Surf City, Sydney

an Historic Houses Trust blog

Archive for the ‘1950s’ Category

Surfboard registration

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Board rego sticker on the tail of a beautiful Gordon Woods 1957 balsa ‘pig’, private collection, photo Gary Crockett

By 1960, the explosive appeal of board riding, the fast-growing number of new boards hitting the beaches and the rowdy behaviour of surfers had given Sydney lifesavers enough headaches to mount retaliatory action. For surfers, it was maddening enough to have to pay the council to surf but even more infuriating was that fines for riding an unregistered board went straight to the lifesaving club. Anger turned to action in 1963 with the establishment of the Australian Surfriders Association, led by Sydney surfing ambassador Bob Evans and backed by several rising stars and movers. Their aim was to promote surfing as a responsible, positive lifestyle and, more importantly, to restore unhindered access to Sydney beaches. Despite the tireless efforts of the ASA and its role in staging the World Surfing Championships at Manly in 1964, it wasn’t until 1967 that the system was abandoned.

Written by garycrockett

December 15th, 2010 at 4:54 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Barry Bennett triple stringer

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photo of Peter Francis’ mid 60s Barry Bennett Mal by Gary Crockett 2010

Sydney surfer Peter Francis told me about his great Barry Bennett mal, built no doubt in the mid 1960s, going by the 3 stringer signature model styling and overall build and glass quality. Already known in the early 50s for his plywood skis and toothpicks turned out on Sydney’s southside, Bennett shifted to his new Brookvale factory around 1956 to upscale production of finned malibus after Sydney went berserk for the new california-style boards. In the early 60s, thanks to contact with visiting US surfers and a stint working with Californian big hitters Hobie and Hansen surfboards, Bennett made the shift from balsa to high quality foam and fibreglass and established himself as a leading manufacturer with board sales spanning the country for decades to come. Interestingly, Bennetts have maintained close links with the lifesaving scene to this day. [info not surprisingly sourced from surfresearch]

Written by garycrockett

September 14th, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Motobogan 1950

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This classic 1950s Champion Annual For Boys cover predicts an OHS-free future of tow-in surfing where waves are about 9 inches high and involve a powered aquasled called a motobogan. Love the steering wheel.

Written by garycrockett

July 13th, 2010 at 2:58 am

Posted in 1950s

Garry Birdsall 1958

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Plenty of mean-teen rocker attitude in this classic Jack Eden photo of Garry Birdsall at North Cronulla in 1958.

Written by garycrockett

July 8th, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Posted in 1950s

John Cormack

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John Cormack (2nd from right) with Dee Why mates on outing to North Avalon, early 1960s
photo by Ron Graham taken from article cited below

Bruce Usher’s ALB portrait* of one-time northern beaches drifter, trailblazer, board maker and cultural cross pollinator John Cormack conjures the loose and restless soul of late 50s youth, before foam and fibreglass dug in and Mick Dooley was still playing tennis, and delivers a salt stained love letter to surfing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by garycrockett

June 23rd, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Posted in 1950s,exhibition

Windansea beach shack

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Way down the Californian coast, past San Clemente, Oceanside and Leucadia, on the northern outskirts of San Diego, is the lovely beachside town of La Jolla, overlooking several miles of craggy, weatherbeaten bays and sandy coves that generally enjoy chunky, powerful and temperamental swells. The gnarly Windansea reef break, at the end of Nautilus Street, is a must visit for any roving surfnut, if only to light a candle for the inventive board-builder Bob Simmons, who drowned here whilst surfing in 1954.


photo Gary Crockett

A rustic 4 posted shelter, or ‘shack’, covered in palm tree fronds, has clung to the rocky ledge at Windansea Beach since at least 1946. This cultural icon of surfing was the symbolic heart of the infamous Windansea Surf Club, with its members including many of California’s hottest and most celebrated surfers of the 1950s and 60s. After nailing most of the competitions from Baja to Malibu, the rowdy Windansea team arrived in Sydney in November 1967, for a contest meet, to be outclassed and defeated by Australian surfers riding revolutionary shortboards. The good old days were over and the swaggering club never regained its former notoriety.

Written by garycrockett

May 25th, 2010 at 1:39 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

Malibu Point

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Malibu video Gary Crockett

Classic 3 foot swell wrapping around the lagoon point at Malibu looked like lots of fun. Spared a thought for Joe Quigg, Matt Kivlin, Dave Rochlen and of course Bob Simmons who together set the course for stand up board design in the late 1940s that would eventually wash up in Sydney under the arms of visiting California lifeguards Noll, Bright, Zahn and co. At a pinch, could even imagine Dora circa ’66 hassling the kooks, jiggling his Noll ‘cat’ nimbly through crowds and knee high soup, fearing the worst for the future of surfing.

Written by garycrockett

May 7th, 2010 at 1:15 am

Posted in 1950s,exhibition

Surfer shirts

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A local incarnation of ‘surfer style’ tempted Sydney sportsware consumers from the early 1960s, with swell summer shirts like these featuring south seas ‘tiki’ imagery, assorted aztec-cum-mexican motifs and nautical references splashed on boxy cuts and easy wearing, easy washing woven fabrics.

Look out for duds, bikinis and beachwares by Platts, Speedo, Sutex along with rarer imports by Hang Ten, Catalina, Katin, Birdwell and Jantzen.

Unlike pre 70s California, where board maker t-shirts, jackets, pendelton checks, sporty windcheaters, striped jersey knits, ponchos and raybans leapt from surf shop shelves, the equivalent Sydney surfware scene was less self aware, less poppy, less drip-dry , less uniform. That’d come later.

Will be hoping to borrow these classic shirts and other beachware treasures from vintage fashion collector Naomi Barwick.

Written by garycrockett

March 21st, 2010 at 5:03 am

Posted in 1950s,1960s

The Thrill of the Surf 1949

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This fragment of Ken Hall’s 1949 documentary The Thrill of the Surf bobbed up recently in bit torrent. Little do the surfers realise it, but the days of their hefty, finless paddleboards and box framed, plywood ‘toothpicks’ are sadly numbered. In a year or two, racy malibus will appear at Bondi and, pretty soon, start drawing a line in the sand between surfers and lifesavers. There’s unwitting poignancy in Hall’s shimmering closing shots as pre-modern surfers glide shoreward into the setting sun.

The original film is held by National Film and Sound Archive along with detailed curator notes and credits. Will hopefully negotiate use of this invaluable pre 50s footage to kick off the show.

Written by garycrockett

March 11th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Posted in 1950s

Manly hot chips

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Here’s a line-up of shiny new balsa chips, photographed at Manly by John Tanner in 1958. None of these boards could’ve been much more than a year old. There’s even what looks like a pinline railed hollow ply ockanui on the end. Would be nice to identify the young woman un-nerving the lads at Manly.

image from National Archives Of Australia, via online Dictionary of Sydney

Written by Gary Crockett

February 7th, 2010 at 11:55 am

Posted in 1950s

UA-4010747