Surfing at Redhead – Starting at 1963

Surfings early days.

Hawaiians rode waves on wooden hand carved boards, royalty standing up on 16 foot Olo’s and commoners on shorter Alaia boards mostly ridden prone. Peruvians rode waves in when out catching fish on boards made from bundles of reeds tied up.

Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku delivered surfing to the rest of the world in the early 1930’s, visiting many countires demostrating his surfing skills on a hand carved 10 foot solid wooden finless surfboard. Duke demonstrated the way of the aloha lifestyle and the rest of the world caught on. His famous quote – “out of the water I am nothing”.

Around 1935, Tom Blake, Duke’s good friend and fellow swimmer, drilled holes through one of his heavy redwood boards and covered it with a wood veneer, making it a lot lighter and managable. Blake then made a hollow chambered board, put a fin on it and then patented the model and had it produced by the L.A. Ladder Company and others. This lighter more manouverable board won races, was used as the standard surf rescue board and then developed into a better wave riding board. Tom also wrote the surfers bible Hawaiian Surfriders 1935. Tom worshiped at the church of the open sky and his theory was nature=god.

Around the early 1950’s Californians Joe Quigg, Bob Simmons and Matt Kivlin developed the balsa and fibreglass Malibu Chip and then Dale Velzy starts manufacturing surfboards on a large scale.

Around 1955 the polyurethane foam board was developed and surfing  grew like wild fire. In 1963 Midget Farelly wins the prestigeous Makaha championship and then the 1964 World Championships in Manly with style.

At the same time the surf culture grows with Phil Edwards showing style and manouvers and Miki Dora showing us surfing style with attitude. Dora summed up his feelings here – ” I drop in, set the thing up and behind me, all this stuff goes over my back: The screaming parents, teachers, police, priests, politicians – They’re all going over the falls head first … and when it starts to close out,  I pull out the back , pick up another wave and do the same goddamn thing”

In 1967 Bob McTavish with Nat Young and George Greenough push surfing into the more serious involvment way of surfing by shortening and thinning and lightening boards with V in the bottom and so they now turn faster. Dick Brewer with team rider Gerry Lopez refine the shorter boards and prove they go in Hawaii’s powerful waves when Brewer narrowed the width of the tail.

From there we got into smaller and lighter boards, all sorts of shapes and settle on the Simon Anderson Tri Fin as the most popular. Four time world chamion Mark Richards rode a combination of board types with success in competitions and his twin fin is still popular.

These days the old  and the new co-exist (well almost) with the theory of ride what you like or horses for courses and its common for surfers to have several types of surfing equipment.

My own involvement in surfing started in 1964 as a 14 year old,  some of my mates started getting boards and I was surfing with a surf-o-plane. I was lucky to live across the road from the beach. I came home from school one day and my Mum had just returned from walking the dog on the beach and said there was a board washed up down at the second creek. I rushed down and pushed the finless dinged up balsa pig into a few foamies and got hooked and went home and patched it up.

My first surfing lesson:

I never hesitate to pass this lesson on to new starters.

I paddled out into the lineup with the local Redhead mob and straddled my board eagerly waiting my first wave.

A loud voice boomed out at me – “Crow…. F%#@ Off down there…” and I saw a finger pointing away from the rest of the pack towards the deserted southern part of the beach. I stayed away until I could handle the board and its a pity that learners don’t get this same kind of expert advice these days.

Within weeks I had pestered my parents with promises of doing well at school and as an early birthday and christmas presents, into buying me a new board. (I just went to school to draw waves in my books and my birthday and christmas were still 6 and 8 months away respectivly)

I then got to order a 9’3″ Custom Warren Johnson – and it was awsome. No one these days seems to remember Warren’s board shop near Hamilton one of the older Redhead crew put me onto him and I still think this one was great and wish I still had it.

Crow’s first 2 boards 1964

Crows first 2 boards 1964

Crows first 2 boards 1964

We could’nt wait to get pictures of ourselves surfing, Peter Kuba paddles out with a box browie camera in a plastic bag in his teeth and takes my photo. I am unsure how the camera survived from the look of the wave coming at him. I was wearing the state of the art wet suit of the time, a sleaveless singlet of 5mm hard neopreme rubber that rasped your arm pitts off and you had to put a T shirt under it or risk sawing your arms of as you paddled.

 Crow water shot Redhead 1964
Crow water shot Redhead 1964

Crow water shot Redhead 1964

The Redhead surf crew consisted of varied aged guys,  and I was one of the younger guys then, but I still got to go places with the older guys. Seal Rocks was uncrowded and camping on the beach with an open fire was just great.

Camping and surfing at Seal Rocks 1964

Seal Rocks 1964

Seal Rocks 1964

Crow surfing seal Rocks 1965
Geoff surfing seal Rocks 1965

Geoff surfing seal Rocks 1965

I eventually got my own car and what a beast – yep a Renault R4 a whole 750 cc’s of power and 3 speeds. However it did get us up the coast to Green Knob near Old Bar for 50 miles a gallon at an average of 50 miles an hour. By this time boards had thinned out but not yet shortened. The board I had here was a Gordon Woods 9 foot stringerless mud resin with a flexable Greenough style fin bought from Ray Richards Surf Shop.

Crow & R4 Green Knob 1967 Photos by Alan Swadling

Crow & R4 Green Knob 1966

Crow & R4 Green Knob 1966

Crow surfing Green Knob 1967
Crow Green Knob 1967

Crow Green Knob 1967

Around late 1968 boards started getting shorter . Here Marty and I pose for a shot with our new boards before heading away to try them. Marty had a 7ft10 inch black railed Gordon Woods Pintail and I had an 8ft red railed Sam Egan Tracker with a clear plastic movable fin.

Martin and Crow 1969

Martin and Crow 1969

The new shorter narrow tail boards went fine. Crow 1969 on a Sam Egan Tracker Surfboard
Crow 1969 on Tracker Redhead

Crow 1969 on Tracker Redhead

 Around 1975 the Redhead crew settled on rounded pintails with channels, made by Martin Littlewood and Col Smith. Marty still makes surfboards and other surf stuff at Margaret River WA under the name Delta Designs.
Crow 1975 with 6’5″ Delta Design Rounded Pin Channel Bottom.
Crow 1975 Delta Design

Crow 1975 Delta Design

In the 80’s Mals and windsurfing added variety to surfing. Here is my stuff from my garage back then.

Crow & Board Collection around 1983
Crow and his Boards 1985

Crow and his Boards 1985

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