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Ross Utting’s Travel Odyssey 1974-75

Every surfer’s nightmare is to sustain an injury which keeps them out of the water for an extended period of time.

In the winter of 1973 City Beach and regular south west surfer Ross Utting tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee during a social football match.

He spent about a month in hospital with the leg in traction, 2 months with it in a plaster cast, then underwent a further 2 months of intensive physiotherapy.

Image: 1973 Injury report courtesy of Doug White’s Wave Length surf column in the Sunday Times.

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When all that was over his surgeon said “No surfing for at least a year”.

Rather than sit around and develop bad habits, Ross bought a one way air ticket to London and began a 2 year travel odyssey which ended back in the surf in Bali.

This is his travel story…..

London and UK

When I lobbed in London in early 1974 I eventually found my way to a place in Norfolk Square in Paddington.  I guess in today’s lingo it would be called a “backpackers”, but it was a pretty salubrious address and just a stroll down to Hyde Park.  At Norfolk Square I teamed up with a couple of South Africans and we had a pretty good time exploring London.  These were heady days in London with free rock concerts in Hyde Park on Sunday arvos and great bands in the pubs, clubs and theatres. One concert that sticks in my mind is Ian Anderson and his flute out front of Jethro Tull at the famous Rainbow Theatre.  Wow! That was a show, but there were many others.

The sport was pretty good in London too and during my stints there between trips I saw an Australian/England test match at Lords, the tennis at Wimbledon, went to the horse races at Epsom on English Derby Day and was a regular at Queens Park Rangers soccer matches.

Photo: 1974 London party. Ross 2nd from right. Ross Utting pic.

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It was during these early days that I tried to track down Ian ‘Mitch’ Mitchell in London.  Back in WA we had all heard about Mitch’s exploits in the 1973 UK Surfing Titles in Cornwall, and a Scarborough guy I bumped into in London told me he regularly saw Mitch at a pub in North London where NZ/AUST band Max Merritt & the Meteors were the resident act.  But by the time I got around to ringing Mitch’s number it was disconnected.

Click on this link to view 70s-80s Ian ‘Mitch’ Mitchell blog re ’73 UK surfing titles.

I travelled all through England, Scotland and Wales but was particularly taken with Cornwall in the SW of England. Saw some good waves around Newquay (Fistral Beach) and St Ives. No one in the water but bloody cold, glad I couldn’t surf.  I went back to Cornwall in 2008 and found good waves again at Fistral, still freezing but now many people in the surf.

Photo: 2008 Fistral Beach Cornwall. Ross Utting pic

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North Africa

After cruising around UK I had a chance to do a trip across the top of North Africa with one of my South African mates, so we caught a boat from Genoa in Italy across the Mediterranean Sea to Tunisia, and travelled onto Algeria and Morocco.  It was in Morocco that I developed a taste for offbeat travel experiences.  We headed back to London via Portugal and Spain.

Southern Europe

When we got back to London we bought a car and headed back to Spain.  Amongst other things, we got caught up in the mayhem of the Tour de France bike race when crossing the Pyrenees, explored the Basque coast around San Sebastian and went to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.  We then travelled onto Barcelona where we had arranged to meet another guy.  No mobile phones in those days, so the arrangement was “be on the steps of the Post Office at 11am each day from mid-August, till we get there”.  We were quite a few days late and he said he was getting nervous, but we hooked up in the end.

We travelled all around Southern Europe including a visit to the Monte Carlo Casino on the French Riviera.  Problem was, our standard of dress was so poor that they wouldn’t let us in. Between the 3 of us we put together an outfit, which had to include a tie, that got us in.  One of us would go in for an hour in the fancy outfit, come out, swap clothes and the next guy would go in.  We felt inferior sitting out the front waiting our turn and watching all the limo’s dropping off the toffs.

The trip ended on a sour note when our car was broken into outside Salerno in southern Italy when we were having a swim, and we lost everything but our board shorts, T-shirts and thongs.  Fortunately, we had hidden our passports and travellers cheques in the rocks while we swam.

Israel/Greece

By now it was winter, I had been away for a year and back in London based in West Kensington, I was ‘over’ going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark.  Then I saw an advertisement seeking volunteers to work on a Kibbutz in Israel.  The deal was, if you worked for a couple of months they paid your airfare, provided accommodation and meals and you got 2 bottles of beer thrown in on your Saturdays off.  That’s me! I’m off.

I worked on Kibbutz Gazit in the North of Israel.  Great experience, but the reason they needed volunteers was that the young people were all off fighting wars, some nearby in the Golan Heights bordering Syria.  My first job was picking oranges, but I kept falling out of the trees when the war planes would break the sound barrier low overhead and there was a sonic boom.  I tried washing dishes but upset the other Kibbutzniks when I tried to get them to scrape the scraps off their plates before they chucked them into my sink for washing.  Found my forte when I became a chicken man, feeding the chooks and catching them to take to market.

Photos: 1975 Israel Kibbutz Gazit. Ross Utting pics

Left: Ross’s kibbutz hut. Right: ‘Chicken Man’ Ross.

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On completion of our working commitment I travelled all over Israel with my hut mate, a Dane named Torben. Great adventure, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Sea of Galilee, Red Sea, Dead Sea, Bersheba, Eilat ………

Eventually caught a ship out of Haifa headed to Greece, but I could only afford deck class.  That meant you spread out your sleeping bag on the deck up near the bow and were quarantined from higher class passengers.  The ship stopped at Cyprus and Rhodes on the way to Athens.  After checking out Athens, I spent a few months on the Islands of Ios and Santorini. In those days there were no hotels on Ios so you had to make your own arrangements & I found a room at a great family’s home.  There were no jobs on Ios so all the men were either in the US working or on the mainland.  I got allocated tasks around the house, the most important of which was to keep the barrels in the kitchen and bathroom full of water (no running water). I was lucky enough to go to functions and religious ceremonies with my Ios family.

Photos: 1975 Greece Ios Island. Ross Utting pics

Left: Ross with his Ios ‘family’.

Right: (Top) Ross with Ios neighbour Dimitrios. (Bottom) Ios Port view from town.

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Turkey to Nepal

From Greece I travelled into Turkey, and around the coast into Iran, Afghanistan, through the Khyber Pass to Pakistan, India and Nepal.

Long and exhausting travel, but extremely rewarding (once it was over) as you just couldn’t do it now.

Afghanistan was like the wild west.  Out of the main towns of Herat, Kandahar and Kabul everyone carried rifles, but they were so friendly.  Not scary at all. Well maybe a bit!

I didn’t get off the road from Herat through Kandahar to Kabul, but from there I headed up through the Bamian Valley to the Hindu Kush mountains. Just beautiful country but harsh.

I recall not taking my clothes off for 2 weeks at one stage. Just too cold and no facilities.

Photos: 1975 Afghanistan. Ross Utting pics.

Left: Ross’s shoe shine spruce up in Kabul (at least his boots were clean!).

Right: (Top) Afghan bus. (Middle): Buddhas of Bamian (since destroyed by the Taliban). (Bottom): View of Bamian Valley from Buddhas Head.

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Bali Bound

Once I got to Kathmandu in Nepal I was on a mission, the surf was calling.

On his return from travels with Bruce King, Bob Monkman and Peter Mac, Micko Gracie had told me that he got good waves in Bali on his way home. Remembering this, I travelled down through south east Asia and lobbed in Bali in November 1975. Didn’t like Kuta (too busy. Ha!), but a couple of klms north on a limestone track was another quiet little village called Legian.

There I found the family run losman Puspa Sari on Jalan Padma and settled right in. I think it was about where the Legian Village Hotel now stands. Got a Midget Farrelly board off a Sydney guy returning home and I was all set.

Very few Balinese surfed in 1975 and there were hardly any other surfers around.  I surfed Kuta Reef on my own, but other guys liked to have company and used to come looking for you. Best waves of my life were at Sanur, 6-8 ft freight trains nearly down to an old ship wreck, 5 guys out, but we rarely saw each other. In the months I was in Bali I rode my motor bike out to Uluwatu 3 times and never saw a soul. Even in those days with no traffic it was a long trip on a very narrow road. Doc McDermott of Smiths Beach once told me that in 1975 he and his wife Carol rode their pushbikes out to Uluwatu. Bloody hell, how did they get up that first hill at the back of Jimbaran, let alone the rest of it!

Life in Legian Village was great. Very quiet, surf by day, gamble with the old guys out front of the Banjar buildings on Jalan Legian at night while the gong boys practised inside, and generally chilling out. I needed it after my lengthy travels and while everyone around me was getting Bali belly, I was putting on weight as from whence I had come, the food and hygiene in Bali seemed outstanding.

Photos: 1975 Bali Indonesia Kuta/Legian.

Left: Made Swita & Ross at losman Puspa Sari in Legian.  Ross Utting pic.

Right: Jalan Legian Kuta. Peter Neely pic www.indosurf.com.au

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The tariff at Puspa Sari was $1 per day including breakfast, which was a thermos of tea and a bunch of bananas left on the table and chair outside your room.

One of the staff members was Made Swita.  I remember his name cos he wrote me an envelope with his name and address and instructions to send him my Puspa Sari photos when I eventually got home.

Anyway, Made had this chook that he was grooming.  Cock fights were huge back then.  “Mr Ross, we can get money today, you come.” With the chook in a basket we caught a bemo to the purpose built ‘arena’ near the bemo station in Denpasar. It had a small ring and tiered seating all around. Losing chooks hung on hooks around the place for sale.

I backed 5 winners in a row leading up to Made’s chook fight, but as is the story of my life on the punt, the one you need to get up, gets beat.

Made was philosophical about the defeat and retorted “No problem Mr Ross, dinner tonight, chicken soup!”

No money, time to go home.

Ross Utting.

Editor’s note: Following his 2 year travel odyssey, Ross continued to travel and surf, often combining both. He also returns to Bali every year, but pines for the days of ‘75. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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1969 Billeting arrangements Aust Surfing Titles

Western Australia hosted the Australian Surf Riding Championships for the first time in May 1969.

Major WA board clubs billeted many eastern states surfers here for the Australian titles. The billeting arrangements were coordinated by WASRA and President Ron ‘Doc’ Naylor.

Image: 1969 WASRA billeting arrangements. Image credit Sunday Times.

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Floreat youngsters Ross Utting & David ‘Bull’ Moss from the City Beach Club hosted South Australian surfers Alistair Boot & Graham Symonds.

Ross UttingBull & I took the boys down south for the contest. I remember Ali bagging gutless WA waves while we were surfing pre contest at Yallingup. He got his comeuppance a couple of days later when he was nearly decapitated by his board when mowed down by a big wave at Margaret. Ali spent the rest of the week walking around with a bleeding tea towel on his head.

In Bali some 40 years later South Australian surfer Clint Habib told me that Ali has been scarred for life by the experience of big Margs & still hears the roaring freight train sound in his nightmares.

Photo: L-R 1969 Floreat locals Ross Utting & Dave Moss with SA competitors Ali Boot & Graham Symonds. Photo credit Ross Utting.

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Subiaco brothers Jim & Bruce King from the City Beach Club billeted World champion Nat Young & NSW champion Ted Spencer.

Bruce KingI drove to Perth airport to pick up our eastern states billets late at night. When I got there WASRA President Doc Naylor allocated Nat & Ted to our family. I was stoked to have them staying at our parent’s place.

Jim KingI didn’t go to the airport and had no idea who had been allocated to our parent’s place in Subi, so I was really surprised when I called in next morning and found mum serving a cooked brekkie to Nat & Ted. NSW surfboard manufacturer Shane Stedman (Shane Surfboards) used to come around & pick up the lads for surf commitments and chase mum around the Hills Hoist clothesline.

Photos: 1969 Nat & Ted at King residence in Subiaco. Photos courtesy of King family.

Top: (Left) Ted & Nat. (Right) Ted, Mrs King & Nat. Bottom: (Left) Ted, Jim & Nat. (Right) Nat & Jim.

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Contest rounds which were held at Scarborough & Margaret River with finals completed at Yallingup.

Misfortune struck some of the visitors at the Australian Surfing Titles down south. Nat Young (NSW) broke his favourite surfboard in the big swell at Margaret River. Alistair Boot (SA) was hit by a flying board at Margaret River and needed 19 stitches in his head. Ali went home with a sore head.

Images: L-R 1969 mixed fortunes Nat Young (NSW) broken board & Alistair Boot (SA) head injury. Image courtesy of WA Newspapers.

1969 Aust Titles WA - Nat Young (NSW) & Ali Boot (SA) injuries - WA News (1)

Jim KingContest head honcho Doc Naylor recruited me as a contest official for the rounds held at Margaret River. I got the job of chaperoning the girls out in big waves at Main Break. The girls weren’t happy being sent out there & neither was I. Every time we spotted a big dark swell line on the horizon, we would paddle towards the middle bay to avoid getting cleaned up. It was great seeing Oz’s best surfers up close, but my wife Kath wasn’t too impressed, as we were on our honey moon at the time (-:

Photo: 1969 unidentified competitor surfing a solid left at Marg’s Main Break. Ric Chan pic.

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On completion of the successfully run contest, an Award Night function was held at Caves House Yallingup. It was attended by surfers, officials and friends. Peter Drouyn & other talented surfers entertained the troops. The next day the wind was on-shore and the visitors started heading home to their respective States.

Contest results and photos will be included in surf journo/photographer Ric Chan’s coverage of the ’69 Oz Surfing Titles. Ric’s SDS article is coming soon.

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Origin of skateboarding in WA by John Harbison & Charlie Roper

Skateboarding was probably born sometime in the late 1940s, or early 1950s, when surfers in California wanted something to do when the waves were flat. No one knows who made the first board; it seems that several people came up with similar ideas at around the same time. Source: Wikipedia.

Photo: Early homemade skateboards courtesy of Skateboard Hall of Fame USA.

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WA surfing pioneers Terry ’Horse’ Williams and Brian ‘Blackballs’ Cole introduced the concept to WA on their return from California in the early 60s. They had seen skateboards in action while touring the west coast of USA.

Former City Beach surfer and City of Perth Beach Inspector John ‘Roo Dog’ Harbison witnessed the first skateboard in WA. He documented the moment for a Board Club reunion held at City Beach in 2011.

John is the brother of surfing legend Tony ‘Harbo’ Harbison and Peter Harbison.

Sadly John passed away in May 2014 at Dunsborough.

Photos: 1958-74 City Beach pics. Photos courtesy of Harbison family.

Top: (Left) 1958 City Beach shop L-R Garry Stewart, John Harbison, Charlie Roper & Terry Jacks (Right) 1959 John Harbison surfing City Beach on plywood toothpick surfboard.

Bottom: (Left) 1967 John Harbison sweep on City of Perth surf boat. (Right) 1973-74 Beach Inspector John Harbison herding topless girl off City Beach.

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First WA skateboard by John Harbison.

Back in the early 60’s, I think 1963/64, Terry Jacks, Charlie Roper, Ernie Potter & Brian Cole produced what would have to have been the 1st skateboard to appear in WA.

Skateboards were unheard of in WA at the time and I don’t know where they got the idea from, but they turned up at City Beach one weekend with this piece of equipment they’d made out of the side slat of a wooden fruit case with half a roller skate at the front, the other half at the back

We all spent the afternoon having turns riding it down the road in front of the shop. That night everyone else was digging out old roller skates and getting slats of wood to make their own. Next day they took it up to Scarborough for the Scarborough crew to try out and the following week down to Cottesloe. Before long you had all these homemade skateboards appearing about the place.

A year or so after that skate boards were being produced commercially by Midget Farrelly.

City Beach surfer Paul Meink who was good on them & won a big radio station sponsored skateboard competition held at the Floreat Forum southern car park. Place getters at that competition were Floreat boys Ross Sarson, Mike Schafer and John ‘Viz’ Fletcher.

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Photo: 2011 City Beach Surf Riders Club 50 Year reunion. L-R Brian Cole, Keith Campbell, Zac Kochanowitsch & John Harbison. Bruce King pic.

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Wembley lads Charlie Roper & Brian Cole made the first skateboard in WA.

Photos: 1963 Scarborough Beach. Ernie Potter pics.

(Left) Charlie Roper & Ernie Potter. (Right) John Harbison & Charlie Roper surfing.

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First WA skateboard by Charlie Roper.

In the early 60s WA surf pioneer/Subiaco footballer Terry ‘Horse’ Williams bought the idea back from California where he had been travelling. He described what was happening with skateboards and what the kids were doing with them.

I thought I could make one of them. So in 1962, Brian Cole and I got an old piece of pine timber and attached wheels from my sister’s roller skates (unbeknown to her). We made the first WA skate board at Coley’s King & Cole Surfboard factory in Roydhouse Road Wembley.

I kept the old skateboard in my garage and my sons Jamie & Brett learnt to skateboard on that piece of equipment.

Photos: Charlie Roper & Brian Cole’s original skate board. The photos were taken in 2016 outside Charlie’s parents place in Wembley. Photos courtesy of Roper family.

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Photo: 2009 City Beach Surf Riders Club reunion. L-R Keith Campbell, Charlie Roper & Zac Kochanowitsch. Bruce King pic.

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Other 1960s WA skateboard recollections.

Craig Henfry I remember Paul Meink pulling off a jump trick on his skateboard in the car park at Floreat Forum, a trick I practiced until I got it too, once or twice. The last time I got on a skateboard I lasted about 2 secs and nearly cracked my skull, oh to be 16 again.

I had a Midget Farrelly skateboard up until a few years ago when I gave it to a mate’s son who then proceeded to trash it. I saw similar ones on some collectors show on TV and immediately regretted my generosity. A quick search on google turned up one that looks exactly like the one I had, I was also staggered to see what sort of money people pay for stuff like that.

Photo: Mid 1960s Midget Farrelly 26” timber deck skateboard sold Sept 2008 for $1200. Source: Von Weirdos

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Bruce KingI remember the skateboard exhibitions at Floreat Forum car park, we were part of the Midget Farrelly competition team. There was a slalom course, high jumping and walking up and down stairs.

“Ollies” (today’s jumps) weren’t thought of then, we used to go barefooted and wrap your toes around each end to make the board jump. Paul Meink, Dave Condon were the jets, they even had Farrelly team t-shirts and parkas, I unfortunately came in to the team at the back end and missed out on getting my “Team Farrelly” gear.

Another time I went skate boarding down Mount Street in Perth, it was about the steepest street and I thought would be a good challenge.  This was before the freeway was there & the street went straight through and joined up with St Georges Tce. Anyway about half way down I got the wheel wobbles up and couldn’t bail out, I ended up in the Terrace dodging buses and cars.

Ross UttingAfter a while of skateboarding on the gently sloping carpark at Floreat Forum Shopping Centre some of us were looking for more of a challenge than just doing tricks. Ok, so we just couldn’t compete with the likes of Paul Meink, Ross Sarson etc in the tricks department! Then we found “Brookdale Entrance”. Brookdale Entrance was the eastern entrance to Perry Lakes Stadium & was short but seriously steep. It was the big wave equivalent of skateboarding. You had to do 2 or 3 big turns to keep your speed down before sweeping down to a final turn at the bottom. If you made a mistake you were dead meat.

One time we were at The Entrance when Glen “Roy” Carroll’s older brother Lindsay turned up big noting himself. Lindsay was a seriously fit guy & at the time was playing full forward for Claremont in the WAFL. He grabbed a board & took off but couldn’t turn & hit the bottom absolutely flying.

He smashed the security grills around the turnstiles off their hinges. We were too scared to laugh in case he came after us, but the episode added to the Brookdale Entrance legend.

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