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Old boys celebrate Jim Keenan’s 80th birthday

WA surfing pioneer Jim Keenan celebrated his 80th birthday with his salty old sea dog mates at Marmion Angling and Aquatic Club on Friday 23 June 2017. Jim’s actual birthday was the previous day (Thursday).

The old boys enjoyed a few ales and had a great afternoon.

Photo: Jim Keenan’s birthday drinks at MAAC. Image Peter Harbison.

From left to right, strictly as their heads appear, as opposed to some are back row some are front row:-  Kevin Merifield, Dan Daragan, Ray Nelmes, Jim Keenan, Dave Maxwell, Graham (Cocko) Killen (beer in hand). Bruce (Moonshine) Hill, Mark Paterson, Tony Harbison, Les Gillies, Bill Prately, Jim McKenzie and Laurie Burke.

Brian Cole, Steve Mailey and Terry Williams had been present, but had left a little earlier.

Click on these link to view Jim Keenan’s surfing memoirs…

1950s-70s Jim Keenan’s – Surfing Memoirs (Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast).

1950s-70s Jim Keenan’s – Surfing Memoirs (Part 2 Guam, Red Bluff & SW Anecdotes).

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1954 Rotto crossing history by Jim Keenan

In 1954 a West Australian newspaper article referred to two unidentified men who made a daring three hour trip from Cottesloe to Rottnest Island.

Image: 1954 unidentified young men Paddle Surf skis to Rottnest. Article courtesy of West Australian Newspapers.

1954-rotto-crossing-article-ex-west-aust-newspapers

WA surfing pioneer Jim Keenan was a member of City of Perth SLSC at the time and believes he knows who the lads were. This is his recollection of the incident.

IF MY MEMORY IS CORRECT I SUSPECT THE GUYS INVOLVED WERE ARTIE SHAW (A MATE OF MARK PATERSON) AND GEORGE BEVAN. THEY LEFT FROM COTTESLOE AND I THINK THEY PADDLED THE OLD 16 FT TOOTHPICKS AND NOT SURF SKIS AS REPORTED.

Photo: 1958 Artie Shaw & Bruce ‘Moonshine’ Hill wave sharing at Yallingup. John Budge pic.

1958-yalls-artie-shaw-bruce-moonshine-hill-john-budge-img

WE USED TO LEAVE FROM CITY BEACH. GRAHAM ‘COCKO’ KILLEN & I PADDLED OUR DOUBLE SURF SKI AND TONY HARBISON WOULD COME ACROSS ON HIS SINGLE SKI.

WE HAD CROSSED TO ROTTO ON DATES EARLIER THAN THE BOYS FROM COTT.

IN FACT WE WERE OVER AT ROTTO WHEN ARTIE AND GEORGE ARRIVED.

THE MEDIA BLEW THEIR CROSSING UP (AS THEY DO) AND THE BOYS ADDED TO THE BULLSHIT BY SUGGESTING SHARKS FOLLOWED THEM AND POSED A THREAT.

THE MEDIA HYPE ENDED UP WITH HARBOUR AND LIGHTS IMPOSING IN CONJUNCTION WITH SLSA, A BAN ON CROSSINGS.

Photo: 1956 City Beach north side. Dave Williams riding Toothpick and Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on double surf ski. Ray Geary pic.

1956-city-beach-dave-williams-on-toothpick-jim-keenan-cocko-killen-double-ski-ray-geary-pic

WE CONTINUED OUR CROSSINGS AND IT ULTIMATELY RESULTED IN OUR EXPULSION FROM THE CITY OF PERTH CLUB. THIS WAS GREAT AS IT MEAN’T NO MORE TIED UP WEEKENDS AND MORE SURF TRIPS DOWN SOUTH.

Photo: 1957 Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen surfing Yallingup on their double ski. John Budge pic.

1957-yalls-jim-keenan-cocko-killen-on-double-ski-j-budge-pic-001

I THINK DAVO WILLIAMS JOINED IN ON A TRIP OR TWO. I DO REMEMBER COLIN ‘MOOSE’ WHITE “BORROWING” A SURF SKI AND ACCOMPANING US TO THE ISLAND.

ON THE RETURN JOURNEY WE WERE “WELCOMED”BY SOME OVER EAGER SLSA MEMBERS AND THE LOCAL COPS FROM WEMBLEY POLICE STATION. THE POLICE ARRESTED MOOSE AND TOOK HIM OFF IN A SIDECAR TO WEMBLEY COP SHOP TO UNDERGO A VERBAL LASHING.

THE CLUB MEMBERS CONFISCATED OUR SKI’S (TEMPORARILY) AND THAT POSSIBLY WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END TO OUR MEMBERSHIPS, A BLESSING IN DISGUISE.

MOOSE JOURNEYED TO SYDNEY LATE 1959 ALONG WITH MYSELF IAN TODMAN AND LAURIE BOURKE. MOOSE IS STILL IN SYDNEY AND A LONG SERVING MEMBER OF QUEENSCLIFF SLSA.  A TRUE BLUE CLUBBY!

Photo: 1960 Manly NSW L-R Joe Larkin (surfboard & film maker), Chris ‘Batman’ Steinburg, Colin ‘Moose’ White, Brian Cole & Jim Keenan. Photo Jim Keenan.

1960-manly-nsw-l-r-joe-larkin-surfboard-film-maker-chris-batman-steinburg-colin-moose-white-brian-cole-jim-keenan-photo-jim-keenan-pic03

THE SLSA WERE NOT VERY ADVENTURE MINDED AND DID NOT APPRECIATE OUR ACTIONS.

THERE WERE AT TIMES EVENTS THAT COULD HAVE LED TO A MAJOR MISHAP, BUT IN GENERAL ROTTO CROSSINGS WERE RELATIVELY SAFE (OR SO WE THOUGHT).

PASSING SHIPS IN THE FOG WERE A THREAT ALONG WITH EARLY SEA BREEZES WHICH TAXED OUR STAMINA.

TONY ON ONE OF THOSE FOG RIDDEN MORNINGS WAS ALMOST TAKEN OUT BY AN INCOMING PASSENGER LINER (ARCADES, I THINK). IT WAS HEARD BUT NOT SEEN IN THE THICK FOG AND TONY BEING ON A SINGLE SKI DID NOT HAVE THE SPEED FOR A QUICK EVASION. HOWEVER LUCK WAS WITH US AND HE ESCAPED A WIPE OUT.

THE RETURN JOURNEY WAS USUALLY A LOT EASIER WITH STRONG SEA BREEZES UP OUR BUTT. LONG SKATES ON THE SWELLS MADE FOR A LOT OF FUN AND SPEED.

Photo: 1960s Metro Training for State Surf Championships Dave Williams on toothpick paddle board (2nd from left) & Tony Harbison on plywood single ski (3rd from left). Steve Mailey pic.

1960s-metro-training-for-state-surf-championships-dave-williams-tony-harbison-s-mailey-img338a

I REMEMBER ONE RETURN WITH OUT A SEA BREEZE. IT WAS HOT AND DEAD CALM AND WE WERE SUFFERING FROM HANGOVERS. ABOUT HALF WAY WE SPOTTED THE WANDOO (A WOODEN FERRY) AND TO RELIEVE OUR THIRST PADDLED OVER TO IT AND CLAMOURED ON BOARD VIA THE WINDWARD SIDE. WE SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF THE FISHING FOLK WHO WERE TOO BUSY FISHING ON THE LEEWARD SIDE. WE JUST APPEARED OUT OF THE BLUE AND SURPRISED THE LOT OF THEM.

Photo: 1958 Wandoo ferry arriving at Rotto. Don Roper is 3rd from front. Brian Cole pic.

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OF COURSE BEING SMART ARSES, WE DEVOURED A FEW STUBBIES PROVIDED BY THE FISHERMEN AND THEN TOOK OFF FOR CITY BEACH. WE WERE DE-HYDRATED UPON HITTING THE BEACH, NOT A GOOD IDEA.

REGARDS JIM

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Vintage South West surfing images.

This a collection of late 50s & early 60 South West surfing images from various photographers in the Surfing Down South archives. It features a pod of WA surfing pioneer legends.

Photo: 1957 Bernie Huddle & Keith Kino riding plywood toothpick boards at Yallingup. Water photography by John Budge.

1957 Yalls Bernie Huddle & Keith Kino surfing wooden toothpick surfboards - JB pic img568

Photo: 1958 Yallingup Main Break surfer John Budge on home-made balsa board. Water photo courtesy of John Budge.

1958 Yalls John Budge - John Budge pic IMG_0005

Photo: 1962 Gallows outside break Jim Keenan & Puppydog (NSW) riding Barry Bennett boards from NSW. Jim Keenan pic.

1962 Gallows outside break J Keenan & Puppydog on NSW Barry Bennet boards - J Keenan pic

Photo: 1960-61 South Point Cowaramup Bay unidentified surfer. Steve Mailey pic

1960s South Point Cowaramup - Steve Mailey img343

Photo: 1962 Yallingup Main Break surfer Murray Smith. Photo courtesy of Glen Campbell (Dolphins Board Club).

1962 Yalls surfing Murray Smith - Glen Campbell Dolphins Board Club pic IMG_6348

Photos: 1962 Surfing legends at Gallows. Time ravage images courtesy of Brian Cole.

Top: (Left) Bob Keenan. (Right) Brian Cole.

Bottom: Dave Williams both images.

1962 Gallows surfing Brian Cole pics collage_photocat

Photo: 1963 North Point Cowaramup Bay unidentified surfers. Tom Collins pic.

1963 Cowaramup Bay North Point unknowns - Tom Collins pic img235

Photo: 1963 Bunker Bay ‘The Quarries’ unknown surfer. Tom Collins pic.

1963 Bunker Bay The Quarries unknown - Tom Collins pic img219

Photo:1963 Terry ‘Rat’ James doing a ‘quasimoto’ at Gallows. Photo courtesy of Sonny James.

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Photo: 1963 former City Beach surfer Mick Lindsay surfing Gallows. Mick now resides in NSW. Photo courtesy of Geoff Berry.

1963 Mick Lindsay Gallows SW3

Photo: 1964 Margaret River Main Break surfers L-R Murray Smith & Jim Keenan. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1964 Marg River Murray Smith & Jim Keenan surfing - J Keenan pic1

Photo: 1964 WA’s first State Mens Champion Alex ‘Zac’ Kochanowitsch surfing Margaret River Main Break on his ‘Rising Sun’ surfboard. Ernie Potter pic.

1964 Zac Kochanowitsch Marg River - Ernie Potter pic

Bonus Images.

These 1950s images were sourced from pioneer WA surfer/photographer John Budg’s vintage photo collection. The actual photographers are unknown.

Image: 1950s unidentified pin-up girl.

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Image: 1950s unidentified Eastern States surfers riding plywood Toothpick surfboards at an unknown location. .

1950s Aust Surfing toothpicks unknown - John Budge pic img357.jpg A

Thanks to the various photographers for providing the vintage pics.

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1950s-70s Jim Keenan’s – Surfing Memoirs (Part 2 Guam, Red Bluff & SW Anecdotes).

Jim Keenan’s surfing memoirs continue on from Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast.

These are Jim’s surfing memoirs Part 2 Guam, Red Bluff & SW Anecdotes.

Mid 66 I took off with my bride Pat for Guam and another phase of surfing. I was treated like a king on Guam by the surfing fraternity whom were mainly Californians. Great times. Returned to Perth in 70 and enjoyed another spell down south before heading east again and then eventually Carnarvon.

Photo: 1966 Guam. Jim Keenan featured surfing on cover of Guam Book. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1966 J Keenan cover Guam Book J Keenan pic PNG image

Carnarvon was not on the surfing map until about mid 70’s. My first visit to Red Bluff revealed a break devoid of surfers.

The next image was taken very early in 70’s when I was on a safari. The reason I went there is because Ralph McNab whom in his early days was a shearer/wool classer, used to speak of the big swells that hit the Gascoyne coast in winter. Ralph used to do contract work on the coastal stations. Of course no one believed him and that included myself until visiting the area on the safari. Many breaks are now surfed along the Gascoyne Coast north of Carnarvon, especially during the winter months.

Photo: Early 1970s Red Bluff near Carnarvon. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1970s Red Bluff Carnarvon Jim Keenan IMG_0001

Despite enjoying the opportunity to surf at a multitude of venues throughout my life, my fondest memories are of Yallingup. The sheer beauty of the area is implanted in my mind and I dare say for all those who followed the pioneers of the fifties. The exhilaration one feels when driving down the hill and being confronted with a roaring swell is something else and only a surfer can attest to that phenomenon.

Second only to surfing “down south” was the wonderful comradeship that developed amongst the various groups. Sure, there was some rivalry but, it was all part of the act with the early group being tagged as the “Wheels” and those that followed “The Little Wheels”.

SW SURFING ANECDOTES.

Darts at Caves House Hotel

The front bar of the Caves House Hotel was always a fun place to be after a day out surfing. The locals mainly cow cockies considered us to be insane and at first were not very receptive to our rather outrageous behaviour to say the least. However, over time the mood changed to one of complete acceptance by all and sundry.

Of course in any group there are always those who take advantage of a situation. The locals loved to play darts and gamble on the side. Hustlers such as Harbo, Patto and Artie Shaw would “Throw Away until the locals sensed they were unbeatable. Out came the money and the boys cleaned up. To this day I cannot believe the locals could be so gullible unless, it was the cow shit on their boots.

Hammond’s Tea Rooms at Yalls

The Hammond family ran the Tea Rooms down near the coast and it was well sought out upon arrival by the “boys” who would invariably be half asleep, half pissed and hungry. They were a great family and in the main complied with our requests even though they were ready for the bed. Of course every group has a pick pocket amongst them and ours was rather partial to Old Gold chocolate. Wearing a Great Coat this individual whose name will not be mentioned but has the initials T.H. managed to procure enough chocolate to feed the multitude. T.H. has a lot to answer but, we sure enjoyed the snacks. Thanks.

Rabbit Hill

Rabbit hill was another source of fun. The northern extremity of Yallingup Beach has a very large sand hill overlooking a grassed hill. This grassed area was home to many rabbits at dusk and to their dismay I guess their last supper. The sand hill concealed many of the boys fitted out with various instruments of death in the form of rifles. Don Bancroft had a home-made shot gun which would have ended WW2 in a single shot. It sprayed shit everywhere except at the spot he aimed for. To this day I do not understand how Don was not a victim of his own gun.

After one evenings shoot out we returned to camp with our rabbit dinner and were confronted with a burning car. It was Laurie’s pride and joy and a dismal sight it was with the paint peeling off in all directions on his recently purchased Mayflower. We all thought it was hilarious except for Laurie who hiding his tears broke into a rage threatening to kill the culprit. Apparently, the younger group led by Gary Birch decided on a Tom Piper BRAISED STEAK AND ONION meal and placed the can in a fire to heat up. The only trouble they failed to puncture the lid and after some time in the fire bed the can blew up showering the camp with braised steak, onion, and many hot embers which in due course set fire to the grass and as a consequence Laurie’s pride and joy.

Diving near Canal Rocks

Another scene I remember with laughter was when we went diving down near Canal Rocks. Dave, Tony and I went diving while Bernie, Jungle and Moonshine were meant to pick us up at a certain hour as they wished to visit Caves House. Only trouble, they did not return until dusk leaving us to freeze waiting. Not to be outdone we managed to light a fire, spear a Buff Bream and await their return. Upon spotting their cars headlights we threw the fish heavily marinated with our bodily fluids onto the fire. Of course they were hungry after a session at the pub and the fish was devoured with great gusto. They loved it and knocked the lot down only to bring it up after we discussed the ingredients. Never late again.

Photo: 1958 Yallingup beach. L-R Dave Williams, Jim Keenan, Bernie Huddle, Artie Taylor, Tony Harbison, Bruce ‘Moonshine’ Hill, Kevin Merifield, Ray Evans & Graham Killen. Photographer unknown.
Note: This image was presented to Harbo on his 70th birthday.

1958 Yalls beach D Williams, J Keenan, B Huddle, A Taylor, T Harbison, B Hill, K Merifield, R Evans & G Killen - unknown photographer1 IMG

Methane gas problem

The dairy industry is quite often quoted as a contributor to the methane gas problem which now plagues the planet but, a major factor in the fifties was the surfing fraternity camping at Yallingup. The main blame was directly associated with the high consumption of tinned food namely Tom Piper Braised Steak and Onions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Availability, I guess promoted this evil consumption and it was all brought about by John Hughes (Body Surfer) freely distributing damaged cans from the boot of his car. ‘JJ’ as he was known was a sales rep. for what I considered was dog food at its best. Still it did provide a source of fun and laughter during the blue flame trick. Mind you there were casualties and Rings of Fire were dominant. Johnny Cash you were second.

Transport Down South

Transport “Down South” was by various types of vehicles i.e. sedans, Ute and panel vans. However, one particular journey I remember was quite unique. A Fruit and Vegetable merchant Sunny Passaris (body surfer) from the Perth markets volunteered his large truck fitted out with a canopy and cane chairs. About ten of us equipped with our surfing gear embarked and took off with suitable refreshments namely an 18 gallon keg of beer. Obviously, it was a slow trip with many stops at the various pubs along the way. The patrons at the pubs were flabbergasted and thankfully no booze buses existed in those days. Fun trip but we suffered the next morning.

Old Juke Box

Music was appreciated by most of the group, with some favouring jazz over Elvis. I think this stemmed from Bernie Huddle and Don Bancroft’s love of Dixieland music. Personally, I enjoyed Jazz but, there was nothing wrong with the Beach Boys, Elvis and Roy Orbison. The old Juke box located in the Busselton Cafe belted out a great sound with a good selection of Elvis, Beach Boys and Roy Orbison to choose from. Not sure if the locals did though. Stiff shit.

IMBEDDED SURFING MEMORIES.

Big Yallingup

Apart from the Gallows incident with Puppy Dog, two other surfing days sit vividly in my mind. The first occurred on a giant winter swell at Yallingup. We all awoke to a massive swell that none of us had witnessed before, the main break extended out into the bay and presented a real challenge to anyone silly enough to tackle it. Not to outdone by nature Cocko and I entered the water on the double ski and managed to somehow make it beyond the break. We were well clear of the normal take off point, possibly by 200 metres as Caves House was in full view. Relieved to be clear of the white water it, now dawned on us that getting back to shore safely was a bigger challenge than getting out. We could see that the bay was alive with breaking swells and there for offered no escape route should we get done in the main break. Losing the ski would probably result in a drowning as massive amounts of water was returning to sea via the bay in giant rips. We did contemplate paddling north to Geographe Bay but, decided against and elected to “go for it “How we managed to hold onto a giant swell and massive white water was I guess our lucky day. It was a great relief to touch that beach again.

Margaret River

The second venture was at Margaret River main break over an Easter and probably 1964. The swell was awesome and each day of Easter was better than the previous. I enjoyed the company of Harbo and Murray Smith and the surf was as close to perfect as one can dream about. I still do. The crowd on the water was small, but the surf was big and challenging. Great fun.

Photo: 1964 Margaret River: L-R Murray Smith & Jim Keenan wave sharing. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1964 Marg River Murray Smith & Jim Keenan surfing - J Keenan pic1

Mouth Surfing

My board riding days came to a halt when I could no longer sit upon the board. This was due to hip degeneration and which later required replacement with a prosthesis. Surf Ski was an alternative and provided an avenue to continue wave riding but, no way matched the freedom of a board.

My ocean days continue with daily distance swimming and paddling a surf ski along the Perth Northern beaches. Love it.

Photo: 2015 Hillarys Marina. Grandad Jim with pacemaker inserted to keep him on the planet. Photo credit ‘Joshua Keenan Photography’.

2015 Hillarys Marina grandad Jim with pacemaker inserted to keep me on the planet.- JK pic

Of course “Mouth Surfing” takes place during our social lunches and there is no doubt “The older you get, the better you were.”

Photo: 2015 old boys ‘mouth surfing at Miami‘ at Cafe Falcon, Mandurah. L-R Jim Keenan, Tony Harbison, Dan Darragan (real name John Roberts, but not used), Laurie Burke, Bill Pratley, Ray Geary. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

'mouth surfers at Miami' at Cafe Falcon, Mandurah L-R Jim Keenan, Tony Harbison, Dan Darragan (real name John Roberts), Laurie Burke, Bill Pratley, Ray Geary.

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1950s-70s Jim Keenan’s – Surfing Memoirs (Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast).

Jim Keenan started his surfing life with the City of Perth SLSC at City Beach in the mid-50s. He rode SLSC plywood boards and skis.

In 1956 he was exposed to a new phase of surfing at Interstate surf carnivals on the East Coast when Malibu surfboards were introduced by visiting American surfers.

This was a turning point for Jim and like a lot of other young lads with salt water in their veins, he left the SLSC and joined Kevin Merifield, Tony Harbison, Dave Williams, Brian Cole and other surf pioneers free surfing Down South.

In the late 50s, Jim travelled to the East Coast with other WA surfers searching for waves & fun. He continued to live in NSW during the early 60s, but returned regularly to WA and the surf Down South.

In mid-66 he headed to the Pacific Island of Guam and started another phase of surfing with a group of Californians. In 70 he returned to Perth and enjoyed another spell Down South before heading east again.

In the mid-70s he headed to Carnarvon in the NW. His first visit to the surf break at Red Bluff revealed a surf break devoid of surfers.

He is a well-travelled surfer and a colourful character.

These are Jim’s surfing memoirs (Part 1 Metro, South West & East Coast).
(Note: Excerpts from Jim’s surfing memoirs appeared in the Surfing Down South book published in 2014).

I was a resident of Subiaco and Jolimont for the early stages of my life which began June 1937. The above suburbs were working class in those days, unlike today where prices are sky high. However, it was a fun environment to grow up in those important formative years. Sport was high on my agenda and it was at the Wembley Athletic and Football club where I first made contact with other like-minded people.

Like many of the group we spent a lot of our spare time at City Beach learning like Kevin Merifield to surf off the groyne summer and winter. Body surfing was a great way to learn the fundamentals of wave choice and the technique of riding the wave to its limits. The introduction of Turnbull rubber flippers created a whole new ball game for the body surfer, allowing early pick up and manoeuvrability of the wave.

Some of my friends from those days included Dave Williams, Graeme Killen, John Budge, Tony Harbison and many others. Apart from John Budge we all ended up joining the City of Perth SLSC.

I guess from memory we were all aged about fourteen or fifteen when we joined the club. Borrowing various surfing apparatus led us into another facet of surfing e.g. Surf Board and Ski skills were learnt along with Surf Boat rowing. It was great fun and we all eventually purchased at great expense our craft of choice to either compete with or surf with. Dave a 16 foot Board, Graeme Killen and I on a Double Ski and Tony Harbison a Single Ski.

Photo: 1958 City Beach North Side. L-R Dave Williams on ‘toothpick’ surfboard with Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on plywood double ski. Photo courtesy of Ray Geary.

1956 City Beach Dave Williams toothpick board and Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on double ski - Ray Geary1

The club was a melting pot for many like-minded people and many a friendship developed in that arena. People like Bernie Huddle, Bill Pratley and Brian Cole to name a few.

Rottnest was our choice of escape before Yallingup was born. The Transit and Salmon Bay were great places to surf and develop skills. The Transit was a lot safer than Salmon Bay, but Salmon Bay was a great place to confront big waves. Very scaring also in those shark ridden waters.

Paddling to Rottnest was not without its moments as some times we ran into early sea breezes making the physical effort a dam side harder to say the least. Confronting ocean going liners in the fog was not much fun either, with Tony almost a victim.

Trigg Island also figured in those early days with March, April probably the best months for surfing.

Surfing on the Tooth Picks and Skis were still in vogue when Yallingup came on the surf horizon. The early guys to learn of Yallingup included Bernie Huddle, Bruce Hill, Ron Drage and Bill Pratley. From then on it was like a gold rush with any surfer keen enough heading south to the new frontier. I guess the year was 1954 but, not exactly 100%. As for Cocko and I our first venture down to Yallingup was in Cocks old man’s Ford Prefect with the double ski tied to the roof. The Yallingup coast was like a new world and the waves suited the double ski perfectly. It took some time to adjust to the moods of the Yallingup surf and along with the board riders (16 ft) we copped our fair share of wipe outs. There were days in winter when all of Caves House was visible from the take off point and taking off left one in fear of the outcome. We all became reasonable swimmers due to wipe outs and board recovery.

When the sea breeze arrived and the waves lost their shape, those who were mad enough re-entered with body boards and tackled the swell. It was rewarding enough but I well remember the waters under us darkening up with the schools of Salmon especially around April. I guess the Noah’s were there in numbers and it was only because of the salmon that we were left un-attacked. No wonder the beer tasted good after a day of action in the water.

In 1956 quite a few of us headed to Torquay Victoria for an international surf carnival held in conjunction with the Melbourne Olympics. It was there that we were exposed to a new phase of surfing, the team from California and Hawaii cut the waves up on their 9ft Malibu’s. Measuring tapes came out and hence the birth of the Mal in Australia. We attended another carnival in Manly NSW and again witnessed some great surfing by the visiting American’s. The Americans had been riding Mals in California since the mid-1940s.

Photo: 1956 Melbourne Luna Park. WA boys in WW2 flying suits. L-R unknown, Dave Williams, K Jones, Jim Keenan, R Howe & Graham Killen. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1956 Melb Luna Park WA boys flying suits unknown, Dave Williams, K Jones, Jim Keenan, R Howe & Graham Killen - J Keenan pic

The Mal arrival in Australia led to a massive decline in surf club membership due to the adoption of the board and free surfing by Australian surfers. West Australia rapidly followed suit and I along with many others quit the SLSC movement. For Cocko and me it was only one step before suspension anyway because we refused to quit paddling to Rottnest.

Yallingup came of age with the Mals and life changed drastically. No more patrol work freed up the weekends and the expression “Down South” was born. There were many surfing widows during that period with the boys preferring “Down South” to the Drive-ins and all that goes with it.

Photo: 1957 Yallingup campsite. L-R Des Gaines, Jim Keenan, unknown, Laurie Burke, Bernie Huddle & Arty Taylor. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1957 Yalls Des Gaines, Jim Keenan, unknown, Laurie Burke, Bernie Huddle & Arty Taylor - J Keenan pic1

The early boards although spot on were expensive and made of balsa imported from South America. My original board made by Gordon Woods cost 30 pounds, equivalent to about a month’s salary in those days.

Photo: 1959 Yallingup beach. Boys & their boards L-R Ray Nelmes, Brian Cole, Jim Keenan, Des Gaines, Laurie Burke, John Budge, Artie Taylor. Photo courtesy of Brian Cole.

1959 Yalls beach boys & boards Ray Nelmes, Brian Cole, Jim Keenan, Des Gaines, Laurie Burke, John Budge, Artie Taylor - Brian Cole pic

Most of my friends were aged from 17 to 21 years of age and were super keen on surfing, thus the regular trips “Down South”. Strong bonding took place over the years and remains to this day. The only difference being that “The older you get, the better you were”.

It’s a shame that a good photographic history of those early days is not readily available, but it’s simply because the only person armed with a camera was John Budge and its credentials were very limited. However, we did manage to gather a few shots out on the double ski on a classic day.

Photo: 1957 Yallingup Main Break. Graham ‘Cocko’ Killen & Jim Keenan on the double surf ski. Water photo by John Budge.

1957 Yalls Jim Keenan & Cocko Killen on ski- J Budge pic 001

As we aged, that is turned 17 to 18, driving to Yallingup became less dependent on the older guys. My choice was an FJ Holden like Bernie Huddle’s, the only difference, mine stayed on the road.

I can recollect driving up and down Caves Road and into the various surfing spots such as the Gallows, South Point etc checking out the breaks. We sure wasted a lot of time before making a decision and mainly to avoid the so called crowds. In those days, probably six surfers constituted a big crowd. Those numbers today would be heaven.

Photo: 1959 Yallingup Car Park. L-R Des Gaines, Ian Todman, Laurie Burke & Jim Keenan Photo courtesy of Bill Pratley.

My beautiful picture

In the fifties any surf film would have originated on the East Coast or California and Hawaii. I guess that’s why quite a few of the group embarked on the journey east with Bernie Huddle, Cocko and Brian Cole leading the charge in 58. Their reports induced others to follow including myself in 59.

My fellow travellers included Laurie Burke, Moose White and Ian Todman. Sydney to me was like an endless party with surfing thrown in. Accommodation was a problem in the early stages as the sequence of Party followed by Eviction was not broken until a more permanent abode at Woodstock in Curl Curl Parade South Curl Curl. Woodstock was a two storey house and I had the good fortune of a room with an ocean view. This home became a focal point for those that surfed the Northern Beaches of Sydney especially in winter. Many friendships developed between the locals and the West Aussies. Among the West Aussies to call Woodstock home were Les Gillies, Tony Burgess, Owen Oates, Ian Todman, Colin ‘Moose’ White, myself and many others passing through.

Photo: 1960 A mixture of surfers from northern beaches (Sydney) and WA at Manly Beach NSW. L-R Joe Larkin (surfboard & film maker), Chris ‘Batman’ Steinburg, Colin ‘Moose’ White, Brian Cole & Jim Keenan. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1960 Manly NSW L-R Joe Larkin (surfboard & film maker), Chris ‘Batman’ Steinburg, Colin ‘Moose’ White, Brian Cole & Jim Keenan. Photo Jim Keenan pic03

They were great days on the East Coast but, the South West ruled the waves.

March 1961. Returned to Yalls for a two month holiday with Puppy Dog Paton a talented surfer from Manly NSW. It was the summer that fires ripped the South West apart with many mill towns like Karridale wiped out. We were also nearly wiped out at the Gallows on a very big day. The bomboras were working for what seemed miles out to sea. We were stupid enough to try out the fourth break and it was there that we were threatened by the relentless swell. Puppy was only about 17 years of age and I was fearful of losing him in the surf. We chose our wave with respect and managed to make shore a little out of sorts. I understand the break we could observe out to sea is what is now called Cow Bombie.

Photo: 1961 Gallows outside break. L-R Jim Keenan & Puppy Dog from Manly NSW. Photo courtesy of Jim Keenan.

1961 Gallows outside break J Keenan & Puppydog on NSW Barry Bennet boards - J Keenan pic

I returned to the South West for the summer of 64 to surf Yalls and engage new breaks such as Margs and Guillotine.

Jim Keenan’s surfing memoirs continue with Part 2 Guam, Red Bluff & SW Anecdotes.