Surf City, Sydney

an Historic Houses Trust blog

Ross Bailey and his Gordon Woods hotdogger


Photo Ted Harvey, 1963, courtesy Ross Bailey

Had lunch with my good mate and veteran Newcastle ‘Surf Rat’ Ross Bailey the other day. Not surprisingly we talked at length about the early years of malibu surfing north of Sydney and he gave me a handful of photos, including this one of him ‘on the nose’ aboard his brand new striped Gordon Woods 9 foot sixer.

He also gave me an old photo of him in 1963 outside the Gordon Woods factory shop at 208 Harbord Road, Brookvale  – that’s Ross Bailey on the right of the door, about to check out the new range.

Gordon Woods Surfboard Centre Brookvale 1963, photo courtesy Ross Bailey

Here’s the Gordon Woods showroom in 1968, with a few of Gordon’s lastest stringerless ‘involvement’ models on show. The image (below) is from the back cover of John Witzig’s Surf International Vol 1 No 1 in 1968 held in a private collection.

The old Gordon Woods shop in 2008…

The shop today, courtesy google maps…



Written by garycrockett

May 31st, 2013 at 1:38 am

First custom Thruster

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A few weeks back, John Potter sent me photos of his prized Energy Thruster from 1981. According to John, this board was the very first Thruster to be ordered over the counter, making it the shop’s first Thruster sale and a world first purchase for John.

Here’s how John explains it… It happens that I own the first custom “Three Fin Thruster” surfboard made by Simon Anderson, for someone other than himself, which was still very much in its conceptual development phase. This particular board, when ordered by myself from Energy Surfboards in Waterloo Street, Narrabeen, invoked the naming of this model type. Hence, the regular “Three Fin Thruster” logo was in fact hand painted (ie sprayed) on this board, as the printed decal had not been created. I’ve attached some photos (the whites in the eyes of the characters ‘R’ are the original drops of pigmented resin – hence, no aging).

The story stands up according to Damion Fuller of boardcollector, who confirms that Simon Anderson shaped several Thrusters for himself and Energy Team riders (and fellow surfers) before orders were taken over the counter. (via email)

The same spray-stenciled logo, complete with chunky lettering, appeared on the early crop of Thrusters, including this board – Thruster number one – beautifully photographed below by Andrew Kidman for Simon Anderson and Tim Baker’s book Thrust 2011.

Thruster number one – photo courtesy and copyright Andrew Kidman

Here’s another early Thruster with the fat-lettered logo, posted on the great boardcollector blog recently.


Written by garycrockett

February 21st, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Protected: Waxing up again…

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Written by garycrockett

February 15th, 2013 at 12:42 am

Posted in exhibition

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Surf City Kings Cross


Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross Theatre, city view, late 1930s Sam Hood, State Library Of New South Wales [Home and Away #34748]

The 1963 conversion of the grubby, shambling Kings Cross Theatre (shown above) on the intersection of Victoria and Darlinghurst Roads into a hip, stomping night club echoed wider cultural wars underway at the time. Not only had television killed off local picture palaces, but the greasy, pale skinned rocker scene of the 50s was swept aside by a new freedom-crazed, sun-loving wave of surfers. And the Surf City ‘sound lounge’ was where they went to stomp – that primal, leaping-about dance to the rumbling wail of surf music. Surf City was alcohol free although pumped with action nonetheless. Stomp-mad teens were kept in order by ushers and barrel chested security goons, known fittingly as beach inspectors. Big local surf-bands like the Atlantics, The Denvermen and the Dave Bridge Trio packed the place well ahead of overseas acts like the Beachboys and Chantays, who also performed at Surf City in early 1964.

After surf music died in 1964 and the ‘beat’ boom overtook Sydney, according to Milesago, bands like Ray Brown and The Whispers, The Missing Links and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs did regular gigs at Surf City before its doors closed later in the decade.

Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross in the late 1960s, looking north toward El Alamein Fountain. Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. Photograph (c) Wesley Stacey

Same view Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross, looking north, 2010, via Google streetview

Written by garycrockett

November 15th, 2012 at 12:14 am

Posted in 1960s

Keith Paull 1968


Steve Core recently told me he did this spacey paint job for Kieth Paull in the late 60s when both of them were working for Peter Clarke. Photo by (and copyright of) Jeff Carter, taken in 1968, around the same time Paull beat Nat Young and Midget Farrelly in the 1968 National titles, held at Long Reef.

Read Kieth Paull’s obituary from 2004

Written by garycrockett

September 23rd, 2012 at 7:49 am

Posted in 1960s

John Knobel, Narrabeen, Teenager’s Weekly 1962


John Knobel standing second on left, arms crossed, in original clipping from Teenagers’ Weekly supplement in Australian Woman’s Weekly 22 August 1962, private collection [although this image can also be sourced online here]

Just had a call from John Knobel, Bondi local in the 50s and 60s. That’s him standing second from the left in front of the red balsa malibu, wearing his home-made blue board shorts with a snazzy rope belt. John surfed on a Norm Casey hollow 16 foot toothpick before the malibus arrived in Sydney in 1956 although he was never part of the lifesaving scene. As a youngster he wheeled his board the few blocks to the beach on a hand cart made from a packing case. The switch to light-weight balsa in the late 50s was an amazing break through because “they could be thrown about from the tail” and unlike the old longboards were thrilling to ride. It was also pretty clear that shorter boards meant more fun in the surf, so his early boards were under 9 foot. John also recalled hopping over the back wall into the lifesavers’ change rooms at Bondi to rescue surfboards impounded by the likes of Aub Laidlaw.

I remembered that John Knobel gave me a copy of this image taken on the same day as the Teenager’s Weekly shoot.

Peter Bowes sent through a few names..

Top row left – Denis Lindsay
Top row right, Hawaiian shirt – Mick Dooley
Middle row right with spikey hair – Dave Standen
Black suit – Midget
Next but one – Bob Fell
Front row right – Puppy Dog Paton

Big thanks to John Boylan for adding more names… (Sept 2013)

“more names for front cover of 22 August 1962 Teenagers Weekly – top left Peter St. John, 3rd from left Ken McKnight, 4th Jim Pike, 5th Barry Watson, 6th Peter Menzies, 7th John Boylan, 8th Ross Gibson. Middle row blue Speedo’s John Mater, squatting Steve Try, middle behind Midget (Farrelly) Jimmy Ingham, all Manly boys.”

Written by garycrockett

July 24th, 2012 at 2:31 am

Posted in 1960s

Vern Cooper


Just heard that Vern Cooper, who shot that great ‘ockanui’ footage of Allan Levick at Bondi 1957, passed away earlier this month. Sad news although here’s a few words by Allan Levick honouring his old friend … I pay tribute to my very best mate of 60 years, VERN COOPER, for his foresight, in actually “shooting” that footage on Bondi Beach, on his “U-Beaut” 8mm movie camera. Little did he know that he would be responsible for filling in that little bit of surfing history! Sadly, Vern passed away 10 days ago, but he was fully aware (and proud of) the small part he played in “History”. Kind regards, Allan. Condolences and best wishes to Vern’s family.

Written by garycrockett

June 29th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Posted in 1950s

Russell Lewis


Around 1975, apart from Peter Crawford, who defies words, Russell Lewis was ‘the’ surfer on Dee Why Point. Nick Carroll describes him as a gentle bloke with a sharp, static style (see  Whatever happened to Russell Lewis…?) but I remember him as an elastic, orangutang-like surfer with the hottest re-entry, surviving impossible drops over that sucky bowl. Lanky like Peterson but blonde and positive. He now runs a surf school on Kauai, Hawaii, coaching none other than amputee ‘soul surfer’ Bethany Hamilton. Here’s a few shots from my files…


Russell Lewis in a promotional shoot for Henri Surf Shop, Curl Curl, around 1975, courtesy and copyright of Hugh McLeod.

The old Henri shop on Griffith Road, North Curl Curl, is now a restaurant.

Russell Lewis on Dee Why Point in a Surfing World spread, taken by Hugh McLeod in 1976, courtesy and copyright of Hugh McLeod and Surfing World magazine.

Hugh McLeod shot of Russell Lewis worked into graphic print on ‘sloppy joe’ spotted at Deus Ex Machina surf swap 2009.

Russell Lewis with pro surfer and shark attack victim Bethany Hamilton in Hawaii, from the Soul Surfer movie credits.

Written by garycrockett

May 25th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Posted in 1970s

Allan Levick, Bondi 1957


A few months ago I posted a piece on Allan Levick and his hollow mal. Here he is in action at Bondi in 1957.

In 1957 Vern Cooper filmed his friend Allan Levick surfing at Bondi on his ‘hollow mal’, built by Gordon Woods. This is extremely rare footage, possibly unique, featuring the Australian hollow mal, which was a plywood adaption of the American ‘malibu’ style board that first appeared in Sydney in 1956. Big thanks to Allan Levick for providing the footage and Dennis Greaves for the digital transfer. Kind thanks to Vern Cooper for making his amazing footage available.

Written by garycrockett

May 24th, 2012 at 8:16 am

Posted in 1950s

The Australian Surfer 1961


From 1961, Australian surf magazines broke new ground in targeting young readers. Bronte surfer Lee Cross’s The Australian Surfer closely resembled John Severson’s pioneering Californian booklet The Surfer and only released two editions, while Jack Eden’s Surfabout and Bob Evan’s The Surfing World, both launched in 1962, became firmly entrenched in Sydney’s surfing consciousness.

The Australian Surfer, Volume 1, 1961 (courtesy Ron Saggers) took its size, page number and even cover image concept from John Severson’s The Surfer, which started life as a souvenir booklet of black and white movie stills in California the previous year.

First edition of The Surfer magazine, 1960, courtesy Ron Saggers. Note the Bennett surfboards stamp at top right. Barry Bennett, along with Ron Saggers’ uncle, the Sydney photographer Ron Perrett, maintained close contact with John Severson for many years. Right from the start, The Surfer was distributed locally through Barry Bennett surfboards.

Written by garycrockett

May 23rd, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Posted in 1960s