Update: 13 April 2017 added Wayne Murphy comment.

Peter Donaldson from Westoz Productions has produced a short doco on the history of surfing on Rottnest Island. It includes interviews with veteran surfers.

Click on this link to view the video Rottnest Island – Strickland Bay Surfing Pioneers

Wayne Murphy (journalist/author Ireland) – Nice little production. Would have also liked to seen some recognition of the fencing and dune rehabilitation work undertaken by Rottnest ranger Charlie Hansen (RIP) and the Offshore Board Riders at Strickland Bay included as well. Charlie was the driving force for getting the environment back in good order. By the 1980s the surrounding cliff area was almost fully denuded of local shrubs because of surfers, myself included, traipsing everywhere and stashing our boards in the bushes. Now the local flora is flourishing despite all the extra human traffic. Empty waves are the endangered species there now, ha! 

I actually grew up on Rottnest in the 1960s and went to school there. My Irish parents were the licensees of the Quokka Arms. We lived out back of the pub. I began surfing Strickland in 1973 after graduating from Mary Cove and inside Salmon Bay.  Strickos was my first proper reef break to learn about power and waves of consequence.  In the late 1970s I disappeared to Cactus and the Eastern states for ten years or so. When I returned to WA in the late 1980s I resumed working at the Quokka Arms, then with the Rottnest Island Authority. The changes at Strickland Bay were most noticeable. That’s when Kieran Glossop and a few of us formed the Offshore Board Riders. The dune rehab work there commenced not long after.  Strickland Bay is a special place for many people. Long may it be.

Photo: 1976 Mike McAuliffe surfing Stark Bay at Rotto. Ric Chan pic.

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Gallery

1954 Rotto crossing history by Jim Keenan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REGARDS JIM

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Gallery

1970s Rotto fly-in surf trip

In the 70s the Rottnest Island Board (RIB) flew Independent Newspaper photo journalist Ric Chan and some of his surfing mates to Rottnest for a photo shoot to promote surfing on the Island.

RIB financed the plane trip and provided a vehicle & accommodation for the weekend photo shoot.

Ric’s surf team consisted of Bruce King, Phil Henderson, Steve Cockburn and Mark Johnson. The boys enjoyed the Island’s hospitality.

These are boy’s recollections.

Bruce King

I remember on the flight over the pilot wanted to turn back because he reckoned it was too windy, we persuaded him and eventually landed, once on the ground we were treated like movie stars, transport provided not quite 5 star limo, but an old service truck, we were given a cabin for overnight stay, all this supplied by way of Ric Chan’s smooth talking. There was a horse hire place then, which Ric persuaded the owners to let us avail ourselves with the promise of exposure in the “Independent” newspaper.

We scored well with waves, at that time we didn’t know if others had surfed some of the places, I’m sure they would have. One surf break was Strickland Bay which Ric called King’s Reef because I was the first one out. Another was Chicken Reef which I think Sheepdog named because Ric was too chicken to go out, I think it is still called that today.

Phil Henderson

It’s funny but YEAH that trip was a bit of a blur. I remember it was blowing its box off and we had to convince the pilot to land in such a bad crosswind. He was not happy but we made it. Cannot remember much else other than Ric’s photos. It was good fun though.

Steve Cockburn

Ric Chan arranged our venture to Rottnest Island. Flying from Perth to Rottnest was ok, but when our light aircraft attempted landing, with the extremely strong wind, the plane was blown sideways at an angle to the runway making it unsafe to complete the landing, so the pilot aborted that first landing attempt and circled to try landing a second time, which was successful.

We made our way to the Rottnest Island Board Offices and Ric went off to discuss some marketing that the Board wanted done, they had lent us the old truck (as seen in the photos) and we all soon headed to the south side of the Island. The surf was flattish, blown right out by really strong north to north west winds.

I don’t remember much about the surfin, but on the second day we decided to go horse riding and hired horses at the local stables then headed off to the north side of Rottnest and along sand tracks leading out to the West End near the lighthouse. The horses were stubborn and it was hard to get going, even to get them to canter on the way out, but as soon as we were returning towards their stables they all bolted and went uncontrollable in full gallop towards their home. My horse suddenly swerved to the right when we arrived at a fork in the track. I was flung off the saddle and swung around the under horses neck, with both legs wrapped tightly around its neck, the horse came to a stop and I walked it the last short distance to the stables.

When it was time to return to Perth, we thought we may get stuck on the Island due to the still very strong wind and the possibility the plane not being able to land and pick us up. But when the time came the pilot made a safe landing and soon we were off back home.

Ric Chan

Muhahahaha. The only reason in know I was there is the pics. Maybe we can wangle another wagon, a boat and a weekend over there.

Photos: 1970’s aerial snaps of Rotto Island. Ric pics

1970s aerial snaps of Rotto Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s fly-in to Rotto airport. Ric pics.

Top: Bruce & Phil unloading surfboards.
Bottom: Sheepdog collecting luggage & the boys playing footy at the airport.

1970s rotto fly-in airport Ric Chan

The RIB provided the boys with an old ex-military truck to drive around the island in.

Photos: 1970s Island transport. Ric pics.

1970s Rotto island transport Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s surfing Strickland Bay (aka King’s Reef). Ric Pics

Top: Bruce King take-off & Mark Johnson.
Middle: Phil Henderson & Bruce King.
Bottom: Sheepdog x 2.

1970s Rotto surfing Kings Reef Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s surfing Chicken Reef.

Top: Chicken Reef line-up and the boys on surf watch.
Middle: Sheepdog & Mark Johnson.
Bottom: Bruce King & Phil Henderson

1970s Rotto surfing Chicken Reef Ric Chan

Photos: 1970s horse riding. Ric pics.

Top: Phil Henderson. Bottom: Steve Cockburn & Bruce King.

1970s Rotto horse riding Ric Chan

The Rottnest Island Authority is now creating an interpretative sign and short DVD on the importance of Rottnest to the surfing community, to be installed on Rottnest Island WA. They plan to use some of Ric Chan’s 1970-80s Rottnest based historic images for their interpretation products.

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Gallery

1980 Cordingley Surf Team trip to Rotto

Colin Earle and the Cordingley Surf Team visited Rottnest in 1980. Surf photographer Ric Chan was there to capture the surf session at Strickland Bay.

Photos: 1980 Colin Earle surfing Strickland Bay #1. Ric Chan pics.

1980 Rotto Colin Earle 1 collage_photocat

Photos: 1980 Colin Earle surfing Strickland Bay #2. Ric Chan pics.

1980 Rotto Colin Earle 2 collage_photocat

Photos: 1980 Craig Bettenay surfing Strickland Bay #1. Ric Chan pics.

1980 Rotto Craig Bettenay 1 collage_photocat

Photos: 1980 Craig Bettenay surfing Strickland Bay #2. Ric Chan pics.

1980 Rotto Craig Bettenay 2 collage_photocat

Photos: 1980 Rotto pics by Ric Chan.
(Left) Damon Eastaugh & unknown surfing Strickland Bay. (Right) Mitch Thorson’s dad working at the Rotto bakery.

1980 Rotto Damon & unknown surfing & MItch's dad at bakery collage_photocat

 

 

 

Gallery

1978 Rotto Surf Trip with Gaz, Al & Feggsey **updated 1 March 2016**

**Update 1 Mar 2016 ** Steve Koehne & Adrian Wilson identified the unknown person in the bakery pic posted 20 Feb 2016. He is ‘Flipper’ Gallagher a world class body surfer from Fiji and the year has been changed from 1974 to 1978.

In 1978 Gary Greirson & Al Bean from Ocean Surf Shop & surf rat Chris ‘Feggsey’ Fullston travelled to Rotto for a surf trip. The boys caught the ferry & surfed Strickland Bay.

Surf photographer Ric Chan travelled with the boys and took these pics.

Photo: 1978 Rotto. Lunch break at Rotto Bakery. L-R Gaz Greirson, Al Bean, Feggsey and ‘Flipper’ Gallagher. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto Greirson, Al Bean, Fullston, unknown - Ric Chan DSC00051

Photo: 1978 Rotto. ‘Flipper’ Gallagher  enjoying lunch at the Bakery. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto unknown - Ric Chan DSC00047

Photo: 1978 Rotto. Strickland Bay line-up. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto Strickland Bay - Ric Chan DSC00077

Photo: 1978 Rotto. Surfer Gaz Greirson. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto Gary Greirson - Ric Chan DSC00064

Photo: 1978 Rotto. Gaz surfing Strickland Bay. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto Gary Greirson - Ric Chan DSC00069

Photo: 1978 Rotto. Surfer Al Bean. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto Al Bean - Ric Chan DSC00053 (1)

Photos: 1978 Rotto. Al Bean surfing Strickland Bay. Ric pics.

1973 Rotto Al Bean surfing 2 collage_photocat

Photo: 1978 Rotto. Surfer Chris ‘Feggsey’ Fullston. Ric pic.

1973 Rotto Chris Fullston - Ric Chan DSC00054

Photos: 1978 Rotto. #1 ‘Feggsey’ surfing Strickland Bay. Ric pics.

1973 Rotto Feggsie surfing 5 collage_photocat

Photos: 1978 Rotto. #2 ‘Feggsey’ surfing Strickland Bay. Ric pics.

1973 Rotto Feggsie surfing 6 collage_photocat