan pic

He and Loz Smith were amongst the main movers who launched the annual Yal Mal in 1985 – still going strong each December, more than 32 years later.

GL later bought and renovated yachts and did some bluewater sailing trips out of Fremantle. He also moved on to sailboard design.

He later lived on his yacht in Hillary’s board harbour for a period – my brother Jeff used to go there and they’d drink a few red wines together. They would both go within a few years of each other from bowel cancer…

Pants married his partner Jo, who he’d met during an ocean sailing race, on Valentine’s Day 2007 and passed away two weeks later. They had two daughters, Jade and Zoe.

The 2007 Yal Mal was in commemoration of the memory of ‘Thunderpants’, ‘Thunder’, ‘Pants’, ‘Pantsman’, ‘GL’ as a mate and mentor to so many and to mark his great legacy to WA surfboard making.

The following GL article appeared in the Sunday Times 11 march 2007. The reporter Jordan Marchant is the son of Ron, who went with us to Greg’s funeral….

Image: 2007 Board shaper mourned article by Jordan Marchant. Image courtesy of The Sunday Times.

Footnote – nicknames: Nicknames were big back then. Besides the variations on Thunderpants, another North End Board Club member, Murray Smith was dubbed ‘Tiny Brain’.

Nicknames of crew from one of my clubs, North Coast (of which GL was also a member), included: Skullcap, Spider, Gooselegs (who is still universally known as ‘Goose’), Big Eyes (and his younger brother of course became Little Eyes), Spike, Corky, Kegs, Boots and I was dubbed (by Gooselegs) as ‘Armpits’ …because of the way I surfed with my arms raised. Thanks Goose, not!

ENDS

Work mates’ & surfing buddies’ memories of Pantsman

The origin of ‘Thunderpants’ by John Balgarnie

I was with Greg Laurenson when he got his nickname ‘thunder pants’.  We were on our way down south and called in at the Wokelup pub for a beer and singalong on-route. Greg and I were standing at the front bar and this guy with a stutter ran into the pub from the car park to tell Greg he had left his underpants in his car……however because the guy had a stutter it came out sounding like ‘thunder pants’ and his nickname was born.

Peter DysonThe Wokelup pub on the inland road from Brunswick Junction had an old pianola piano that played recorded music. It was our meeting place on the way down south. We used to gather around the piano and sing songs and have a drink. After one session at the Wokelup, Bill Branney went straight through the S bends between Busselton and Dunsborough and was thrown through the windscreen and ended up in a paddock with the cows.

Sometimes we drove down south on the Old Coast Road, but it was constructed of rough limestone and our slow old Kombi vans used to get bogged.

Remembering Pants by Charles Campbell (ex Cordingley Surfboards)

1965 – 1971

I first worked with Pants at Cordingley Surfboards when situated in Hay Street, Subiaco (learning to glass, repairs, etc).  Rex and Colin Cordingley owned the business then and Bill Oddy (Shop Manager), Dave Ellis (Machining, Sanding, Gloss Coating and Repairs), Pants (learning to shape from Rex) and I worked together then among others.

It was in Hay Street, Subiaco Pants cut his hand using the ban saw while cutting a fin out of a panel of fibreglass – Rex instructed me to ‘give him a hand’ over to the Doctor’s Surgery on the opposite side of Hay Street from the factory. Half way across, Pants decided to faint or something and I struggled, being only 5’6” and Pants being 7’0”, arms and legs everywhere, I guess we must have made it to the Doctor to patch him up.

1971 – 1979

Rex and Colin sold Cordingleys to Bill and me after a fire in the Hay Street factory and we moved to York Street, Subiaco. Employees then were Bill (Part Owner and Shop Manager) and me (Part Owner and Workshop Manager, Industrial Fibreglassing), Pants … and Adam, his Golden Retriever (Shaping), Dave (Machining, Sanding, Gloss Coating and Repairs), Bruce King (Industrial Fibreglass work), Rod Slater (Industrial Fibreglass work) and others.

The York Street Factory also burned down and Cordingleys moved to Jersey Street, Jolimont.

Bill and me, Pants, Dave, Bob Monkman (Shaping), Peter MacDonald (Machining, Sanding), Steve ‘Blue’ Nicholson (Shaping and Blue fitted out the new Factory and Workshop) and Craig Bettenay (Shaping) worked together and we built some great boards.

Bill and I sold the business to Colin Earle and family.

Photo: 1979 Greg Laurenson in shaping bay at Cordingley Surfboards in Jolimont. Ric Chan pic.

1989 – 1997

Pants, Dave and I were reunited, building surfboards for Rusty Surfboards in Osborne Park.  Mick Button was in charge of the factory then. Some very comical situations unfolded during those years with Pants.

Pants… stopped on the Old Coast Road

for fuel or smokes or something, took

a while to realise when he got back

to drive on (in the dark) that he

was headed back towards Perth!

Friday night after work, he would load up and head south, Pants had a Ford Falcon panel van in those days, stopped on the Old Coast Road for fuel or smokes or something, took a while to realise when he got back to drive on (in the dark) that he was headed back towards Perth!

When he sold that van, the new owner was coming into the factory to pick it up, he pulled the mattress out of the back to discover a wet suit and other treasures he hadn’t seen for a while underneath.  It was a bit of a bummer as the wet suit had rusted to the floor of the van.

Photo: 2004 Yal Mal former Cordingley workmates. Loz Smith pic

Back row: Charles Campbell, Dave Ellis and Peter Mac. Front Row: Greg Laurenson and Bob Monkman.

Pants shaped good boards when he was in the mood.  At his funeral paddle-out at the lagoon at Yallingup – Dave Ellis and I were side by side in the water when Greg’s ashes were released, and the onshore breeze blew the ashes in our faces and we both remarked ‘he used to give us the shits at work over the years and he is still doing it!’ Ha Ha!

Pants was a great bloke, ‘a legend’ in the surf industry.

Pantsman by Rod Slater (ex Greg Laurenson Surfboards)

These are the recollections of an old surfer, 45 to 50 years after they happened and I believe they are as accurate as my memory allows.

When Greg (Pants) left Cordingley’s to start his own surfboard brand, I think Kevin Agar took over from him.

Pants started his own business in Scarborough Beach Road, behind City Dry Cleaners.  Hawke Brothers Surfboards were across the other side of Scarborough Beach Road, Murray Smith was working for them at this stage, I am not sure if he was shaping boards.  I bought my first board (second hand) from Hawke Brothers who then ran their business from a shed at home in Nollamara.

Pants started in partnership with Terry Jacks (dec.).  This arrangement didn’t last very long as ‘Jacksy’ wasn’t interested in the hands on part of board making, he was more interested in spending his time down the beach promoting the new boards!

Pants taught me to glass and originally he was shaping and I was glassing.  We shared the sanding and finishing.  More surfers quickly became involved in the business:

  • Peter ‘Con’ Connelly from Inverloch near Phillip Island learnt to sand and finish the boards.  We had problems with the quality of the finish because we didn’t have a ‘proper’ finishing room.  This resulted in a lot of wet’n’drying and polishing.
  • Ron Waddell became quite infamous for his ding repair capacity
  • Howard Johnson (dec.) was involved in the initial stages but moved on fairly quickly.  Howard was caught with a small amount of marihuana in his white Simca Aronde and I think he found other work after this.  Some thought the ‘bust’ was somewhat intentional because it would mean the person caught could not go get to ‘nashos’, a significant factor in the lives of many surfers at that stage.
  • I member Terry Garrett also spending a lot of time in the factory but I am not sure if he did any work or not.

Greg’s shapes were typically flawless…

he was…undoubtedly the best shaper in WA

and, we believed, he was the equal

to any shaper in Australia.

Greg’s shapes were typically flawless and he was still undoubtedly the best shaper in WA and, we believed, he was the equal to any shaper in Australia.  However, finances were always a concern and as workers we all lived a hand to mouth to existence even though we surfed good boards. 

Eventually we had to pay cash for any materials to build the boards and this, more than anything, spelt the end to Pants’ dream to build his own boards.  I know he went on to manufacture for himself again at a later stage, hopefully with more success.

I finally, after being with Greg Laurenson Surfboards from day one, was forced to find alternative work.  I started making boards for Jack Dadd in Hampton Road in Fremantle.  The boards were labelled ‘Innovator Surfboards’.

Photo: 1970 Laurenson Surfboards team at State Titles Yallingup. Ric Chan pic.

L-R. Greg Laurenson, Peter Holzman, Ron Waddell, Bruce King, Robin ‘Skullcap’ Sutherland, Peter Dyson, Rod Slater, Giles Geiger, Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn and John Balgarnie.

There were many great times had in Pants’ factory and a number of significant events occurred:

  • Pants bought a new, light blue, XW Falcon panel van and a number of us drove to Bells Beach at Easter time, and back again.  A fleeting visit.
  • Ian Cairns was emerging as a champion surfer.
  • Midget Farrelly made the first ‘side slipper’ surfboard and we made a number of these at Pants’.
  • Midget started sponsoring Ian, a significant chapter in WA surfing history

Photo Gallery of GL images by Rick Syme.

Rick Syme has had an acclaimed career as a photographer in Perth [http://www.syme.com.au/]. Back in the late ‘60s he was a member of Scarborough Board Club and a close mate of Greg Laurenson’s, and they made many trips down south together.

He was even one of the gang of mates who climbed into Thunder’s new panel van to make the legendary spur-of-the-moment trip to Bells to watch the Easter comp – they raced across the continent (including the punishing, unsealed Nullarbor section), hung out and watched some waves, and then turned around and drove back to Perth! …it was an easier time back then just to do cool stuff for the heck of it – ‘cos they could!!

Rick lived on West Coast Drive at Trigg, just north of the Point. The house is still there. He used to have a Super 8mm camera and shot lots of reels of film of the Scarborough/Trigg/Mettams/North Beach crew riding waves.

The Syme’s garage was converted into a mini movie theatre with a projector, screen and black drapes to seal it off from outside sunlight, and lounge chairs. The crew spent many hours there watching the 8mm clips and generally getting up to no good! But it was all great fun.

The caption comments with the following pics were provided by Rick…

Photos: 1967 Greg Laurenson with his Pig Board at Yallingup. Rick Syme pic.

RickThe ‘pig board’ shots were circa ’67 Yallingup. Pants (a new and in-experienced business owner) was trying to find a ‘point of difference’ with his ‘pig board’.

Photo: Circa 1967 Greg Laurenson with his blue Kombi at Surf Beach. Rick Syme pic.

RickThe shot of Pants near the blue Kombi was ‘surf beach’ circa ’67 not long after the Kombi had ‘fallen over’ on the surf beach track with 10 surfers on board (a whole other story!).

Photo: Circa Xmas 1969 Greg Laurenson and Fred Annesley sitting on the bonnet of Holden sedan at Yallingup car park. Surfside store is in the background. Rick Syme pic.

Errol – The boards on the roof of the car have those swept back long single fins, stringer-less blanks and lots of rocker.

The beginning of Yallingup Malibu contest and Pants by Loz Smith

In the early 80s I lived in a shed on a friend’s property on Caves Road opposite Abbey Farm Road, Yallingup.

On a Tuesday night, I used to go to dinner at Bobbo and Jenny Monkman’s place in Vasse Yallingup Siding Road, Quindalup with Greg ‘Pants’ Laurenson from Quindalup and Peter Mac from Yallingup.

I presented a Tin Plate award (as opposed to a gold plate as a bit of fun) to Jenny in recognition of her efforts in preparing meals for us. I had a plaque engraved on a tin plate.

Over dinner, I suggested to the boys that we should go back to longboarding and create a fun Malibu event at Yallingup. At that time, only John ‘Boy’ Malloy was riding a Mal in small waves. The boys agreed and this spawned the concept of the Malibu Classic – now known as the Yal Mal.

I had no experience running contests and asked Pants to be competition director and chose Tony ‘Harbo’ Harbison as head judge for the first Malibu Classic. Bobbo made the trophies.

The first Yallingup Malibu Classic was run in 1985 and the rest as they say is history.

Aloha 

Photo: 2004 Yal Mal Loz Smith and Pants at Baggies & Bow Tie function held at Surfside. Loz Smith pic.

Loz – It was the last gathering at Surfside before it was demolished.

Photo Gallery of GL images at Yallingup Malibu Classics by Loz Smith.

Photos: 2004 Yal Mal social pics – Loz Smith pics.

Left: Pants and Bob Monkman.

Right: (Top) Jo, Jade and Greg Laurenson. (Middle) Chris Fullston and GL. (Bottom) GL and Peter Dyson.

Photos: 2007 Yal Mal Greg Laurenson Memorial contest – Loz Smith pics

Top: (Left) Pant’s daughter Jade Laurenson. (Right) Jo, Rob and Di Conneely.

Bottom: (Left) Peter ‘Rinso’ Wise, George Simpson, John Balgarnie and Bruce King. (Right) GL Memorial contest t-shirt (courtesy of Bruce King).

Photos: 2011 Greg Laurenson surfboard signed by Kelly Slater at Marg River Pro – Loz Smith pics

Top: (Left) Kelly Slater. (Right) Ian Cairns and Loz Smith.

Bottom: (Left) Taj Burrow. (Right) Fred Annesley.

Image: 2007 Surfboard master obituary edited by Len Findlay. Image courtesy of WA Newspapers.

 

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Gallery

1973 Australian Surf Titles #2 Media coverage by Errol Considine

1973 Nationals at Margs

Trying to shut the door Down South …. too late!

The 1969 Australian Nationals held at Margaret main break in pumping power waves, the like of which had never been seen at the titles before was the pivotal moment in the history of WA surfing – when the door was flung open to the world and the secret of the Capes coast’s waves was out.

People like Len Dibben who had been there at the birth of modern surfing in Western Australia has said that ’69 was the turning point – and nothing Down South would ever be the same again.

That iconic Ric Chan shot of the legendary Wayne Lynch high-lining a main break left at the ’69 titles said it all – that WA could match it with famed Australian east coast, Hawaiian and Californian breaks which up till then had dominated surf magazines and movies.

We were in awe of the boards Nat Young, Lynch and the crew were riding and wanted to follow them too – although we parochially claimed our mate Greg “Thunder” Laurenson was at least equal with the best board shaper craftsmen and designers on the east coast…and we reckoned WA surfers like Ian Cairns, Peter Bothwell and Kevin Agar were up there too.

The ’69 titles also brought the ‘flower power’ thing to WA – the long hair, beards, beads, floppy felt hats, bell bottom dacks – the new surfing cool was here. And we were all ready to follow…

But in the aftermath came some other changes that weren’t so cool.

Surfing pilgrims from across the Nullarbor, and even from across the world, bought new progressive influences …and also, for the first time, more crowded waves at times Down South [‘crowded’ in relative terms to what we knew up till then!]

There was also something of a loss of innocence as the downside from a new drugs and dole culture began to be felt – not everybody was mellow and ‘cool’ – man!

Boards could no longer be left on cars outside pubs or at mates’ houses in Scarborough ‘cos stuff started betting stolen, for instance.

TRACKS MAGAZINE – ‘Paradise Lost’

In the February 1973 edition of Tracks magazine (really more a non-glossy, black and white newspaper format at that time), I wrote an article titled “Paradise Lost” which appeared in the “news & opinions” section and hit like a bombshell sending shock waves coast to coast

It provoked a storm with string of letters to the editor in the following edition of the magazine – which unfortunately I have not kept – which just smashed me!

Richard Harvey – third at the ’69 championships and would go on to win the May ’73 titles at Margs – labelled me as a total dickhead. It was chastening and more than a little embarrassing.

Image: 1973 Tracks Magazine Errol’s “Paradise Lost or How the West Was Won” editorial – page 1. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

Image: 1973 Tracks Magazine Errol’s “Paradise Lost or How the West Was Won” editorial – page 2. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

Image: 1973 Tracks letter and payment to Errol for “Paradise Lost” editorial. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

All I can now say now is that our intentions were good and naked self-interest came first …but we were totally naïve and it was all too late. The tide could not be turned back.

In my article, I related how amazing the 1969 titles had been, but on a “cold Saturday night late in winter ’72 some friends and I go and see Tom Hoye (expatriate American and builder of good sticks at Yallingup) and get to talking about contests”.

Now Tom had fled California to get away from the crowds and reckoned he’s found Nirvana at the Margies coast.

He talked about having had it all in southern California – surfing had provided him with a good income, place to live, good car, great stereo (dunno why but I recall that detail!) …and he got to go surfing. But SoCal polluted, too fast, and the water was a crowded nightmare and had all gone to crap.

As I wrote in my two-page feature in Tracks: “He put to us a question: ‘WHY DO WE WANT ANOTHER NATIONALS IN OUR SURF…”

“Good question…no real answer…

“Only abstract notions like pride in our surf and surfers.

“Look at the realities …surfing everywhere is strangling itself with its own success and the contest will ensure the much quicker death of our crowd-doomed southern surf.”

We got fired up. You also have to put this in the context of the times. It was age of the rising power of the young & the power of protest action …”the times they are a changin’…”

At the next monthly meeting of WA Surf Riders’ Association (the forerunner of Surfing WA) I put a motion which was seconded by my mate Peter Bevan (who was also WASRA Publicity Officer) for an “extraordinary general meeting to be held for the first time in local history to “discuss” the national titles…really to cancel them.”

Well, it hit the fan – BIG TIME!

The special WASRA meeting saw battle lines drawn with the pro and anti Nationals factions lined up.

The pro team had something we didn’t – money! Some developers who were building the caravan park at Yallingup wanted to bankroll the titles. Their main man pulled out a wad of $20 notes and said he would put up $500 for the winner’s purse at the Nationals.

Bear in mind, we were earning less than $100 a week – I had never seen that much cash in my life!!

Anyway, the vote is taken and we won. The May ’73 Nationals in WA were off. Cancelled.

Now it hit the fan across the Nullarbor.

Surfing Australia President Stan Couper wrote WASRA a nasty ultimatum letter “generally calling us shitheads and coming on heavy and about how we should reconsider…”

So at WASRA’s next monthly meeting another extraordinary general meeting is called – and the vote was reversed. The ’73 Nationals were back on at Margaret River.

The Tracks feature also ran nearly a full page on the written submission we’d put to the WASRA special meeting…including:

“This monster of our own making is coming back to WA…Our frontier will inevitably be destroyed by the pressures of too many surfers and has obviously already begun to tread that path to destruction….”

I guess our attitude was – if we’re going to head down this path, then go hard!!

We were defeated. Surfing life moved on. We thought then, well we may as well enjoy it?!

I was working as a journo at TVW 7 news and conned my boss into letting me go down to Margs for the week with a film cameraman and send back reports.

That meant sending cans of undeveloped 16mm black and white film by overnight courier back to the station at Tuart Hill. With scripting copy enclosed pounded out on my little Olivetti typewriter!!

‘Surfing Down South’ has a Ric Chan shot of me somewhat sheepishly interviewing Richard Harvey amongst a group in the car park at Surfers’ Point at the ’73 Nationals. I think I mumbled my name and he didn’t work out that he was being questioned on camera by the dickhead from Perth who he’d vilified in the national surf media a few months earlier. Phew!

Photo: 1973 Aust Titles contest meeting in Marg’s car park. Ric Chan pic.

L-R competitor Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick (Vic), competitor Richard Harvey (NSW), Channel 7 News cameraman Bryan Dunne, 7 News reporter Errol Considine, media Ric Chan (NZ) and unidentified.…you can see the Channel 7 Holden news van in the background …

TRACKS MAGAZINE – ‘Main Report on the ’73 Nationals at Margies

Fast forward to June’73 – and I accepted an invitation from Tracks to write the main report on the May Nationals at Margies.

Image: 1973 Telegram from Tracks magazine editor Frank Pithers to Errol requesting coverage of ’73 Nationals. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

The surf was good. I wrote about how our worst fears weren’t borne out.

“The only real hassle was the hassling. Hassling in the water like I’ve never seen before. Everyone (including the worst hasslers) seem to be complaining about it so it must have been worse than usual… Tony Hardy and Rod Brooks…nearly came to blows early in the piece. But in a pattern that seemed to be typical, it was friends on shore; kills, kill, kill in the water.”

The same Rod Brooks, from Victoria, took me aside for chat about my previous little surf media storm and explained why guys like Richard Harvey had gotten so angry at me:

“…the east coast boys look forward to two contests on the Australian surf circuit…the annual Bells and the triennial or quadrennial Margaret rip. It puts surfers into the juice and sorts them out and is a nice adventure cum holiday.”

It was indeed a simpler time with narrower horizons!

I did let rip in the article at the then Surfing Australia president Stan Couper “giving a few guys the shits with his …dictatorial…attitude and rulings” about where rounds of the event were to be surfed.

“The guy doesn’t surf, he doesn’t know the coastline, the report comes in from the world’s most experienced Margaret River rider (Murray Smith) that it’s 6 to 8 foot and great, everybody wants to go there…but Stan says “NO”…we’ll check our Cowaramup and Redgate. It ended up at Margaret but Stan, it seemed, just had to have his way.”

You have to remember that back then, Australian sport was notorious for being run by inflexible, uptight officials and the interests and wishes of the athletes came second to nit picking process and procedure…

Anyway, I digress. Back to the contest.

I wrote how the first round was held at “South Point Cowaramup in fair to good 4 to 6 foot surf”.

George Simpson beat Queensland’s reigning champion Michael Peterson, and Tony Hardy did well. The WA flag flew high and we were all pretty stoked.

In the Juniors, Craig Bettenay and Bruce Hocking did well. But Ian Cairns was a shock loser.

Round two was “Big Wednesday” at Margaret main break – not perfect quality but “sure big 10 to 12 foot”.

I reported there were some surprise losers like Simon (“that guy’s got muscles on his muscles”) Anderson, but Terry Fitzgerald killed it.

After a lay day, it was on at good Redgate. Richard Harvey, Michael Peterson and Peter Townend got deep in barrel after barrel.

The final day surfed off on the Sunday, back at Main break. While smaller than the Wednesday, the shape and conditions were better.

Richard Harvey ruled in the Open final, beating Peter Townend, with Michael Peterson third. WA’s Tony Hardy came fifth, which was a disappointment as he was just such a master at Margie’s.

A young fella named Mark Richards from NSW won the Juniors – he went on to do pretty good in Hawaii and the big leagues a few years further down the track! WA’s Craig Bettenay came in fourth.

In the Senior Men’s, Tony Harbison placed fifth.

I also noted to round off my report, that great WA surfer Barry Day, who’d won the coveted Duke Kahanamoku trophy for the best up-and-coming rider at the Nationals in Sydney the year before, could not compete Down South in 1973 as he was “playing league football.” A gifted player, Barry starred in the 1974 grand final for West Perth and later played for Essendon in the VFL. He would have been a rider to be reckoned with if he’d been able to take part in the ’73 Nationals held here…one of those ‘what ifs’…

I wrote a brief comment in my Tracks report about an event in the Open final:

“There was a hassle about an alleged drop-in against Peterson that would have changed everything had it stood. Michael hassled the judges afterwards about the drop-in (or “interference” as it’s now called) and got a few to change their minds in a pretty strange decision. The ruling was reversed.”

In Surfing Australia’s “A Complete History of Surfboard Riding in Australia”, published in 2012, author Phil Jarratt revealed the full details of what really happened and Michael Peterson’s epic meltdown:

“By this time, Peterson’s drug use was becoming more noticeable to most surfers and officials…and often his behaviour on land was hard to fathom, even though in the water his drug haze seemed to be no impediment to his performance. Until Margaret River.

“In big, powerful waves the defending Australian champion was a contender all the way to the final where he was up against consistent Peter Townend and the powerhouse goofy-footer Richard Harvey. Agitated beyond belief, Peterson paddled up and down the line-up, snaking and hassling his rivals with a manic intensity. He was probably never going to beat the smooth, calculating Harvey, but a drop-in call by the judges put that beyond doubt. Furious, Peterson confronted the judges with a tirade of profanity-laden abuse, delivered in a rainstorm of white spittle.

“No one had seen anything like it in an Australian championships since Nat Young’s famous dummy spit at Greenmount in 1970…Peterson’s invective stopped as suddenly as it had started, and within seconds he was spinning wheels in the car park and on this way to the airport.”

Wow. Never knew that. The officials covered it up well for us working media back in ‘73!!

Image: 1973 Tracks Magazine coverage of ’73 Aust Titles by Errol Considine – Page 1. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

Image: 1973 Tracks Magazine coverage of ’73 Aust Titles by Errol Considine – Page 2. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

…and one more thing. An ironical post-script to my naïve idealism all those years ago and trying to stop the Nationals from over-exposing our surf! At the start of last year, I ended a six-year term serving on the Board of Surfing WA as Vice Chairman. During that time I played a role in helping Mark Lane and the team to move at the right time to get the MR Pro as ASP/WSL world championship event …and then helped with running of some of the media stuff…exposing and promoting the Cape Coast to millions of surfers around the world! …go figure!

My Tracks front cover – Poem

During my “Tracks” phase in ’72 & ‘73 I broke into verse – something which just came to me out of the blue to me one day during a surf – and the Editor liked it so much it made the front cover of the August 1972 edition…bit hard to read in the scan, so here’s the lines, as published:

I feel the waves;

The waves feel me.

We both feel each other:

We both feel free

Not sure now about my mysterious use of punctuation with the semi-colon and colon!

Taking a bit of a revisionist backward view of that time in our surfing history, the vibe is definitely an after-glow of the ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’ mantra from the San Francisco ‘summer of love’ hippie thing.

Even if you weren’t doing the ‘turn on’ bit, it was important in peer image terms back then to try hard to at least appear to be a cool and mellowed-out ….and not risk the mortal sin of being deemed to being uncool – shock, horror!!

…my little stanza doesn’t quite join Bob Dylan in the Nobel Prize for Literature league but I’d like to think it does say something about the stoke we all felt back then in that unique and blessed era as we spent our weekends and holidays Down South surfing uncrowded waves with our mates, progressing with the developments in surfboard design, and feeling part of Australian surfing taking on the world…the ‘hot generation’ and the swagger of ‘we’re tops now’. It was all happening.

Some people assumed the picture on the Tracks cover was me – unfortunately no …don’t think I ever looked that good on a wave! But the Tracks’ editor did find a great visual image which matched the spirit of what I was trying to say.

No idea who the surfer captured in the shot was but I reckon it looks to me like it could have been Keith Paul?

The yellowed Tracks cover is now framed and hangs in a little personal surf memorabilia man-cave in my garage at home…

Image: 1972 Tracks cover (August edition) containing Errol’s poem. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

Image: 1972 Tracks payment letter to Errol for poem and an inside article. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

Footnote: In 2004, I interviewed George Simpson for a feature profile piece which was published in the first ‘Summer 04/05’ edition of “Longbreak” surf travel magazine (now published online: http://www.longbreak.com.au/ ) …

George related about his first trip to an undeveloped Bali in 1973 and stayed six months. They travelled to Indo by boat from Singapore and slept amongst reed beds on the beach at Kuta.

Local bemo drivers would charge the surfers the equivalent of about $1 to take them out to Uluwatu.

One day at 8 foot Ulu’s, George was surfing with the very same Richard Harvey.

The NSW goofy spotted white water further up the unexplored coast and decided to take off and have a look to see whether he could find any more surfable waves.

The way George tells it, Mr Harvey paddled off by himself carrying just a bottle of water and a joint to keep himself provisioned for the journey into the unknown!

In that one day, George told me, Richard Harvey discovered and surfed Bingin, Padang Padang and Impossibles by himself. It’s hard to imagine how mind blowing that must have been.

Harvey arrived back at Jimbaran Bay after dark that night bubbling with excitement about these great new spots ….which today are just so well-known across the world. Bloody amazing!

ENDS

Click on this link to view 1973 Australian Surf Titles #1 Contest Images by Ric Chan

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Gallery

1965 My First Trip Down South by Errol Considine

My First Trip Down South – over 50 years ago!

By Errol Considine

December 1965 saw my first trip Down South – I was 14. The memories of that first taste of the magic of the Capes region remain vivid today.

My brother Jeff and I had been bitten with the surfing bug a few summers earlier and ridden our first boards on our home beach at Scarborough, and been part of the local ‘crew’. Eventually, both becoming members of Scarborough Board Club.

We were in awe of the stories we kept hearing from the older guys – especially Murray Smith and the North End Board Club crew, who were also Scarborough-based – about the monster waves on the Yallingup-Margaret River coast. We were busting to get down there.

By ’65, Jeff and his mates in their last year at Scarborough High School had started getting driver’s licences and some were picking up an assortment of old cars and fitting them with roof racks.

So when Jeff finished his Leaving Exams in early December, we loaded up his new 9’6” Dibben-Cole single stringer onto high schoolmate Fred Bosich’s Austin Lancer, along with his board too, on a Monday morning. Jeff and I packed our boardies (ours were custom made by Jenny Cordingley – Fred wore black footy shorts to surf!), wax and sleeping bags and headed for Mandurah, cutting across to Pinjarra, and then on the narrow and winding South West Highway on the s-l-o-w trip South.

We headed to Margaret River and the Prevelly caravan park, which had old buses fitted with bunks and a gas stove, and I think a single light bulb! Camping down south also meant taking along a stash of tinned taste delights like braised steak and onions or baked beans, as the staple diet ….I reckon global warming was given a kick along by a spike in methane gas emissions rising into the atmosphere from the Capes Coast of SW WA during that era!

The following year, we camped at Prevelly. Brother Jeff had started as a Cadet Architectural Draftsman at the Public Works Department in early 1966 and saved enough to buy his first car, the Mini, which carried us for many surfing weekend Down South.

“Funny but early in our Down South days we seemed to always stay at Prevelly. One weekend, we were even being drafted in by the Scarborough Board Club boys to help on the wheelbarrows and shovels to lay the cement slab for their corrugate iron clubhouse which was erected there. North End Board Club built another one nearby. But after the first few summers we all gravitated to staying at the top of the Capes Coast Yallingup, and sleeping on the grass in front of the dunnies.

Geoff Moran, another of Jeff’s mates who also lived near us in Doubleview and went to Scarborough High, joined us on later trips Down South. He had a good camera and snapped the black & white pics which appear with this little vignette memoir….buying and processing colour film was expensive!

Geoff later got called up for Nasho’s and went to Vietnam and I sort of lost contact with him after that….”

Photo: 1966 Jeff’s Mini Minor laden with surfboards in the camping area at Prevelly Caravan Park. Geoff Moran pic.

Photo: 1966 Jeff sitting on Malibu boards on top of his new mini. Geoff Moran pic.

“The top board strapped on the Mini is Geoff Moran’s McDonagh – I recognise the ‘competition stripe’ (it was light blue)…So the bottom board would have been Jeff’s Dibben-Cole 9′ 6”, single stringer, laminated wooden tail block, yellow D-fin, no colouring’.

Photo: 1966 Geoff Moran’s McDonagh surfboard (ex NSW) at the back of the Moran’s house near us in Doubleview – his sister Pam in the shot. Geoff Moran pic

Photo: 1966 Geoff Moran’s EK Holden sedan at Doubleview. Geoff Moran pic.

“Geoff’s Holden took us on other surf adventures – I remember going to Avalon for the first time one summer’s Saturday morning in this car, driving over an open paddock to a wire fence and having to clamber over it to get to the top of a sand hill to check out the waves – it was small and as we got there the sea breeze came in and turned it to junk! Didn’t get wet that day..”

…but I digress – back to the tale of my first ever trip Down South…

The surf spots we knew about in late ‘65 and could locate between referring to our Shell road map, plus by drawing on the knowledge we’d picked up from other guys who’d already been regularly making the trek south, were: Yallingup, Smiths Beach, Indjidup Carpark, Cowaramup Bay (Huzza’s and South Point), Gallows, and Margaret’s Mainbreak and River mouth.

In his autobiography, “Nat’s Nat and that’s that”, Nat Young wrote about his first trip West. He and Rodney ‘Gopher’ Sumpter were recruited by Paul Witzig to shoot an Australian sequence for filmmaker Bruce Brown for his movie “Endless Summer” – including a segment on a surfari to WA. The ground breaking movie was first released in 1964, with worldwide release in 1966. So their trip must have pre ’64.

Nat wrote: “In Perth…the waves were a bit of a disappointment (not surprising!) …and we headed south towards the Yallingup-Margaret River area … we drove to Yallingup and booked into the Caves House hotel… The next day, we tried to get out through the big, nasty waves at Margaret River, but found ourselves washed back up on to the beach after only half an hour – we couldn’t even get out the back…we felt like complete failures and had to admit the waves were too big for mere kids.”

If up and coming, and soon to be world-ranked surfers like Nat and Gopher who we’d seen in the surf magazines couldn’t ride the big stuff Down South, what chance did we have?!

When we first laid eyes on Yalls and Margaret’s Main Break … well, it looked like Hawaii in the surf magazines and we just crapped ourselves, and decided not to sacrifice our young lives to the surf gods and venture way out there!

And, in those pre-leg rope days, South Point had a fearsome reputation for snapping boards lost in the take-off zone – and so that was also a no-go zone!

But we still had a week of what we thought were epic waves.

We all rode some neat little runner rights breaking back towards the south corner of Smith’s, on a bank formed near the out flowing creek; had a few great sessions at Huzzawooie; and then two or three consecutive mornings of what in my mind’s eye now, over half a century later, were sensational small rights at Margaret River mouth – consistent and clean, and within our capabilities back then.

With only two boards on the car, as the younger hanger-on grom I had to wait for one of the older guys to come in and borrow one of their Mals. But I got my share of waves and was stoked.

“It would not be until 1968 – my last year at high school – that I could afford to buy my first new board! I was a serial pest, driving everybody nuts borrowing their boards….during school holidays, I used my brother’s board midweek while he was at work!”

“We obviously liked the small rights at Margaret River mouth – these pics were taken in ’66 and we were back there for more”.

Photos: 1966 Surfing Margaret River mouth.  Geoff Moran pics

Top: Jeff paddling out & Errol surfing the wave.

Bottom: (Left) Jeff performing a Quasimodo head dip (Right) Errol performing a Cheater Five.

One day during that very first trip in December 1965, there were perfect right-hand sets peeling off the sand point out from the River mouth towards what we now know as ‘The Box’ ….they were too far out for us to work-up the courage to tackle them but we thought they looked like the peeling walls of California’s Rincon that we’d seen in “Surfer” magazine. I’ve never seen it break like that again, in my many trips south over the past 50+ years…

I think my brother and Fred Boshart also had a session at Inji Carpark, but I was not up for that yet and watched from the shore!

In those first trips we often headed down random tracks of Caves Road hoping to find other waves.

Photo: 1966 Jeff & Errol ‘on surfari’ at the back of Cowaramup. Geoff Moran pic.

Photo: 1966 Jeff & Errol goofing around for the camera at the back of Cowaramup. Geoff Moran pic.

I think, looking for waves also meant goofing around for the camera! I think we were inspired by the antics which always featured in the USA surf movies by Bruce Brown and Bud Brown – that this is what surfers did when ‘on surfari’!”

Photo: 1966 Jeff & Errol kissing the ground after digging the mini out of a dirt track. Geoff Moran pic.

“After digging the Mini out of a dirt track (maybe the notoriously boggy Gallows), we were happy to be back on the bitumen of Caves Road”.

Crowds were certainly not a problem in that first week Down South. We saw just two other surfers! On the whole coast!! They were staying in one of a small group of cabins at Prevelly. We said hullo and chatted at the caravan park but only crossed paths with them in the surf once, during one of our long afternoon sessions at Huzza’s … as I recall.

Photos: 1966 South West coastline. (Left) unidentified surf coast. (Right) Cape Naturaliste. Geoff Moran pics.

Photos: 1966 Jeff exploring Canal Rocks. Geoff Moran pics.

The surfing horizon opened up for us in December 1965 – and nothing would ever be the same again. Our eyes had been opened to somewhere unique on the planet. It would keep drawing us back on countless weekends and holidays… seeking out the many Down South adventures and life experiences which eventually came to pass over the following decades.

In “Offshore and Pumping”, the booklet released by Surfing WA to mark its 40th anniversary, Down South legend Bob Monkman wrote:  “…we were different. We had long sun-bleached hair, wore different clothes and were always happy from the buzz of surfing all day…”

“We were a relatively small group, everyone one knew each other and crowds weren’t a problem. In fact, we would often wish for a few more people to be out on the line-up because it was always good to have someone to fetch your board if you had to swim or tell you which way your board went.”

There’s much truth in Bob’s words. Being part of that small crew regularly travelling Down South – after that first expedition at the end of 1965 – did make us feel special –and different. We were in the right place at the right time, and on the right side of our surfing history, in terms of crowds and surfing new waves.

And, over half a century since that very first trip “Down South”, I still get a huge buzz every time I come over the crest of the hill and Yalls and see the whitewater, and that stunning coastline and cliffs stretching away north towards Three Bears and Sugarloaf Rock. The magic remains …undimmed by the years. What an amazing adventure it all was…

Footnote:  If you think about it, our generation of salt water addicts have left more than footprints in the sand…like, social impacts. The term “Down South”, for example, was originally a bit of a secret verbal code we all shared back in those early days – initially our parents and other “oldies” did not have a clue what we were talking about most of the time… Now, of course, ‘Down South’ is a universally recognised and used term by just about everybody in Perth.

Errol Considine

 

 

 

 

 

Gallery

TV star fades to black – but Down South mates’ memories last forever by Errol Considine

Chuck Morton-Stewart started out as a grommet on Scarborough Beach in the mid-1960s and later in his national TV persona as ‘Charles Stewart’ travelled the world surfing, skiing and covering water sports… being paid to drive fast cars…and even made “Cleo” magazine’s annual list of ‘Australia’s most eligible bachelors’!!

Photo: 1960s Chuck Morton-Stewart at Scarborough vs Warrain inter club competition held at Leighton. Brian Trainer pic.

From 1968/69 when members of our Scarborough crew started getting drivers’ licences, we clocked up thousands of kilometres in Holden panel vans and utes, and assorted other clapped out vehicles, making the Friday night trek Down South (often after a few beers at the White Sands pub in Scabs).

Chuck, Peter “PB” Bevan, John “Jake” Jacobs, me and a bunch of other surf nuts hunkered down in sleeping bags on air mattress’ on the lawn at Yallingup on Friday nights – unless it rained and we dragged them into the old dunnies, before waking with the rising sun on Saturday to see what Huey had dished up for us for the weekend. No internet swell and wind forecasts, or mobile phones back then – the only reliable test was being there and the naked eye.

One Saturday, Chuck, Jake and I woke to big Yallingup and a moderate sou’ easter blowing. Perfect for Injidup Point. In those days you could drive out on a track to just behind the point to a small parking area about adjacent to the break. [The track was later swallowed up by the giant sand dune which now spills into the waters of the bay]

It was firing that day. We were first in the water. The rest of the crew from Yalls soon followed. We surfed multiple sessions, all day, in great waves. We were last to leave. Unfortunately, John’s Holden ute was crap in the sand and we were soon bogged …and stuck there all night – arrggghhhhh!! Hungry, thirsty, salt-encrusted and taking sweltering refuge in sleeping bags, as whenever we put our heads out were attacked by hordes of mosquitos. It was a very, very long night

Rescue came next morning when we walked around Inji bay and found some mates checking out Carpark. They drove us back around the track. Together, we all lifted up the ute, shoved tree branches torn off trees under the wheels….and pushed the bugger out, with the wheels spinning in the soft sand.

By 1969/70, we started getting panel vans to sleep in during our almost weekly Down South treks. For a year, Chuck, Peter Bevan and I later rented a diary farmer’s old weatherboard cottage located on the road from Cowaramup town to the coast (he’d moved up the hill to a new house but left the power connected to the old place) for $52, paid in advance….i.e. for ONE YEAR (do the math = $1 a week!).

And we started dragging our girlfriends along (some which were later to become wives) for what would now look like pretty primitive living conditions…the hot water for showers in the old cottage coming from a pipe running through a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. One Friday night, I arrived with my lady (now the Missus) in a fierce winter storm to find a couple of pigs had broken in and were occupying one room!

…but it was all part of the great adventure we were having back then. And we were getting heaps of great, uncrowded waves when you knew pretty much everybody in the line-up – how lucky were us baby boomer surfing generation back then, eh??!

Fast forward to January 2016 and my old school, surfing and journalism buddy Chuck was out on Sydney harbour for his weekly group power surf ski paddling session led by close mate, the legendary ironman champion Guy Leech when… the lights went out

Chuck – non-smoker, fit, still trim – had a heart attack. Guy’s lifesaving skills kept him breathing until the ambulance arrived but he never regained consciousness in the hospital and a few days later the life support system was switched off. And he was gone. It was big shock and raw for me. But time heals a little …and now, just over a year later, it’s time to put down some stuff about his remarkable life, especially related to surfing…………..

Tom Blaxell recalled when they were at Hale School and he was making his first backyard boards at his family’s home on West Coast Highway at south Scarborough, 15-year-old Chuck was urging him to go commercial and make a career of it. Chuck laid out a vision for a bright future for ‘Blaxell Surfboards’. Tom says now that Chuck inspired him back then to have a go.

In 1968, he registered the business. Eventually Blaxell ended up with a workforce of 40 odd and making great boards and boats at the last of three factories he was to operate in Scarborough Beach Road, Osborne Park over the years. In 1987, Tom sold out to some investors from the big end of town.

In the 1968 State Schoolboys’ titles at Scarborough, I was captain of the Hale School team, which included Chuck. We both won our heats. I bombed out in the semis and Chuck went on to come fourth in the Final. Bunbury high school had some great surfers – like Lex Cornelius, Glyn Lance, Peter Roberts – and they kicked our butts to win the then coveted Schools championship.

Image: 1968 Hale School Cygnet magazine. Review of 1968 WA Schoolboys Surfboard Championship. Image courtesy of Errol Considine.

That same year Chuck, me and Jake piled in an FJ panel van owned by another school buddy Geoff Rankine-Wilson and well went south for the March long weekend State titles. The radiator kept boiling and we had to stop often. Its max. speed was about 50mph (80kmh). The suspension and tyres were dodgy. So, we couldn’t take the shorter Old Coast Road as part of it was unsealed with corrugated limestone which would have probably shaken the car body from chassis! So it was a long journey both ways on the South West Highway.

I remember the heats were held at Yallingup on the Saturday but the swell jumped on Sunday and the wind went onshore, so the Finals were moved to glassy and overcast Huzzas. There was a big crowd.

[I think it rained a little and there were people sitting under that big limestone overhang which was of course to be the scene of such a deeply-scarring tragedy decades later, when it collapsed during another competition.]

We were barracking for some of our home beach Scarborough mates – Robin ‘Skullcap’ Sutherland in the Open and Bob Monkman in the Juniors. They were both great surfers. Both were to later move down south to be part of the first generation of resident surfers on the Capes coast – Skully settled in Smiths valley at Yallingup and Bob at Quindalup and then Old Dunsborough, where they remain living today. Bob is still carving on the big stuff at Yalls – legend!

In January 1969, both Chuck and I landed jobs as cadet journalists with WA Newspapers – Chuck on “The West Australian” and me on the afternoon “Daily News”. Peter Bevan had started as a cadet Press Artist at WA Newspapers too.

Us three amigos chased waves and women together on weekends and if we weren’t working, drove down south. In those days we all wore suits or jackets and ties to work. Chuck was always the most stylishly suited. With his long blonde locks and twinkling blue eyes he never found it hard to attract the ladies.

In 1970, PB bought a good Holden panel van and had double bunks fitted in the back. Before dawn on cold Saturday morning in early May, the three of us loaded on the boards (them on Blaxell models and me with a new Laurenson) and we set off for Bells Beach and the World Surfing titles.

We drove non-stop, taking turns sleeping in the back and rotating on wheel duty. Although, I don’t think anybody slept on the long unpaved section on the Nullarbor Plain at night, as we dodged hordes of roos. And back then heaters were an ‘optional luxury extra’ in Holden cars, so it was pretty chilly too.

On the final overnight leg from Adelaide to Victoria, we encountered a mouse plague. On a section of country road in the backblocks of South Australia, there were thousands and thousands of mice scurrying across the road illuminated by the headlights. Their bodies being crunched and squished under the wheels, which was a little gut-churning for three city boys from Perth! But another unique experience of the natural phenomenon in our wide brown land.

We pulled up at Bells in the half-light of dawn Monday morning to see the world’s best surfers in the line-up putting on a show. They were all huddled in a clump. There was one lone rider on the other side of the bowl going backdoor ….as the sun came up and it got lighter, we realised that surfer was our mate Ian Cairns, who’d been included in the Australian team along with Michael Petersen as sort of junior wild card rookies. Kanga was already something special and always aggressive and ready to take on and stick it up anybody – so doing his own thing in the water regardless of reputations was nothing new.

We played pool with Michael Petersen at Torquay Hotel one night. He didn’t talk. Just sipped his beer and sort of grunted when it was our shot – we thought he was a bit strange but of course now know that he was fighting some inner demons.

Bells and Winky were pretty much off limits while the World titles were on, so we surfed Point Impossible a lot and had some great sessions. We even got about an hour session, with the tide just right, with great waves at Torquay Point!

We also visited the then pretty rudimentary Rip Curl factory and bought long-sleeved wetsuit vests from Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick. They were the latest breakthrough in wetsuit design technology. Worn over our sleeveless long-john wetties it was a lot of rubber but welcome added upper body warmth to cope with the shock of the frigid Vic water.

One night we went to the Torquay movie theatre with the crowd cutting loose, with Jaffas being rolled down the aisles, lots of chatter and hootin’ and hollerin’, and everybody having a great time.

We didn’t stick around to see the end of the World titles. So, after about a week at Torquay we did an overnight run north up the Hume Highway, from Melbourne – including taking  a little detour into Canberra next morning to have a gander at Parliament House …it proved to be not great timing!

It was national Moratorium Day with the biggest street demonstrations ever seen in Australia, protesting against the Vietnam War and conscription ….some burly security guards nabbed us as soon as we got through the front doors and three scruffy surfers were unceremoniously booted out (literally!) and told to bugger off ….

Onwards to Sydney and we drove into Manly that afternoon with a big swell pumping and glassy conditions. Some mates from Scarborough had rented a beautiful but aged two-storey white weatherboard house right on the beach road opposite North Steyne break and had some spare beds on an enclosed veranda and let us move in for our Sydney stayover.

[Today there is a high-rise block of apartments on the site. Ironically, Chuck’s wake last January was held a short distance away at Queenscliff Surf Lifesaving Club – a big joyful-sad event with a who’s who of past and present Sydney TV and media attending]

That first afternoon in Sydney, the only spot we dared to try and get out was Manly corner. It was fun. We weren’t brave enough that first day to join the small crew at Fairy Bower, which had a fearsome reputation back then …although we did have a small-ish session out there some days later.

Next morning, we ventured up to Palm Beach corner – as the swell was still big and unrideable on the main beaches – for another fun session. PB had been across in 1968 to watch Wayne Lynch, Nat Young and crew in the Nationals with huge swell seeing some heats even held at a break inside the harbour Heads, when all the open beaches were maxxed out. So, he knew his way around to the northern beaches and did all the driving.

We also went out at North Narrabeen. We’d seen it in so many magazines and movies. The waves were good. But the locals had a well-earned reputation for protecting their home turf. They were not too friendly to three interlopers from the other side of the country trespassing on their break!

The swell settled down and served us up a week of all-day offshores and great overhead waves at North Steyne. We tumbled out of bed each morning, slipped into our wetsuits, walked across the road and stepped into great surf. Magic.

A big memory for PB was a session in the North Steyne line-up with surfing demi-god Gerry ‘Mr Pipeline’ Lopez in the water, on his way back to Hawaii from the Bells titles.

Mr Lopez was surfing on a board over a foot longer than ours, which paddled way faster. He snaked PB about six times. This was despite pumping swell, great left and right banks, and plenty of waves for everyone.

PB finally got jack of this and kept paddling onto a wave as the Hawaiian did his wave hog snake thing AGAIN …and he landed right on top of Lopez. They surfaced about a metre apart. Lopez just launched a king-hit ….PB left the water with blood streaming from his nose.

[PB was a good surfer – a goofy-footer who excelled in the big stuff down south, he was later named WA Surfer of the Year. He was not a hassler in the water and never involved in biffo, so this incident was right out of character. We all admired Lopez back then – and still do – but maybe his demi-god Zen state of mind was something less than Island mellow in the surf, back in those younger days when we were all a little more testosterone-charged?!]

We then headed north again and had a great late afternoon session at classic Angourie, with hardly anybody out. Then on to Byron and slept in the van to wake to an OK few waves at The Pass, and then a couple of really good uncrowded sessions at Broken Head.

Heading further north, we rolled in to Coolangatta on a Sunday afternoon and hit the beach at the fabled Greenmount and could see waves rolling through. But the traffic was heavy and we had to keep driving. Rounding the headland, our intention was to pull over as soon as we could, do a u-turn, and go back and surf Greenmount.

But around that bend was Kirra. And it was absolutely pumping with not many guys out. Wow!

It was one of those sessions you remember for the rest of your life. I got one of the barrels of my life. Chuck and PB were yelling their heads off and even some locals were hooting.

After some days of great waves at Snapper with OK crowds (and as I now recollect, generally a pretty friendly and hassle-free vibe in the water), we headed north again – to Noosa.

We got a week of perfect pumping Noosa points.

Back then, from memory, Noosa consisted of the surf club, a servo, pub and a couple of shops, and not much else. We camped in the panel van at Nationals carpark. The few locals didn’t seem to bother hitting the waves until about 10am. We were up at the crack of dawn. One morning, Chuck and PB surfed pumping Granites by themselves and I was alone at perfect Tea Tree, for about three hours. Those memories stick for a lifetime…

Back home in Perth to work – and both Chuck and I eventually moved on from newspapers to TV news. He joined Channel Nine and I went to Seven.

Through this period he was carving out quite a name and appearing on camera in news reports most nights. Quickly becoming the golden-haired boy – figuratively and literally!

We were all doing a lot of surfing together – day trips to The Spot (near Yanchep); up to Lancelin and paddling out to South Passage; occasionally to Avalon and Geary’s, or Long Point near Rockingham (if there was any north in the wind, in winter); Kalbarri; and of course hauling south down the then sealed Old Coast Road – hardly any traffic, no coppers or speed traps to be seen, and so we made some very fast trips to Yalls! During this period we surfed Windmills quite often and tasted new breaks like Three Bears.

Sometimes in summer, desperate for some good waves, would get up at 4:00am. Drive down to Yalls. Check out the conditions and pick a spot. Surf till we dropped. And drive home that same night – totally knackered but stoked.

PB had acquired a short wheel-base Jeep and sometimes if the summer conditions were right – i.e., hot and E/NE winds – we would just head straight to Left Handers or Big Rock, back of Cowaramup, or to Three Bears to get our wave fix.

Photo: 1970s Chuck with his Blaxell board in the keyhole at Rocky Point. Ric Chan pic.

And of course, back in Perth there was classic Trigg Point without the mega crowd dangers seen now…plus Scarborough, when it still regularly had good waves. Cottesloe and sessions at Cove and Isolated (NOT ‘Isolaters’ as it has more recently been misnamed!). And City Beach at night sometimes.

Around his time, as Chuck’s TV profile increased, surf photographer Ric Chan was featuring him in a lot of his shoots.

Chuck became a lifelong photo buff and always had a camera in his hands…I suspect that’s why he was mates with Ric Chan as he was probably get tips early on from Ric about what camera gear to buy, how to take shots etc.

Photo: 1970s Chuck with his camera at Scarborough. Ric Chan pic.

I went into TV news producing but Chuck was made to front the camera. Eventually, he went across to Sydney to take up a highly-prized gig as a reporter with the Nine Network’s “A Current Affair”. Then fronted by the legendary Mike Willesee, it was all ground breaking stuff and now part of Australian TV history.

Chuck did a lot of surfing around Sydney and up the NSW north coast.

He had become close friends too with Kanga Cairns, around the time I took off with my lady to South Africa, UK and Europe on a long working holiday, over 1974/75.

During this time, they took the ferry across to Rottnest to surf Strickland Bay and Chickens as those spots had opened up and become better known.

Chuck posted photographs to me in Durban, South Africa (where I was getting sensational waves with the likes of eventual World champ Shaun Tomson) of perfect surf at the new break, Strickos, with him and Kanga surfing it alone. [Ian last year told me they got back so late from the back of Rotto and had to run with their boards and barely made the ferry home.]

Photo: 1974 Rottnest Island.  Chuck surfing on his backhand at Strickland Bay. Charles Stewart pic.

Photo: 1974 Rottnest Island.  Kanga Cairns surfing Strickland Bay. Charles Stewart pic.

Chuck took the following photo of Kanga and wrote the caption.

Photo: 1976 Ian ‘Kanga’ Cairns surfing Margaret River main break. Chuck Stewart pic.

In 1976 Ian was the unofficial Aussie world champ and subsequently featured as the guest of honour in an episode of the hugely popular national Seven network show, “This is Your Life”. Hosted by Roger Climpson, each week it featured a famous Aussie who was lured to the TV studios on some false pretence and then shoved in front of the cameras and a live audience for the half-hour show. Family, friends and other people from the celebrity guest’s life came on and told stories about them and showed clips.

Chuck was one of those giving testimonials and anecdotes about Kanga, as well as brilliant WA surfer Barry Day (also a hugely-talented WAFL Premiership player, before crossing to Melbourne to play in the VFL for Essendon).

Photo: 1979 Kanga on This is Your Life TV show (7 Network).

L-R Ian Cairns, Chuck, Barry Day and show host Roger Climpson.

In the early 1980s, with the birth of national breakfast TV, Chuck moved from ACA to Nine’s “Today” show and became the ‘motoring correspondent’. This allowed him to indulge his love of fast exotic cars. And get to flog them around test tracks and get paid for it – heaven on a stick!

Photo: 1980s Nine Network publicity shot of Chuck – when he was the Motoring Reporter on the (then new) Today show. Photo courtesy of Nine Network & Errol Considine.

Peter Bevan reckon the board Chuck is holding in the following photo was an Ian Cairns ‘Bonza’. Tom Blaxell reckons it was an early thruster and dates some time from 1982 and before 1990, when fin boxes were invented.

Photo: 1980s Chuck with an Ian Cairns ‘Bonza’ surfboard at Scarborough. Photo courtesy of Errol Considine.

Later in the 1980s, Chuck moved to Nine Network’s “Wide World of Sports” and “Sports Sunday”, which were in their heydays. His WWOS Producer was another ex-Scarborough surfer, Steve Matthews (who had also competed against us in the ’68 State Schoolboys’ titles, riding for one of the Leederville Catholic boys’ schools, CBC I think).

Photo: 1966 Steve Mathews Boomerang Board Club Scarborough. Photographer unknown.

Apart from motor sports, and especially Grand Prix, Chuck covered anything that involved water for WWOS.

At the wake, Guy Leech said that Chuck’s passionate and graphic reporting on WWOS played a critical role in pushing triathlons and the Ironman event to becoming headlining, mainstream sports in Australia.

Chuck was the first to bring the Hawaiian Ironman to Australian TV screens, taking the camera into the heart of the action, up close and personal long before Go Pro.

His WWOS reporting work took him to the USA, Canada, England, Europe, Asia and the Pacific and included covering two Winter Olympics as part of Channel Nine’s Australian host broadcaster team.

When satellite TV and other technology and TV audience changes spelled the end of the WWOS regular weekend programs, Chuck set up his own production company. He made many corporate videos and DVDs on sports and famous sportsmen. He loved working with all sports, except for some in rugby league who he reckoned were blockheads and hard to deal with!

Click to view Charles Stewart Media Profile.

In 2011, he was on the broadcast production crew doing interviews for Fox Sports for the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.

I think that was probably the last year (or second last year) the DAMRP was a Prime rated event, before getting full ASP CT tour event ranking – cos it was the last time I hosted the media conference and we had a good contingent turn up, including TV, because we had Kelly Slater – I remember me asking a series of questions to the surfers (probably with Joel Parkinson and Taj B on the front desk with Kelly)….anyway, I threw the floor open to the journos after my opening salvo …and the reporters all sat there like stunned mullets (mute and in awe of Kelly, I think) ….so Chuck quickly worked out what was happening and jumped in from the back of the room and fired off 3 or 4 good questions, which saved our bacon!

…would have been bloody embarrassing for Surfing WA and me, if it had all just petered out …at that stage I couldn’t very well jump back in with more ?s!

After that the ASP > WSL took over responsibility for pretty much all the media stuff – and I was put out to pasture!

Photo: 2011 surf journo Wayne Murphy, Chuck & Ian ‘Kanga’ Cairns. Loz Smith pic.

Chuck later took a year off to research and write a book about the true story of his father who passed away when Chuck was very young and he never knew. “The Rich Man” revealed a charming gentleman swindler who became the focus of an international manhunt and worldwide headlines. Amazing…

Click on this link to listen to audio of Chuck’s “The Rich Man’ book interview with Phillip Adams on ABC in 2010.

At Chuck’s wake, fellow Perth surfer and journo Brad Schmitt gave a eulogy (more like a celebrity roast) about their days working at TCN 9 and chasing parties and girls around Sydney, and hunting waves up the northern beaches and north NSW coast. They both also became accomplished skiers and surfing gave way in winter to weekends driving up to Perisher Valley in the Snowy Mountains. Later, they took skiing trips to New Zealand then the USA and places like Colorado and Utah, and tackling challenging ‘black diamond’ powder snow slopes:

Schmitty in his address to the wake crowd:Returning from a northern beaches party one late rainy night, Chuck –who always fancied himself as a rally driver – fanged the gold BMW …and went to do a left turn. “Hmm…bit fast”, I thought. And sure enough we continued to turn left and around and around, aquaplaning 360 degrees into the old timber bus stop. The bus stop exploded into a thousand pieces. We looked at each other – what the f+*# just happened?! Fortunately, the streets were empty. Both of us escaped unscathed and quietly we pushed the old Beamer down the road and left it parked in a side street. Chuck returned to retrieve his car a few days later and no one was the wiser.”

You Tube clips of his TV career, including the Olympics, were on the show reel which Chuck’s son Matt (now a highly respected and sought after cinematographer for big budget advertising and some TV shows) put together for screening at the wake last year.

Click to view Charles Stewart Memorial Wake video

While Chuck rarely surfed in his later years, he was often on the water doing hard-core surf ski paddling sessions…including from Sydney’s inner harbour, out into deep water and the open sea, around the heads, past Fairy Bower, and back into Manly. Hitting the snow slopes remained a passion.

He was 64 when he passed away January 2016.

Errol Considine.

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Gallery

Some memories of early Three Bears by Errol Considine

It must have been late 1971 or early 1972 my surfing buddy Peter Bevan found out about Three Bears – from memory, either George Simpson told him, or maybe the word had come from Tom Hoye who was working at Blaxell’s in Osborne Park…and we had all just ordered our first Hoye boards – down rails, chamfered nose, raked single fin…stoked!

Up until I read the recent Surfing Down South article about when George Simpson, Mick Gracie and Mark Rudenberg had found Bear in August ’71, I’d always been under the impression that we first rode the fabled break only a few weeks after the boys had first discovered it ….but it now seems apparently that was not the case!

Most weekends Peter Bevan, Chuck Morton-Stewart and I would drive down south on Friday night, camp on the grass at Yallingup with sleeping bags and air mattresses, surf all day if we could, and hit the pub on Saturday night ….and then surf again next day before driving home Sunday night, stuffed (and broke)!

We had gone to Hale School together and all landed jobs as cadets at WA Newspapers – Chuck (West Australian) and me (Daily News) as journos, and Peter as a press artist, covering both papers.

After we heard about this new spot called “Three Bears”, on our next weekend trip south we headed straight for Sugarloaf Rock on Saturday morning; parked PB’s Holden panel van; and headed back towards Yallingup cutting through the sharp coastal scrub on the sand dunes ridge line along the clifftops. I remember it was summer  – hot (boardies only – no wetties), offshore (ENE) and bugger all swell at Yalls … perfect conditions for Bears, as we were soon to find out.

The trek on the cliff ridgeline was an absolute killer. As anybody who experienced it back then would recall, the flies were in plague proportions. You had to walk with towels over your head…despite this, you usually still managed to swallow one or two of the little buggers along the way!  The back of the guy walking in front of you was just black – blanketed in bushflies!

I also recall seeing a few dugites across the narrow clifftop pathway, which called for some quick evasive footwork!!

We couldn’t believe it when we got there, how epic it was. What an adventure we all shared back then as surf secrets of the Capes coast slowly opened up and provided us with all its treasures.

That first day, it stayed offshore and we surfed until we couldn’t paddle anymore.

We then had to make that gruelling walk back ….and as Stewart Bettenay recounted in his Bears’ memories – we didn’t take any food or water….young, strong, fit and…stupid!

Slaked, sunburnt, stuffed and stoked!

When we finally staggered back to the car, it was then a cannonball run back to Dunsborough Bakery where we almost scoffed down a pile of pies and cakes, and just about swallowed whole some cans of cold Coke….with our hunger and thirst slaked we were sunburnt, stuffed and stoked.

From memory, that first summer we pretty much only rode the left at Momma’s and occasionally drifted across to catch a few rights at Babys’.

Later came the trips to Bears flogging and pushing Tom Blaxell’s panel van, or a mate’s VW Beetle, up the really steep sand hill at the back of Rabbit’s to get there ….very few people had 4WDs back then.

And later, the new track opened up through the fields (off the Yallingup-Dunsborough road) and through the bush, with a few farmers’ gates to open and shut along the way.

On one of our next trips south on that first Bears’ summer – it might have even been the very next weekend after that first trek – we took along photographer Ian Ferguson who had also been at school with us, and surfed for a while, and was a cadet snapper at WA Newspapers…the photo taken by Ian shows me on my new Blaxell Hoye surfboard at small, clean Bears.

Photo: 1971-72 Errol surfing his new Blaxell Hoye surfboard at Bears. Ian Ferguson pic.

All these years later, I can’t count the number of great sessions we’ve had at Bears since early 1970s.

These days, having done quite a bit of travelling around the world, I can now also more fully appreciate how absolutely bloody awesome and amazing that Cape Naturaliste end of the coast is – especially the stunning stretch of beach with its three distinct breaks.

We were all so lucky to get it with just us and our mates back in those earlier times. But I still get the huge buzz of excitement when driving over the hill and seeing the incoming Indian Ocean swell lines ….although those visits are now unfortunately few and far between.

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