Home' Scoop : Scoop 67 Autumn Edition Contents SCOOP AUTUMN 2014 111
Surfing Down South
by Sue-Lyn Moyle, Margaret River Press, $44.
From building weekend surf shacks to setting
up shaping bays in settlers’ cottages, testing
leg ropes and helmet designs, promoting surf
competitions, and helping each other to build
their own homes with found materials, the surfers
had created new opportunity, community and
currency in the shrinking timber and dairy region.
The new settlers completely embedded
themselves in the surfing lifestyle, where
work was completed when the sea breeze
came in, and families were raised with a great
respect for nature. And the new generation
of surfers is well aware of the breakthroughs
made by that first wave of pioneers.
“I often get jealous of those older guys
having had really uncrowded waves back in
the day,” says Taj Burrows, “but I don’t think
I could have ridden their big, heavy boards,
especially without a leash. It would have
been way too much hard work.
“The older generation was a tight-knit
group of surfers and now it’s the same with
the younger crew and all of my friends that
I hang with. That’s why the stories captured
in this book are so important. I like knowing
the history of all my favourite breaks, who the
pioneers were, and the stories of what extent
they went to in order to get good surf. I think
it’s important for everyone who enjoys the
area to know about and appreciate its past.”
by separate renegade groups of surfers whose
paths never crossed.
In 1958, the first surfers took on Surfers
Point. Margaret River siblings Keith and Leonie
McLeod recall watching in awe as the pioneers
left the water and wrapped themselves in grey
ar my coats to keep warm. Fifty years later,
a chance encounter in Exmouth led to Leonie
briefly meeting some of the very same group
from the Point. Now running a northern coastal
farm station frequented by travelling surfers,
she hurriedly wrote in her diary the names of
the surfers from Swanbourne, and continued to
rewrite their names into a new diary each year
since, knowing that they had been part of a major
event in Margaret River’s surf history. If not for
that coincidence and Leonie’s presence of mind
in recording it, the identities of those first surfers
would likely have been lost forever.
By the 60s and 70s, some surfers had moved
to the southwest to avoid conscription or simply
hide away from mainstream society and surf
naked, grow long hair and smoke marijuana.
Initially, the influx of unkempt inhabitants
created tensions with farming locals who didn’t
warm to a hippy lifestyle straight away. Soon the
fit, young surfers proved themselves, however, by
being good farmhands and millworkers, and so
can also be credited with helping to establish the
first vineyards in the famous wine region.
The early 50s meant
camping at Yallingup
beach and ‘surfaris’
spent in the Caves
House Hotel carpark.
And so the research process became a journey
back in time, beyond Margaret River to Yallingup,
and via Bunbury to Perth where it all began on 16-
foot hollow wooden toothpick boards in the 1950s.
As teenagers left for ‘Yalls’ in their droves
from the regimented surf lifesaving clubs in
Perth, the early 50s meant camping under
the melaleuca trees with sweeping views over
Yallingup beach. Weekend ‘surfaris’ were spent
listening to trad jazz in the Caves House Hotel
carpark, sneaking into dance halls as part of the
band, and cooking cans over the campfire.
With the arrival of the Malibu board in 1956
and better roads from Perth starting to make
weekend trips easier, the intrepid surfers began
to venture away from Yallingup. First they headed
down fishermen tracks to Injidup, with its steep
peaks, previously unrideable on cumbersome
toothpicks. Soon Wilyabrup, Margaret River
and Cowaramup followed, discoveries that either
led to brag ging rights at Caves House bar that
evening, or whose locations were kept hush
FROM LEFT Des Gaines, Ian Todman, Len Burke and Jim Keenan at
Yallingup camp site in 1959 (photograph courtesy Jim Keenan).
Kath King paddling in Geographe
Bay, Dunsborough, 1971 (photograph
courtesy the King family).
While researching for Surfing Down South,
author Sue-Lyn Moyle followed surfers’ stories
up the coast from Margaret River to Yallingup
and Bunbury, and up to Perth’s surfing beaches.
Links Archive Scoop 66 Summer Edition Scoop 68 Winter Edition Navigation Previous Page Next Page