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Meelup Beach in the 70s

Meelup beach is situated on Geographe Bay near Dunsborough. It is a beautiful beach with trees and vegetation growing down to the water’s edge. The beach is part of a Class A Reserve with native flora, fauna and water ways.

Meelup is an aboriginal word meaning ‘Place of the moon rising’ because at certain times of the year the moon appears to rise from the sea.

Photos: 2000’s Meelup Beach & surrounds. Photo courtesy King Bros.

2014 Meelup green Bruce King collage_photocat

The coastline faces NE and is protected from the prevailing SW winds. Occasionally (when the swell & winds align) the beach produces fun novelty waves on its point and bay.

Back in the 70s some lucky surfers lived in the region and got to sample life’s simple natural pleasures.

Photo: 1970s surfers enjoying fun waves in Meelup Bay pre-bitumen car park. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1970s Meelup Beach - Ric Chan 007

Photo: 1970s Terry Hartley from Tangaroa Board Club rugged up against winter chills at Meelup. Photo credit Ric Chan

1970s Meelup Beach - Ric Chan 009

Photo: 1970s SW surfing legend Bob Monkman in his birthday suit at Meelup Beach. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1970s Meelup Beach Bob Monkman - Ric Chan 010A

Photo: Early 1970s renowned surfboard shaper Greg ‘Pants’ Laurenson surfing Meelup Bay on a GL short board. Photo courtesy of Loz Smith, photographer unknown.

Early 70s Greg Laurenson surfing Meelup _ unknown photographer IMG_201

In the late 70s Vance & Nance Burrow rented and lived in a funky small cottage in Meelup Valley.

Photo: 1978 Burrow family cottage in Meelup Valley. Photo credit Vance Burrow.

1978 Meelup Valley V&N Hse VB IMG

Photo: 1978 Former Californian surfer Leon Tomasian dining in the Burrow cottage in Meelup Valley. Photo Vance Burrow.

1978 SW Leon Thomasian Meelup Valley VB IMG


Photos: Novelty waves in Geo Bay. Photos courtesy of Vintage Surf images by Tom Collins and the King Bros.

Novelty waves Geo Bay collage_photocat



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John Balgarnie’s surfing memoirs

Talented goofy footer John ‘JB’ Balgarnie (born 10 July 1946) began his surfing life at Trigg before moving to Cottesloe in the early 60s.

He won his first state title at the WA Winter Championships held at Scarborough in 1966. JB competed successfully at the state level from the 60s until 2010 when he won the ‘over 60s div’ at Whale Bone Classic longboard contest held at Isolated Reef near Cottesloe.

In between those contest wins, JB did a lot of surfing and help design WA’s first artificial surfing reef at Cable Station near Cottesloe.

Image: 1960s contest winner John Balgarnie surrounded by the spoils of victory. Image courtesy of Wet Side News mag.

1960s John Balgarnie Profile 1993 Wet Side News

These are JB’s surfing memoirs.

Contest Achievements

Contest results as shown on trophies.
1966 winter championships……1st place open
1968 6PR WASRA open surf riding comp…..1st place open
1970 state round…..1st place open
1982 Australia day titles…..1st place masters
1985 spring titles….3rd place masters
1985 winter titles….3rd place masters
1990 wet dreams WASRA….1st place masters
1994 state round…..3rd place masters
1995 state titles….2nd place masters
1996 1st state round…..2nd place masters
1996 2nd state round…..2nd place masters
1996 3rd state round……2nd place masters
1999 whalebone invitational….2nd place over 50s
2000 over 50s Cottesloe longboard….2nd place
2009 whalebone over 60s…..2nd place
2010 whalebone over 60s….1st place
Note: I have three more trophies with nothing written on them,
they could be two seconds and a first at Phillip Island Vic.
I have not been in a contest since 2010.

Image: 1966 WA Winter Championships held at Scarborough (JB won Senior Men’s Title). Contest report #1 courtesy of Surfabout Magazine Vol 3 No.7.

1966 WA Winter Champs at Scarborough ex Surfbabout Magazine Vol 3. No 7. IMG_01

Image:1966 WA Winter Championships held at Scarborough (JB won Senior Men’s Title). Contest report #2 courtesy of Surfabout Magazine Vol 3 No.7.

1966 WA Winter Champs at Scarborough ex Surfbabout Magazine Vol 3. No 7. IMG_02

JB represented WA at National Surfing Titles held in on the East Coast.

Photo: 1966 WA State Team at Crescent Heads Country Club. L-R John Balgarnie (front), unknown girl, Boz Cummings, Mike Bibby, unknown, John Staley, Neil Peglar, Arty Sherburn, Barry Young, Murray Smith & unknown girl & boy. Photo courtesy of Barry Young.

1966 Crescent Heads Country Club L-R J Balgarnie,girl,B Cummings, M Bibby,unknown,J Staley,N Peglar,A Sherburn, B Young, M Smith & girl. B Young pic

Surfing history.

My first experience of surfing was at Trigg Point around the age of 13 years old, 1959. In those days only a few surfers would be surfing the point. When one of the surfers fell off his board I would retrieve that board and paddle it back to the surfer. When retrieving boards I learnt how to paddle and later how to surf after buying one of Trigg boards.

My first board was a Wallace 8’6’’ balsa that I kept at a friend’s house at Trigg for about a year, until moving it to Cottesloe and keeping it under the Cottesloe Pavilion, which began my surfing life around Cottesloe area.

My next board was a Gordon Woods 3 stringer 9’3” then a couple of King Cole boards until I snapped one at South Point and Colin Cordingley offered me free boards to ride for the Cordingley surf team. During my Cordingley association I met Greg Laurenson who was shaping for Cordingley’s. From that time on Greg shaped all my boards under Cordingley’s label and later under his own board building business. My association with Greg’s surfboard designs was exciting, new and innovative. I can remember riding my first twin fin board with Greg standing on the reef to see what happens to the fins during a full bottom turn, it was exciting times. After the very sad death of Greg I began to surf on Mt Woodgee surfboards and still do today.

Photo: 1970 Yalls State Titles L-R Peter Holzman, Ron Waddell, Rod Slater, Rob Sutherland, Steve Cockburn, Giles Geiger, John Balgarnie, Peter Dyson, Bruce King & Greg Laurenson in front. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1970 Yalls State Titles P Holzman,R Waddell, R Slater, R Sutherland, S Cockburn, G Geiger, J Balgarnie, P Dyson, B King & G Laurenson - R Chan img424

In 1975 WASRA started a ‘Build a Reef’ campaign for the WA coast. JB was involved in the campaign with Geoff Berry.

Image: 1975 WASRA ‘Build a Reef’ campaign pamphlet. Image courtesy of Arthur Sherburn.

1975 WASRA build a reef campaign - Arthur Sherburn pic img233

JB is an architect and was involved in the planning of the artificial reef at Cable Station near Cottesloe.

Artificial Reef (Construction completed December 1999).

My interest in an artificial reef came from discussions with a friend in Victoria who is a marine engineer and knew the conditions of Perth, being the lack of good banks and hence good surf. It was discussed that if only we had good sand banks to give us more surfing locations the help the ever increasing crowd conditions.

My friend from Victoria, Geoff Atkins came across a thesis by Walker on artificial reefs proposed in Hawaii as part of his studies on marine engineering. This thesis gave us the means to use his proposal and adapt it to Perth conditions by means of submitting a proposal to the government.

The proposal was put together with a friend of mine, Geoff Berry and was a very preliminary submission to raise some finance to hopefully get approval and build the reef. Professor Sylvester from the WA University being from the Marine Engineering Department submitted within our report to give us some credibility to that report.

Unfortunately nothing much happened and the report sat “dead in the water” for a few years. The next interesting development with the help of Keith Campbell from Trigg was a meeting with Mike Board being the Local Member of Government to discuss the artificial reef. Mike Board was looking for a project to help the community and the artificial reef was just what he was looking.

A committee under Mike Board was chosen being myself and another Keith Campbell from the Cottesloe area representing surfing together representatives from the surf life-saving, fishing, University of Marine Engineering and Local Government. The committee would meet to discuss what needed to be accomplished for the construction of the reef and to acceptable to the Government. The very first task was to select a site for the reef. Cable Station was selected because the area had a stable beach area being the existing shore line reef and an existing reef off the coast that could be enhanced with little or no effect on the environment.

Once the site was selected contour surveys were taken for a scale model to be constructed by the University Marine Engineering Department to test all legitimate aspects of the reef proposal. Over a number of years all the testing, costing and method of construction was completed though it wasn’t all easy going. When the committee hadn’t met for a while, a newspaper friend of mine would run a story on the reef and that article would seem to result in the committee meeting again.

To my surprise and after a considerable length of time the proposal for the artificial reef was accepted by the Committee together with Government funding for the construction of the reef.

So the reef was now going to be built though it was Keith Campbell and myself that pushed for the reef to be a longer breaking reef than proposed by the University Marine Engineering Department of WA. Again I was surprised that our proposal to lengthen the surf break was accepted and I can only think it was the very good relationship we had within the committee to get this reef up and working.

My only regret it that no one has taken the concept of the artificial reef and developed it to be used on the open beach areas. I have spent a lot of time getting this reef up and working for the only reason that someone could then run with a proposal on the open beach areas. I would think it’s not so difficult to construct an artificial reef that would change the swell directions producing good surf banks without harming the environment. At the moment we have no sand banks in the summer time, so when we have swell it just closes out making conditions basically terrible for surfing.

Places I have surfed.

I have surfed throughout Australia especially Phillip Island whereby I would spend each summer while studying architecture. Further I have surfed all of the east coast and been part of the Australian titles in Queensland and NSW. My surfing experience on Philip Island started in 1968 and has been ongoing to this day. I spent so much time on the Island I became a member of the Phillip Island Board Club and to this day have friends from the island.

My favourite surf break is Woolamai on Phillip Island as it’s the most perfect beach break you can imagine. The sand banks are so perfect and consistent year in and year out that the locals have named each of the sand banks eg, Anzac alley to name one.

Apart from Australia I have surfed Hawaii on three occasions being the North Shore and the Honolulu area, California coast, Indonesia surf spots eg, Mentawai Islands, Bali, Lombok etc and the Maldives on several occasions.

Photo: 2010 John surfing Pasta Point in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of John Balgarnie.

2010 Maldives pasta point John Balgarnie Img_1

These days.

These days I surf around the Cottesloe area through winter and travel over east or down south during the summer months with the occasional trip overseas. Next year in June I plan to go to the Mentawai Islands on a two week boat trip with friends from Phillip Island.

Photo: 2009 Reunion at City Beach. L-R John Balgarnie, Dave Cummins, Jamie Doig & Geoff Berry. Photo credit Bruce King.

2009 Reunion J Balgarnie, D Cummins, J Doig & Geoff Berry - Bruce King

To date I have never surfed Europe, South Africa or Tasmania, though I would like to surf Europe for the experience and hopefully will one day soon

That’s it, my condensed surfing life. Hope you find the above interesting.


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Old Dunsborough Images

The coastal town of Dunsborough is located on Geographe Bay in the south west of WA. The town consisted of a general store, bakery and a few shacks until the 1950s. It was a sleepy coastal hamlet until surfing became popular in the 60s and wine tourism emerged in the mid-80s.

In 2001 the Dunsborough Writers Group published a book titled ‘Cape of Contrasts’. The book contains of stories of Cape Naturaliste WA and includes recollections and many fine old images of Dunsborough & surrounds. The book is available at the Public Library in Dunsborough.

Click on Your Margaret River Region tourism site to view Dunsborough’s History.

Photo: 1950s Aerial image of Dunsborough Beaches by Alexander Bain. Alexander Bain image courtesy of Brian Cole.

1950s Dunsborough Beaches by Alexander Bain - Brian Cole pic img273

In the 60 & 70s Greenacres Beach Cottages/Caravan Park (located on the Dunsborough beach front) was a popular holiday venue for family holidays and visiting surfers.

Jason Greenacre: – “Greenacres Caravan Park closed in the late 90’s and it wasn’t due to lack of custom as you normally had to book at least a year in advance, it was sold by the people we sold it to for the real estate value as it had absolute beach frontage on the title.” (now strata titled Regency Beach Club).

Mitch Baker: – “My family owned the park upon its closure. The sale date was 25 February 1998.”

Photos: 1964 Surfers holidaying at Greenacres.
Top. (Left) Graeme Ward, Ross James, unknown & Geoff Baxter with surf wagon.(Right) unidentified girl with Ford Zephyr sedan & custom trailer.
Bottom. (Left) Greenacres cottage 2B. (Right) Jenny Tidy & Carol McDonald in mock beheading. Photos courtesy of Ron Moss.

1964 Greenacres Cottages Dunsborough Ron Moss pics 1 collage_photocat

Photos: 1970s Family holidays at Greenacres. Photos courtesy of King family.

1970s Greenacres Cottages Dunsborough J King2a collage_photocat

Photo: 1971 unidentified lady with her bike in front of The Dunsborough Store (located corner of Dunn Bay Road and Naturaliste Terrace). The store sold groceries and petrol & had a public telephone booth outside. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1971 Dunsborough Store - Ric Chan img233.jpg (2)

Photo: 1971 unidentified lady riding her bike through Dunsborough CBD. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1971 Dunsborough - Ric Chan img225

Photo: 1971 unidentified young bloke & Jeff ‘Re’ Marshall riding bikes through Dunsborough. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1971 Dunsborough RE Marshall on bike - R Chan img450

Photo: 1973-4 The Dunsborough Store. Suppliers of groceries, grog & Shell petrol. Photo courtesy of Mark Hills.

1973-74 old dunno General Store - Mark Hills

Surfers moved into Dunsborough in the early 70s. Ron ‘Gremmo’ Ellis, George Simpson & other surfers shared two rental houses on Bay View Crescent with views over Geographe Bay (near the former Greenacres cottages).

Photo: 1975 Surfers and their rental house at Bay View Crescent Dunsborough. Photo courtesy Peter McDonald

1975 Dunsborough Bay View Crescent rear rental house crew - Peter Mac IMG 01

In the mid 70s a Pigbreeders Footy Team was formed in Dunsborough. The team comprised of approx 40 local surfers played against Capel and other teams in the South-West. In 1984/85 surfers Drew Brent-White, Andy Jones & the Bettenay brothers started the Yallingup Mulies Footy Team, which still exists today.

Photo: 1975 The Pigbreeders Footy Team having a shirts & skins training session at the Dunsborough Primary School oval. Photo courtesy of Peter McDonald.

1975 Dunsborough Pig Breeders footy team Skins & Shirts - Peter Mac pic

SW surfers Ralph Redman and Geoff Culmsee ran a Fiberglass business in Clarke Street Dunsborough from 1973 to 2000 . Ralph also ran the Dunsborough Surf Cat hire business in Geographe Bay at the end of Dunn Bay Road during the summer holiday period.

Refer SDS blog ‘The Redman Surfing Dynasty’ published 22 April 2015 for more background on the Redman  family.

Photos: 1976 Dunsborough Surf Cat Hire. Ralph Redman with his children Patrick & Melanie. Photo courtesy of Jill Redman.

1976 Dunsborough surfcat hire Patrick, Ralph & Melanie - Redman pic IMG_01A

The parents of renowned SW surf photographer Jamie Scott ran The Dunsborough Store in the 70s. Jamie took this photo of his dad’s store in 1977 when he was age 7.

Click on Jamie Scott Images to view Jamie’s images of the Margaret River wine and wave region.

Photo: 1977 the Scott’s Dunsborough Store. Photo credit Jamie Scott.

1977 Dunsborough Store. Jamie Scott pic

Photo: 1978 Dunsborough shops L-R Bianca & Kath King. View from front of former Hardware Store in Naturaliste Terrace.  Photo courtesy of King family.

1978 Dunsborough shops Bianca & Kath King IMG_0001

Young surfboard shaper Al Bean moved down south in the early 70s. He shaped surfboards in the SW and sold his boards through metro surf shops.

Photo: 1980 Al Bean promoting his surfboard business in Dunsborough. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1980 Dunsborough Al Bean Surfboards - Ric Chan (3)

In the 80s popular surfboard designer Greg Laurenson ran his surfboard business from an old dairy building located near the present Doctors Surgery in Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough.

Photo: 1982-3 Greg Laurenson’s Surf Studio in Dunsborough. Photo courtesy of Gary ‘Gooselegs’ Vaughan.

1982-83 Greg Laurenson Surf Studio Dunsborough - Gary Vaughan pic IMG_0003

Creature of Leisure Pty Ltd based their surfing accessories business in Clarke Street Dunsborough in the 80s.

Photo: 1987 Interior of Creatures of Leisure factory in Dunsborough. Photo credit Loz Smith.

1987 Dunsborough Creatures of Leisure factory Clarke St - Loz Smith img291a

In the 1980s Ron Baker ran his H2O Surfboards business in Naturaliste Tce Dunsborough. Dunsborough surfer/shaper Colin Ladhams shaped surfboards for H2O.

Image: 1989 H20 Surfboards advertisement published in Yal Mal Program.

1989 H2O Surfboards advt Yal Mal Prog IMG_0002



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1970 First Pro Comp at Yalls

The South West’s first professional surfing contest attracted 102 outstanding surfers. The pro contest was held in reasonable waves up to 6ft at Yallingup in January 1970. There was $500 prize money up for grabs.

Tony Hardy won the event and $250 prize money from WA’s top junior Ian Cairns. Max Hickson was third and Cottesloe’s Ian ‘Mitch’ Mitchell was fourth.

Mitch: “I won the grand sum of $25 and rang my Mum and told her I was staying down a bit longer. I ended staying down for about a month. I do remember being in the final with Ian and watching him slide slipping because his Farrelly side-slipper board had such a skinny fin. I thought I would do pretty well because I was doing what I thought were more turns and reos and stuff. Talk about delusions of grandeur.”

Photos: 1970 Pro Comp competitors at Yalls. Photos courtesy Ric Chan

Top: (Left) Ian Cairns on Farrelly side slipper board. (Right) Tony Hardy surfing Yalls left.
Bottom: (Left) Ian ‘Mitch’ Mitchell from Cottesloe. (Right) Peter Roberts from Bunbury.

1970 Yalls Fiirst Pro Comp IMG_002

Image: 1970 Media coverage of first Pro Comp at Yalls courtesy of Independent Newspapers. Photo credits Ric Chan

1970 Yalls 1st Professional Comp - Independent News IMG_05a

Photo: 1970 Pro Comp winner Tony Hardy at Yalls. Photo credit Ric Chan

1970 Yalls 1st pro comp winner Tony Hardy - Ric Chan img265a

Photo: 1970 Pro Comp contestants at Yalls. L-R Ian Cairns, Ian Mitchell & Max Hickson. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1970 January Yalls 1st Pro Comp Ian Cairns, Ian Mitchell & Max Hickson - Ric Chan img089a

Image: 1970 Trevor Burslem’s surf column coverage of first Pro Comp at Yalls. Image courtesy of Independent Newspaper.

1970 Yalls 1st Professional Comp - Independent News IMG_06a




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1986 Nat’s Generous Legacy

Former Scarborough surfer Gary ‘Gooselegs’ Vaughan spent a lot of his youth surfing in the South West.

Gooselegs: “Former world surfing champion Nat Young left one of his ‘Fall Line’ model surfboards with WA shaper Greg ‘Pants’ Laurenson for the crew to try out in the resurgence of longboarding in the late eighties.
Nat encouraged the crew to get into it…..quite generous!
Bob ‘Bobbo’ Monkman had it at his place in Dunsborough at the time and passed it to me for my use.
I got greedy and used it forever (-:”

Editor: Apparently I saw Goose catch and surf that mal on one of the longest waves ever ridden at Yalls!

Photo: 1986 Goose with his Nat Young ‘Fall Line’ mal at Dunsborough. Photo courtesy of Donna Vaughan.

1986 Gary 'Gooselegs' Vaughan with his Nat Young's Fall Line Surfboard at Dunno - Donna Vaughan pic1

Goose now lives in Queensland with his wife Donna and calls Noosa First Point his home beach.