1960-70s Phillip Island Vic surf trips by Rod Slater, Mal Leckie and Steve Cockburn

During the late 60s and early 70s many WA surfers made the long trip across the Nullarbor to surf good waves on Phillip Island in Victoria.

This is a collection of Phillip Island memories by WA surfers Rod Slater, Mal Leckie and Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn.

My Phillip Island Memories by Rod Slater

In mid 1968 I caught a train from Perth to Sydney with surfer Rod McCarthy from Tweed Heads. There we met up with Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and in his black FJ we drove up north to Coolangatta, surfing Crescent Heads and other beautiful places on the way. We stayed at Rod Mac’s house for a few days then shifted into the Coolangatta surf club. We surfed some ‘lovely’ winter Queensland waves and saw some very good surfers.  We even got a job on a building site at Southport but that only lasted a day or two.  One day we saw a car with WA number plates on it at either Snapper Rocks or Coolangatta, with a family and a couple of very young surfers in it. I believe it was the Bettenay bros.

After a while we headed back down South and finished up at Phillip Island, a place Jock had stayed at before.  Jock had several nasty car crashes on the drive to the Island, not sure from where, hence the missing teeth in photos. Apparently in one such incident he drove off the road and straight up the guide wire holding the pole and then smashed to the ground. The whole time Peter Lummis was asleep on the back seat wrapped in a sleeping blanket. I believe they both walked away reasonably unscathed. We surfed and worked, more surfing than working. Especially through the winter months work was a little scarce.  At this time besides Jock, Lum and myself, there were other WA surfers on the Island including Mal Read, Bob Shenston, Craig ‘Clarrie’ Brentwhite, John Balgarnie and Jamie Doig with visits from people like Peter Bothwell and many others. I think Fred Annesley and I may have stopped there on the way back from staying at Kirra after the Australian titles in 1969.

On subsequent visits I travelled with Mark Waddell, with whom I lived and shared an abalone shelling job, working one day a week each. On my last visit, I travelled over with Mal Leckie and a young lady from Scarborough, Sue-Ellen Nyman.  We stayed off the Island this time with a guy, Peter Connelly from Inverloch, who used to sand and finish boards with Greg ‘Pantsman’ Laurenson when he had his own business behind City drycleaners in Scarborough Beach Road, over the road from Hawke Brothers. On one trip Mark Waddell and I travelled from the Island to Tasmania in convoy with a Victorian surfer, Steve ‘Blue’ Nicholson, and then came back to WA with Blue.  I believe Blue went straight to work for Tony Harbison on the holiday houses he built at Yallingup (Hideaway Holiday Homes). I think Blue may still be living Down South. On one occasion I helped a young surfer named Tommy Tyrell glass a board he had shaped, he went on to become a successful board manufacturer owning a company called Island Surfboards (purely coincidental).

One year when I was glassing for ‘Pantsman’ in Scarborough Beach Road, we decided to travel in Pants’ new Falcon panel van to Bells Beach for the Easter competition. There was Pants, myself, Peter Connelly, Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn and Rick Syme (I think that is correct!). On the way we stopped at Cactus and then went on to Bells and then Phillip Island. I remember Rick surfing exceptionally well at both Cactus and at Flynn’s Reef on the Island. My only memory of Bells was seeing Nat Young walking out of the bush/sand hills with his red setter and a big hat. I think he was going through an ‘anti competition’ phase, or something like that!

In my time there I had the great privilege to watch and enjoy a young Wayne Lynch surf Flynn’s reef on his backhand; a very young Mark Richard have a few sessions either before or after the Bells contest (can’t remember which); Mark Warren in his young heyday and many other good surfers who travelled through.

Rod’s Phillip Island photos and comments follow:

Photo: 1968 the crew at Klemm Bell Surfboards in Gardenvale Vic. Rod Slater pic.

From the left – Peter Connelly, Reg Bell, Rod Slater, ‘Steve the Kid’ (not sure of his full name) and Terry Klemm.

RodThis shop was on the Nepean Highway in Gardenvale. Klemm Bell also had another factory in Torquay.

Photos: 1968 Phillip Island surfboards. Rod Slater pics.

(Left) Rod Slater with new Klemm Bell surfboard. (Right) Jock Campbell and Mal Read preparing for a surf at Cat Bay or Right Point.

Photo: 1968 Rod Slater surfing at Woolamai beach on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

RodNot my proudest moment but still a browneye in a small Woolamai tube!

Photo: 1968 Rod Slater and Mick Maddren at Cat Bay carpark on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

Photos: 1968 John Balgarnie’s Holden FB Ute on Summerlands Beach at Phillip Island. Rod Slater pics.

(Left) The crew with JB’s Ute. (Right) John Balgarnie and Craig ‘Clarrie’ Brentwhite with JB’s ute.

Rod – Summerlands is now famous because it is where the Penguin Parades are held!

Photo: 1968 Phillip Island road drama, Rod Slater pic.

RodJock Campbell broke split windscreen somehow and he (in the brown jumper), Mal Read (yellow shorts) and Mick Maddren (on the bonnet) were dramatising a bit!

Photo: 1968 Jock Campbell with his FJ and Mal Read at Cat Bay on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

Photos: 1968 Phillip Island Keith ‘Jock’ Campbell and crew acting irresponsibly at Summerlands on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

RodWe sometimes scored some nice beach breaks around the ‘bay’ like beach.

Photo: 1968 Jock Campbell and one of the Kavanagh boys from Wonthaggi Vic at Woolamai Beach. Rod Slater pic.

Photo: 1968 Victorian Peter Connelly (on the left) at Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island. Rod Slater pic.

1971 Phillip Island surf trip by Mal Leckie

I reckon it might be good to get a few yarns from some of the guys who went to Phillip Island in early 70s.

Names that come to mind from 1971, the year I went across to Victoria are Sheepdog, John Balgarnie, and Rod Slater. I know that Rod had done the trip before and I think the others had too. We had good quality waves at Woolamai and at Flynns Reef and surfed some decent beach breaks all the way down to Wilson’s Prom. Some of the spots didn’t break that year but Rod had glowing recollections of them. Express Point was one I think.

I could fatten the story up too. Rod saved a kid’s life at Kilcunda when he was washed off the rocks, a truck crashed into the back of us while we were driving along in Victoria one night, Rod built a new board in an old cow shed etc.

Image: 1969 Phillip Island Invitational Surfing Contest. Barry Young pic

1970 Phillip Island surf trip by Steve “Sheepdog’ Cockburn

I remember one afternoon at the Phillip Island Pub with John Balgarnie and Greg Laurenson, plus many members of the Phillip Island Surfboard Club (PISC).

As the afternoon wore on the boys got merrier. The PISC boys were showing off their tricks, one ate a whole middy glass down to the stump, another drank a pint of beer thru his nose whilst a third sculled a cigarette tray full of butts & beer. Then the visiting Maroubra Surfboard Club (MSC) team started pranks. One of their members nicknamed ‘Bucket Mouth’ got up on the stage and took over the lead singer’s role in the band and sang quite well. Another called ‘Krinkles’ got a crowd in the beer garden where he climbed a small slender tree and wobbled backwards & forwards on it like a huge koala bear, until it snapped and Krinkles and the tree came crashing to the ground. Not to be outdone Greg Laurenson climbed a mature Moreton Bay Fig type tree and tried to wobble a big horizontal branch, alas he lost his grip and came crashing to the ground and injured his forearm.

Apart from the novelty at the pub. The surf was good. Nice rights at Flynns Reef and rights and lefts at Woolamai Beach plus lefts at Cat Bay.

Tides are huge at Phillip Island and affect the surfing greatly. Some of the visitors from WA had part time jobs at the Koala Café and went surfing on the incoming to high tide. A great place to visit and surf.

Photo: 1970 Sheepdog sitting on the bonnet of his Holden panel van at Woolamai Beach on Phillip Island. Sheepdog pic.

Coming soon 1960-70s Phillip Island Vic surf trips by Steve Campbell and Bruce King

Long live fun surf trips.



1970-80 Yallingup Beach car park

Update: 20 March 2017. According to Wardandi Elder George Webb’s book ‘Noonyabooghera’, Yallingup means ‘place of land falling away‘ referring to the limestone cliffs. The ‘place of love‘ myth was created by the people that opened up the caves and Caves House as a honeymoon destination. Source Melia Brent-White.


Yallingup Beach car park has been a meeting place for surfers since the mid-50s.

The Wardandi aboriginal meaning of Yallingup is ‘Place of Love’. In 2011 a large bronze sculpture of a surfer was erected at Yallingup to recognise its role in ‘the origins of surfing in WA’.

Photos: 2011 unveiling of surf pioneer sculpture at Yallingup. Jim King pics.

2011 Yalls surf pioneer statue Jim King picscollage_photocat

Surfers used to camp under the melaleuca trees at the beach car park in the ’50s. Then in the 60-70s surfers used the old public toilets as overnight accommodation in inclement weather.

Things have certainly changed since those days, camping is now banned on the beach front, the public toilets have been relocated and the car park curbed & landscaped. Today’s surfers meet in the car park to check the waves & ‘chew the fat’ on surfing, footy, women……and more recently ailments issues.

This is a collection of car park images with a sprinkling of comments from surfers who frequented the Yallingup car park & Surfside Store back then, when times seemed so much simpler.

Photo: 1970 State Open Champion Tony Hardy in the car park at Yallingup. Ric Chan pic.

1970 Yalls State Titles Tony Hardy - Ric Chan img192

Peter ‘Mac’ McDonaldIn the 70s when we were working in the SW carting hay, about 10 of us (George Simpson, Ronny Ratshit, Grant Robinson, Gary Kontoolas, John Molloy & others) slept in our cars under the melaleucas at Yallingup and ate breakfast (tomato mince) & dinner with Bernie & Eve at Surfside.

Photo: 1970 Steve ‘Sheepdog’ Cockburn behind & in front of the camera in Ric Chan’s Kombi at Yallingup. Ric Chan pic.

1970 Yalls Steve Cockburn in Ric's kombi- Ric Chan img202

Peter Dunn (NZ expatriate) Yallingup regular John ‘Tex’ Branch arranged my first trip down south in 1972. Tex met my mates & I at the Cottesloe pub and we then headed to Yallingup in a convoy.

Photos: 1972 First trip Down South. Peter Dunn pics.

Left: Yallingup car park team photo. L-R Peachy, Paul, Renya, Murray, Tex, Keith, Wayne, Dick, Steve & Bow.

Right: Busselton pit stop. Bearded ‘Tex’ sitting on the roof of Prive’s former Holden panel van.


Len DibbenThis Photo was taken by my wife Wendy in the Yallingup car park at the Australian Surf riding Championships, about July 1973. I was part of the Contest committee to run the 1973 Australia Surfboard Championships. At that time, I was Vice President to Ron Naylor president. I organized the Kombi to help run Contestants & Reporters to & from venues, if needed. The two children are my daughter Kim at 7 year of age & son Troy at 5 years of age. They are now aged 48 & 46. The gear I am wearing is a Baron wear striped t-shirt…very popular at that time, Levi Jeans & John Arnold Hararchi Leather Sandals from then Adelaide.

Photo: 1973 Aust Surf riding Championships contest official Len Dibben in the car park at Yallingup. Wendy Dibben pic.

1973 Aust Titles yalls contest marshal Len Dibben with daughter Kim 6 & son Troy 4

Laurie ‘Loz’ Smith (Quindalup surfer & photographer) – In 73-74 my brother Tony & I would sleep in his split screen Kombi in the Yallingup car park. At that time there were no rangers and camping was free. After an early surf, we used to have a brekkie of sausages & eggs on toast and a cuppa at Surfside for 60c. We would play table soccer for 10c a game while we were waiting for brekkie. We used to fill up the Kombi at Surfside using the hand pump Petrol Bowser. Surfside was the only place to eat brekkie besides the Bakery at Dunsborough. Sally Jones (nee Gunter) used to work at the Bakery and made the biggest milkshakes.

Photo: 1973 Yalls Lobster Pot Restaurant at Surfside. L-R Grant Robinson, George Simpson and Bernie Young at Sally Gunter’s 21st birthday party. Sally Gunter pic.

Photo: 1975 Yallingup car park during State Surfing Titles. Surfside Store is on the left and the old brick Toilets are under the melaleucas on the right. Ric Chan pic.

1975 Yalls State Titles Yalls car park img097 (6)

Andy JonesWe used to kick the footy in Yallingup car park. It was an open area with few cars and was a good meeting place for surfers. Before technology (surf reports/web sites etc) we used to check waves conditions from the car park before heading off to the best surf destination for the day.

Photo: 1975 Mark Favell ex Bundaberg Qsld & Andy Jones in Yalls car park. Gina Pannone pic.

1975 Yalls Mark Favell ex Bundaberg Qsld & Andy Jones - Gina Pannone pic_0004

Julie FavellAndy Jones, Mark Favell, Neil Juster and myself all lived in Dunsborough. We all work in the Dunsborough Bakery. It was a hell of a time. We travelled to Bears along the old road following coast. One vehicle we had was an old VW with balloon tyres. We always made it through the dirt track. Neil had a blue heeler dog (sorry forgotten his name), Neil was always tying him up and that darn dog always got himself out, could climb ladders at a great pace. At this time there was a surfboard maker at Willyabrup Peter ‘Stumpy’ Wallace who made Pegasus Surfboards. And the beginnings of Creatures of Leisure leg ropes at Injidup by Helen & Dave Hattrick and John Malloy.

Photo: 1975 Yallingup Mark Favell & Southey the dog in front of old brick toilet block. Julie Favell pic

Bruce KingIn inclement weather we used to sleep in the old toilet block behind Surfside tea rooms/store. I never had a sleeping bag and used to sleep in thongs in keep warm as my feet used to stick out the end of the blanket.

Photo: 1976 unidentified surfers in Yallingup car park. Ric Chan pic.

1976 Yalls car park unknown - Ric Chan 006

Al Bean (Surfboard shaper) – I became Manager of Surfside & the Yalls Beach Caravan Park in 1977 at age 20 years. I learnt to cook and employed local girls to help at Surfside. Back then city surfers would sleep in cars in the car park and we would get up to 60 surfers waiting for breakfast each morning over the weekend. It was a different story during the week and we would be lucky to sell a choc milk & newspaper to Harbo at Hideaway Homes. So I would close the shop mid-week and go surfing.

Photo: 1978 an empty Yallingup car park with Surfside Store, Bali Hai surf shop & Surfside rental accommodation in the background. Vance Burrow pic.

1978 Yalls Bali Hai surf shop Yalls VB IMG

Ross UttingIt was always difficult to fill in long hot surf-less afternoons, particularly on holiday or contest weekends when there were a lot of high spirited people about. Fortunately there were a few blokes who fancied themselves as stunt drivers. These blokes would relieve our boredom by putting on a display of burning rubber and wheelies in the Yallingup car park.

On one occasion, two of these charismatic drivers in Bill “Big Eyes” McVeigh and Kevin “Odey” O’Dwyer fed off each other, with each stunt becoming more outrageous than the one before.  They ended up, each in turn, racing down the hill from the pub at high speed, over the bridge and throwing the wheel on full lock entering the unsealed car park, sliding and spinning wildly through the car park and coming to a halt in a cloud of dust in front of the cheering masses, leaping out of their cars and taking a bow.

Both brilliant drivers, but how none of the vehicles parked in the car park were not damaged or pedestrians killed still amazes me.  The owner of Surfside Tea Rooms with it’s petrol bowser out front wouldn’t have been amused either.

Photo: 1980 Parking spot with a view. Gary Gibbon’s Ford Cortina with protruding surfboard in Yallingup car park. Gary Gibbon pic.

1980 Yalls car park Gary Gibbon's Cortina - Gary Gibbon pic IMG_0018

Louie ‘Longboard’ CorkillI left school at age 13 and started hitchhiking down south. I used to camp in the old toilet block at Yallingup beach. I slept in a board bag made of quilt by my mother. The best camping spot used to be in the melaleucas just before the bridge on the right, as you come down the hill into Yalls. Brian Bell and I would set up our tent or sleep in the car next to the fresh water creek which flowed from the pub.

Photo: 1980 Ray Nott & Dave Seward preparing to go for a surf at Yallingup. Gary Gibbon pic.

1980 Yalls car park Ray Nott & Dave Seward - Gary Gibbon pic IMG_0025

Mal Leckie – Steve “Horny” Campbell used to do an interesting performance for tourist buses in the Yall’s car park when he pulled his boardies up as high as they would go, puff his stomach out like he was pregnant and do an emu walk. 

More than one dead snake arrived at speed into the Yall’s car park behind a car, tied to the back by fishing line and “whipped” into the entry area to Surfside.

Photo: 1981 Steve ‘Horny’ Campbell and hound installing electricity at Caves Caravan Park. Gary Gibbon pic.

Floyd IrvineIn the early 80s my mates and I used to pitch our tent on the lawn in front of the ugly old brick toilets at Yallingup. We had a friendly council ranger who would provide firewood for our camp fire and chat with us. Back then nobody gave a shit what you did!

Photo: 1980 Tony Harbison reading West Coast Surfer magazine at Yallingup car park. Tony and his wife Carol built and ran Hideaway Holiday Homes at Yallingup in the 70s. Ric Chan pic.

1980 Yalls Tony Harbison with West Coast Surfer mag - Ric Chan 065

Photo: 1980 surfboard shaper Greg Laurenson and Dave Kennedy from Star Surfboards in Yallingup car park. Sadly the surf industry legends are now deceased. Ric Chan pic.

1980 Yalls G Laurenson & D Kennedy - Ric Chan 069

Photo: 1980 Greg Laurenson, Dave Kennedy, Tony Harbinson and Mitch Thorson in Yallingup car park with Harbo’s dog Prince. Ric Chan pic.

1980 Yalls Harbo, Greg Laurenson, Dave Kennedy etc- Ric Chan 072

Yallingup Beach car park is still a meeting place for surfers in the South West.



1971 Cactus surf trip by Mal Leckie

Update: Added Mal Leckie’s thongs on a star picket tale 11 March 2017.

Late in 1971 I drove across from WA to Phillip Island VIC. in Rod Slater’s FC Holden to surf their excellent summer waves. I think Rod took me for the petrol money haha! Sheepdog was over at Phillip Island on this trip and I think John Balgarnie was too.

The old car only went 70km/h so it took us 7 days. We had a string through the dashboard to the Carby that we would pull and tie to the Cigarette lighter when it was at the right speed. 1970’s cruise control? On the way back we stopped at a remote spot called Cactus at Penong in the central SA bight.

Image: This is a sketch in acrylic on canvas from the afternoon we arrived. Sketch by Mal Leckie.

There were NO facilities and no water. I think we had about 60 litres of drinking water and we camped there until it ran out. The next time I went there with another bloke, we took a Still to turn the salt water into fresh and lived like kings trading water for seafood. The still was made from a set of aluminium kitchen canisters with Rice, Flour and Sugar on the sides.

Image: Sketch of Still we used to turn salt water into fresh. Mal Leckie sketch.

We did some fly swatting at Cactus back in those days. Scary when I look back on it – no leg ropes, no phones, hours of driving to get medical help, Blue Water White Death playing at the cinemas.

There was a star picket banged into the edge of the reef at Caves and you put your thongs over it. If you lost your board you could put the thongs on to chase it across the sharp reef before it got into the current on the western side.

Mal Leckie is an Australian Landscape artist born in Perth Western Australia He now lives on the Gold Coast with his wife Louise and his home beach is Coolangatta. Visit Mal’s web site to view his artwork.

Jim King: In 1970 on the way back from the World Surfing Titles held at Bells and Johanna beaches in Vic, we called in at Cactus beach at Penong. I was with WA surfers Ian Cairns, Sheepdog, Giles Geiger and my brother Bruce. Ian had competed in the World Titles as a Junior, the rest of us were spectators at the event.

The boys surfed Caves and I took some Super 8 movie footage, before going for a surf myself. It was a short surf for me, as sharks chased us out of the water. I remember it was damn cold sleeping outdoors at night and damn hot during the day sheltering from the desert sun.

Click on this video link to view Super 8 footage of the boys surfing Caves. Music by Vance Burrow (run time 3.07 min).

Coming soon 1970s Phillip Island surf trips.



Three Bears surf break & track in the 70s

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.

American expatriate surfboard shaper Tom Hoye named it MGM after the initials of the three guys who discovered the place, but Perth guys later renamed it Three Bears after the 3 surf breaks Baby’s, Mama’s & Papa’s.

Tom was the first surfer to drive into Bears. He forged a track to Bears from his backyard in Dunsborough, along paddocks and fire breaks to connect with the beach track behind d’Espeisses’ property.

Circa ‘72 Tom and Craig Brent-White used their 4WD’s to create a rough track to Bears through coastal scrub land at Yallingup. In ‘73 Ralph Redman used his 4WD to improve the alignment of the coastal track from Yallingup.

Then the floodgates opened and Bears became an established surf location.

This a collection of anecdotes & photos from ’70s Bears user’s………

George SimpsonWhen we walked in to find Bears Beach in ’71, there were no tracks and the ground was rocky with spiky shrubs. I broke my Dunlop thong in the first half hour. The torturous 10klm trek along the cliffs from Sugarloaf Rock to Yallingup took us 7 hours.

I recall a big day at Bears in ’76. My brother Michael, Peta Baker from City Beach and Tracy (who later became my wife) and I were heading up the track to Bears and we passed Tom Hoye and Dave Hattrick coming back. They told us it was too big to surf and the bombies were wild. We found it was big and breaking outside the Mama’s boil. There was no one else there and it took Michael and I ages to get out the back… we got two waves that broke right through from outside Papa’s, right through Mama’s into Baby’s and were unable to get back out. It was pretty wild!

Photo: 1972 George Simpson surfing Injidup Car Park on a Geoff Culmsee single fin surfboard. Photo by Ian Ferguson courtesy of West Country Surf magazine.


Tom Hoye – One afternoon, the boys came staggering into Caves House with raving stories of the perfect left-hander, saying, “You gotta go, you gotta go.” We trudged in at dawn to find a perfect 4 to 6ft left hander. A perfect day at Bears.

Photos: Tom Hoye in the SW.

Left: 1971 Tom Hoye outside old shack at Contos Beach, Margaret River. Gary Kontoolis pic.

Right: 1980 Tom Hoye surfing solid Baby’s. Photo (damaged) by Peter Davies.


For detailed Three Bears recollections from George Simpson & Tom Hoye refer to the Surfing Down South book published by Margaret River Press in 2014. Reprinted 2014.

Bears track pioneers

Craig Brent-White – Circa ’72 Tom Hoye and I used our 4wd’s to create a coastal track to Bears from Rabbit Hill at Yallingup. Glen Lance was a passenger in Tom’s car and Tony Harbison was in my car when we made the first track to Bears from Yalls.

Ralph RedmanIn 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.

Photo: 1976 Ralph Redman surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.


Bruce KingMy version of the first surf session at Bears differs from George Simpson’s recollections in the SDS Book. 

I was with George and a few others the first time it was surfed. Craig Kalmund was also there and remembers arriving at the beach and George’s reaction was “F**k it’s a bit bigger today!” George was the first to enter the water and surf Bears. It was a classic day with the 3 distinct breaks, the bigger one outside, then the medium one, then the smaller break inside that’s why I called it “3 Bears”.

The area itself was referred to as “MGM’s” after the three George, Mark and Mick had walked from Sugarloaf to Yallingup a few days earlier. I remember them arriving back at Yalls and frothing about the waves they saw. In those days it was a walk along the cliffs from Sugarloaf & took about 40 minutes. Later on we worked our way into Bears in our cars from Rabbits at Yalls, sometimes spending the whole day just digging our cars out from the bog while trying to get up the sandy hill, no one had 4wd’s in those days.

Some days on the beach we had a real menagerie of people including Charlie “Dingbat”, Trevor “Yipyip” Anderson, Laurie “Pup” Nesbit, Ronny “Ratshit,” Steve “Horny” Campbell and other rascals. Charlie Dingbat and some of the others ran around naked. No one took water or any supplies, but hit the Dunsborough Bakery big time after a day’s surfing.   

Photos: 1973 Bruce King at Three Bears on Bill Oddy’s trail bike. Bruce King pics.


Stewart BettenayIn the early 70s my brother Craig & I walked into Bears from Sugarloaf twice on the same day. It nearly killed us as we surfed heaps and had no food or water. We knew Tom Hoye had found a way to drive to Bears in his FJ Holden but didn’t know where the track was. Then one day we saw the sun glinting off the windscreen of his car and we discovered that he was using a track along firebreaks from Dunsborough. When the coastal track was pushed through from Yalls to Bears we used that track.

Photo 1983 Stewart Bettenay surfing Mama Bears. Dave Sheen pic


Stewart Bettenay – Shortly after 3 Bears was being surfed by the next crew of surfers after the originals, a 17 year Craig Howe (Kalbarri and Gnaraloo pioneer) heard that the way to get there was from Sugarloaf Rock high along the cliffs, as there was no beach access.

Craig took this to be high up on the Ridge, so off he set by himself on a very hot March day. After 3 hours of walking and even throwing his board up on top of thick scrub and crawling along it, he finally arrived battered and scratched to be greeted by the sea-breeze. Surfers leaving the beach showed him the walk track back along the cliffs. Howie never got to go for a surf and described the experience as a “hideous journey” and never returned.

Photos: Mid ‘70s Trevor ‘Yip Yip’ Anderson (middle) and his mates surfing fun waves at Bears. Ric Chan pics.


Ross UttingShortly after news of Bears leaked out I walked in from Sugarloaf Rock along the cliff tops with Bruce King & Micko Gracie. It was a solid one hour walk, although Bruce reckons he could do it in 45 mins. When we got there Baby’s was 4-5ft & beautiful, but there were 3 other guys already there. We knew them so it was ok. We surfed it all day, but because it was so crowded (ha!), we tag teamed so that there was never more than 3 or 4 guys in the water at a time.

Between surfs, one of the other guys showed me a pool just north of the big rocks at the Baby’s end, it was packed with abalone. Being a bit peckish, because we took neither food nor water, we managed to prise a couple off the reef & ate them raw. I recall them tasting a bit like coconut.

The next day I returned, this time with Russell Stranger, Stewart & Craig Bettenay. The waves weren’t as good, but we were the only ones there. I was better prepared this time, still no food or water, but armed with a screw driver & a canvas board bag.  Between surfs I collected about 10 kilos of abs & shoved them in my board bag. Big mistake! Lugging a board under one arm & 10kilos of abs stuffed in a bag over my other shoulder for an hour, after being completely surf out, was hell.

When we got back to Greenacres Holiday Homes, where Russell was staying, we tenderised the abs with a tyre lever & Russell’s wife Anne crumbed them & we cooked them on the BBQ. We ate the lot. Beautiful!

Photo: 1976 Mamma Bears line-up. L-R Steele George, Joe Fimmano & Graham Waddell. Jim King pic


Mal Leckie – Surfside, Caves House and the Yalls carpark were the social pivot point for everyone who came down from Perth and most blokes slept there each night regardless of where they surfed each day.

At the end of each day most people would tell where they had been surfing and you built up a picture of who was going where. Mostly it was the same general area because of the swell. We knew everyone’s cars and you would see them driving along Caves Road or up to the Cape and turning off etc. Those were the days of thumbs up, thumbs down as you drove past each other haha.

I remember that we became a bit suspicious of a few guys who didn’t seem to have surfed anywhere; nobody had seen them and they weren’t talking at the pub. George was the one who stood out for his disappearing act as he was a prominent personality and usually very visible in a line-up, most often Margaret. Likewise Micko Gracie went quiet.

Those blokes kept the secret for a long time and went to all sorts of lengths to sneak away so nobody would follow. Even when three Bears was well known about as a break, how to get there was not. For a fair while I thought you had to walk there along the beach. I reckon it was ‘73 before most people knew where the track was.

Photos: 1972 Tom Blaxell Surfboards panel van on Bears track. Jim McFarlane photos.

Left: Greg ‘Egory’ McDonald, Bruce Elliot & Tom Blaxell on the Bears coastal track.

Right: Blaxell Surfboards panel van negotiating boggy section of Bears track.


Andy Jones – Bears wasn’t crowded those days, as a lot of guys didn’t know about Bears and a 4WD was required until mid 70s. You knew everyone in the water. Then Ralph Redman & Tom Hoye pushed through a new coastal track from Rabbit Hill at Yallingup to Bears. Ralph drove a Volkswagon buggy or a 4WD and I used my VW sedan to access the dirt track to Bears. Later Ray Knott, Craig Brent-White, Mark Moody, Al Bean, Pat Bloomer, Laurie ‘Pup’ Nesbit & I started surfing the Bombie and Three sisters (south of Bombie) on big swells. Peter Mac nearly drowned at Three Sisters.

Photo: 1976 David ‘Dappa’ Plaistead surfing Mama’s. Andy Jones pic.


Photo: 1976 Dave Seward surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.


Photo: 1976 Mark Moody surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.


Photo: 1976 Snowy from Eastern States surfing Mamma Bears.  Andy Jones pic


Photo: 1976 Ralph Redman surfing Mama Bears. Andy Jones pic.


Barry YoungIt was one of those classic autumn days. Ruler edged 4’ perfection and maybe 6 guys at Momma’s (my favourite) and after about 3 hours, although tired it was still too good to go in. I was praying for the onshore to kick in. By this stage only one other guy and I were out. He decides he has had enough and goes in. I stay out about another 20 minutes and finally some sort of light onshore wafts in. Not enough to really worry it but a good enough excuse. As I walk up the beach there’s the guy I had just been surfing with and his girlfriend. He’s sitting there with a cold beer in his hand and his girlfriend was kneeling behind him topless (as was often the case during the 70’s) and she is giving him a massage! As I walked by I couldn’t help but say to him…..” and I thought I was having a good day! “

Photo: Mid-late 70s. Barry Young surfing good sized Momma’s. Steve Russo pic.


Barry Young – I remember Taj as a 2-3 year old playing with his tractor and dump truck in the sand on the water’s edge at Bear’s while Vance and Nancy were playing in the waves. Apparently he loved bouncing down the Bear’s track in their car and knew that was part of the deal once they got there. They always had their eye on him and besides Nance didn’t stay out too long. Taj was really at ease and happy anyway making truck noises etc.

Photo: 1977 Nancy Burrow surfing Mama Bears 4mths pregnant with Taj. Burrow family pic.


Vance Burrow – I remember surfing 8ft Bears on my own hoping someone would turn up. It will never be like that again!

Photo: 1978 Vance Burrow 3 hour surf session at Baby Bears on a Tom Hoye surfboard. Burrow family pic.


Vance & Nancy Burrow – In the 80s Park Ranger Mike Bachelor used to police the Bears track checking for dogs illegally entering the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. He disliked dogs and used to stand on the Bears track with his arms folded checking surfers cars for dogs. He would tell us to leave with our dog Papaya, but there was no way we were leaving if the waves were good. We would say to him “is our dog violating National Park air space?”

Editor’s note: Richie Myers told me about a SW surfer who used to sit his dog in the middle seat of his ute with a cap on, to get past the ranger.

Photo: 1977 Vance & Nance Burrow’s ‘Huey’ the VW checking the surf and ‘Papaya’ the dog checking the camera. Burrow family pic.


Coming soon Three Bears surf break & track in the 80s.




Early 70’s Weekends Down South by Mal Leckie

Mal Leckie was born in Perth WA and surfed the SW in the early 70s before moving to the East Coast in 1974.

Mal’s note This photo was taken on my VERY first trip down south as a toddler, which I reckon is 1953. I am on mum’s lap in the front. It is my dad’s Vauxhall Tourer and I think (guess???) it is outside the shop-petrol station that was just over the original bridge at Mandurah. Obviously the days before the folding cot or pram was invented haha!

Photo: 1953 Mandurah WA. Stu & Rena Leckie with young Mal on her lap. Photo courtesy of Leckie family.

1953 Mandurah WA Stu & Rena & Mal Leckie 1st SW Holiday

Mal’s note – The following is a selection of random recollections of the 1970-73 years which I hope will act as triggers to other people’s memories of the time so they might pick up the pen and fatten-up these sketchy stories. Read these memories to the sounds of Santana, Cream, Cat Stevens, Iron Butterfly, Three Dog Night, Moody Blues etc. Or maybe recall trying to roll your car down the Cape Naturaliste road, out of gear, from near the Meelup turn-off to Dunsborough – did anyone ever make it?

The Drive Down to Yallingup.

Nearly everyone who surfed down south came from Perth, and went down each weekend. Only in 1972-3 did surfers I knew start to live in the area or start making property purchases. Tony Harbison was already an owner of cabins at Yall’s of course and there was a place on Caves Road above Smith’s that had a random crew in it. It was known simply as “The House”. Steve “Horny” Campbell was the first guy I knew to buy a block.

We lined our lifts up mid-week at the pub on a Wednesday night. At different times there were different pubs where everyone would meet. The main ones I remember were the Shenton Park Hotel, the Cott and the White Sands. Guys would just hustle around the pub until they had a crew, or if you were looking for a lift, until you had a seat booked. People took it in turns to take their cars but some blokes preferred to take theirs every week.

Most of the cars were Holdens, Falcons and VW’s. The only 4WD’s available then were old school box Land-Rovers but they were so slow, noisy and uncomfortable on the bitumen that it was better to go in a normal car and get a good run down to Yallingup then suffer a bit on the tracks than the other way around. Until the Range Rover arrived, I only remember one 4WD from Perth that went down south regularly.

Some of the cars I remember from 1970-74 were these. Ian Cairns and Micko Gracie had mustard coloured Beetles, Trevor Anderson and Re Marshall had HD or HR Holden PV’s, Rod Slater had an FC sedan, Craig the Postie had an HK PV, Johnny Fox had an HR Wagon, Paul Jacobson had a Kombi and later a Holden HQ PV with V8 motor. George Simpson had a Valiant ute with pipe racks, Bill Oddy had a 144 Volvo sedan that was surprisingly good in the sand, Peter Mac and Greg ‘Pants’ Laurenson had XY Falcon Panel Vans. A guy named Gary Randall had an old late 30’s-40’s Plymouth that was hand-painted in pink house paint. Big Barry Green had an early model low roof Falcon PV. One regular was named Monaro Ross because of his car. I never travelled with him and mostly he came down alone I think. He was a roofer and I think his surname was Wilson. He had a bad head-on in the blue Monaro one wet night near Busselton, not his fault. I also remember a few EH utes but can’t recall the owners’ names – one was from SA. Tex Branch of Cottesloe had a VW station wagon. Tony Hardy had a Holden EJ or EH station wagon, as did Sheepdog. Murray Smith had an EH too.

Peter Mac had the first set of twin speakers mounted in the back panels of his van and coupled to a cassette player that blew everyone away when we first saw and heard it. Before that, cars were lucky to have a radio with one speaker.

Photo: 1971 Injidup car park. Re Marshall’s panel van is on the left and George Simpson’s Valiant ute is on the right. Photo Credit Ric Chan.

1971 Injidup car park - Ric Chan img307a

Nearly everybody got on well and I don’t remember any animosity between regulars at all. Everyone was friendly and good mates. Coming away with different people every now and then made the weekends even more interesting and built a tremendous camaraderie.

The idea was to get away from Perth as soon as possible after work on the Friday arvo. Whoever owned the car would fill it up with fuel and then meet their crew at someone’s house. Then it was on to Fremantle and East Street, High street, Hampton Road past the gaol then straight ahead past the old Power station, Naval Base and on to Mandurah. That first part of the trip was when you would catch up on everybody’s news from the week because there was no mobile phones or social media of course.

When you hit Mandurah it was time to grab a burger and buy beers for the run down the old Coast Road There was a pub just north of Mandurah that was the favourite stop. Might have been called the Sundowner, not sure. It was somewhere near Stewart Street, which had good sand banks in those days.

The other regular stop was just after the Bunbury turn-off, a petrol station a mile or so towards Capel. It had cheap fuel so some cars would fill up again so they could try to get through the weekend without the more expensive fill-ups at the top shop at Yall’s.

You had to be careful through Capel because the local cops were very enthusiastic about speed limits. After that it was Busselton and then a run to get to the pub at Caves House. Pants used to enjoy driving behind someone as you approached Dunsborough and then turning his lights off. The “victim” car would think that he had turned into Dunsborough but he would be right up close behind them along Caves Road. After a mile or so he would pull his lights on with high beam and sound his horn. I was in the victim car one night and it was more frightening than you might think.

Everyone would be at the pub and by 9 o’clock it was shoulder to shoulder as everyone downed beers, laughed a lot and played darts or a table game I’m pretty sure was called Skittlar. Bob Monkman was a burglar on this table.

Dart Board and Skittlar Table images courtesy of Mal Leckie.

1977 Dart Board & Skittlar Table Mal Leckie IMG_001

Once the pub closed we would head down the hill to the carpark at Yallingup beach and park near the top of the stairs and around Surfside.

Some guys slept in the cars and vans but not everyone would fit of course, so lots of guys ended up in sleeping bags against whatever wall of the old toilet block gave protection from the wind. I never slept well like that so I got a string hammock that hung between the trees for nights when I drew the short straw and missed out on a spot inside a van.

Photo: 1970s Yallingup uncrowded line-up. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1970 Yalls waves from steps - R Chan img431a

Because we were in the surf nearly all day, most of us didn’t need showers. People would carry a bottle of “Old Spice” and sprinkler it on themselves if they thought there might be girls around. It was known as a “surfers’ shower”. But occasionally the salt build-up would get too much and we would take a wash in the small “waterfall” in the creek that was just south of the Yallingup car park. Very cold sometimes!

Background on Mal leckie

Mal now lives in Queensland on the Gold Coast with his wife Louise. His home beach is Coolangatta and he is an Australian Landscape artist.

Visit Mal’s web site to view his artwork.

Photos: Old & new Queensland photos courtesy of Mal Leckie.

(Left) 1975 Tugun L-R Mal Leckie, Richie Herbert (top hat) & Gavin Cooper. (Right) 2015 Gold Coast Mal & Louise Leckie.

Mal’s note – Richie Herbert was a Cronulla guy who was one of the standout tube riders at Kirra in Kirra’s late 70’s heydays. Richie sanded surfboards most of his working life and unfortunately died a couple of years back. His wife says it was the sanding.
Gavin Cooper was in Perth for a long while in the late 60’s and early 70’s and he had a ding repair business. He also ran a vegetarian cafe at UWA in about 1972. He was a strong personality and I think there will be people who will remember him.”

1975 & 2015 Qsld Mal Leckie old & new pic ML pics IMG_001