Memories of South Bondi Board Club
My first water craft was an Advanx surfoplane from the factory at Rushcutters Bay when I was about seven, with two mates we used to take off to the beach, Coogee by ourselves. As we got older we used to bike it to Maroubra, Bronte or Bondi .My first board was my dad’s, an old twelve foot toothpick painted with mission brown enamel, it took three to four of us to carry it the half a mile to the beach. Next came, at the age of 14, a sixteen foot racing toothpick from Norm Casey who had his shed behind his house at Hooper Street Randwick, Norm was in Bronte Surf Club as was Bill Wallace and his brother. Gordon Woods was in Nth Bondi,
1956 the American Surf Team came out to compete in the surf carnivals to coincide with the Melbourne Olympics and they brought their balsa boards, nothing would ever be the same when the likes of Mike “Bones” Bright. Tommy Zhan, Dennis Devany, Greg Noll and other members of the team demonstrated their skills. I ordered a hollow Okanui from Norm Casey; it was about ten foot, floated too high, was flighty and fell out sideways or arse first.
On an overcast day with windblown slop surf, I was with Denny O’Reagan and Kim Midleton at the south end of Bondi, we were taking it in turn with the Okanui board. A gangly rawboned bloke who knew Denny walked down had a chat and asked if we wanted to join the Board Club, his name Barry Ross. My understanding later was Ross Kelly, Barry Ross, Jack Mays Scott Dillion, Barry McGuigan, Noel Ward and others started the Club, it’s like over sixty years, but that’s the memory.
Ross Kelly did some modeling; in one he was it was a Rothmans Cigarette Commercial on TV, he rides a board in to the beach, runs up the beach, flops down with a glamorous babe, lights up a smoke. He was starting up a wholesale sports clothing company, later going retail, Barry Ross was in the Fire Brigade, Magoo McGuigan had just joined the Brigade, and prior to that he had worked for Tancred Brothers Wholesale Meat, as a butcher. Bluey Mays drove a cab, later getting his own plates in the ballot for returned service men, during the war he was in the Merchant Navy, switching to the Navy, Scotty owned his own milk run as did Noel Ward they were about to get serious about making boards and were trying to get a continuous supply of balsa. Prior to that Noel was making hollow boards as a sideline. Noel was a nude nut, he told me one day when he had sunburn on the head, he had been a seaman and contacted viral pneumonia at sea, days of fever and high body temperature resulted in the baldness.
Nearly all the older members had jobs that allowed them to have surf time, waiters on the interstate trains, Qantas stewards, night shift jobs, mail sorters, baggage handlers at Mascot, fire brigade, on the wharves.
Andy Cochran and Mick Dooley were mates from their days competing against each other as springboard and high divers; they worked as Movie Theatre Projectionists, six nights with only Saturday and Wednesday matinees,
Kevin “The Head” Brennan was there he would have been about 5 years old, never seemed to be in school, Rob Conneily came on the scene , a nice kid, and a great surfing talent from the get go, lived up near my cousins the Bosler’s, on Military Road, Dover Heights. The other younger ones from memory were Bobby Fel, Gary Moffat, Wally “The Walker” Newell. Warren Cornish, he was a quiet one about eight years old, well behaved. Then over the years. There were the Rule brothers, Geof and Tony, Geof “The Toad” Shara, had the first Sin Bin a Morris Minor panel van, his go, was pass off to an unsuspecting date, that the sparkling Porphyry Pearl was French Bubbly and not cheap LO. He went to the US lived in Santa Barbra for awhile in the 60s, and like the American who later came to Australia, Bob Cooper, dived for abalone there.
Geof later owned The Royal George at Picton for over 45 years, prior to that ran the Gap Inn at Watsons Bay and had a German Sheppard who would go off at any one preparing to take the leap to the rocks below. Toad should be in the record books for the most Porsches written off between Sydney and Picton, passed away 2-3 years ago,
There was the” Zulu” born in Israel, if he was in the sun for ten minutes would turn dark brown and he stayed that way, when still at school came off at Ben Buckler, swallowed a blue bottle landing, the boys got it out and got him to the old Eastern Suburbs Hospital near Queens Park to open up his airways, he later joined the Fire Brigade.
Bobby Barrett was an apprentice butcher at Mulligan’s in Hall Street. Bondi. Later did a bit of acting and modeling, worked as a bouncer for another old SBBC member Johnny Parkes a.k.a.” Harry Hungry Hair” at the Bondi Lifesaver. (search out Bondi Lifesaver, rock Venue) 1971 til 1980, worked on the door at one of the illegal Casinos, then became a writer, author, Robert G Barrett, the main character in his books. “Les Norton” Bobby passed at Terrigal a few years back.
There was no westies, easties, bullshit back then, the papers started that the surfies, rockers, westies, crap about 63 during the surf exploitation period . There were three fellows from near Parramatta in with SBBC they left their boards in a relatives garage near Bobby Fel’s place. Most of the surfers from the west went to either Cronulla or Manly, because of ease of access, train or train, ferry. Later on the north side Shane Steadman opened a board shop, he hailed from inland at Eastwood.
There was no localism, you kind of knew the blokes from Maroubra to Palm Beach and got along when you travelled. Bobby ”Serge” Evans from Manly, was a manufacturers agent calling on shops and stores and would drop into the Ward and Dillion’s shed, Wellington Lane, when he was in the area, this was before he got into surf films and founded the surf magazine. Surfing World, he had previously battled cancer. There was a little of the ” we’re better than you from the, north side “ it was smoothed out in later years with the board builders from the south side moving to Brookvale as the surfing industry grew. Gordon Woods was well respected at Brookvale.
It must be put in perspective, the population of Sydney was small by today’s standards. I had cousins dotted up and down the coast, I had been a cadet in Coogee, my dad although born in Manly before the Harbor Bridge was built and as a kid had a solid pine board, was in Coogee club and as a nipper I used to stay with my Aunty and cousins the Twight’s at Collaroy, all the boys were in the local club. Collaroy Plateau, was only ticks, kangaroos and snakes. A large number of the surfers in Sydney had connections up and down the coast.
Before I was old enough to drive, the older members would take you on trips, two to four cars at a time, Voodoo, The Bower, Longreef, Catherine Hill Bay, Cresent Head. The rule of thumb was Sydney to the Tweed and the unfucked Goldie, twelve to fourteen hours, the early years opened up virgin spots now household surfing names, Balina, Angourie, Evans Head. Seal Rocks.. Byron, original home to Wheels was festering in the sun, no work, the whaling station had closed decades before, the abattoir had closed. And no trendies. No, not in my backyard people.
I went overseas in early 1960, Canada the U.S. Mexico. Hawaii, coming home early 63, with a head full of stitches from Hawaii.
When I got back Wheels was planning a trip to Bells and Bobby Evans gave him a camera and lens for the trip. There was Magoo, he pulled the front passenger seat out of his V Dub replaced it with a milk crate to sleep stretched out, Roger Mulhull was with me along with Bobby Fel and one other, Wheels has three with him, I think Garry Moffat was one of them. We surfed Winkipop, Bells then it
blew out and we moved to Lorne for a week, surfing further west, then back to Bells for five days of very good surf.
A few years later Dave Spencer, Denis Lindsay and Max Bowman went to the States and brought back a charter to start Windandsea, so into the 1960s there was some dual membership of the two clubs, slowly over the next few years the South Bondi Board Club withered as any new blood went to either Windandsea, the Hill Crew or one of the Ramp Crews. There was defiantly a view by the older members of SBBC that if you used drugs you were a dickhead, taking into consideration that Vietnam was in full swing and Californians surfers, serving and on R&R, were making contact with surfers in Bondi, bringing a bit of gear along for the trip.
I went back to the U.S. in 1965, coming home in 68-69, the Club was now, to most a beautiful memory.