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mctavish-witzig : california-bells, 1968

Bob McTavish : California - John Witzig : Bells 1968. 

Bob McTavish : California
John Witzig : Bing Bong Bells
Surf International
Volume 1 Number 6, May 1968.

Following the Hawaiian winter of 1967-1968, McTavish travelled to Santa Barbara in northern California as a guest of George Greenough.
This article, an introduction to California and specifically the outstanding right-hand Rincon Point, was probably written in late January, given the extreme publishing lag at the time.
A more detailed exposition on the intricacies and delights of riding Rincon were explored in a two page article  in the following edition of Surf International.
Bob McTavish : Rincon
Surf International Volume 1. No. 7  June 1968,  pages 10 to 11.
Compare and contrast with McTavish's The Wild and Wonderful Days of Noosa , Part Two : National.
Surfing World March 1967 pages 18 to 25.

This edition also carried articles on that years Bells Contest,
with photographs, by John Witzig.
Some of Witzig's and junior finalist, David Trealor
, observations are transcribed.
Most readers would have been mystified the Witzig recalling a hurried trip to Melbourne to see Peter Brook's screen adaptation of Marat/Sade.
However, they might have got the import of the lines What's the point of a revolution, without general copulation?

In a later edition (Volume 2 Number 3), Witzig published a dramatic sequence of water-shots of junior finalist Butch Cooney competing at Bells. 

Page 9
CALIFORNIA is a mind blowing experience.
Southern California is the place it's all come from for surfers.
Seeing where Gidget, Simmons, Dora, Yater, Phil and Hollywood happened, the after flow that's happening.
Flying into the joint - L.A. is the usual - lights disappearing into smog - just a glowing carpet, with the pattern of the snake weaving across and around.
Closer and these snakes become streams of headlights going ...
A bank towards the two lines of blue lights, a big de-throttle, shuddering like hell and bump and grind and a wail.
It's cold, but you don't feel it.
California is central heated.
The tentacle tube that suckers to the plane's door is heated, the terminal is heated, the car headed north is heated.
Heat everywhere.

Doing 70 m.p.h. in the middle of the city is freaky.
Billboards start screaming at anyone who sees and who can help but see?
Huge and white with simple brainwash slogans. ...

Not a traffic light till close to ... Malibu!!

The real thing?
A wire fence and real estate signs are all the night shows, but it's Malibu.
Page 8
The coast drag by County Line, Secos and eventually Ventura. ...Solimar and Rincon!
The little corner by the sea is asleep and I join it.

Early, it's cold.
The sun rises in the south.
(The south?)
George's cop-car rips to Rincon - he knows someone who lives on the point, so we're allowed past the signs that say "Keep Out!! Residents and guests only."
Parking, and walking around Rincon point from the north end, we spy waves, people out and Yippee!!!
Rincon's on.

"First time since Christmas," said Moto.
Six weeks of nothing ... bloody cold nothing too.
Anyway, today is 4-5' maybe, and getting bigger.

So we hit it, and it's so bloody cold I can't bear it, so I come in.
I haven't got a board anyway.
Just borrowed a giant slug.
What a bastard of a way to start my Rincon friendship.
Like meeting a guy and saying "Hi, meat-head!"

So I go away browned off.
But I come back tomorrow, this time on a surfoplane of Greenough's.
The wind's onshore anyway, so I go out and get wiped a few times and develop early arthritis from the 52 degree water.

So I miss out on a whole swell. Who cares, I say, I'm surfed out from Hawaii anyway.

Two weeks later I have a board and I get to do my Rincon thing.
For the next five weeks Rincon wasn't good. .. for four or five days.
The rest of the time ranged between 3 and 6 and perfect.
Even some days better than perfect with sections that meant you disappeared often.
Perfect means machine-like.
Better than perfect means it's hotter in some spots and cooler in others, allowing some kind of creativity, while still maintaining glass conditions and no cross bumps.
Size up to twelve.
Biggest Rincon in five years.
Eight guys out.

But California is more than Rincon.
It's guys ... and chicks.
Chicks are super friendly, stoked on Aussie accents, but generally hang on to their pants quite tightly.
The hippie chicks know how to love their man.
They cook well, make beads with soul- strings, smile easily.
Guys wear beads alla time.
Kombi buses are expensive and wanted.
Grass is everywhere, so are cops, narcs, sheriffs, Highway Patrol, Gestapo.

Music is everywhere.
All cars have radio and stereo ... All pads have same.
Record shops have treasures of good rock that we'll never get to hear in Australia.

Board shops are eighty percent huge factories, twenty percent contact custom shops.
Boards are good, but confused.
Little boards are moving but through the sea of confusion.

Surfers are very good, same as Sydney standard, but more jelly gut kooks floating out of wave range.
People in California are suffering from several major diseases.
Smog: which is killing millions slowly but very surely.
It's so bad that somedays people can't leave their beds - can't breathe.

Paranoia: which comes from doing something you think is all right, while the cops think it's not.
And from not knowing which one of your surfing buddies is a narc.

Draft: a terrible sickness that ensnares all Californian males because it ruins their best years with two years of compulsory killing and hate-your- brother brain washing.
But, wonder of wonders, why does it still exist when 85 per cent don't want it?
Looks like free enterprise conditions a look-after-thine-self attitude.

Money: fortunately this disease appears to be on the decline amongst the clean, more level headed young people.
The inbred addiction has somehow been kicked.

The racial thing is festering like a boil.
This year is election year, and things are going to be ugly.
Oldens want Reagan.
Youngens don't.
Oldens and uglies want draft.
Youngens don't.
Oldens want war, youngens don't.

Black wants blood.
Hippies want freedom to breathe.
And factories still make the bomb.
Police get more power.
Spies are everywhere.

California is screwed.
Californians who are people know it, and apologize to the world.
The world forgives.
These people will probably sink with the ship - many anyway.
By choice.
Christians to the crosses.
May their protein and iron and stuff reassemble well.

Page ?
Bing Bong Bells
John Witzig

Yes, we went to Bells this year.
There wasn't any surf.
But we had a good time.
Oh yes.
There was driving around the Great Ocean Road to Lorne and beyond.
That was a bit of fun.
We played on the swings at Apollo Bay and saw the War Memorial.
And Russell went for a swim in the "nuptials" and we all laughed.
And ate toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches and my hand bled like hell.
Oh how we had fun.

Keith Paull involved.
We drove to Melbourne twice to see a movie.
And if you know how Nat drives you will know how much we really wanted to see the film.
lt was good.

You see, it didn't really matter that there wasn't surf.
And anyway there was, really.
We had of fun at Boobs on the Thursday before the contest.
It was just that it went flat afterThursday and at Bells this just doesn't happen.
But yes.
This year it did.
There was none of the Bells that we have all known and loved.
But you see it was the first Easter for seven years that there was no surf
And you see it was the first time in seven years that Bob Evans went to Bells.
And yes, you can draw your own conclusions.
The contest was our excuse to got out of Sydney and when it started on Sunday we all dutifully turned out and started taking photos and things.
And when it had finished Ted had won it.
And really not that much happened in the meantime- surf wise anyway.

Three Faces of Wayne Lynch

(Photos of the Bells Competition by John Witzig)

Pages ?

Ken Middleton sets up for the brief shore-break curl.

Ted Spencer - Little Rincon Section.

Bruce Channon
Pages ?

Baddy Trealor

Kevin Parkinson

Ted Spencer
David Baddy Trealor:
Was this to be an experience or another surfing contest outflop ?
The heats had started and already Ted, the Phenomenon had shown his form once again.
By noon the seeded red coats had all qualified.
Was it to be the same in the juniors?
In my opinion the surfing in the juniors was of a higher standard
Sunday afternoon had arrived and so had every junior red coat who went in the competition except for Lynch.
The stimulation running in the junior's minds was stronger in every heat.
The first heat went in.
The second.
And third and still it was the red coats.
What a speculation, Channon with a sign post fin.
Would it work ?
People gasped, especially me, when it slipped in every turn.
Monday morning.
Quarter Finals.
Again the Phenomenon won.
Would it be his contest again?
What a day of surfing, competitors getting through didn't think they would and vice versa.
The red coats this day had the wrong colour with the judges' eyeballs.
They had no chance.
The contest in the juniors and seniors was Lynch, would it continue.
Nat, as commentator, made up for his withdrawal from the surfing scene but was replaced by the swinging "O".
The semi finals had arrived and so had the surprises.
The contest was to change dramatically, Conneeley was eliminated because he got too many fantastic waves.
Lynch and Paull made it not because they out-surfed him but because they only got one good wave.
Butch Cooney got eliminated because he got too many nose rides covered up by the wave.
Congratulations, judges, I wish you would let us, the competitors, when it is April Fool's Day twice in one month.
Junior Final
Seven instead of six.
Someone was not going to get a pair of jeans.
Would it be Channon, Lynch, Smith or myself.
Did we all have rib cages full of butterflies as we watched the oldies compete ?
I forgot to ask the others, but I did
One minute to go, tension stronger.
But I was relieved when Surf Dive & Ski T-shirts were thrown at me.
I forgot the surf.
What an experience clogged with butterflies one minute, next minute paddling out with stimulation in my mind
I got the first wave, second and third.
Stoked even though I did fall off.
Lynch had had it.
I could see he had no strength but still had style.
Channon playing it cool, getting every big wave that came through.
I knew that it the siren went now I had won.
But no: Channon came again with head dips, heavy stalls and turns.
Lynch re-entered in front of me but fell off.
It was out of Lynch, Channon and myself.
I thought Channon.
Senior Final
A momentous final except for Nat positioned with some other spectators around the rocks as the Phenomenon cheats five, while Lynch re-entered going left.
Keith Paull worked a curl from outside.
Halfway through it was Phenomenon, Paull, Lynch.
Who would it be?
But the speculation was to change with Drouyn ripping turns, nose rides, head-dips.
Continuously he did this but must not have been seen by the judges.
Phenomenon again arched on the nose, cutting back and turning.
He was from the look of this wave another contest winner.

Surf International
Volume 2 Number 3

Page ?                                                                                                  Sequence: Butch Cooney, Bells Beach, Easter 1969.
Photographs by John Witzig.
1. 2. 


Surf International
Volume 1 Number 6,
May 1968.

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Geoff Cater (2010-2020) : McTavish - Witzig : California - Bells, 1968.