An evolving series where we transplant our Surfzone Specials from the Surfinfo News page into their own place on the Net. This allows surfers from the local area, or from all around the world to access them all year round.
The first Surfzone posted was Cronulla in August, 1999.
This was hugely successful, the local industry got behind it, the local paper, the Leader promoted it, and Surfinfo had a substantial increase of hits for that month! Obviously the local people on the Net checked it out. It gave us the impetus to expand the formula.
The following month we did the same thing with the Central Coast ...then it was Northern NSW.... Newcastle...soon every surfzone Australia wide will be highlighted till we cover all of our amazing continent....
Cronulla: Sydney's Surf City
Central Coast: A Timeless Pocket between the City and the Steel
Surfzone: Byron and Beyond
Surfzone: Newcastle and the Hunter Region
Surfzone: Wollongong and the South Coast
Surf Zone: Cronulla
Sydney's Surf City
Surf cities of the World. Huntington Beach, California. Torquay, Victoria. Haleiwa, Oahu. The Gold Coast, Qld. And Cronulla, NSW... after all, where in the World do you have one beach with a main street dripping with surfshops, and just behind, a bunch of factories all pouring out surf goods? There really are few places like it.
Since the Dawn
Surf photographers like Bob Weekes and Jack Eden had their eyes and long camera lenses aimed out to sea from the late Fifties. Cronulla's place in surfing history has been recorded like no other Australian beach. Steve Core, Peter Solness, Peter Simons, Dave Shaw, Chris Stroh (and now son), Greg McCarthy....so many contributed...
Photo #1: The Bob Weekes frame of a hardcore crew hanging round the small twilight beach fire. Just to the side, a tiny old shed with flotsam walls and corrugated iron roof. A few guys out catching the last of the small glassy conditions. This magic image was featured on an album cover of Surf Music at the time and maybe in an old mag too.
Photo #2: The Jack Eden frame that I've written about before.... legend Gary Birdsdall leaning against a vintage jalopy, looking James Deanish, perfectly representing that era, in my eyes anyway. A time when surfers knew we were doing something that no-one else had any idea about, something so cool......the rest of the world finally sussed what we were onto.
Half Moon of Waves
A crescent shaped beach situated in Sydney between Botany Bay and Port Hacking. The surf breaks range through all types. From the well named reefs of Voodoo, along the desolate beachbreaks of Green Hills and Wanda, past Elouera and the Alley, where Pete Smith used to dazzle with his precocious talent. On past the pitch of the Point, past the double black diamond runs of Shark Island to the gentle longboard fun of Shoes. So many nooks and crannies and banks to an eclectic crowd of surfers.
Postcard from the Kombi
July 28, 1999. Lunchbreak. Not a classic day in a pure surf sense. But typical of a winter midday. Lots of waves being ridden out of view to the north, a few excellent surfers shredding little Alley lefts and rights, one guy trying hard at the Point, two bodyboarders milking small lefts off the Island. A huge catamaran slides by in front of Jibbon Head and the National Park. Full sun. Light offshore zephyring. Just fun. No adrenalin. Back to Work.
So many characters and fantastic surfers have moved through here...if I overlook anyone, sorry, I've only mentioned those I bumped into or heard about over the years!
Terry Tumeth. Mick Moylan. Fast Frank Latta. The Glassons. Ross Longbottom. Steve Griffiths. Wayne Roach. Big Gary from Windansea. And Mark Aprilovic. Jim Banks. Ross Marshall and Craig Naylor. Richard "Dog" Marsh, still one of the best wave photos I've taken was of Dog in a beast at Blackrock. Glen Pringle still ripping, and Andrew Murphy, what a guy, what a waste!...
And so onto the new crew....longboarder Dane Wilson...dawn patroller Wylie Fowler, Chicka Jackson, and the new shredders...Luke Weinert, Blake Johnstone, Kirt Flintoff, Todd Mingram, Andy King....Fletch Hallier, Marty Williams, Craig Cordingly....
Most Famous Son
But I guess Mark Occhilupo is still the most famous Cronulla local. Kurnell raised, out amongst the oil and Capt Cook's first landing spot. From the hottest young kid on the Circuit to the Raging Bull. Always performance based surfing. Born again as a power in surfing and now a World Champion. What an achievement! Ask Occy where he comes from, he'll probably still say Cronulla.
The Cassidy Influence
Graham "Syd" Cassidy, another local son whose name is known and respected worldwide in surfing. The consumate administrator. Ran the Coke and the ASP for years, since the start almost. Pulled off the only, I think, night surfing contest ever. So many people wanted to spend that Saturday night watching the world's best surfers that the Kingsway and surrounds were gridlocked.
Bringing the Coke to Cronulla was highly successful, great waves most of the time. The crowds jumped trains and whatever to get to the beach or the Point to see the likes of Martin Potter, pictured surfing the Island, while the contest continued on the beachbreak. (Pottz boards always came outa Caringbah too.)
Favourite son of the Sixties
Bobby Brown died tragically in a mad moment all those years ago. He was apparently just a great guy, a close friend to so many, none more so than "Blond" Bobby Brown who still surfs and shapes excellent boards by the shores of Lake Myall.
The late Bob Brown's surfstyle was well chronicled...Alby Falzon's photos of a quasimodo under a perfect Angourie lip...a body language arch on a tiny wave at Blue Bay....
His other qualities are not so widely known... Midget Farrelly described him to me as: " a Prince of a kid...with everything going for him in the same manner as Kelly Slater." Midget and the young natural became great friends, Midget recognising Bobby's surfing talents and enjoying his company. He still speaks of him with obvious admiration and fondness.
My most vivid memory of Bobby Brown was something he pulled off in a NSW State final somewhere 'round '63,'64 I guess. And State Titles were the big event in those days.
I was a young wide eyed grommet in a crowd of hundreds sitting in the natural ampitheatre of North Avalon. It was an outside Rocks day and only Midget and Bob Brown were in the water late in the day.
(G&S man Dave Wilson told me recently that the reason for this was that in the six-man final, the judges couldn't split Midget and Bobby. So they sent just the two of them out for possibly the first ever man-on-man. Dave's opinion was that Bobby had done enough in the final and that Midget knew it, even waxing Bobby's board for him. Midget actually has a photo of this but wasn't so sure if they had tied, or if Bobby was just rushing after his semi and he was helping him get ready.)
So out they went. My memory was of a big perfect left coming, Midget being in "the spot" but clearly nodding for Bobby to take it. (As a naive youth I had always thought Midget had made a huge error but knowing the before mentioned background, and hearing from Midget that he recalls they were both just having fun out there, puts another slant on it.)
Anyway, Bob Brown took off and drove way deep, straight down. As the curl pitched out well over his head, he delayed his backside turn by doing a spinner! A 360 degree spin of his body, not the nine foot whatever board! Then he cranked his bottom turn just before the lip hit him.... I remember everyone going wild, hooting and hollering, I remember Midget, sitting outside, twisting around to shore, obviously trying to figure what Bobby had done to bring the huge crowd jumping to their feet.
Bobby was a great talent who proved a forerunner to so many outstanding surfing personalities and athletes who have all, in their own way, put this Surfzone well and truly on the world surfing map.
Between Sydney and Newcastle: A Timeless Pocket of Action
The coastal edge from Ocean Beach to Norah Head is the part we're concerned with. Forget the Yeramba tracts of tree razed suburbs with American names. Given time they'll blend in. Forget the highway to hell.
The real Central Coast is the bellbirds; the fruit & veg shop on the way to Mac's Point (see Postcard from the Kombi at left); the local brotherhoods, like the Monies, the Harris' and the Wintons, then the McCoy crew, the Nirvana crew...
For surfers the attraction has been, and still is, the variety in surf. Waves shaped by a twisting, varigated coastline with swell traps, rivermouths, wedging rock shelfs, peaceful havens.
The Original Ocean Beach Crew.
The Monies, John, Bill and Bruce were a part of the most well known crew from the Central Coast, right through the Sixties, the Ocean Beach guys.
It was weird to be sitting on the Forresters pathway last year, devouring a pie, and having to move out of the way for a young surfer heading out for an OK-ish Banzai day, his father heading up the point to watch. The father and I hadn't seen each other for a decade or two, but still recognised each other and renewed acquaintances. It was Bill Monie, who'd been living at Coffs, battling skin cancers. Chris Rae at Down the Line said Bill was a better footy player pound for pound than John. A fearless fullback with unlimited natural talent. But I loved his hang tens at Noosa. A natural footer, he always lazily draped the right foot more forward than the left.
However his older brother John Monie was famous for making the big breaks, both from the five eighth position and from elsewhere in life. The star at Woy Woy, then the Cronulla Sharks and Parramatta, coach of the all conquering English League team, Wigan, then over to the Auckland Warriors.
Ask the older locals what they remember John for and it will probably be his fearless attack of a huge wave they saw him catch on the big outside Left at Forresters. Long before legropes. With that huge swim if you slipped up. Or as the guy that cut them a lot of slack when the essential stop after a big night at the Florida Hotel was his pizza takeaway on the Terrigal beachfront.
There were many others, like Jack Maloney, Jack Mutton, Spotto, and Colin Wall, who seems to have always been there, surfing, glassing...
A Day in the Sun
Norah Head had a period there in the Eighties I guess where its surfers were a force to reckon with. Glen Winton and his brother, who was as hot on a motorbike as he was in the surf. Glen was Mr X long before The Files, an enigma, first guy I ever saw go up whitewater; and then there was Harry and all the other Harrys...John's in Byron shaping and plotting other things, Peter's got Beachin, while Weed's floating around Asia with a digital video filming beautiful ladies!
And along the way. so many other hot surfers
Mark Sainsbury - jeez - what a surfer he was! And such a basically nice guy....out of so many photos I could have chosen for this page, it had to be Sanga. Unfortunately this Avoca Point shot doesn't show a floater, the move he made his own, made a part of surfing you had to learn if you were to impress. His link with Bill Cilia of Nirvana was one of the classic surfer/shaper combos where respect flows both ways and so much more comes out of it than just good boards.
So many guys came through the Nirvana school of surfing and philosophy. Being guided by Bill while getting their boards shaped.
So obviously the next name that drops into my head is Sanga's best mate, Ross Clarke-Jones. We all knew he was fearless long before he and T-Ray got cleaned up by that wave during their epic tow-in session at Outside Log Cabins, and Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, got Clarkey to sign his poster. John Brumfield's cutback of Clarkey at Little Beach is what I would have him sign.
The 2001 Eddie Aikau Memorial Contest at Waimea Beach was taken out this year by Clarkey. From the Wamberal beachbreaks to winning the biggest big wave comp in the World is a huge journey.
"My devotion to this event has been total for the past 12 years," said an ecstatic Clarke-Jones, now aged 34. "I've wanted it so hard and for so long that I think I've put too much pressure on myself and my past performances have been a bit disappointing.
"To win has been a dream for so long that I had almost given up on it. It's not even the money. I've spent 10 times that amount just staying in Hawaii every winter waiting for the event to happen. It's purely the prestige. To be able to say you've won The Eddie.
Another who's still tearing, and doing the WCT Tour Placing 23rd in 2000), is Shane Powell. Rip Curl thought he was cruisin' so they dropped him, next year Powelly had the breaks and showed what a great surfer he is. I just came across some photos I had of him as a grom, tearing up Banzai in a Victory wetsuit that made the cover of SW when he was maybe fifteen, sixteen.
And the flashy, punky surfing of Dave Neilson, who was fun to pick up at the boat ramp at Ettalong and take out round the cliffs for a day's surfing. Aerials and tubes on sucking rock ledges.
There was the Geoff McCoy era when the Sydney electricity conductors of Narrabeen/Bondi plugged into Avoca. They were amped up, brought a competitive charge, some plugged in, others turned off. The presence of surfers like Cheyne Horan had to raise the local standard.
Bryce Ellis, who surfed so great on the Surfing Wild Australia experience of Red Bluff and points west, Bruce Turner and Paul Green, always around, Sam Chell, 4 Unit Maths and a merchant seaman so he can get in plenty of surfing hours ... so many fine surfers, still getting their share.
Then Drew Courtney came out of nowhere to win the world's most prestigious junior comp, the Pro Junior. He took huge chances and made them all, a super gutsy approach that came off.
Adrian Buchan's the charger now, a World Groms Title was followed by numerous other wins, with the HB O&E Pro Junior a standout...and still so much ahead of him...
The kneeboard standout on the Coast has to be Terrigal's Baden Smith, current World Pro Champion and Australian Amateur Champion is a strange mixture but underlines his talent...
... the bodyboarders have always had the presence of a legend in Ben Holland, while Maroubra's Bullet McKenzie moved in a few years back to take advantage of the triple sucking mutant waves to be found.
Bruce Raymond, Quiksilver Int head honco now, was part of the Avoca Beach McCoy gang back then. Mostly just went surfing.
He rang me in my official capacity at SW mag one day and said if a certain bank manager rang could I tell him about Bruce being the No. 1 salesman at McCoy Surfboards, earning a huge salary, a solid citizen, etc etc...
Now Bruce was desperate to spend another season in Hawaii, plus he wanted to buy a caravan for when he returned. Trouble was, he had no job to speak of. Now, as no-one was at McCoys that week, Bruce sat by the phone, put on a voice and told the bank what they wanted to hear. I backed him up and the cash was advanced.
Despite Bruce's velvet smooth surfing talents, contest success or huge sponsorship dollars didn't come his way in the Islands, so his return to the Coast meant a caravan to live in but no way to make good on the repayments.
Only a few hundred left in the pocket, no sign of a job...what else was there to do but hit the midweek meeting at the Gosford Races and put it all on a longshot? Yep, the bloody horse won! Score one for the risk takers!
Avoca Boardriders lead the way
In a huge example to the rest of the surfing world, the Avoca Boardriders had a fundraising night in '99. So what?
Well, the profits from the night, apparently in the order of $6,000 didn't go towards flags, comp rashvests or party nights. The proceeds were donated to the Central Coast Youth Suicide Committee, the largest single donation that support group has ever received!
In an area with a well chronicled problem in this regard, Surfinfo is full of admiration for all those involved with the club, and the sponsors who supported them. Congratulations all.
So the Central Coast has always had this hugely diverse gaggle of surfers developing out of a beautiful coastline. As long as the bellbirds keep pinging away I'll keep coming back...
Surf Zone: Byron and Beyond
The hook that caught me was the photo of an old shack nestled in amongst pandanus palms, overlooking the surf. It was something I had only dreamed existed in the Hawaiian Islands. Surf utopia!
This was my first awareness of the North Coast surfzone, a set of photos taken at Wategos in an early Sixties SW. The main photo I recall was of Rodney Sumpter, Nat was in there as a skinny kid too.
The North Coast run had begun.
Surfers from all over Australia began the pilgrimage to the points, a migration that has only increased over the years. The word spread overseas and now Byron especially is an essential stop on the international backpacker's must-visit itinerary.
The lure of the natural environment was always there for surfers, after all, within a few k's you have Byron Pass, Broken Head, Lennox Head....legendary surf spots.
Situated just off the Pacific Highway... an hour or so south of the Gold Coast...a day's drive north from Sydney. Australia's most easterly surfzone.
An idyllic mix of rolling green hinterlands, long uncrowded beautiful beaches, abundant holiday accommodation, raging nightlife...... no wonder the World's youth zero in.
Mind you, reality will show that getting a wave to yourself at the fabled breaks isn't that easy. After all, you can't have the above mix without there being a huge floating population on hand for when the swells hit, as in Terry Willcocks' classic Byron Bay Pass lineup ... (the poster is available through Perfect Point, see link below)...
The Byron/Lennox area was pivotal in the evolution of the modern surfboard. When Bob McTavish, Gary Keyes, Chris Brock moved here in the winter of '68, followed by George Greenough, Nat Young and the rest of the crew, things started happening in the water. In one year boards went from almost eight foot to sub six foot.
Surfboards started getting smaller and smaller in waves which were of a quality that allowed for intense exploration of the design boundaries.
In addition to the the liquid testing zones, a thriving surfboard manufacturing centre was developing rapidly. This supplied the nut and bolts to allow the esoteric meanderings. The result was the shortboard. And a whole new way of surfing. (And when a lot of surfers went back to longer boards, again Byron has been a focal point for that movement with many of the major longboard makers located there.)
While there had always been good local surfers in the Byron to Ballina zone, they really started coming to the fore in the late Seventies. Gary Timperley came out from under a car in the family garage on THE Byron corner and made his mark nationally. Even scoring a third in the '79 Stubbies. The next crew emerging didn't have to do it on their own...Noel Graham, Rod Anderson...the Lennox guys started ripping, with the Myers Bros leading the way... then Owen Walker, Craig Cornish, Sasha Sleigh and that crew, followed by Craig Holley, Shaun Munro, Shane Lawson, Guy Walker, Brendan Margieson, Danny Wills....and many many more...
Danny's dad Mick Wills grew up surfing Byron and his son was destined to be a great surfer. To achieve third in the World Rankings last year, behind Kelly and Mick Campbell was just a fantastic result.
Margo's dad also surfs, but again the son has the world watching his power moves and stylish approach, as shown in this photo (by Bruce Channon) at a secluded local cove.
There's been a huge amount of surfers who have moved to the area and made it their home. Former World Women's Champ Pauline Menczer, Rusty Miller, Geoff McCoy, Michael Cundith, Cheyne Horan, a list too long... and on most days longboards and shortboards seem to co-exist, probably due to the family links between the surfing generations.
It's an amazing part of the world and anyone wanting to read more detail about the early aboriginal years in the area should seek out "Our Land Our Spirit" from the North Coast Institute for Aboriginal Education. And for more surfing history Terry Willcocks' excellent stories on Byron appeared in Surfing World back issues Numbers 205 and 227.
If you want to visit this area, you can check the places to stay in
Surfinfo's North Coast Accommodation Guide.
The local surfing industry plays a huge role in Australian surfing, so click into the following companies linked to Surfinfo, cruise into their pages and websites..... continue the journey....
Friar Tuck Kneeboards
Plus we've compiled a comprehensive listing of backpacker hostels, mid range and luxury accommodation....email us for info on the many, varied and excellent, places to stay when you're around the Byron to Ballina area... Email: email@example.com
Surf Zone: Newcastle
Another Australian Surf City
The guys from silverchair surf. The Johns Brothers, stars of the Knights ARL team surf. And of course four time World Surfing champion Mark Richards surfs. Apart from surfing what do they have in common? They're all Newcastle born and bred.
Newcastle is just a few hours up the highway from Sydney but it is very different in nature. Tough times have helped shape the town's identity. Like during the earthquake of 1988 that took 13 lives; and the recent job losses at the city's largest employer, BHP's steel works. A town of honest workers who pulled together when it was necessary. Then partied hard. And surfed even harder.
And because it's a city right on the beach, there is a very obvious and successful surfing industry there.
Newcastle Beach spray by Daniel Joyce
The Hunter Surf Cluster Inc are a group of surfers pushing for an artificial reef at Stockton Beach. Their plan promotes a symbiotic harmony that hopefully will supply quality surf, on a beach that normally closes out in any reasonable swell, plus protect the disappearing shoreline, a source of great angst for the city elders.
The Cluster commissioned Newcastle Uni to survey the local surf businesses. The result came in showing an industry that supplies 400 workers and turns over $37 million. An extremely substantial influence on the local ecomony. Larger than many would have thought. So the reef plan continues to gather momentum.
Newcastle's natural surf is not awesome in the Hawaii/Indo/Gold Coast Points vein. But it is consistent. And the morning offshores seem to funnel down through the Hunter Valley more often than at most east coast locales. Spots like Merewether can be incredible on their day, out behind the baths, peeling way down the beach.
Over the years there have been many outstanding surfers from this area...Ted Harvey, Robbie Woods...the first wave, the guys who led the way...then the next era, with Bob Lynch, Roger Clements, Steve Butterworth, Col Smith, Peter McCabe....all excellent surfers who provided a platform that one of surfing's greatest ever ambassadors, Mark Richards, was able to launch from. (photo above of MR by BC/Surfinfo) MR's fantastic World Title victories amazed many people due to the fact that he came from an "out of the way" area. That was only the case if you were unaware of the number of good surfers this area has always produced. And continues to produce...Luke Egan, Simon Law (pictured below at a point not far away from his home by BC/Surfinfo), Nicky Woods, Matt Hoy and on to the new brigade...Travis Lynch, Mitchell Ross and Rhys Smith .... then there are the longboarders like Marty McMillan, Josh Ferris, Jye Byrnes, Matt Kay and Belinda Baggs...
And Newcastle has always supported great surfing. Each year the world's best gather to provide a sporting highlight that attracts crowds by the thousands. And the SIDS charity night that raised so much money at this year's Surfest underlines that the city's surfers and supporters have also got a big heart. With highlights like Kelly Slater bidding against Andrew Johns for a signed surf photo, everyone took part to make the thing work.
The Newcastle based surf companies listed below are represented on the Net and linked to Surfinfo. They have either full web sites, or web pages, that let you learn more about their products and services. There will be more added this month, but please continue the journey through the Hunter & surrounds and see what these enterprises have to offer you :
Kuta Lines Surfwear
The Redhead company that sells surfwear worldwide
Latest satellite pic of Australia
Surf Zone: Wollongong
and the NSW South Coast
Attack of the Killer Dolphins
Surfing alone, early one morning, on a small beachbreak at the mouth of Lake Conjola. The pod swam by me quickly and continued up into the lee of Green Island. When they returned a little later, they stopped right underneath me. There were so many dolphins that I couldn't see the sandy bottom for their black bodies.
Then two big old guys surfaced by me. Right by me. One either side. Their eyes were looking straight at me. I thought: "This _ is _ weird! Why are they hanging around me here?" They weren't doing their usual fun-frolic thing. They were just .... stopped!
Then, as soon as they'd put the fear in me, they moved on again. Charging south down the beach jumping and surfing the waves. Very weird.
The South Coast is like that. It's a place to experience nature. You can still find a surf to yourself, but unless your timing is just right you're not going to surf alone at the better known breaks.
Certainly not at Sandon Point, just north of Wollongong and the scene each year of the very successful Konica Skins. Not at Wreck Bay, which has to be the easiest left in the world to get tubed at. (Though the photo below of Dog Marsh was far from an easy day.) Nor at Merimbula Bar, where the locals come out of the hills for miles around whenever a south swell fans along that sandy rivermouth.
Places to Stay
The accommodation and amenities are very different here to what you'd expect from, say, the Gold Coast. Wollongong's got a resort, but that's it really. Further down it's motels, guest houses, cabins and tent sites. Lots of great places, just minus the hype and concrete. "Was that tent site with or without kangaroos?"
In the Sixties, Wollongong's standout surfer was the stylish Kevin Parkinson (no relation to Joel Parko, I think?), others were Ken Middleton, who stills surfs in longboard comps & is a well known Sydney fashion photographer, and one of the first to surf Pipe, John Batchledor.
The next era saw guys like Paul "Dirty Face" Brooks, shown in this 1979 cuttie, lead the way for a super hot crew who really put Wollongong on the surfing map:
Ocean & Earth's Brian Cregan, the Byrne Brothers - Phil, Dave and Critta; Robbie Page, and the guy who owned Pipe, Terry Richardson. Over the years, we took a lot of hot surfers down there to photograph, from Simon Anderson through Tom Carroll to Luke Egan, Occy, etc, but none of them surfed the tube there as good as Richo (photo at right of Terry, and all other South Coast photos by Bruce Channon).
The current era of South Coast surfers is represented by guys like Gerringong's Todd Prestage (shown surfing, at beginning of story, on the beachbreak at Sussex Inlet), then there's the power goofy, Michael Lowe, while Kate Skarrat has also been surfing and competing well. Along the way were guys like Jake Spooner, Chad Ryan and many others....
Quite a few Sydney people recognised a better lifestyle to be had down south and moved in over the years. Surf photographer Peter Simons lurks in the hills behind Bawley Point, while former World Womens champ Pam Burridge and husband/shaper Mark Rabbidge have nestled into the side of the hill at Bendalong.
Postcard from the Kombi
I know I'm going to have a good day everytime I crest the hill south of Kiama and the panorama of Werri Beach spreads out before me. (The Kombi is parked at the south end of that beach). This valley is the classic postcard of Australiana. Bordering hinterland to the west, rolling countryside dotted with a few red roofed farmhouses & sheds, and a crescent beach with a nor'east protected end and a rock strewn right point on the southern edge. The single story housing huddled against the beach.
Produced by Bruce Channon
PO Box 128, Mona Vale, NSW 2103, Australia.
Tel: (02) 9997 2657
Created by Surfinfo
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