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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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1960-70s Surfing Coolites at City Beach by Craig Blume

Craig Blume – Caveat before I start – I apologise now for missing out a lot of guys and events that occurred during the mid 60’s and early 70’s, but hopefully someone can fill in the holes so we get a great capture of the time.

These are my recollection of the early coolite days at City Beach from the mid 60’s-70’s.

What a fantastic time, free flowing spirits, evolution in the air with surfboard materials and sizes changing from wooden/balsa 10 foot plus down to Craig Bettenay’s 4’8” fibreglass, as mentioned in other articles. I think Craig also had a smaller green board made to trial which he referred to as the “Derringer”.

My first memory of surfing City Beach is as a 10-11yo in 1964/5. A mate and I would hitchhike from Wembley to City Beach along Cambridge Street /Oceanic Drive, hired inflatable rubber mats either off the beach or from the small blue kiosk in front of the old orange surf club, surf all day or until the nipple and gut rash became too painful.

In 1966 we moved to south City Beach, near Jeff “RE” Marshall’s place in Branksome Gardens. From that point on for the next few years I spent most of my time learning to surf a coolite near the groyne. I remember being in awe of the older guys surfing on fibreglass boards weaving thru kids on coolites and cheering the Surf Life Saving Club guys when they became unstuck on their wooden skis.

In the 60’s the City Beach coolite riders were a small close knit bunch of guys, extremely competitive and enthusiastic, with most attending City Beach Primary and High School, who were encouraged and mentored, at some stage, by equally enthusiastic members of the City Beach Surf Riders Club Inc. (CBSR).

Photo: Mid 70s Craig’s dog “Spike Milligan” guarding his coolites & foamies. Photo courtesy of Craig Blume.

1960s Coolites & Foamies guarded by Spike Milligan - Craig Blume

Surfing Coolites at City Beach Groyne

Most mornings around dawn, when there was surf, there would be a few CBSR crew on fibreglass boards and coolite riders, like the Howe brothers – Alan (Fagan) & Craig (Thurston), Bettenay brothers -Greg (Boris), Stewart (Big Silk) & Craig (Little Silk), Ross (Log) Lawrence, Ross (Duck) Craigie, Chris (Bum Dip) Warrener, David (Errol) Wishart), Grant (Shorty) Arnold, myself and other local school kids surfing off the groyne. (I believe ‘Pixie’ Moss gave some of these coolite riders the endearing title of – “Tiny Tits Little Shits” – that’s another story.)

Typically, the sequence of events was – the fibreglass board riders would tell us coolite riders to stop hassling and f!!k off and then, around 6am, the early morning “tubby club” would slowly arrived for their splash, chat and swim near the groyne and be given a whole bunch of profanities and encouraged to move away from the groyne to avoid being hit and giving all the surfers the shits. The same happened after school at 6pm when the Fremantle Doctor (sea breeze) was in.

I remember one time when there had been no surf for a while, so the north City Beach boys made a sacrifice to “Huey” to bring waves by burning a coolite. The surf eventually did come up, but unfortunately Stewart Bettenay burnt his foot badly during the sacrifice ritual on the molten coolite polystyrene foam and consequently was sidelined and out of action for some time.

Photos: 1969 surfboard riding City Beach groyne. Photos courtesy of Ric Chan.
(Left) unidentified. (Right) Stewart Bettenay.

1969 surfing City Beach groyne unknown & Stew Bettenay collage_photocat

Coolites, Skegs and Swimmers

The interaction between coolite riders and swimmers to my recollection was initially sort-of tolerated because they didn’t have skegs, only two small rounded foam 1” keels running along the bottom near the rail, which didn’t hurt if you got run over, although it made them difficult to control and ride standing-up. I am not saying there wasn’t the occasional conflict when a swimmer got hit by a coolite.

Initially, if my memory serves me well, there were two types of polystyrene foam surfboards – Hardies coolites, which were available to general public and another – a foamy for Surf Life Saving Clubs use.

Before either of these foam boards could be surfed without serious chaffing they needed to be painted with exterior water based paint, many a coolite was melted and wrecked by using oil based paint.

Next, installing skegs in coolites – fantastic innovation, it improved their performance and manoeuvrability, usually started with cutting up wooden plank from a fruit crate and shaping it to mimic the latest skeg designs being used in new fibreglass boards.

Then precisely measuring and cutting a slot in the coolite to just fit the skeg and pouring melted bees wax around the skeg to hold it in.

Installing skegs allowed surfers to experiment and pull-off more radical manoeuvres, tube riding, radical turns, re-entrys etc, and cultivated an environment of ultra-competitive aggressive surfing styles like Howie’s and the “Silks”, it also favoured the brave in front of the rocks, especially goofy foots like Howie, and defined pecking orders – rewarded the committed and wrecked the hesitant.

Photo: 1975 Craig Blume & Craig Howe with fibreglass surfboards at City Beach. Photo courtesy of Craig Blume.

1975 City Beach Craig Blume & Craig Howe - Craig Blume pic

“RE’s Law”

I remember hassling and guys dropping in on waves off the end of the groyne intensified to the extent surfers and surfboards were getting wrecked on the rocks. I don’t exactly remember when RE’s Law was proclaimed, but it established a surfers etiquette between the locals – 1st out had priority, 2nd out had the next wave, and so. Once you caught a wave you went to the back of the queue. This law, like all laws, worked if everyone knew it and abided by it, which was most of the time, but fell apart quickly resulting in an exchange of abuse and unnecessary tension in the surf and on shore. When it worked, there was great vibe in the water, guys would be cheering each other on, pushing each other to go harder and bragging how far they surfed down into the bay.

Surfboards and swimmers don’t mix

With the coolite’s increased manoeuvrability due to skegs, it allowed surfers to get closer and further around the nose of the groyne and inside most swimmers which escalated the conflict with swimmers to a whole new level. Because – on the one hand if the fin hit an obstacle, the groyne or swimmer, it would usually rip the skeg and surrounding foam out, resulting in time out the water for repairs. On the other hand if the obstacle was a person, they would be pissed off.

In these early days if you couldn’t get back on your coolite quickly and get away from the swimmer there would a confrontation usually on the shore, due to no leg ropes.

I remember one time my board supposedly hit this fat tubby club swimming obstacle. When I went to pick up my board this guy was going to punch my lights out, however Keith “Woolly” Hawkins (a Leederville surfer who went on to glass Energy Surfboards with Ken McKenzie at Margaret River) had other ideas and came to my rescue and reversed the situation. Thanks Woolly!

Beach Inspectors

The increase in surfboard rider/ swimmer confrontations saw the City of Perth introduce a “swimming area” and restrict surfing times near the groyne to before 6am and after 6pm and beach inspectors to manage it. The first beach inspector I encountered was Warren “Wonk” Somerford (dec’d), a guy not to be messed with, took his role very seriously, no surfboards in the swimming area near the groyne between 6am-6pm, one warning to get out, next time your board was confiscated for a time he thought was appropriate.

Another beach inspector was John “Harbo” Harbison (dec’d) who also took his role seriously, but practically, he strictly enforced no surfboards in the swimming area near the groyne between 6am-6pm, if there were swimmers in the area, otherwise you could surf.

Photo: 1973-74 Beach Inspector John ‘Harbo’ Harbison herding a topless girl off the beach. Photo courtesy of WA Newspapers.

1973-74 CB Beach Inspector John Harbo herding topless girl off beach

Restricted Surfing Times

Restricting surfing times meant you had to be in the water before dawn to beat the “tubby club” and Beach Inspector. This resulted in guys sleeping on beach near the groyne, in the surf lifesaving club’s boat shed (on the beach side of “West Coast Highway” which ran passed the City Beach and Floreat groynes to Scarborough), and camping under a clump of big melaleuca trees behind the City Beach Tearooms, colloquially referred as ‘The Pad’, to get into the surf early.

Many great times and yarns were had around these campfires. There would be someone with a story about their surfing ventures or romantic encounter etc. Whilst everyone was engrossed in these stories or asleep they would on some occasions be sprayed with the contents of canned food and soft drinking which were put in the campfire, as joke, without being pierced and explode.

Fishing off the groyne

Fishing off the groyne was another area of conflict for surfers. Sunrise and dusk are the normally the best time to fish and coincidently before 6am and after 6pm were the times we were permitted to surf coolites near the groyne. Most fishermen cast their fishing lines away from the surfers around the end of the groyne for obvious reasons. On some occasions, however, there would be a passionate European fisherman who would cast their hook, line and sinker over the guys in the water, which would result in a barrage of abuse and profanities coming from the surfers with the occasional assertive person snapping the line off as it came near them. Inevitably someone would get hooked up and on one occasion I was the unfortunate one, getting hooked in the thigh resulting with fisherman losing his gear to the surf, once I managed to snip the hook-eye off, push the barb through the skin with a lot of swearing while pulling the hook out.

Mentors – CBSR Club Members

Most of the CBSR members were incredible enthusiastic dedicated surfers who won many Interclub, State, National and International surfing competitions. Others helped the club function and enjoyed the camaraderie.

The world was our oyster with advice from members like:-

Ron (Pixie) Moss, talented surfer with many attributes – enjoyed pushing coolite riders off their boards in front of the groyne, teaching groms how to fill in time while waiting for the surf to happen by instructing us how to play poker, pontoon, slippery sam etc for money in the City of Perth SLSC boat shed and “Pad”, etc.

Timon (Tiny) McKay – Great story teller, instrumental in transporting the “Tiny Tits Little Shits” to surf comps and surf breaks, putting up with Howie and me dropping around to his and Browneye’s house in Hasting St, Scarborough unexpectedly etc

Brian (Browneyes) Mawby-Brown – for providing advice on cars, driving, surf spots and put up with us visiting unexpectedly, etc

Bruce (Lumpy) King, Kevin (DO) O’Dwyer, Phil Henderson etc – dropping around Tiny’s and Browneye’s house with stories about surfing trips, cars, girls and the night before, etc.

In finishing I would like to especially thank Jim King for having the drive and foresight to gather and publish stories of surfing history in WA.

** see related material**

1960-70s Coolite surfboards – Wednesday 2 March 2106

1970-80s Foamie surfboards – Saturday 5 March 2016

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1960-70s Coolite surfboards

**Updated 6 March 2016** by Ashley Jones.

Ashley JonesIn my original draft on Coolites, I stated that Chris Dermer and I started on Coolites in the early 60s, then much later it was with Chris Reynolds that I started modifying Coolites with the aluminium stringers and ply twins as knee boards. This then progressed pretty quickly into stand up modified Foamies.

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Coolite is a generic Australian term for any one of a number of small, inexpensive polystyrene beaded-foam surfboards. It was the introductory board for thousands of pre-teen surfers in the 1960 & 70s.

Young surfers (or their parents) could buy a coolite for a fraction of the price of a conventional urethane foam/glass/resin board. The average coolite was five feet long and 20 inches wide, with one or two long, narrow finlike runners along the bottom. And they were allowed inside the surf club patrolled “no surfboard” zones.

Many grommets were broken-hearted after an amateur attempt to reshape and glass their coolite. The styrene foam reacted badly to polyester surfboard resin and would dissolve into a horrid white paste.

1950s PRE-COOLITES

In the late 1950s WA surf pioneers Barry ‘Joe’ King and Brian Cole rode homemade 9ft triple stringer polystyrene (Coolite) surfboards glassed with epoxy resin.

Photo: 1958 Yallingup Barry ‘Joe’ King with his homemade epoxy surfboard.

1958 Yalls Barry (Joe) King partner with Brian Cole in King & Cole Surfboards in 1961 - John Budge pic img591A

COOLITES

Young Cottesloe surfer Ashley Jones first started his obsession surfing coolites as a kid with his mate Chris Dermer in the early 60s.

Ashley Jones – We started with modified coolites or as they were originally called ‘Senior Board’. The first coolites we rode as kids had little marine ply twin fins and an aluminum stringer rebated into the bottom of the board. These we used as knee boards. ** see update 6 March 2016**

Photos: 2012 Ashley Jones surfing Smiths Beach on a Coolite slab during cyclone Iggy. Photos courtesy of Jim King.2012 Ash Jones surfing Smiths on Coolite Cyclone Iggy collage_photocat

In the late 60s & early 70s Craig Bettenay was one of WA’s greatest exponents of the Coolite foam surfboard.

Craig Bettenay – I was lucky enough to learn on a foamie because it was so much shorter and more manoeuvrable than a malibu. We shaved off the runners and put in wooden fins. They surfed much better than mals and I had my first surf at Yalls on a coolite in ‘68. I was 11 and I got caught out the back by what seemed like a monster wave. I threw my coolite away and started to panic before one of my brothers grabbed me and took me in on his coolite. (Source 1993 Mark Thornley Wet Side News).

Photo: 1967 Craig Bettenay (age 10) with a modified coolite at his City Beach home. Photo courtesy of the Bettenay family.

1967 Craig Bettenay Age 10 with modified coolite at City Beach home DSC00022

Loz Smith – I remember seeing young Craig ripping City Beach groyne waves on the remains of a broken coolite in the late 60s.

Stewart Bettenay – City Beach brothers Craig & Allan Howe and my brother Greg made the fibreglass fins for our modified coolites.

Craig Howe – The Coolite days were so much fun, I’m sure my brother Alan got one of the first coolites in W.A. When they arrived in Sydney, my aunt who lived in Manly, send one over to my brother for this birthday, I remember that I wanted one!

Ross Lawrence – Great times surfing City Beach groyne with Greg, Stew, Craig, Craig Howe and Craig Blume on coolites before daybreak until 6am when beach inspector Wonk Somerford would move us out of the swimming area. If we didn’t comply he would wait till you paddled in and then confiscate your Coolite.

Mal Leckie – My brother and I lived in Perth, right near the City so we had to take our coolites to City Beach on the bus. We had plywood single fins glued in. At first it was free, but then MTT decided that surfboards had to pay a second fare and their definition of a surfboard was whether it had a fin or not. So we made T shaped plywood fins that went right through from the deck and we could take them out and hide them in our bags for the bus trip to save the extra fare. That worked OK unless you were lying down on the board and hit the sand – some lower pain resulted haha. About that time we discovered the split pin.

Here is how I remember them. Measurements could be way off – you know how things you remember change size as you get older, like how big your house was etc.

Image: Drawing of 1965-66 coolite by Mal Leckie….thanks Mal!

1965-66 coolite drawing by Mal leckie1

Jeffrey ‘RE’ Marshall – Circa 1966 I put a sail on a Coolite. I used a piece of dowelling for a mast, secured with string from the top of the mast to nails pushed into the sides,back and front of coolite. My Mum made up two sails, a main sail and foresail. I laid down under the sails and sailed it from down the front of my place at City Beach about 2km south of the groyne to the north side of the groyne. I did it because I was bored. I made skegs from 5 ply marine grade for a few crew, used a red hot butter knife to cut a slot in the coolite, then fixed them in with Bees wax. We used to shape the bottoms of the coolites, take the two rungs off and shape a concave near the nose.

Bill Gibson – In late 60s I was known as ‘Backwash Bill’ at Scarborough. I used to ride the back wash way out to sea on my coolite. I remember my first coolite. Everyone was painting their coolites, so I decided to paint mine. I found some red ‘Kill Rust’ paint (turps based) in the shed. I didn’t know anything about coolite foam and got out the paint brush and was ¾ way through the paint job when I noticed it smoking up. I got out the water hose & sprayed the coolite. It finally dried with ‘critter holes’ all over it. It dried like a rock and the deck looked like hunks of ironstone. I got my first sea ulcers from that coolite. It took the skin off my knee & middle of my foot on both legs…my first sea ulcers. Coolites were so much fun!

Little Big Eyes

In the late 60s young Frank ‘Little Big Eyes’ McVeigh (dec’d) started surfing on coolites at City Beach before progressing to fibreglass surfboards.

Images: 1967 Frank with his coolite at City Beach. Still frame image from CBSR Super 8 Movie Film.

1967 Frank McVeigh 'Little Big Eyes' at City Beach - ex CBSR movie film

Ron ‘Pixie’ Moss

In the ’60’Ron ‘Pixie’ Moss of Floreat was a talented body surfer and board rider on Malibu & coolite surfboards. In 1977-78 Ron joined the City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club and rode a coolite to victory in a SLSC surfboard competition held at Trigg.

Image: 1972 Newspaper cutting ‘Coolites at Trigg Point’ article by surf journalist Doug White (dec’d). Image courtesy of the Sunday Times.

1972 Coolites - Jim King ex Sunday Times 1

** see related material**

1960-70s Surfing Coolites at City Beach by Craig Blume – Wednesday 2 March 2016

1970-80s Foamie surfboards – Saturday 5 March 2016

 

 

 

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1970s Craig Bettenay Profile

Craig Bettenay and his elder brothers Greg & Stewart were amongst WA’s finest surfers in the late 60s & 70s. They started their surfing careers at City Beach in the 60s and then moved down south in the 70s.

METRO SURF

Photo: 1969 Craig (age 12) surfing City Beach on a Blaxell Deringer surfboard. Photo credit Ric Chan.

1969 City Beach Craig Bettenay on Blaxell Deringer.- Ric Chan img064

At an early age, Craig & Stewart Bettenay were recruited into the prestigious Cordingley ‘Surf Team’.

Images: Early 70’s Craig at Cordingley Surfboards in Subiaco & Jolimont. Photos courtesy Country Surf Mag & Norm Bateman.

1970s Craig Bettenay at Cordingley surfboards collage_photocat

CRAIG’S SURF CONTEST RESULTS

Spring Titles:
1970 Juniors 1st (Stewart 4th)
1971 Juniors 1st (Stewart 4th)
1972 Juniors 1st (Stewart 3rd)

State Titles:
1970 Juniors 3rd
1971 Juniors 3rd
1973 Juniors 1st (Stewart 2nd)

WA State Teams:
1971 Juniors in Vic
1972 Juniors in NSW
1973 Juniors in WA (Stewart also in State Team)
1976 Open in Vic.

SOUTH WEST SURF

Craig (age 11) made his first trip down south in ’68 with his bros’s Greg & Stewart. They camped at Smiths Beach and surfed Smiths Reef and Yallingup main break on modified coolites.

At age 14,  Craig was surfing big North Point Cowaramup and Margaret River on a 4’8″ twin fin.

Click on this link to view Craig Bettenay surfing Marg’s on 4’8′ twinnie blog published 24 January 2014.

In the 70s Craig & Stewart settled at Yallingup and indulged in their passion of surfing big waves.

Photos: Craig surfing photos courtesy of Ric Chan.
Top: (Left) 1973 Injidup (Right) 1978 Spring Titles Trigg.
Bottom: (Left) 1980 Rottnest (Right) 1976 Margaret River

1970s Craig Bettenay surfing IMG_008

MIKI ‘Da Cat’ DORA

Stewart Bettenay recalls Craig met & surfed with surfing legend Miki Dora at Yallingup .

Stewart: “My brother Craig told me USA Malibu legend Miki Dora came through Yallingup in the mid to late 70s. Craig went surfing with him twice and said he was a cool dude, handsome, very smooth, well dressed and good company. Miki told Craig “You really can surf”. He also told Craig about a new thing called a ‘credit card’ which he was using to travel the world.”

SURFING WORLD MAGAZINE

In ’76 & 77 Australia’s Surfing World magazine published articles on Craig surfing in the SW.

Images: 1976 Craig SW surfing photos courtesy of Surfing World magazine.

1976 Craig Betetnay Surfing Word article collage_photocat

Images: 1977 Craig SW surfing photos courtesy of Surfing World magazine.

1977 Craig Bettenay Surfing World article collage_photocat

HAWAII

In 1977 Craig joined Ian Cairns in Hawaii for a stint in the big waves on Hawaii’s North Shore.

Image: 1977 ‘Top Surfer off to Hawaii’ article by journalist Robbie Burns (former Subiaco Footballer). Image courtesy of Daily News & photographer Kevin Davidson.

1977 Travel Hawaii - Craig Bettenay ex Sunday Times copy

SURFBOARD SHAPER

In the 70s Craig was a talented surfboard shaper for Cordingley Surfboards and also manufactured boards under his own name in the SW.

Clink on this link to view Craig Bettenay Surfboards blog published 29 July 2015.

WETSIDE NEWS SURF MAGAZINE

In 1993 Journailist Mark Thornley published the following profile of Craig in WA’s Wetside News surf magazine.

1993 Craig Bettany Wetside News article collage_photocat

 

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1970s Craig Howe NW surf pioneer **Updated 21 & 25 January 2016**

**Update 21 Jan 2016** Added Craig’s account of how he & Charlie Konstantinidis discovered Gnaraloo surf break in 1975.

**Update 25 January 2016**Added photo of Lynette, Anastasia and Charlie Konstantinidis with Ualay the dog.

Craig Howe & his elder brother Alan grew up surfing coolites and surfboards at City Beach & Floreat groynes in the late 60s & early 70s.

Stewart Bettenay recalls: “Craig Howe’s dad Allen ‘Bubs’ Howe was my first footy coach at City Beach. He was a great guy & very, very funny. Craig didn’t play footy and went surfing instead which created a lot of humour at training.

Kevin Merifield told me Bub’s was a very good league football player at Subiaco in the late 50’s and a comedian. Kev reckons Craig Howe is a good surfer and an interesting character too. He always calls in to see him when in Kalbarri.

The Howe’s are a great part of City Beach history”.

Photos: (Left) 1969 Craig with new twin fin at his City Beach home. (Right) 1970 Craig surfing Floreat groyne. Photos courtesy of Craig Howe.

1969-70 Craig Howe twinfin & Floreat Groyne collage_photocat

Talented goofy footer Craig left City Beach in the early 70s and moved to the North West coast to follow his surfing dreams.

Photos: (Left) 1972 Craig leaving City Beach for the NW. (Right) 1973 Craig with Bob Gairdner at West Coast Surfboards. Photos courtesy of Craig Howe.

1970s Craig Howe metro 2 collage_photocat

Craig has lived in Kalbarri and surfed Jakes Point since the early 70s. He has also surfed many other breaks in the region including the Abrolhos Islands and Gnaraloo.

Images: (Left) 1975 Ron Moss & Craig with Kalbarri snapper. (Right) 2003 Craig & Alan Howe article in Kalbarri newspaper. Images courtesy of Ron Moss & Kalbarri Newspaper.

1975 & 2003 Craig & Alan Howe Kalbarri collage_photocat

Photo: 1980 Craig surfing Jakes Point at Kalbarri. Photo credit Craig Howe.

1980 Craig Howe Jakes Pt Kalbarri #2

Photo: 1980 Craig surfing Jakes Point at Kalbarri. Photo credit Craig Howe.

1980 Craig Howe Jakes Pt Kalbarri #1

*** update 21 Jan 2016***

This is Craig’s account of how he & Charlie Konstantinidis discovered Gnaraloo surf break in 1975.

Charlie Konstantinidis, Lynette and their child Anastasia, Lynette’s younger sister Susie and I travelled up from Kalbarri in Charlies VW Kombi van to search for waves north of Carnarvon. There was also a dog in the Kombi on the trip from Kalbarri, Charlie’s dog named Ualay (pronounced YOU-LAY).

This surf adventure was planted into my brain, by a man named “John Julian” who was the top salesman at Faull’s Land Rover dealers just passed the subway in Subiaco. John Julian sold me that Land Rover you see in SDS blog photo. John Julian was the man that told me about waves north of Carnarvon. He saw waves there while on one of this missions to test drive Land Rovers. His mission was to test drive Land Rovers by driving around the coast of Australia. This was way before Toyota 4WD arrive in Australia. John Julian is the man that told me about waves north of Carnarvon.

We drove the Kombi down many tracks that ran off to the west of the main Gnaraloo road, to look for waves and we did get bogged a few times. Eventually we got to the Gnaraloo station home stead, where we asked for permission to camp the night somewhere on the coast. A station worker (who was the first really live cowboy I had ever met) said we could camp, but if we have a camp fire to be very careful and don’t knock down any fences. It’s was then that I asked this station worker “if he had ever seen other surfers in the area” his reply to me was “no”. He had never seen anyone surfing at Gnaraloo, only fisherman that explore for good fishing spots.

We set up a camp down close to the beach. In the SDS blog photo of Charlie and baby Anastasia and myself sitting on that sand hill, we were naked in that photo (it was the hippy thing in the 70s), it was then I said to Charlie “look down there Charlie, looks like a left hander.” The next morning we drove back south and turned the Kombi down this fence line track and drove to the coast. There it was, this long left hander, we were very excited even though it was only small and we paddled out and surfed this new wave on our single fin surfboards.

“We were the first surfers to surf Tombstones & Gnaraloo, Charlie and myself”.

I never named the Gnaraloo break Tombstones, I did name it Tablet Reef because of the tablet rock that sits on the shore in front of the take-off area, it reminded me of the biblical days when man wrote on rocks…

Dappa (David Plaisted made “SUNRISE SURFBOARDS” in the SW) got up to Gnaraloo station about 1 year after us. Dappa was the first to surf the break named “Turtles” but after the Gnaraloo station owner found out Dappa was growing pot on the station, he got told to leave. So Dappa left Gnaraloo, but he did name the Turtles break.

It was a few weeks or months after the Gnaraloo adventure that I went down south to enter a surf comp and while there I told Craig Bettenay, George Simpson and Tom Hoye that I had surfed this wave on Gnaraloo station. Wish I never had told them, but I was young and silly.

That was also the time I decided that surf comps were not for me as I did not like being told when I could surf and how long you were allowed to stay in the surf. Free surfing up in the warm water at Kalbarri was far better and more fun.

*** update 25 Jan 2016***

Photo: 1976 Konstantinidis family cooling off down south after Gnaraloo adventure. L-R Lynette, Anastasia and Charlie Konstantinidis with Ualay the dog. Photo courtesy of Craig Blume.

1976 SW Lynette Anastaisa Ualay (dog) and Charlie Konstantinidis

In 2001 Australia’s Surfing Life magazine credited Craig with being the first to surf Gnaraloo waves in 1975.

Image: 2001 Extract from Surfing Life article. Image courtesy of Surfing Life Magazine.

1975 Craig Howe Desert Pioneer Surfing Life 2001

Photo: 1975 Empty Tombstones line-up at Gnaraloo. Photo courtesy of Craig Howe.

1975 Tombstones at Gnaraloo lineup - Craig Howe

Photo: 2011 Board Club reunion held at City Beach. L-R Norm Kitson, Craig Blume, Craig Henfry, Chris Warrener, Craig Howe & Craig Bettenay. Photo courtesy of Bruce King.

2011 CBSR Reunion - Bruce King 177

In recent years Craig has been surfing uncrowded waves in the Philippines.