in the Illawarra, and the South Coast of NSW, at least to
The earliest Wollongong
surf report was recorded by James Cook on the afternoon of 27
April 1770, when the Endeavour was "3 leagues" (about 9
miles or 14 kilometres) north of "Red Point" (Port Kembla).
Cook, Joseph Banks, Dr Solander, and
four crew (including, a recent addition from Tahiti, Tupia)
launched the ship's yawl, but were unable to "effect a landing
by reason of the great surf which beat every where upon the
This is approximately around the area
of Bellambi and Sandown Points.
From the ship, the crew observed a
number of men on shore, two carrying a canoe, and Parkinson
noted that the "country looked very pleasant and fertile; and
the trees, quite free from underwood, appeared like plantations
in a gentleman’s park."
On approaching in the yawl, Banks
noted "many cabbage trees," however, when a quarter of a mile
off-shore the canoe carriers, "naked, and of a very dark
colour," (as described by Parkinson) disappeared into "the
Cook was close enough to observe
onshore "3 or 4 small Canoes which to us appear'd not much
unlike the small ones of New Zeland."
The presence of these canoes on the
sea-front certainly indicates these craft were used in the ocean
for fishing by the indigenous inhabitants, requiring substantial
knowledge of the local surf conditions.
Five days earlier, the high seas had thwarted
Cook's plan to shelter behind Brush Island, about two kilometres
off Bawley Point.
However, on approach, the Endeavour was
close enough to make its first sighting of the country's
indigenous inhabitants, on 22 April Cook reported that they
"were so near the Shore as to distinguish several people upon
the Sea beach they appear'd to be of a very dark or black Colour
but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the
C[l]othes they might have on I know not."
Clearly, these aboriginals were visiting Brush
Island and had ventured from the mainland in bark canoes, most
likely those of the Illawarra similarly travelled to their five
This is not to say that they were
When the Endeavour was able to land
on the Australian mainland, Cook was able to observe the canoes
of Botany Bay at close hand, describing them as "about 10 12 or 14
feet long made of one peice of the bark of a tree drawn or tied
up at each end and the middle kept open by means of peices of
sticks by way of Thwarts," they were "the worst I think I ever
Following the settlement of Sydney
Cove in 1788, Lt. William Bradley crossed the harbour to
the Manly penisular where he observed a number of indigenous
canoes, confirming Cook's earlier assessment, "they are by far
the worst canoes I ever saw or heard of."
As the Endeavour sailed
northward up the east coast, at no point did the crew observe
indigenous fisherman at sea, except for one occasion in the far
north, and then inside the Barrier Reef.
This was not the case in Polynesia,
where native canoes often approached European ships before they
had a chance to make a landfall.
It is unlikely the
Aborigines of South East Australia would put directly to sea in
poor weather in their bark canoes; either they were used in benign
conditions or, when necessary, launched and beached inside a point
that shadowed the prevailing swell.
Several such points on the Illawarra
coast are suitable; for the Kay-ye-my clan of the Manly
peninsular, the sheltered cove at Fairy Bower was, undoubtedly,
the terminus for ocean fishing.
In the only known account of aborigines at sea
in bark canoes, Daniel Cooper wrote that: "In 1834 I saw the natives using the large canoes
outside both Jervis Bay and Twofold Bay, and the large fish
which were brought in by them clearly proved to me that their
canoes must have been very buoyant and strong."
- Canoes in Australia, Sydney
Morning Herald, 30 June 1862, page 3.
The first recorded surf fatality, a
prisoner of the Illawarra Stockade, was noted in a letter to the
Sydney Morning Herald in December 1836.
The correspondent noted that two
recently constructed "beautiful new bathing-houses" were
available, and "to permit men (some of them unable to swim) to
bathe when the surf is running so very violent" was wrong.
- A Subscriber: Letters, Sydney
Morning Herald, 19 December 1836, page 25.
At the turn of the 19th century
Sydney, relaxation of the bathing regulations in Sydney saw a marked increase in surf-bathing,
and a developing enthusiasm for "surf-shooting," that, is
bodysurfing, first introduced at Manly by Tommy Tana, a South
It also resulted in novice
surf-bathers often getting into difficulties, sometimes with
fatal consequences, which germinated the first moves to
establish local volunteer surf life saving clubs.
The premier clubs were Manly, Bondi
and Bronte, and they
quickly adopted distinctive
costumes and insignia, and
highlighted the concept teamwork in the members' patrol.
Equipment included numerous flags,
the shark-alarm bell, the look-out tower, the surfboat, and the
(now defunct) line-and-reel.
H. Broadhurst: Surfing [Surf
bathing], Thirroul, NSW, circa 1910.
Henry Broadhurst (1855-1927) published a extensive
collection of photographic postcards of New South Wales, from
1900 to 1927.
William Henry Broadhurst was born at
Maitland on 13th August, 1855; he died aged 72 on 29 July 1927.
He moved to Ashfield, Sydney, and
began employment as a surveyor's assistant, working mainly on
the south coast of NSW.
He turned his interest in
photography into a business, and from around 1900 began to
To secure his photographs Broadhurst
is said to have travelled by train and then continued on foot
to his intended destination.
of the photographs were hand coloured for sale by his daughters.
To secure his photographs he travelled by train and then walked
wherever he wanted to go."
- Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin,
September 1970, pp. 2-3 (PXA 635/1071)
One in a series of
similar images of Thirroul, with similar annotation, this postcard appears to be one that was
hand-coloured by one
Broadhurst's daughters before sale.
Also see Wollongong
City Library: Image Numbers: P02/P02886,P02/P02887, and P10/P10156.
formation of a surf life saving state body in 1907, branches
sprang up along the NSW coast; Stanwell Park-Helensburg and Thirroul were formed in 1908, followed by Bulli, Wonoona, and Shellharbour in 1909, Port
Kembla in 1911, and North Wollongong and Austinmer by 1913.
They were often assisted with visits
of administrators and exponents from various Sydney clubs, mostly
demonstrating surf-shooting and the use of the rescue reel.
The use of the
surfboat, pioneered by the Sly Brothers of Manly, was not
immediately adopted by all clubs, however Stanwell
Park-Helensburg were early enthusiasts, obtaining their first
boat in 1912.
In late January 1908, a team from the
Bondi Surf Club travelled
to Wollongong and gave exhibitions
in life saving and rescue work for
members of the
Wollongong Club, and two months later, ten members of the Woliongong Surf-bathing Club,
competed in the "Bondi Club's Surf Carnival at Wonderland City
beach." .-1908 'BONDI SUR BATHERS.', Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong,
NSW : 1856 - 1950), 31 January, p. 3, viewed 12 December, 2013,
- 1908 'Surf-bathing Club.', Illawarra
Mercury (Wollongong, NSW : 1856 - 1950), 3 March, p. 2,
viewed 12 December, 2013,
coincide wth the 1908 Wollongong Show in Feburary, Manly Swmming
Club sent a team of lifesavers and surf-shooters to give an
exhibition, in conjunction with the Wollongong Surf Bathing Club, at Fairy Beach, near Stuart Park.
On the day, "there was a confused sea, which did not assist the bathers," but "the shooting of breakers by Messrs. Pen Murray, K. McKelvie, C. Smith, and G. Tartakover was splendidly carried out, but under extreme difficulty."
The rescue exhibition was not interrupted by a
real-life rescue, when Master Norman Osborne got into
difficulties further along the beach, but members of
the Manly Life
Saving Brigade "applied, a scientific method of resuscitation (and) Osborne was soon restored."
surf-bathing gained popularity, of the local press devoted considerable column inches to the decency of
swimming costumes, and the inherent social difficulties posed
by mixed bathing. At the extreme, a
letter signed by four local churchmen decried the tendency "to
become lax in the observance of the Lord's Day," which is "aggravated by surf-bathing
during church hours."
During this period, Sydney surfers
were also beginning to experiment with surfboards, mostly small
prone boards but some larger, such as the board brought from
Waikiki by Manly's Tommy Walker in 1910-1911.
In response to a number of
complaints, mainly from Freshwater and Manly, to the
NSW state government over
the next summer (1911-1912), amended the Local Government Act (Ordinance 52, March 1914) to authorise council inspectors to order
bathers to refrain from surf shooting, with or without a
In the Illawarra, circa 1913,
Thirroul Surf life Saving Club appealed to the Bulli Council to
regulate “boards shooting waves in the surf,” and in response to
the concerns of a local resident, C. W.
Stirling, in early
1914, wrote to the council
"re the use of surfing boards
at Austinmer beach," presumably in contravention of Ordinance
The public spirited Mr. Sterling added that "if Council supplied notices
he would see that they were erected in conspicuous places."
Bulli Council "clerk was
instructed to forward copies of Ordinances respecting surf
bathing to all beach inspectors in the Shire."
again to regulate "the use of surfing boards at Austinmer
his report to Wollongong Council in March 1914, the Mayor recommended "the erection of ladies' swimming
baths and the deepening or repair of existing baths on the northern side of the
breakwater," hopefully, "ready at the opening of next season." Apparently, the project was initiated
by locals, aiming to collect
£100, or more, with
further funds expected
to be supplemented by government grants. He
also noted that " the
southern side is not to be neglected, if the conditions are
suitable for surf bathing." At
the the same meeting, a letter "from Water Rats applying to
given control of the southern half of the north beach at Wollongong" was "referred to the baths committee." - 1914
'Wollongong Council.', Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong,
NSW : 1856 - 1950), 10 March, p. 2, viewed 12 December, 2013,
The famous exhibitions by Duke Kahanamoku, on Sydney's beaches in
the summer of 1914-1915, gave massive exposure to surfboard riding across
Kiama, in March 1915, "the beach inspectors reported on the constant use of surfboards by certain bathers notwithstanding
warned on several occasions to the contrary." The next weekend, the local cinema
program included the Australian Gazette,
featuring "the surf carnival at Dee
Why, (Sydney), and Kahanamoku giving an exhibition on the
surfboard." - The
Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven
Wednesday 10 March 1915, page 2; Saturday 13
March 1915, page 3. With the outbreak of WW1,
many surfers and lifesavers joined the military services. At
North Wollongong, "Fifty-eight members were in the
services, 6 being killed in action in the 1914-18 war." However,
"Despite the serious depletion of membership as a result of
enlistments in World War I, the Club continued to be active. Surf
awards were gained in 1914-15, none in 1915-16, then 14 Bronzes
in 1917-18." .-
Middleton & Figtree: SLSCs Illawarra
(1963), page 8.
Following the war,
surfboard riding steadily gained further popularity and
spread along the coast, on occasion generating some
One of the early enthusiasts was photographed in front of
the Stanwell Park-Helensburg SLSC, circa 1920.
Right: Surfboard rider, Stanwell
Park-Helensburg Life Saving Club, circa 1920.
-Wollongong City Library: Images STANWELLPARKLIFESAVINGCLUB [picture]
[Surfboard rider, Stanwell Park Life
Saving Club, circa 1920.] Negative Number: FM2/81/2/22A
"Mick' Warden (1904-1956) of Milton on the NSW south
coast, attended Hawkesbury Agricultural College along
with fellow swimmer Andrew "Boy Charlton.
Following college, he moved to Wollongong and joined the
Austinmer SLSC in 1922 and was a member of the recue
and resuscitation team that won the Illawarra Branch
Championship in 1924.
In 1923, Olympic swimmer and
Manly surfboard rider, Andrew "Boy" Charton visited
Austinmer, where he stayed at Iden, the home of
a Mrs. Warden, probably a relative of Mick Warden.
While there, Charlton
attended the Stanwell Park SLSC carnival, photographed
(fifth from the left) with members of the Austinmer
Returning in 1924,
Charlton performed briefly in the local rock pool.
Andrew "Boy" Charton and members
of the Austinmer SLSC, Stanwell Park, 1923.
Following in the footsteps of Tommy
Walker (c1910), in December 1925, Mick Warden visited Honolulu
for four months where he became interested in surfboard riding,
possibly meeting the Kahanamoku brothers.
Mick returned to Wollongong with two
large Hawaiian solid timber boards, <MW> and Toots
He continued to compete for the
Austinmer club and in 1934 moved back to Milton where he was
instrumental in the formation of the Mollymook SLSC.
Toots II was pictured outside
the clubhouse in a photograph of the Austimer's champion
R&R and surf teams in circa 1925, and a similar
photograph was taken of the club's 1928-1929 R&R
champions, see below.
surf teams with Toots II, circa
Salm : Austinmer
Right: Frank Robson and Toots II, 1929.
from South Coast R&R Champions
and Salm : Austinmer
E.'Toots' Minveille was
the classic beachboy/waterman and the
father of Hawaiian outrigger canoe
He was a fine swimmer, joined the
Outrigger Canoe Club at age 14, and
there was coached by Dad Center.
While surveying on Moloka'i, Minveille
conceived the idea of an outrigger race
across the 26-mile Kaiwi Channel from
Moloka'i to Oahu.
Toots formed the International
Hawai'ian Canoe Racing Association,
which established the gruelling race in
premier event for outriggers.
He is recognised for spreading the seeds of
aloha and canoe paddling worldwide and is
honored with a fine statue at Honolulu
International Airport." (adjusted)
Minveille, Outrigger Canoe Club
entrance, Waikiki, 1927.
Photograph: Arthur Yarborough
- Dela Vega, et
al.: Surfing in
Hawaii, 1778-1930 (2011), page 125
Also note the board
marked Toots III, second from the right in:
Jan. 1 1927 - Alawai, Honolulu - Hawaiian
Up (2001) page 43:
- noted by Ivan Johnson,
phone call July 2011, many thanks to Ivan.
II was photographed with Fred Mumford outside the
original Mollymook surf club in 1938, and <MW>
, with a square nose and repairs, is currently held in
the Mollymook SLSC.
Mumford and Toots II, Mollymook
Surf Club, 1938.
At Easter 1925, an instructional surf life saving team from
Sydney was head quartered at Kiama, with the purpose of
giving demonstrations there and at Crookhaven Heads,
Shellharbour, and Gerringong. The demonstrations featured "an exhibition of
surf shooting on surf boards about 8 feet long, at
which Messrs. Adrian Curlewis, Geofrey Bland and D.
Lorking are experts." - The Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven
Advertiser, Saturday 4 April 1925, page 2. Adrian Curlewis joined the Palm Beach Life
Saving Club in 1921, was taught to ride a surfboard
there by John Ralston, and purchased his first surfboard
from Manly's Claude West in 1923, "owner in hospital
owing to using same." This was probably
the board Curlewis rode, with considerable skill, in
the Illawarra demonstrations. - The Australian Women's
Weekly, Saturday 3 February 1951, page 17.
Adrian Curlewis, Palm
Beach, circa 1929. - Maxwell: Surf
(1949) , facing page 208. Note that the
other boardrider in the phototgraph is female.
Note that after the outbreak of the second World War, Curlewis
enlisted in the army, was captured at Sinapore in 1942, was sent
to Changi Prison, and later worked on the infamous Thailand railway On his repatriation to Australia,
Curlewis went on to an extended career on the bench, and was
a long-serving president of the Surf Life Saving
Association, where in the 1960s, he was known for his
disapproval of the growing popularity for surfboard
riding. In 1926
"Austinmer Surf Club. NEW SEASON
quotations were read for supplying a surf board nine feet
long, : two feet wide ..." - Illawarra
Mercury (Wollongong, NSW : 1856 - 1950) Friday 8
October 1926 p 3 Article In
1927, Kiama Council
use of surfboards, AId. Walker noting that: "The
other day a lady had to be
carried out of the surf,
bumped above the eye by a surfboard
used by another lady." The
next summer (1928), despite the erection of signs, according
to AId. Walker, the situation had deteriorated further:
"There's not one but dozens being used now, and they are a
positive danger to other surfers, he said." Not
all locals supported the ban, and
at the next council meeting Mrs. Reid, of Manning street,
prohibition of surfboards be modified, pointing out, unless
the surf was very crowded there was no
danger to othersurfers in using the boards."
Mrs. Reid probably attended the
Kiama cinema the
following weekend, where the program included the Australian Gazette,
featuring "the surf carnival at Dee
Why, (Sydney), and Kahanamoku giving an exhibition on the
The Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser,
Saturday 19 March 1927, page 2; 21 January 1928, page 2; 4 February 1928, page 3.
INTERESTING PICTURES. MR. W. MARKS' INTERESTING
ADDRESS. [coming soon]
(Wollongong, NSW : 1856 - 1950) Friday 20 March 1931 p 1 Article
... picture shows in the
Commonwealth. : Mr. Marks concluded his lecture with glimpses of
surf-board ... 322 words
By the mid-1930s, a
number of large boards were in use at
Stanwell Park, note the square noses
similar to Mick Warden's <MV>, above.
Stanwell Park SLSC Surfboard
C. Lee A. Brown
T. Bennett J. Mawson (Captain)
First World War, many
surfers experimented with different construction methods and
alternative surfriding craft, and the most successful was Tom Blake from
swimmer, inspired by Duke Kahanamoku, he was a late convert to
surfriding, and was enthusiastic promoter of the sport, and
Along with Duke,
he developed and patented what is commonly known as the Blake
Hollow Board, whose high buoyancy significantly improved
paddling and substantially broadened the range of surfable
Blake self-published his seminal Hawaiian Surfboard in
1935, with a selection of his surfing photographs printed
concurrently in the prestigious
National Geographic, and his
surfboard plans were printed extensively in magazines and journals between
1933 and 1946.
experimented with an early type of sailboard.
In Australia, of particular
significance was the development of the surf-ski by Harry
McLaren from Port Macquarie, 1926-1930, and the inflated rubber Surf-o-plane,
invented by Dr Ernest Smithers of Bronte, circa 1932.
Coy. applied to the local council in
December 1933 to establish hire faclities at Stanwell Park,
Austinmer, and Thirroul beaches, and at the end of that summer
(April, 1934) the proprietors of the company met with the
council with a "business proposal."
The proprietors were "the distinguished Sir
Charles Kingsford-Smith, with Dr. Smithers (inventor of the
surfo-plane) ... thousands of which they have already
manufactured." - Illawarra
Mercury, Friday 8 December 1933, page 3, Friday 27 April 1934, page 2.
Over the next five
years, surfo-plane hire would be extended along the Illawarra
coast, even if at Kiama they were, perhaps, not the "real
thing," and they were adopted by the Surf Life Saving
Association as both as rescue craft and for competitive events. The
Illawarra branch reported that in the 1935-1936 season "138 rescues were effected with the line and belt, nine with
and surfoplanes, 72 without lines." Surfo-plane
races were a feature at Illawarra life saving carnivals
from 1935 to 1949, one of the earliest at the North Wollongong carnival in 1935, won by
of Austinmer, followed by North
Wollongong's G. Hyam and W. Kelly. On
many occasions, inexperienced surfo-plane
riders required rescue by local life
savers; in 1948, twenty one
surfers were rescued when they were "washed
off their surf-o-planes from a sand-bank by a huge wave at Austinmer beach." - The Kiama Independent, and
Shoalhaven Advertiser, Saturday 2 February 1935, page 4. - The
Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser, Saturday
24 October 1936 page 2. - Illawarra
Mercury, Thursday 10 November 1949, page 10. - Illawarra Mercury, Thursday 15
January 1948, page 1.
up on initial contacts with the Surfo-plane Company, the Kiama
SLSC was informed in 1934 "that owing to the demand for the planes in the metropolitan area, the company could not extend its operations to
representative of the
Safe-way Surf Plane Company called on the Club, proposing that it "take up the agency of his company for the forthcoming season
Appearing before the Committee, with one of
the planes as an exhibit, the company
representative noted that suggested "the company would supply as many of the planes as required, old
planes would be replaced when damaged, and the club was under no obligation, except in
the event of loss. They could not be purchased
outright, and would have to be returned at the end
season. The cost of hiring them to the public was fixed
at 6d per half
hour, and the club would retain a percentage of the
takings." If the club decided to accept the proposition,
would be able to deliver the planes for Eight-Hour week-end,
when it was
thought that a big crowd of surfers would be on the
beach." The committee was generally
supportive of the proposal, noting
that "the club would benefit
the proposition," however, "if the club accepted, say 24,
there would be
a responsibility of over £30 in the event of them being
lost. They would need to be kept under
lock and key- a
double lock and key in fact." Kiama Club member, Mr. Tully,
indicated that security may not a serious, difficulty as
"the Safe-way Planes had an advantage over other
a similar nature, in that they could not be deflated by merely
pulling out the
air plug, and thus could not be wrapped up and taken away." It
was also noted "that the Surf-o Plane Company took out a policy
theft and fire on their planes," and it was suggested that
the club inquire if Safe-way
Surf Plane Company provided a similar facility. One club member asked if, "in the event of the sole
rights being granted to the company, would it prohibit the
use of the toy rubber articles used by the
children in the surf." At this time, there
was no consideration given to insurance cover for
those using the surf plane.
- 1934 'Safe-way Surf Planes.', The Kiama
Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser (NSW : 1863 -
1947), 29 September, p. 3, viewed 7 December, 2013,
The surf-o-plane remained in common use,
especially by juveniles, well into the 1970s; and the surf-ski,
now in a variety of forms, is used world wide.
Stanwell Park would eventually have
several national and state surf-ski champions, but in the early
1930s club members also experimented with surfing canoes: "two wooden canoes, named the Gumbol
and Frothblower, ... contained floating tanks to
prevent sinking, ... were capable of carrying two persons and
were constructed by the late George Logan, an architect, and the
late Jack Mawson, a foreman boat builder, both employed at the
Naval Dockyard, Garden Island, Sydney, ... from about 1930 to 1935."
In 1933 the Corrimal SLSC "secretary received word that the 'Surf Ski' ..." [Probably
reports introduction of the surf-ski to the
Illawarra, further information to come]
- Illawarra Mercury, Friday 8
December 1933 page 12.
later 1930s, surf-skis began to vie with surfboards in
The models of this period featured a prominant splash
guard and a leash attaching the paddle to the nose, and
were occasionally ridden while standing.
Several surf-ski riders were photographed in the
Illawarra, circa 1936.
Note that the catalogue
date of 1924 is surely incorrect, and the scalloped cropping of
the image suggests the photograph was possiby published in some
type of promotional material of the period.
PORT KEMBLA CLUB
(Wollongong, NSW : 1856 - 1950) Friday 3 April 1936 p 7 Article
... anyone finds a surf
board of doubtful age, with a two inch crack, in it, they will
be rewarded on ... 402 words
Walter Dare was a member of the Corrimal Surf
Club in the 1930s, who excelled in many surf swimming events and
was involved in two significant rescues; in the first , he and
his brother, Jack, rescued two young girls at Corrimal Beach in 1937. [Further information to come]
Illawarra Mercury, Thursday 25
March 1937, page 6. Walter Dare, and probably Jack,
were photographed in 1937 with the Corrimal SLSC
reel and two trophies; these were possibly awarded
for the 1937
rescue and photographed for an
associated newspaper article, see below. The same
year, Walter was photographed performing a
head-stand while riding a
surf-ski at Corrimal, below, in the manner
illustrated by Adrian Curlewis at Palm Beach, circa
1929, see above.
Dare, Corrimal Beach, 1937.
Corrimal Beach, 1937.
In 1939, an invitation
was made to Australian boardriders to compete in
Hawai'i, in what would be called the Pan-Pacific Games.
noted that “The trip was originally the idea of the Honolulu
Star Bulletin which, upon hearing of a ‘new type of board’ in
Australia, challenged Sydney's Daily Telegraph to send
Australia’s best board riders to see if they could beat
Honolulu surf-board men in their own surf.”
Brawley does not identify the “new type of board”.
Harry McLaren's surf-ski (1926-1930) was definitely
a "hollow board," and it appears some Sydney designers were
beginning to build surfboards in this method.
- Brawley: Palm Beach SLSC
(1996), page 64.
Brawley cites Honolulu Star
Bulletin, 18 January 1939, Daily Telegraph, 6
February 1939. Plans
were made to send a full team of Australian surfers and
lifesavers to compete in Honolulu, with intense competition for inclusion on the tour.
Dick Chapple (North Bondi), Lou
Morath (Manly-Balmoral) and Blue Russell (Palm Beach) were
selected as the surfboard representatives, and North Wollongong's Alan Fitzgerald represented the
Illawarra in the R. &
The Australians were warmly welcomed in Honolulu by Duke Kahanamoku, and had
some success in the board and surfboat events, although their
highly-prized line-and-reel failed to impress the Hawaiians.
Despite the widespread press
coverage and success of the event, and somewhat reminiscient of
Kahanamoku's tour of 25 years earlier, its impact was severely
truncated by the outbreak of World War 2.
Around this time, another Wollongong
SLSC member, Ted Burns also travelled to Hawaii, returning with
"a 14-foot hollow three-ply board," which was later said to be
the (first) "introduced it to Wollongong Beach more than 20
With the end of the war, surfers returned
to the beaches, essentially using the same equipment as
Some commentators have noted that this
period saw a further emphasis on team-work and
regimentation by the surf life saving clubs, reflective
of their military experience.
(Regimented) volunteer community
service, highly valued in the return to peace, would be
less attractive as post-war society focused on more
individual, perhaps more hedonistic, pursuits.
war, Dick Chapple, a surfboard competitor at the
Pan-Pacific Games, manufactured hollow timber boards,
with a stencil reading “Hawaiian Surfboard,” in a
clear reference to the designer, Tom
Blake, and the SLSA Handbook for
1947 included plans for the Hollow Surf Board, a
14 feet model, which also failed to credit
Blake. - Dick Chapple: Hawaiian Surfboard,
Quicksilver Surf Shop, The Corso, Manly, 2008. - SLSA: The Australian Surf Life
Saving Handbook, Fifteenth Edition (Revised June
1947) pages 208 – 209. In February 1949, the local coastal steamer,
Bombo, floundered off Port Kembla: "Residents of Kiama were shocked to learn on
Wednesday morning that the s.s. Bombo, which left
Kiama on Tuesday for Sydney, was overdue and believed lost. ... According to the story .of the mishap as
related by one of the survivors ... The hoped for break in the weather did not eventuate and by 9.40 p.m. Captain Bell decided to make for Port Kembla. However the ship started to
list more dangerously and the Captain
gave orders to abandon ship. There was no time to launch the lifeboat and the
crew jumped over board with lifebelts. A few minutes later the vessel keeled
over and sank. Eight of the crew, Captain Bell, Stevenson,
Lucey, Stringer, Cunningham, Norris, Thomsen and
Fitzsimmons grasped a floating plank and tried to
paddle towards the shore. They clung to the plank all night, but several
became exhausted and sank. At daylight they saw . a beach and
decided to try to get ,ashore individually as
they were afraid that if' they stayed with the plank they would
be injured in the heavy surf breaking on a
reef." ... Mr. Percy Ford, Bulli Beach Inspector, went out
on a surfski and although the
seas prevented him getting Thomsen on board,
the latter had enough strength to hang on and he towed him to
shallow water where one of the lifesavers, Mr.
George Brown, picked them up, having swum out with a
surf line." Ford was later awarded for his part in
Thomsen's rescue, - 1949 'S.S. BOMBO SINKS.', Kiama
Independent (NSW : 1947 - 1954), 26 February, p. 3,
viewed 2 December, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article100755847 In 1949, it appears that some members of
the Bellambi SLSC "went
through their pier." [Further information to come] - Illawarra Mercury, Thursday 10
February 1949 page 6. The next summer, "Bob Evans, surf board
champion from Queenscliff, S.L.S.C." was scheduled
to appear in surfboard riding and racing events at
several Illawarra surf carnivals. - Illawarra
Mercury, Thursday 13 October 1949, page 13. [Further
information to come] Bob Evans'
nickname in the 1950s was 'Surge,'
for his ability to negotiate his way
past Surge Rock at Fairy Bower,
Manly. In 1956, Evans was
one of the lucky few to purchase one
of the new Malibu boards from the
visiting American-Hawaiian Olympic
team, see below, and in the early
1960s began Surfing World magazine
(still in print), was the first
successful local producer of surfing
films, and instrumental in the
foundation of the Australian
Surfriders Association. Preparing
for the upcoming 1949-1950 season,
Kiama SLSC "decided to obtain
prices for a
from J. B. Dillon,
Sydney." J. B. Dillon was the secretary of the Cronulla
Life-saving Club in 1922, and The Surf Life Saving
Association's publicity officer 1931-1953. It was purchased for 24 pounds. - 1949
'KIAMA SURF CLUB.', Kiama
Independent (NSW : 1947 -
1954), 22 October, p. 1, viewed 2
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article100751645 In 1950,
Queenscliff surfer Jack O'Brien, a 32 year-old aircraft
engineer, of Strathfield, paddled a surf ski 44 miles from
Wollongong to Bondi. - Illawarra
Mercury, Thursday 13 April 1950 page 1. At Thirroul SLSC Carnival on 6
January 1951, Kiama "junior, John Bloomfield, recorded wins in the Junior Surf Race, Junior Belt Race and Open SurfSki Race." At the end of
the decade, after an extensive competitive career, John
Bloomfield published Know-how in the Surf (1959).
- 1951 'SURF
NOTES.', Kiama Independent (NSW : 1947 - 1954), 13
January, p. 3, viewed 2 December, 2013,
the early 1950s, North Wollongong SLSC
had a quiver of 16ft hollow boards, ridden notably by Bob
Chapman, John 'Sparrow' Palmer, Col Markham, and 'Big' Bob
Ferrell. "Young cadet
members," such as Owen Jones, "leant catch waves on rubber
surf'o'planes and to paddle the 16 footer's. As we got older
we were allowed to (ride them, they) caught waves easily, but
were hard to stand up on and turn - they were uncontrollable
really." (edited) - Owen
Jones: The North 'Gong Boys Story, circa
1958 to 1967. laybacks.com.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/.../The-North-Gong-Boys.pdf The sitution was similar over the
point at Wollongong (City) Surf Life Saving
Club, where Dennis Taylor, Colin Demestre, and Arthur Morris, also a
skilled surfboat sweep, rode hollow surf-skis and sixteen feet long Toothpick boards. - Craig Morris:
phone conversation, 22nd November 2013, and supplementary
photographs, 6 December 2013, with
Taylor [surf-ski], Arthur Morris and
DeMestre on hollow boards, Wollongong Beach, June
1958. [The date
confirmed, with thanks, Neville de Mestre,May 2014.]
Morris with 16ft
Toothpick at South
courtesy of Arthur and Craig Morris,
Mr. Morris [and Gordon Woods
Hollow board] Winner Illawarra
Branch Surf Board Championship,
1950-51. Below: Gordon
Woods decal, detail.
WW2, the hollow board was the dominant surfboard design,
most of old solid boards were retired, and surf-skis
remained popular, both as paddling and wave riding craft, sometimes
ridden while standing.
Meanwhile, in California, Bob Simons, Matt Kivlin
and Joe Quigg had began experimenting with fibreglass
and resin, materials that had become more widely
available with the accelerated industrialization of
the war, and in 1947, Kivlin and Quigg
produced the definitive Malibu
Chip. A relatively short
board for the period, it was a balsa wood
blank, laminated with resin and fibreglass,
and with a large fin.
a few Australian boardriders were aware of these new designs.
Hollywood actor and Malibu Point surfer, Peter
Lawford, was in Australia
in to film ‘Kangaroo.’ He brought a state-of-the-art balsa
inscribed Malibu, which he left at Bondi
Beach, where it was ridden by Jack 'Bluey' Mayes, Ray
Young, Aub Laidlaw, and others. -Thoms: Surfmovies
63. - Surfer Magazine,
Volume 6 Number 1 March 1965 page 18. Scott
Dillion and Barry "Magoo" McGuigan, members of Bondi Surf
Bathers Life Saving Club, visited California
during 1955-1956, where
they rode the new balsa boards at Hermosa
Beach, courtesy of local surf life guards. Around
the same time, Queenscliff's John
‘Nipper’ Williams obtained a "beat-up" balsa Malibu from
- Scott Dillon Interview,
Longboarding Magazine, Number 5, Autumn 1999, page 23.
of the first Australian's to ride the Malibu board was
possibly longtime Wollongong Surf Life
Saving Club member and noted board rider, Ted (Edward)
early 1945, it was reported that Burns had resigned as the
club's R and R and the chief instructor.
several months later, the Sydney Morning Herald noted that
Ted Burns' innovation of towing a small sea anchor "is
revolutionising training methods for belt swimming
Burns was identified here as the "chief instructor of the
Wollongong Surf Life-Saving Club."
Mercury, Friday 26 January 1945 page 5.
Morning Herald, Wednesday 4 April 1945, page 9.
Arthur Morris and Ted
(Edward) Burns, circa
1950. Photograph courtesy
Arthur and Craig Morris, 6 December
In the photograph, of
Burns is riding a
short Malibu type balsa board and wearing a numbered
competition shirt, consistant with those in use at Makaha in at this time.
he could have only entered the contest in 1954, or
Also, the caption does
it not acknowledge the large representative Australian
team of lifesavers to the Pan-Pacific Games in
Honolulu in 1939-1940, that
included North Wollongong's Alan Fitzgerald
Malibu board made a dramatic impact on Australian
surfriding in November 1956, with the arrival in Sydney of
a team of American and Hawaiian surfers to compete in the International Surf
Championship Carnival at Torquay, held
in conjuction with the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The team include
some of outstanding boardriders, including Mike Bright,
Greg Noll, and Tom Zahn, and a
quiver of fibreglassed boards, including a short
belly-board. Their surfriding at several Sydney beaches
impressed many locals, and the boards were eagerly
purchased before their return. Some
members of the
U.S.A. and Hawaiian teams were
entertained by the North Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club
at the Illawarra Leagues Club in November, 1956,
before attending the Olympic Games. It is
unknown if any of the visitors brought their surfboards to
Wollongong on this occasion.
In 1954, the Werri Beach Surf life Saving
Club celebrated the openingof their new club house
with asurf carnival
display, where the surfboard race was won by
G. Miller of Port Kembla, with Ted Burns second. - Kiama
Independent (NSW : 1947 - 1954), 13 March 1954,
p. 4, viewed 29 November, 2013,
In 2000, the History
of Wollongong City SLSC included a photograph
of Ted Burns with the caption:
Burns competing at Makaha in 1950- said to be the first
Australian to compete in Hawaii."
Forward- Looking Back: History of Wollongong City
SLSC, 1915-2000 (2000), page 27.
The Makaha International Surfing
Championship(s) was first
successfully held in 1954, won by
master-surfrider George Downing, and it came
to be widely considered as the unofficial
Ted Burns, Balsa
Pig, Makaha International
Surfing Championships, circa
courtesy of Arthur and Craig Morris, 6 December 2013.
- The Corfu
Lifebuoy- History of North Wollongong Surf Life Saving
(1996) pages 85-86.
Sydney surfboard builder,
Gordon Woods was one of the locals who manged to purchase
one of the new boards, a 9 ft 6” Velzy-Jacobs from Bob
unavailabilty of suitable balsa forced established builders,
such as to Gordon
Woods, Bill Wallace, Norm Casey, and Barry Bennett, to replicate the Malibu in hollow board construction, known as the Okinuee.
The enthusiasm for the new design
was such that Gordon Woods had built and tested his first
Okinuee before the US team departed.
- Gordon Woods: phone
conversation, 18 th July 2005.
At North Wollongong, John 'Sparrow' Palmer
rode an Okinuee board built by Bill Wallce, his factory then
located in Waverley-Bronte.
"Copied from (the)
Californian boards, it was
about 10 foot long, with a round nose, a narrower tail
shape, and with laminated solid timber rails that were,
importantly, hand shaped."
However, the board was in high demand, and the rigours of
constant use tended to crack the seams, and the board "took in seawater and you would have to drain
it out via a plug every ten minutes," rendering it "heavy and hard to
Jones: The North 'Gong
Boys Story, circa 1958
to 1967. laybacks.com.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/.../The-North-Gong-Boys.pdf - Owen
Jones: additional comments phone
conversation, 30 November 2013, with many
By 1958, supplies of balsa wood were found
to be available via Melbourne, and the surfboard builders
quickly starting producing fibreglassed boards.
Three of the earliest balsa models by Gordon Woods were
obtained by Arthur Morris and Ronnie Grant, members
Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club, and North Wollongong Surf
Life Saving Club's Bob Chapman.
Arthur still has his original Gordon Woods
balsa board at his home in Wollongong. Other Wollongong SLSC members
to ride balsa boards were Neville DeMestre,
T. Carney, B. Bowan, G. Barnes, N.Martin,
and, of course, Ted Burns.
T. Carney, B. Bowan, A. Morris,
G. Barnes, N.Martin, and Ted Burns,
South Wollongong Beach, circa 1958.
Above: Permanent lifesaver
Arthur Morris and Neville DeMestre,Wollongong
Beach, May 1959?
Five Balsawood Malibu Surfboards,
South Wollongong Beach, circa 1958.
Photographs courtesy of Arthur
and Craig Morris,
6 December 2013.
Ted Burns died on
Wollongong Beach in 1959-1960???, after returning with his
board from his last surf.
Having begun his surf riding on the hollow
timber boards that first came into general use in the late
1940s, Arthur Morris was one the earliest Australians to
adopt the new fibreglassed balsa boards, and continued into
the foam era, riding boards by Collins Surfboards and
Carrabine Surfboards into the 1970s.
- Craig Morris: phone
conversation, 22nd November 2013, with many thanks.
Around this time, Dave
Anderton, of the North Wollongong SLSC, also obtained
a balsa board from Sydney "surfboat builder, Bill
Pigboard, around 9 to 10 foot long, (with) a round
nose, wide curved tail, and a big wooden fin, (it
featured) cedar inlaid rails." (edited)
found the board "different and exciting to ride, so
much easier than the toothpicks!"
In 2012, Owen identified the board in the photograph
right, with the distinct cedar rails, as one built by
Bill Clymer and in Sptember 2015, the surfer as Hughie
Owen Jones: The North 'Gong
Boys Story, circa
1958 to 1967. laybacks.com.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/.../The-North-Gong-Boys.pdf
Right: Surfriders and Bill Clymer Balsa
Pig Surfboard, North Wollongong Beach,
Note that the
catalogue date of 1956 is, almost certainly, too
Given the prominance of the board in the photograph,
and that one of the surfers is wearing a bikini, this
was probably taken by a newspaper photographer,
possibly for a related article.
With the introduction
of foam blanks, circa 1960, an increasing number, "in
different shapes and sizes," were added to the North
Wollongong SLSC quiver by boardriding members, including Bob
Chapman, John 'Sparrow' Palmer, Col Markham, and 'Big' Bob
"Stored under the old boat shed, under the
stairs of the Bathers Pavillion," the boards were also
regularly ridden by cadets, Des Lees, Owen Jones, Ken Bool,
Brian 'Bruno' Sucur, and John Skipp and Ken Middleton, who
both made an effort to quickly obtain their own new boards,
most probably from Brian Jackson."
Around 1963, the enthusiasm for
boardriding was at conflict with the requirements of beach
patrols and training sessions, and "the younger blokes
rebelled and surfed in the souther corner of the beach, and
parted ways with the club."
At this time American magazines and films were considered
the benchmark of surfriding performance, and "the best
riders at North 'Gong were Ken Middleton, 'Duke Jones, Dees
Lees, Paul Hopkins, John Skipp, Mick Carabine, 'John The
Pom', Kenny Bool, Mick Legge, Lord Ted Meades, 'Sharpie',
and Steve Goodwin, whose parents ran the kiosk."
Other Illawarra riders who performed well at North Beach
included "Gary 'Droppy' Andreas, Troy Williams, Kevin
Parkinson, Mick Cram, Warren Boyd, and Paul Brooks."
The occasional visit of Sydney surfers, Gary Birdsall and
Robert 'Nat' Young, was especially noted.
Owen Jones noted the importance and
influence of the local gallery:
"Some of us would watch the surfing and comment on who got
the better waves and who surfed the best on the day,
amoungst loud cheers, hoots and hollers, and laughter at the
antics of the surfers .. a new, exciting, and beautiful
This ad hoc group of enthusiasts was the
core of "the Wollongong Boardriders Club, formed in Ted
Meare's Parents' house garage around 1963-1965."
Owen Jones: The North 'Gong
Boys Story, circa 1958
to 1967. (undated) laybacks.com.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/.../The-North-Gong-Boys.pdf - Owen
November 2013, with
In 1968-1969, Owen Jones travelled to
South Africa, meeting up with Shellharbour's John
Batchelador and Tony Wright
(see below), and in the
early 1970s, he relocated to the
North Shore of Ohau.
After surfing at Pipeline, Owen was photographed leaving the
water by Jeff Devine,circa 1972.
- Young : History (1983) pages 12-13.
Manufacturing in the Illawarra
1958, boatbuilder Ron Cansdell and Cronulla
boardrider Brian Jackson started Jackson and Cansdell Surfboards at 59 The Bouvevade,
after this, they open an outlet in North Wollongong, and in 1963 factory at 426 Princes Highway Corrimal.
this time teamriders included Wollongong's John Skipp and Mick Carrabine,
with one of the premier riders of the period,
Cronulla's Bobby Brown.
and Carrabine would later have extended careers as
surfboard manufacturers in Flinders Street, Wollongong.
Right: Jackson and Cansdell
(cropped-the top of the
page has an inverted photograph of Bobby Brown)
- Surfabout, Volume 1 Number 5 page
of the last
photographs of Bobby Brown, now riding for Gordon and
Smith Surboards, were taken by Cronulla's Jack Eden, at Sandon Point shortly
before his untimely death in August 1967.
Brown, Gordon and Smith Stringerless,
Sandon Point, mid-1967.
photograph, and several others, are featured in:
Margan and Finney: Pictorial
History (1970), including some in colour.
In 1968 Jackson Surfboards
released the Frogman (Tracker) model shaped
by Laurie "Froggy" Byrne from Currarong.
Skipp and Carrabine would later have extended careers
as surfboard manufacturers in Flinders Street, Wollongong,
and Laurie Byrne continued his shaping at (Phil and
Dave's) Bryne Surfboards at Fairy Meadow.
He shaped some of the first boards for Wollongong
grommets, Phil and Dave Byrne, and is currently
providing boards for Owen Wright and Dean Bowen.
One of the earliest
Wollongong fibreglass surfboard builders was Colin
He began his shaping career in "a converted chook pen
in the backyard at Stanwell Park" in the early 1960s
by stripping and reshaping balsa boards, discarded
after the introduction of foam blanks.
Materials were sourced from Cansdell and Jackson
Surfboards, Caringbah, or King Surfboards, Kirrawee. In 1966, with schoolmate Bill Trestrail,
he started the short-lived Bill Collins Surfboards in
a disused ex-service station on the hill at Stanwell
This was followed by a brief stint in a shed at
Kennedys Hill, Thirroul, before he relocated to a
workshop at 30 Flinders Street Wollongong from 1967 to
During 1976 -1977, Ashford continued making boards at
home as Sybernaught and Seaglass
Surfboards, retailed through David Matthew's Southern
Man surf shop at Ulladulla.
Colin Ashford moved to Lake
Conjola in the early 1990s, and is
currently building hollow wooden
boards, shaped from home-grown
Surfboards, Decal, circa 1968.
Collins Surfboards Advertisement, Tracks,
Skipp was a agent and team rider for Jackson
Surfboards, before starting Skipp
Williams Surfboards at
24 Flinders Street North
Wollongong NSWin 1970.
- Advertisement, Tracks,
December 1970, page 28.
After a short time, the
company became Skipp Surfboards, at the the
same, and still current, address.
the years the company featured the core of the
Illawarra surfboard industry, including Paul Nichol,
Phil Byrne, Dave Byrne, Terry Richardson, Terry
Cooper, Chris Horne, Kevin Parkinson, Richard
Sinnott and, the late, Frank Latta.
Kembla on the NSW South coast. In a cold weather crouch, Jonny
- Pollard: Australian Surfrider
(1963), page 110.
decal, circa 1974.
Byrne Surfboards The Byrne brothers, Phil
and Dave opened their factory at Fairy Meadow
in1975, and was immediately popular.
The shapers included
longtime shaper Laurie Byrne, who later designed the
Twin-fin Clinker model, circa 1980, and Terry
Cooper. Phil Byrne shaped boards for the
1983-1984 world champion, Tom Carroll and
produced the Tom
Carroll model. Dave Byrne
competed as a junior and in the early years of the
pro-surfing era, followed by younger brother Chris Critta" Byrne.
In the late 1970s, the
company produced Australian models for
South Africa's Shaun
Thomson's Instinct Surfboards and Hawaiian
Pro-Design by Larry Bertlemann.
Illawarra Beaches Sandon Point
The following book is an
important resource, unfortunately my copy is currently
David : Surfing at Sandon Point- Includes History,
Highlights and Photographs.
published (No publishing credits). 1995.
cover, 32 pages, 8 colour photographs, 30 black and
white photographs. Review
mix of some local history, boardriding clubs, local
manufacturers and personal rememiciences.
paragraphs comprise lists of local identities (including
the ever present nick-names).
lack of a map to distinguish the various breaks (the
Point, Bombie, Southy, Reef, Jetty, etc) is a difficulty
for non-local readers.
dates boardriding in the area from the early 1950's,
before the introduction of the Malibu board in 1956, but
does not mention the influence of the local surf life
Right: Malibu riders and
one surf ski in Kiama Harbour,
Council Library: Images
Kevin Parkinson, north Wollongong, was one of the
Illwarra's most skilled and competitive boardriders.
In 1967, he came third in Australian
Titles at Bells Beach, behind Wayne
Lynch and 'Butch' Cooney.
He shaped for Skipp Surfboards, Carabine
surboards 1977; Hotline Surfboards, c 1979.
Right: Kevin Parkinson, Bellambi
Pier, c 1962.
- Margan and Finney: Pictorial History (1970) page
Kevin Parkinson, Toes on the
Nose, c 1964.
- [Jack Eden] Margan and Finney:
Pictorial History (1970) page 259.
Phil [Kevin] Parkinson, Toes on the
Nose, c 1966.
- [Jack Eden] Margan and Finney:
Pictorial History (1970) page 262.
Middleton, Shellharbour Harbour, c
- [Dave Milne] Margan and Finney: Pictorial
History (1970) page 270.
Brooks Right: Paul Brooks Port Kembla
Beach late 60s
- http://www.edsinnott.com.au/History of Surfing/
Robbie Page Terry Richardson
Batchelador and Tony Wright were
childhood neighbours and juvenile
members at Warilla-Shellharbour
SLSC in the early 1960s, and were of the local SLSC, where
they were familiar with the boards, surfskis, and surfboats
of the era.
brothers Richard and Albert Fox were members of the adjacent
boardriders in the area rode Jackson Surfboards.
'Sticky' Spearpoint, Warrilla
- Pollard: The
Fox], Windang Island,
Margan and Finney: Pictorial History
(1970) page 281.
noted experienced surfboard riders of the period were
Following completion of their
appenticeships, and inspired
by Bruce Brown's Endless Summer, Batchelador, Wright and
Albert Fox travelled to South Africa in late 1967, taking with them some of the first short
V-bottom Australian designs, Batchelador's shaped at Jackson
impact on surfboard design and performance in Cape Town was
returned to Australia after several months, but Batchelador
and Wright had an extended stay, and were
later photographed and interviewed by then-resident Ron
Perrott for John Wiztig's Surf International.
Following the visit to South Africa,
Tony Wright spent two winters and a
summer on the North Shore of Ohau. On his return, Albert Fox procured
several surfboard templates of
master-shaper Dick Brewer from ???, who
had recently returned from Hawai'i, from which he shaped
several boards, mostly for Warilla locals. He subsequently relocated to
Angourie, on the NSW north coast, around 1973-1974. John Batchelador,Tony Wright, and Albert Fox, a highly
respected shaper, all currently reside at Angourie, NSW. - Richard Fox, personal
conversation, Gerroa Beach, 28 November 2013, with many
thanks.. - http://patflan.co.za/?p=1 - Surf
International Volume 1 Number 7 page 43, June 1968.