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GEOFF CULMSEE GOES BACK!!!

Geoff Culmsee recorded his SW memoirs for the Surfing Down South book published by Margaret River Press in 2014. Excerpts from these memoirs where included in the book.

I first went to Yallingup in 1960 when I was 16 years old. I went with Murray Smith whose mate owned a car!! It was in January and there was a dozen or so surfers out…Kevin Merifield, Mark Paterson, Ray Geary and some whose names I can’t remember. They were a few years older than us and were probably the original surfers.

The first day was clean 4 to 5ft surf but coming from Scarborough, Yallingup was a whole different thing. I had never imagined waves with so much water and push in them. I think the first time I caught about one wave and was glad to get back on the beach. Things improved from then on. We only had a few days and went home full of enthusiasm.

With a few mates we formed a new surfboard club called the North End Board Club. It grew to around 25 members and we used Smithy’s place in Scarborough as the headquarters, as he lived right on the beach. All the members paid 2 shillings a week and we built up enough money to buy a block of land at Georgette Way in Prevelly Park in 1964.

Photo: 1961 North End Board Club at Scarborough L-R M Darcy, J Pinch, unidentified doing Quasimodo, Murray Smith, Geoff Culmsee & Gary Granery. Murray Smith pic.

1961 Scarborough North End Board Club M Darcy, J Pinch, unknown, M Smith, G Culmsee & G Granery - Murray Smith pic2

At age 18 I bought my first car… a Holden…and we started going down south once or twice a month. It was a bit of a trek then as the coast road was rough limestone from Miami to Australind so we travelled the Southwest Highway. We surfed mainly Yallingup and Injidup, most weekends with only 2 or 3 car loads of surfers.

We camped under the melaleuca trees at Yallingup where the playground is now, slinging hammocks up for the weekend. Most of the time, we didn’t even leave Yallingup. You could lie in your hammock and watch the waves roll in. There were old weatherboard change rooms on the beach where we left our Malibu boards…no-one ever touched them. Things were really good in those days! The old change rooms slowly fell down and finished up as firewood for the odd kegs we had on the beach.

When there was no surf we went exploring down the coast and one day some mates came back with reports of great right-handers at a place called Cowaramup…also Gallows was discovered and then Margaret River.

In 1963 the North End Board Club bought the block in Prevelly and our base became Margaret River. We started building a shack on weekends and holidays. Within 12 months we had a 3 room shack with a toilet and shower…luxury!! The shack only had louver windows which were pretty draughty in winter, but it sure beat hammocks!! The shack stayed in the board club for over 40 years and was sold to one of the members (Zac Kochanowitsch).

Photos: 1967 North End board club shack at Prevelly Park with Geoff’s Landrover on the right. Murray Smith pics.

1967 North End Shack Prevelly MS pics collage_photocat

With my wife and 3 month old daughter we shifted down south to live in 1969. We first lived in Prevelly in a caravan, but when our daughter needed more space we found an old farmhouse inland a bit on the Margaret River. In those days I surfed Margs on my own, sometimes because there was not many people around during the week, and many times I just waited hoping someone would turn up!

I started my first surfboard shop down south at the farmhouse. We shifted to an old farmhouse at Cowaramup, but didn’t stay too long because it was full of fleas and it was either them or us and we took the easy option!! We moved to a farmhouse on Caves Road next to where Driftwood Estate Winery now stands, which had a lot better exposure as far as selling surfboards went.  By this time there were a lot more surfers around and we were surfing most of the breaks that are surfed today. After a couple of years we shifted to Eagle Bay, living in a cottage on the Rocky Point track. I continued making surfboards in a shed that I built.

Photo: 2016 Mark Hills from Yahoo Surfboards with a vintage Geoff Culmsee single fin surfboard made in the shed at Eagle Bay 1971-73. Photo courtesy of Yahoo Surfboards.

2016 70s Geoff Culmsee surfboard at Yahoo collage_photocat

We didn’t have 240volt power at first because the power lines didn’t go that far, but we put some money towards the scheme to get it out there. We were the only ones out there until a local doctor built a house in the then new subdivision where the Eagle Bay shop was.

I teamed up with surfing mate Ralph Redman and started a fibreglass business in Dunsborough which operated for about 30years

Photo: 1970 Geoff-Culmsee surfing Big Rock beach at Gracetown. Jim Breadsell pic.

1969 Noiseys Cowaramup surfing Geoff Culmsee - Jim Breadsell pic.jpg

The Gallows track ran down between fences at Cullens Winery…a horror track in winter with creeks flowing over it which bogged most cars, if you were not careful! It stopped about 2 kilometres from the coast and you had to sneak through the bush past Cullen’s beach cottage to the surf break carrying heavy Malibu’s! One day a bulldozer happened to be working in the area and a couple of guys from the West Coast Board Club talked the driver into pushing a track the last 2 kms to the beach, through someone’s farm. The problem was that no-one thought to ask the farmer!! There was a bit of unrest for a while, but it all settled down and the track stayed open. It was also a hell of track in summer…going in wasn’t too bad, but it had some black sandy hills to climb coming out which meant getting out and pushing in sand that was as hot as hell!!….All good fun!! The tracks into Injidup and Left Handers were not much better.

John and Paul Witzig came over a few times bringing some of Australia’s best surfers…Wayne Lynch was one that that John was taking photos of for his surf magazine…Tracks. Paul was taking movies. This started a lot of eastern states surfers coming over.

Image: Renowned NSW surf journo/photographer John Witzig took this photo of Geoff Culmsee in front of an old farmhouse at Margaret River circa 1970. It has been shown in Surf mags and Photo Exhibitions around OZ. Geoff’s framed image has been signed by John Witzig.  Image courtesy of John Witzig & Geoff Culmsee.

1970 Cowaramup farm house Geoff Culmsee - John Witzig DSC_0310 (2)

A lot happened in the mid 70s with surfers turning up from all over Australia to surf. Some stayed and made the area their home. It was the hippy era with long hair and beards which didn’t impress the local farmers much. You had to prove to them that you were willing to miss a surf and turn up for work!

On a trip south a young George Simpson, his brother Mick and mate Mick Gracie walked the coast from Yallingup to Sugar Loaf and saw the wave at Bears. It was called MGM for a long time before being named 3 Bears. At first it was a walk from Sugar Loaf to surf it.

Around this time a very easy going American…Tom Hoye had moved down and was making surfboards in a shed next to the shop at Yallingup beach. He lived in a farmhouse near the Dunsborough Cemetery. The farm ran all the way to the coast so Tom could drive through the paddocks all the way to Bears. It was a bloody long way and not much of a track. A new track was needed, so with an old Toyota with a log tied on the roo bar a track was pushed through from Rabbit Hill Yallingup to 3 Bears.

In the late 70s to 80s Yallingup was declared a NO DOLE area as they were too many surfers not working and claiming the dole. As it happened…the early surfers changed the area by bringing in many tradesmen and guys like Tony Harbison who built the first Holiday cottages in Yallingup (Hideaway Holiday Homes).

When my daughter started school there were 43 children at the school in Dunsborough and now there are 2 primary schools at capacity. We sure had the best of life surfing back then and it was a great place to bring up kids.

It’s a pity that things change…but that’s progress…not always all for the good!!

Photo: 1989 Abrolhos trip Culmsee, Burrow & Redman families. Photo courtesy of Nancy Burrow.

L-R Nancy Burrow, Gina Pannone, Tony Cook, Vance & Taj Burrow, Justin Redman, Geoff Culmsee & Ralph Redman (the moustache bros), Wayne (red shirt), Natasha Culmsee (now remarried) and John Clemenger. Boat cook (crouching).

1989 Abrolhos trip Burrow, Culmsee & Redman families - Nance Burrow pic IMG_0001

Geoff is now a septuagenarian and shares his surfing time between SW and NW waves, similar to his mate Murray Smith.

Last year Geoff, Ralph Redman, Vance Burrow & Geoff Hewitt scored good waves on a boat trip in the Maldives.

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1960-70s Geoff Culmsee

In 1961 Scarborough surfer Geoff Culmsee was a foundation member of the North End Board Club at Scarborough.

Photo: 1961 North End boys clowning around at Scarborough. L-R. M Darcy, J Price, unknown, Murray Smith, Geoff Culmsee & Gary Granery. Photo credit Murray Smith.

1961 Scarborough North End Board Club M Darcy, J Pinch, unknown, M Smith, G Culmsee & G Granery - MS pic

Geoff was attracted to SW and its waves during the 60s. In 1967 he helped build the North End Board Club shack at Prevelly in  the Margaret River region.

Photo: 1967 Marg River Prevelly. North End shack with Geoff Culmsee’s Land Rover out the front. Photo courtesy of Murray Smith.

1967 Marg River Prevelly Nth End Shack Geoff Culmsee Landrover - MS Pic4

Photo: 1970 Marg River Prevelly. North End shack in centre foreground.  Aerial photo by Jim Breadsell.

1970 Marg River Prevelly North End shack in foreground aerial view - Jim Breadsell pic

Photo: 1969 Geoff surfing Noiseys near Lefthanders at Cowaramup. Photo credit Jim Breadsell.

1969 Noiseys Cowaramup surfing Geoff Culmsee - Jim Breadsell pic.jpg

In the early 70s Geoff moved his family to the SW and started making Geoff Culmsee surfboards. Geoff made surfboards at several SW locations including a shed on his property at Eagle Bay (located near the Rocky Point track). He then teamed up with talented SW surfer Ralph Redman & started a fibreglass business in Clark Street Dunsborough which operated for 30 years.

Photos: 1971 Geoff Culmsee hand crafted single fin surfboard.  Photos courtesy of Phil Woods vintage surfboard collection.

1971 Geoff Culmsee design Paul Woods collection collage_photocat

Geoff is now a septuagenarian and shares his surfing time between SW and NW waves, similar to his mate Murray Smith.

Photo: 2011 Geoff checking outer reefs in the NW. Photo courtesy of Vance Burrow.

2011 Exmouth outer reef Geoff Culmsee

Photo: 2012 Geoff surfing in the NW. Photo courtesy of Vance Burrow.

2012 Geoff Culmsee Exmouth VB pic2

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The Redman surfing dynasty.

NSW surfer Ralph Redman (a former office worker and builder’s labourer) migrated to WA in 1970 after an exploratory visit in 1967-68.

Ralph: “In 1967 I left my girlfriend Jill in NSW and with my mate Ray ‘Cactus’ Boyle travelled to WA on route to Portugal. We surfed good waves at Esperance in WA and then aborted our planned Portugal trip. Instead we headed to Geraldton and worked on wheat silos for 12 months. Then I moved to the SW and surfed for 6 months. I remember meeting Peter Mac at Yallingup but can’t recall the others. After that I boarded the cruise ship ‘Northern Star’ at Fremantle and headed home to NSW in 1968.”

In 1969 Ralph & Jill married and moved from the Sydney area to the NSW coastal towns of Angourie & Brooms Head for 12 months.

Photos: Left: 1967 Ralph surfing Esperance beach break on his nose rider board. Right: 1969 Ralph with home-made surfboards at Manly NSW. Photo credits Ralph Redman.

1960s Ralph Esperance & Manly IMG_001

In 1970 Ralph & Jill left NSW and migrated to WA. They settled in the SW near the Smiths Beach turn-off before moving to a place at Yallingup.

Ralph: “My dad was always moving our family around because of his job and we were used to living in different places. In 1971 Jill & I moved up to Geraldton to escape the cold SW winter and our first son Patrick was born (Dec 1971). I found good waves from Geraldton to Kalbarri and enjoyed my time in the Mid-West region. The family still holidays at Kalbarri.”

In 1972 the Redman family left Geraldton and returned to the SW. They settled in Eagle Bay with the Culmsee family before moving to a place in Dunsborough and then the D’Espeissis property. The Redman’s continued building their brood. Next came daughter Melanie in 1975 and second son Justin in 1977.

The talented goofy footer settled into the solitude of free surfing and skin diving in the SW. He didn’t get involved in competitive surfing.

Photos: Left: 1972 Ralph & son Patrick at Jakes Point in Kalbarri. (Note: The Toyota Land Cruiser in this pic was later used to push through a coastal track from Yallingup to Bears). Photo credit Ralph Redman. Right: 1972 this image of Ralph surfing Margaret River featured on the front cover of Tracks Magazine. Image courtesy of Tracks Mag.

1970s Ralph compilation #2 IMG_001

Ralph has surfed Three Bears surf break since the early 70s with his mate Geoff Culmsee.

Ralph: “In 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.”

Ralph ran a Dunsborough Fiberglass business for 30 years with Geoff Culmsee. He also ran the Dunsborough Surf Cat hire business in Geographe Bay during the summer holiday period. It was during this period that Ralph took up windsurfing. Ralph was a talented windsurfer and this rubbed off on his son Patrick who went on to win a National Windsurfing title.

Vance Burrow “I spent years windsurfing Margaret’s, Yallingup, Gallows, Augusta and Dunsborough with Ralph.”

Photos: Left: 1976 Dunsborough Surf Cat Hire Ralph with Patrick & young Melanie. Right: 1992 Ralph with jumbo cray at Quindalup. Photo credits Ralph Redman.

1976 & 1992 Ralph Redman compilation IMG_002

Ralph designed his own surfboards & windsurfers and made his own fibreglass windsurfing fins.

Vance Burrow recalls Ralph was a surfing innovator: “Ralph made a scoop-deck surfboard for his daughter Melanie when she was pregnant and designed a foam chin rest for his surfboard.”

In 1980 the Redman family moved to a new house that Ralph built in Quindalup.

Ralph: “At an early age I gave Justin & Melanie their own surfboards (Patrick already had a board) and introduced them to surfing. Justin (age 9) and Melanie (age 11) then started surfing SW waves with Taj Burrow (age 8). The kids had to learn to fix their own boards.”

Photos: Redman kids at the beach.
Top left: 1987 Yallingup Justin & Melanie and Ralph’s surf trailer.
Top right: 1987 Yallingup Melanie age 12, Jake Centa, Daniel Wake, Justin age 10 & Taj Burrow age 9.
Bottom left: 1987 Yallingup Taj & Justin. Photo credits (3) Nancy Burrow.
Bottom right: 1991 Scarborough surf contest mum Jill & Justin. Photo credits Ralph Redman

1980s & 90s Redman kids compilation IMG_002

The family then spread their tentacles and went on surf trips to the Mid-West and North West WA and Indo.

Photos: Left: 1990 Gnaraloo surf trip Ralph, Patrick & Justin playing cards in caravan. Photo credit Ralph Redman Right: 1989 Abrolhos Island surf trip with the Burrow & Culmsee families and SW friends. Photo credit Nancy Burrow.

Gnaraloo & Abrolhos surf trips IMG_001

This created a strong family surfing background and the Redman kids excelled on the surfing scene.

Son Patrick was Australian Windsurfing Champion, four times State Windsurfing Champion & twice won the Lancelin Classic Wave contest.

Daughter Melanie is a renowned West Australian professional surfer (runner up to World title twice to Layne Beachley), twice World Junior Champion (age 15 & 17) and multiple winner of Margaret River contest.

Son Justin is a multiple National Longboard Champion and 10 times winner of Yal Mal Longboard comp.

Photos: Left: 1990s Quindalup Justin and Patrick in the backyard surfboard shaping bay. Right: 1989 Quindalup Melanie & Justin with H20 surfboards. Photo credits Ralph Redman.

Redman kids compilation #2  IMG_001

Ralph has created a surfing dynasty in the SW. He hopes his grandchildren Curren, Josh & Raff (Patrick’s sons), Willow, Poppy & Wyatt (Melanie’s children) and Madison (Justin’s daughter) will continue the family surfing tradition.

Ralph lives in the SW with wife Jill and is still surfing.

Footnote: Ralph has a dry sense of humour. When Ralph found out we were doing a SDS blog on him, he said “don’t tell em I’m a nice guy, tell em I’m a bastard in the water and I might get more waves”. Ed.

 

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1961 North End Board Club

The North End Board Club at Scarborough was one of the first board clubs formed in WA.  The boys in this 1961 photo went on to built a club shack at Prevelly Park, Margaret River and help pioneer the development of surfing in the SW. L-R. Peter Longley, Jim McKenzie, Jim Breadsell, W Smith, Geoff Culmsee, B Sales & B Hunt. Image courtesy of Murray Smith.

1961 North End Board Club Scarb P Longley, J McKenzie, J Breadsell, W Smith, G Culmsee, B Sales & B Hunt - J Breadsell pic

1961 North End boys clowning around at Scarborough. L-R. M Darcy, J Price, unknown, Murray Smith, Geoff Culmsee & Gary Granery. Photo credit Murray Smith.

1961 Scarborough North End Board Club M Darcy, J Pinch, unknown, M Smith, G Culmsee & G Granery - MS pic

1970 North End Board Club member Jim Breadsell took this aerial photo of the North End Shack (centre foreground) at Prevelly Park Margaret River. Photo credit Jim Breadsell.

1970 Marg River Prevelly North End shack in foreground aerial view - Jim Breadsell pic

 

 

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1971 Geoff Culmsee Surfboards

In 1960 Geoff Culmsee (age 16) made his first surf trip to Yalls with his mate Murray Smith. Both of the boys were members of the North End Board Club at Scarborough. In 1969 Geoff shifted down south to live with his wife Esther & 3 month old daughter. He started his first surf shop in a Margaret River farmhouse. After several moves, the family shifted to Eagle Bay and lived in a cottage on the Rocky Point track. Geoff continued to make surf boards in a shed he built. He then teamed up with talented SW surfer Ralph Redman & started a fibreglass business in Dunsborough which operated for 30 years. Photo courtesy of Phil Woods.

1971 Geoff Culmsee hand crafted single fin surfboard - Phil Woods collection IMG_0005