In August 1971 surfers George Simpson, Mick Pearce & Mark Rudenberg discovered Three Bears surf break at Kabbijgup Beach. The boys had seen waves breaking along the cliffs north of Yallingup and walked in from Sugarloaf Rock to find the surf break.
Click on this link to view Three Bears surf break & track in the 70s.
This a collection of anecdotes & photos from ’80s Bears user’s………
Gary Gibbon – My abiding memories are frequently concerned with scrambling up to Bears in vehicles, not always my own, that really weren’t designed to do the job. The track, especially in summer, could be ruthless on them; tyres, suspension, steering, etc. Four wheel drives weren’t as common in those days, so I was usually looking to bum lifts with people like Harbo, Ralph Redman and Geoff Culmsee, all of whom had reliable vehicles that would do the job. Poor souls such as me, frequently made do with the common man’s 4WD … clapped out VW’s, which, it should be added, were pretty reliable getting through if they had the right tyres. Just as an aside, I remember a day with Kim Hunter, Micko Gracie, Kirk (Boonga) Ball and one or two others, when we had to change a flat on a VW bug, up towards the bombie with no jack, nor wheel brace. We only had a spare and a knife! Somehow managed it, which partially involved everyone lifting the VW up and swinging it around, so that it balanced airborne on the track edges, temporarily blocking the track.
Can’t help chuckling when I remember that sign that Tony had for years outside Hideaway Holiday Homes – “$10.00 for tow-outs!” Luckily I never had to request his services, but I bet quite a few did over the years.
But the occasional price you paid with your vehicles was worth it, considering, the value you received back in some unreal, relatively uncrowded, sessions in those days with just your mates for company.
I generally surfed Baby Bear the most, but especially liked Papas in clean, small conditions. My favourite spot though was Outside Mamas in summer low tides with big S, SW swells where it began to break on the outside ledge, creating a much longer ride.
I always loved surfing with Ralph at Bears and consider him the best I saw at Babies back in the 70’s/80’s. He really tube rode there very consistently.
I didn’t surf Mamas so much (except as noted above, which I think of as a separate break), but watching over there from Baby’s and chilling on the dunes in between sessions, I was always impressed with Lindsey Whittle who pretty much surfed there exclusively from the late 70’s into the early 80’s.
From the time I first surfed it in 1975 with Andy Jones, Steve Carroll and Mark Favell, I always loved the place. How could you not, especially when you’d come back to Yallingup surfed out and seeing it crowded and inconsistently small? Flashing back on the fact that Three Bears had only been discovered 4 years earlier, was also a buzz.
Photo: 1980 Gary Gibbon surfing Baby Bears. Gary Gibbon pic
Justin Redman – I remember spending all day on Bears beach in the mid 80s while dad (Ralph) was surfing. Nancy Burrow used to look after my sister Melanie & I (and any other pre-school age kids on the beach). Taj & I used to surf back wash on the inside reef (lagoon) at Bears.
Photo: 1980 Ralph Redman surfing Baby Bears. Gary Gibbon pic
Photos: 1980 Yalls (Left) Ralph Redman, Rubberman & Tim with Ralph’s VW buggy. (Right) Ralph with VW buggy and boards. Gary Gibbon pics
Loz Smith – In the 80s Peter Mac & I would drive to Bears from Yalls in his little yellow VW Beetle. His VW had razor blade tyres & a piece of driftwood wedged across back bumper. I used the driftwood as a platform to stand-on and bump us through boggy bits of the track.
Tony Harbison’s son Glen used to park at the top of the track’s boggy section (behind Shallows) and tow out bogged cars for $5.
On a good day we used to surf Bears three times a day. We would go early & surf in strong NE conditions with blind take-offs, then return to Yalls for lunch. After lunch the offshore wind dropped and we would go back to Bears for an arvo session & return to Yalls for a rest. If conditions were still good late in the day, we would go back again for the Sunset session. Geoff Culmsee & Ralph Redman were always there.
Photo: 1980s Yalls early Yal Mal contest. L-R Tim Eastwood, Peter Mac & Loz Smith. Peter Mac pic
Jim King – In the early 80s, Fred Harris & I used to get a lift to Bears with Brian Felton and his team of veteran wave ski riders – Ron Fussell, Laurie Roach, boogie boarder Al Rich and hand boarder Harry Kimber. Every weekend & holiday Brian would pack us in his old reconditioned Landrover van and we would head off from Yalls on the bumpy coastal dirt track to Bears. Much fun was had being tossed around the back of the old Landrover (with unpadded seats & no suspension) on those slow trips to Bears & return. Brian’s son Peter continued to use the Landrover on the Bears run for years after his dad passed away.
I celebrated my 40th birthday at Bears by catching 40 waves in one gluttonous session at Baby’s. Afterwards I spent a pleasant afternoon with mates in the beer garden at Caves Pub Yalls. My brother and mates tried to do the same on their 40th but conditions or their bodies didn’t allow them to do it. Ha!
Photos: Bears. (Left) 1982 Vance Burrow cuttie at Mammas. Minolta Water Camera shot by Brian Bell. (Right) 1983 Jim King surfing Baby’s on a Blaxell Surfboard. Photos courtesy of Jim King.
Jim McFarlane – I used to surf Three Bears a lot over summer in the nude. Not only did I feel free, but not many other surfers wanted to drop in on me.
Photo: 1983 Jim McFarlane surfing Baby Bears in a wettie. Photo courtesy of Jim McFarlane
Mark ‘Hillsy’ Hills – My earliest memory was dad and Terry ‘Rat’ James taking the brand new HG Holden sedan up the back track when I was about 10 (1976) and snapping the aerial off and scratching the car up much to mum’s disgust. I think this is where my lack of respect for cars going up the Bears track must have come from.
On another occasion my mum warned me beforehand not to come home if I damaged dad’s car and, lo and behold, I had a head-on prang on one of those mounds on the track. I jumped out of the car and started abusing the other guys, then quickly realised it was full of big Maori guys….so I backed off & politely asked them for a tow back to Yalls.
Very few people had 4 wheel drives, so you did what you’re not supposed too, drive your two wheel drive up the track.
Photos: 1988 Mark Hills surfing Mama Bears on an Al Bean surfboard. Twiggy Sharland pic.
Mark “Hillsy’ Hills – When I turned 18 my mum and dad bought me my first car, a green 1968 two door Toyota Corolla station wagon in mint condition. After three months, I rolled the car completely and finished up against a lamp post full of piss after a night at the Nookenburra pub in Innaloo. My punishment other than my license being suspended, was to find and fix a secondhand car body, fit a motor and repaint the Corolla station wagon, before I was allowed to drive again.
Nine months later, painted canary yellow, the ultimate Bears mobile ‘Fang’ was born. I had put Pirelli P4’s on Fang which gave her more height and less chance of losing an exhaust on the way up to Bears. With mates in hand and one or two cement bags in the back and a little less tyre pressure, Fang could go where others perished. The first part of the track was always the hardest, with Fang screaming in first gear through the gravel mounds and ditches with enough speed and lack of respect through the sandy bits. If we got stuck we would simply lift her out or shunt her along to get on the right path. Fang was so light that when we came into the S bends before the small fence opening, the boys in the back would move to one side trying to slide us into the fence or off the track…..this was unsettling!
Each time going up the track it would smash the steering around so much that dad made me a stick to line up in the middle of the front tyres, exactly for the right manual alignment after each trip. One time after a horror trip up to Bears the windscreen wiper motor just fell out and landed on my foot. After this it was hard driving back to Perth when it was raining and dark. She was a great old car, not the fastest, but she could do the track in about eight and half minutes. I think Dave Sheen had the record at seven and half minutes in his EH black and white Holden and I reckon Gordon Vernon in his HK was pretty fast too. Super fun times. Oh yeah, the surf was good too!
Photo: 1990 Mark Hills cover-up at Mamma Bears. Twiggy Sharland pic.
Floyd Irvine – In the 80s Andrew ‘MO’ Mills & I destroyed so many Kingswood’s on the Bears track. We used the front track from Yalls & that first hill behind Shallows was so sandy & had so many large steps.
On one trip in MO’s Datsun 1200 we were waiting in a queue to get back up the hill. A Ford F100 & Hilux got out, but chewed up the track. Then after many tries a Subaru got out but was smashed up in the process. Then Mo & I set off in his little Datsun 1200. Mo was such a legend driver, he just keep the wheels on the track without spinning out and we smoothly drove out of there and waved to the others waiting their turn.
Mo’s Datsun 1200 had narrow tyres like razor blades. After a 3 hour surf at Bears we were tired & hungry and in a hurry to get to the bakery, so we tried the seldom used Sugarloaf track. On top of the hill with a right hand turn, the car slid side-ways off the track & we were hideously bogged. After 3 hours jacking & pushing, we finally got back the car back on the track. We were already exhausted & starving before we got started again….what a nightmare!
Photos: 1990 Floyd & Mo at Bears. Floyd Irvine pics.
Left: Andrew ‘Mo’ Mills on Bears Beach. Right: Floyd surfing with flair in yellow wettie.
In the 1990s The Dunsborough pub named its front bar after the Three Bears surf break.
Mike Bibby – When my colleagues & I purchased the Dunsborough Hotel from Shad Nixon in 1998, the main bar was the Three Bears Bar. There was a lot of memorabilia on the walls, photos, plaques with stories as to why it was named by George Simpson & Co (as told in SDS book), boards (all new) etc.
When we renovated the bar, all of the memorabilia (boards included) were souvenired (stolen) by the staff. Nothing was left.
Photos: 1998 Three Bears Bar memorabilia. Mike Bibby & Bruce King pics.
Left: Three Bears Bar T-Shirts logo. Right: Three Bears Bar surfboard logo.
CALM closed the coastal Bears track from Yallingup circa 1992, it is now part of Cape to Cape walk. Surfers now use other 4wd routes to access Bears.