Surf City, Sydney

an Historic Houses Trust blog

Archive for the ‘1950s’ Category

Ross Bailey Cowrie Hole 1966

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Newcastle surfer Ross Bailey at the Cowrie Hole, Newcastle 1966, photo John Nute, courtesy Ross Bailey

Had the absolute pleasure today to meet veteran big wave dare-devil Ross Bailey, who travelled south from Newcastle to fill me in on his early years surfing around Merewether, Bar Beach and the Cowrie Hole and the various near-death experiences he and his friends like Ted Harvey, Robbie Wood and Norm Stamn notched up when the surf got nasty and the lifesavers said “you’re all bloody idiots”. Tales of furious storm surfs, impossible drops, concussions, smashed teeth, bikies, hodads, Ford Customlines, chicks, surf movies, jazz, dolphins and Dewey Weber. Ross started surfing as a kid in 1957, on a balsa ‘teardrop’, and kept it up through his adult years as a milko, surfing daily after knocking off at 8am – earlier if he could manage it. He even worked as Mel Gibson’s surfer double in the 1977 production Summer City.

Luckily his good friend John Nute took plenty of photos throughout the 1960s.

Ross Bailey at the Cowrie Hole Newcastle, photo by  John Nute 1966

Ross Bailey off the rocks at Merewether, photo by  John Nute 1966

Ross Bailey ‘Classic Soul Arch’ Merewether storm surf, photo John Nute 1962

All photos and info courtesy Ross Bailey

Written by garycrockett

May 12th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Posted in 1950s,1960s

John Falkner Bondi late 40s

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Bondi lifesaver, John Falkner in his white trunks, surfing north bondi around 1947, photo courtesy of Lorraine Coan

Just received this great photo from Lorraine Coan, along with info on her dad John Falkner, who is pictured here heading for shore on his trusty hollow ‘toothpick’ around 1947.  That’s him in the white trunks with the Bondi Icebergs in the background. According to Lorraine, John was 10 when his family moved to Brighton Boulevard in 1939 and not long afterwards he fell in with the North Bondi lifesavers. By the late 1940s, in his late teens, he was a keen surfer. His hollow board had an image of a blonde haired women painted on the deck. Marriage and other things in his mid 20s put an end to his surfing days and the old board hung on the family’s back fence in Panania for years to come. Lorraine recalls how it took at least 2 people to pick it up and shift it when it was eventually retired to a central coast relative who lived beside a lake. Thanks to Lorraine Coan for the image and the information.

John Falkner ‘going down the mine’ at Bondi late 1940s, photo courtesy Lorraine Coan

John Falkner sliding at Bondi late 1940s, photo courtesy Lorraine Coan

Written by garycrockett

May 5th, 2011 at 6:06 am

Posted in 1950s

Surf on film

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Bondi screengrab from The Queen In Australia, produced by Stanley Hawes in 1954 for the Commonwealth Department of Information, courtesy of National Film And Sound Archive and Simon Drake.

Hit the National Film and Sound Archive today with Cathy Mulhall on the hunt for film footage and viewed some amazing stuff. Needed a shower after all that sand, salt and suntan lotion and logged up a great list of movie material for our three ‘decade’ screens, swag of slideshows and of course the ‘Surf City’ documentary underway. Among the stand out cinematic treasures were water-level tracking shots in Stanley Hawes’ 1954 coverage of the Queen in Australia (as grabbed above), board rego and sun-baked bodies along with kids ripping on surfoplanes in John Martin-Jones’ Surf Beach 1965, those pivotal green left handers in 1956 with Californians Tad Devine, Mike Bright and Greg Noll on their spacey malibus in Service in The Sun and of course the wry in-the-wild anthropology of Richard Neville in David Price’s Surfing Roundabout of 1965.

Written by garycrockett

April 28th, 2011 at 11:58 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Surf Board Rally, Long Reef 1958

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photo courtesy Dawn and Jack Eden

Another day, another discovery…this time in an old clippings file, brimming with loose ends, photographs, letters and press cuttings on the adventures of Manly surfer (snow skier and anglerman) Peter Clare covering the 50s, 60s and 70s. The photo shows a clever example of roadside signage promoting Sydney’s first ever so-called Surf Board Rally, held at Long Reef in the middle of 1958. Nat Young’s History of Surfing contained a similar photo (page 89) sourced from Snowy McAlister, but here’s an original print in perfect condition. Peter Clare grabbed one of the 3 or 4 malibus unloaded by visiting Americans in 1956 after their whirlwind aussie tours and boardriding demos that kicked off modern surfing. Jack Eden reckons he was a fine and gifted surfer although recalls him getting into a bit of trouble in Hawaii in the early 1960s, where it appears he set up a fishing charter business.

Written by garycrockett

March 29th, 2011 at 9:25 am

Posted in 1950s

Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan Bondi 1958

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Photo of Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan, South Bondi, late 1950s, courtesy of Debbie and Magoo McGuigan

Long before surfboards went shorter, lighter and watertight or were covered in fibreglass, like the balsa malibu shown here at Bondi, Magoo and his mates were chasing waves up the coast with a truck load of plywood toothpicks. I’d always thought toothpicks were kept close to their respective lifesaving clubs and typically ridden straight out the front. But according to Barry, good waves out of town like those at Toowoon Bay on the central coast, were great for adventurous Sydney-siders, especially those like himself who surfed outside the club scene.

Written by garycrockett

March 22nd, 2011 at 11:53 am

Posted in 1950s

Greg Noll 1956 – added narration

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Classic 1956 Australian footage shot by Greg Noll, taken from his Search For Surf movie, originally produced in 1957

Have just bought the re-edition of Greg Noll’s incredible phonecall-from-another-planet garage production Search For Surf (1957-1961) only to realise where this strange clip, fished from a muddy bit-torrent puddle, actually originated. The re-edition features a pithy narration by Bruce Brown and Greg Noll, overlaid onto scenes culled from over 10 hours of classic Noll footage that made up the constantly re-worked crowd pleaser Search For The Surf screened in flea-pit cinemas and surf clubs in Australia around the late 50s and early 60s.

Written by garycrockett

February 10th, 2011 at 8:14 am

Posted in 1950s

Ockanui or O’Ke Nui…?

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No one knows where the word ‘ockanui’ comes from or exactly what kind of board it refers to. Probably Australian, and therefore likely to be either a mangled and misspelt ‘foreign’ term or a willfully bastardised throw-away creation that stuck. Ether way, the name ‘ockanui’ has probably survived because its easy to say and has a catchy opening syllable. It appeared at a time of escalating interest in Hawaiian culture and custom as the islands were preparing to become a bona fide state of America in 1959 and refers generally to a finned timber board, either hollow or solid, though mostly hollow. Bruce Channon tells me that it could well relate to the small laneway called Ke Nui Road, running parallel to the Kamehameha Highway at Pupukea on the north shore of Oahu, overlooking the famed Pipeline and Sunset Beach breaks. Adding the traditional “O” (meaning “this”) at the beginning gives us O’Ke Nui… could this be the answer…?

Written by garycrockett

February 5th, 2011 at 5:57 am

Posted in 1950s,exhibition

Bruce Channon Ockanui

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Bruce Channon reveals the finer points of ‘ockanui’ rail, rocker and ribbing to Gary Crockett in this photo by Michael Power, February 2011.

Bruce Channon recalls being gob-smacked at the crowds and buzz surrounding the 1964 world championships at Manly, where he competed as a youngster in the juniors rounds alongside Nat Young and Robert Conneely. Leaning forward recently on the kombi bench seat in his Sydney office, where Australian Longboarding Magazine comes together, Bruce reckoned “it was just such a big day for surfing”. Ever since, Bruce has remained in the thick of an ever-expanding surfing scene, as a competitor, board maker, photographer, film-maker, magazine owner, writer and editor. He also makes and rides beautiful timber sticks – the one shown here is a refined take on a late 50s hollow ‘ockanui’. These were local clones of Californian balsa malibus, crafted by Sydney board builders who’d been blown away by the performances of visiting US and Hawaiian lifesavers at various Sydney beaches in the early summer of 1956.

Written by garycrockett

February 5th, 2011 at 4:49 am

Posted in 1950s,exhibition

Plywood Ockanui

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Micheal Holden’s Plywood Ockanui c1960s, photo Michael Holden

Northern beaches surfer Michael Holden built this ‘finned’ hollow surfboard, known locally as an ockanui, in the early 1960s. What’s interesting is that styrene foam had pretty much made balsa and hollow boards antique by then, with local board makers churning out smart new fibreglass ‘pigs’ and hot-doggers in their thousands as each summer rolled around. It suggests that thrifty kids, armed with cheap plywood and their dad’s shed tools, persisted with home-made hollow boards for several years after Gidget and the foam explosion of 1959. According to Michael… 3 of us made 3  boards end 1961.  We went to Bilgola with pen, tape measure and paper and drew up the dimensions of a board on the beach.  The old fasioned plywood board with stringers etc.  I understand the others no longer exist.  The first try was in the surf at Whale Beach with no wax, so a real problem…

Written by garycrockett

January 5th, 2011 at 2:36 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Casben swim shorts 1950

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Colour advertisement in The Australian Women’s Weekly September 1950, courtesy Dale Egan

Written by garycrockett

December 16th, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Posted in 1950s,exhibition

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