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Category Archives: Features

Bells Easter contest souvenir 1975

It was 1975 and Rip Curl was sponsoring the Bells Easter surfing contest for the third year. The co-sponsor was Midget Farrelly’s Surfblanks. The Breakway team, including Ted Bainbridge, Keith Platt and Harry Hodge, produced the official program that year. You can download a digital version of the historic publication on this site.

It features a potted history of Rip Curl and Surfblanks; a rundown on the star competitors, including an impressive list of internationals; a description of the scoring system; and photos and explanations of some of the manoeuvres the crowd could expect to see.

Australian Surfers’ Association president Stan Couper in his official message said: “This year, despite the unfavorable economic climate, thanks to our friends at Rip Curl Pty. Ltd. being joined by Midget Farrelly’s Surfblanks Manufacturing Company, Surfblanks Pty. Ltd., we have been able to offer total prizemoney in excess of $6000.”


Classic Malibu rising from the ashes

Classic Malibu man Peter White must surely hold the unenviable title for losing the most boards in one night.

His Classic Malibu surf shop and factory was burnt down about midnight 27 January, taking with it more than 300 finished boards and 200 blanks along the way.

The only saving grace was the survival of his favourite, 40-year-old sander and his templates.

The good news is that Classic Malibu is back up and running at 16 Mary St, Noosaville, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

“No one was there and no one hurt, thank goodness,” his wife Janet, said of the fire that gutted the shop in Eumundi Rd, Noosaville, home to Classic Malibu for the past 15 years.

“The fire started in the adjoining dry-cleaning business, but unfortunately that didn’t help our cause with insurance.

“Everything was destroyed. Blanks in his shaping room had fallen and for some reason hadn’t burnt, and the templates were underneath. Also saved was his precious planer, which he had had for over 40 years; apparently they don’t make them like that any more.

“The boards lost in the blaze included all the shop stock, boards in for repair and others boards we had been looking after.”

White, who has been making boards for 45 years, started Classic Malibu in 1987, shortly after moving to Noosa.

Before shifting states, White made mainly short boards for Balin in Victoria. Once at Noosa he realised the points were suited to mals and for years was the only local manufacturer meeting the market demand for long boards.

The new shop Classic Malibu has a growing number of boards for sale as well as wetsuits and accessories.

Peter White has just about caught up replacing custom orders lost in the fire as well as making stock boards for the shop. He’s also taking new custom orders.

Call Classic Malibu on 0754 743 122 or go to

White, originally of Seaford, Victoria, featured several times in Breakway. In early 1977 Breakway editor Keith Platt caught up with him at Braunton, a small town in north Devon, England.

White and John Hall, of Dee Why, Sydney, were at that stage working for Britain’s leading board supplier, Tiki Surfboards.

Platt’s story – European winter – and its wide-ranging look at the British surf scene – “English surfers are starting to think about secret spots … many surfers still pass up a well designed stick if it has bubbles in the glass or a marked blank in preference to a sleek, unblemished, glassy red phallus that will never find its full potential until Waimea moves north into the Atlantic” – are in Breakway No. 40, March 1977.

Bali a withering paradise

In the May-June 1977 issue of Breakway, R. Langlois (Rob) and G. Nugent (maybe Gary) gave their impressions after trips to Bali 18 months apart. Rob was credited as a regular contributor to the magazine throughout 1977. (There is still a business Rob Langlois Photography in Melbourne). The article is prophetic: the authors capture the changing mood and landscape of Bali and the Balnese, particularly in the coastal (surfing) areas that attracted ever growing numbers of tourists.


Bali, still beautiful, but 18 months has taken its toll. While the landscape remains much the same, western society and its ways are becoming more evident in the people every day, especially the youth.

This, I am afraid, is to be the main downfall of Bali as a paradise. If it hasn’t happened already, it will be in the near future. Prices rocketing sky high, western rip-offs appearing on the scene and last, but not least, the dreaded rise of the multi-storey, hotels – the backbone of capitalism itself. Work on the hotel at Nusa-Dua (one of the best beaches on the Island) is already underway, and the word is, Uluwatu could be next. My god, they’ll be everywhere!

Getting back to the culture change of the people, particularly to that of the 18-22 year olds (who are by the way, avid Bruce Lee and Charles Bronson fanatics). The temperaments of these guys would not have been so a few years ago. It’s frightening and yet funny to see groups of these matinee idols trying to lay their macho image on you. Two nights in one week there were fights between local heavies and Aussies at the Legian Disco. Apparently the locals were becoming a bit too friendly for the liking of some Aussie babes.

Also, there’s the incident of a friend, who accidently knocked down a Balinese girl on his motor bike. Although she blatantly stepped into his path, he could not leave the scene until a small price was agreed upon by a rather pushy group of ‘Balinese Bronsons’.

Speaking from experience, hiring a guide in search of that perfect point break may turn out for the worst, if one is not too careful.

After finding ourselves stranded on a deserted beach, left for dead by our friendly-faced guide we also discovered he had also exited with a hot little handful of money, while we were surfing. This was Rodney’s second time unlucky after already losing a $200 watch, camera and clothes the week before. Fortunately we found our way back before nightfall, thanks to the Adidas ripple-sole – amazingly easier to backtrack than bare feet.

Don’t expect Uluwatu to be at its surf movie primo every day either. There are places to find elsewhere that hold the same, if not bigger, swells and are much more organised with power to match. Also, breaks at offshore Islands on a full moon will certainly separate the men from the boys (or the sane from the insane). At some of these places you pay your landing fee to the chief of the Island. (Donation for the upkeep of the palm trees, I suppose) and if you decide not to pay don’t expect to surf, it’s as simple as that. It’s not bad though, especially if you can handle being stared at for 24 hours a day – ideal for the true exhibitionist, that’s for sure.


I asked a Balinese kid why he wore jeans and shirts when it was so hot.

He replied: “We only want to look white”. To them, “West is best” and you won’t change their minds about that. The thought of flashy cars and shopping centres 10 storeys high excites them greatly and many would give their right arm to get to Australia. Let’s only hope that the current progress rate will ease a little, so these kids can appreciate this true paradise before it’s really too late.

Chris Scurrah in paradise: just another day at the office

View Surfing in the Mentawai Islands


The most obvious face of Australia’s multi-billion dollar surfing industry is easy to recognise. Clothing fashions, surfboards and shop fronts are filled with recognisable brand names.

Surfboards and the lifestyle they represent are used as props by a list of manufacturers from outdoor vehicles to energy drinks.

Make no mistake: surfing is big business. At the heart of the industry is the activity itself, surfing. But the number of surfboards being ridden at the local break is just the tip of the marketing iceberg.

Over the past decade the number of companies offering surfers perfect waves overseas has risen in direct proportion to the drop in airfares. Surf charter boats and surf land camps are a lucrative industry add-on, with companies operating at exotic surf locations around the world. While Bali was the target dream of Australian surfers in the 1970s it has almost become regarded as no more of an experience than going interstate.

Surfers horizons now have no boundaries and “exploration” is being done using Google Earth and fast boats. No place is too remote. The string of islands off Sumatra is a growing destination for surfers, with a thriving charter boat industry already operating out of the bustling south coast port city of Padang and surf camps on some of the offshore islands, mainly in the Mentawai group.

Mt Eliza man Chris “Scuzz’ Scurrah has been running surf charters from Padang for the past 13 years and has learnt to operate in a commercial environment that is very different from the tightly-regulated one here in Australia.

Scurrah was in the forefront of the surf boat charter industry and this early immersion in the Indonesian way of doing business is one of the biggest assets of his Sumatran Surfariis.



Cactus: waking up to the desert

Visit the Cactus Gallery

It took me about 45 years to get to Cactus. Of course I’d long heard about the place west of Adelaide and its uncrowded waves on the edge of the Nullarbor Plain.

The guys that first got me into surfing went there on an annual basis. Back in those days, the late 1960s, they were looking for company in the water.

They regularly saw sharks, came in, waited a while, and paddled back out.

In those early days they had sat around a campfire with filmmaker Paul Witzig and Wayne Lynch.

Witzig, concerned for the environment, later went on to establish the camping ground. A surfing break is named after him.

But as time went by the stories filtering back about localism and agro in the water took the shine off the lure that had made it somewhere I wanted to go.

It was the humans not the fins that put me off. I finally made cactus at Easter 2012.

Driving out of Melbourne before dawn, Cactus veteran Kevin Rydberg regaled me with tales of waves and fish, mice plagues and, of course, sharks. He’s a big bloke who’s paddled a kayak from Victoria to Tasmania, worked in the mines and done his share of diving. But he tells a self-effacing tale about jumping off the pier just across the point from Cactus and then scrambling back up when he realised his mates remained with feet firmly planted on the boards.

Another friend of mine had been “chased out of the water” a few years before I went and vowed never to return.

I’ve been to sharky places before. One of our home breaks is opposite Seal Rocks off Phillip Island and is no doubt visited by sharks that prey on the seals.

Board maker Mick Pierce eyeballed a great white while on a stand-up two years or so ago. He was so surprised (Mick that is) that he fell off and just about flew back onto the deck to paddle back to shore.

Then we had the dead whale episode. The beast’s putrefying remains fed a visible outgoing flow of burley that kept surfers at bay for about four weeks. A couple of bone collectors were fined $16,000 for souveniring parts of the whale, which eventually returned in some form or another to the sea.

Rolling in to Cactus was for me like a dream revisited.

I knew it was a left from Penong and the wide, smooth crushed rock and clay road seemed to stretch toward beckoning sand hills. Across a causeway between a dry salt lake bed and an inlet and we were there.

Caravans and tents were grouped in clusters. My companion remarked that the camping ground had never looked so full.

Old hander Rod Sly was caretaking a campsite for us next to his and boiling a billy as we arrived.

Another regular, Henry Kelsall, was caravanning with his family next door.

Handshakes all round and then a quick scramble over the sand dune gave me my first view of Cactus.

It was onshore and big. Swells smashed into the eroded cliffs, water spouting upwards from cracks in the limestone.

People stood around watching the spectacle. Some were sitting on a bench, which carries an engraved metal plate dedicating it to Cameron Bayes “tragically taken 24th September 2000 while surfing”. The seat was a memorial from his wife, Tina.

The New Zealand couple had been honeymooning at Cactus. Bayes was 25 and was going in alone for an early morning surf.

The seat is the place to sit to watch surfers at Cactus and also the place to get the best phone reception. Night and day there’s always someone sitting there, fingers jabbing away at a keypad.

In subsequent days I saw other silent testimonials to lives lost in the surrounding sea.

I know all waves travel huge distances before breaking and dissipating energy around the Australian coast, but there is definitely something impressive about seeing the swells come ashore on this desert coastline.

Maybe it’s the jagged cliffs, the coarse sand and the feeling that, apart from the Easter-filled camping ground, there are few people witnessing the event.

The desert makes for a dramatic backstage for what happens in the sea.

As Talking Heads frontman David Byrne sings: “Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was”. That’s part of the lyric from Once in a Lifetime, which also has a verse:

Water dissolving…and water removing

There is water at the bottom of the ocean

Under the water, carry the water at the bottom of the ocean

Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean.

He song has absolutely nothing to do with surfing, but is appealing and, on reflection, somehow relevant.

The reputation and fable of Cactus ensures a steady stream of visiting surfers.

One morning we shared the waves with a couple of Brazilians, stoked to be out in the middle of nowhere with just three others.

Before that, on my first paddle out a surfer from nearby Port Lincoln holidaying with his family called me over to the take-off spot. A friend indeed.

Christo Reid records much of the surfing history from around Point Sinclair in Cactus – Surfing Journals from solitude, a book my wife gave me when she heard I wanted to fulfil an early surfing dream.

As Christo’s narrative shows, it has not always been a pretty tale in the jealously guarded waves next to the Nullarbor.

In 1975 the authorities moved in and burned surfers’ shacks after an outbreak of hepatitis.

Things seem to have settled a bit these days. Youngsters in the water are the sons and daughters of Cactus veterans. The second generation of surfers.

Their fathers are taking shots from the beach.

Cactus is on the “to surf list” of many overseas surfers and, as Easter 2012 showed, can be friendly and inviting.

Ron Gates, who runs the cactus camping ground, signed a shot of himself in my copy of Reid’s book: “See ya in the tube.”

That’s where he is in the old picture and where he still often is today.

I hope to see him there again, some day.

Visit the Cactus Gallery

The young Trigger Brothers on boards and best surfers

Ted Bainbridge talked to his friends, The young Trigger Brothers Paul and Phil, for this interview published in Breakway, December 1974.

The brothers remain successful board makers and retailers to this day, operating out of their headquarters at Pt Leo, Victoria, their spiritual home.

At the time Phil, the glasser, was 22 and Paul, the shaper, was 24.

That year Paul qualified for the Australian team to compete in the World Titles and was Victoria’s top seed in the team for the Australian Titles. Phil was fifth in the Bells Easter Contest against a field of internationals and Australian surfers. He went on to win Victoria’s only other professional contest – the Pt Leo ‘1200’, where he regularly surfs.


TB: How many boards do you ride and what dimensions are they?

Phil: I’ve only really got one at the moment because I’ve sold all my others in our summer secondhand board sellout. I would like to ride 6’8″, 7’0″, 7’4″ and 7’8″; I think that would give me a really good range for all surfing conditions that I’d find in Victoria.

Paul: I’ve got a 6’8″ hot dog board, a 6’10” “good wave” board and a 7’1″ “power wave” board. I haven’t really got a big wave board because I don’t like big boards, but I like riding big waves. I’ll probably make a 7’8″ speed machine pretty soon though.

TB: Are they all basic boards?

Phil: We’re definitely basic surfers. Surfing’s a basic thing so you should stick to basics. A basic (board) should go best because it’s a flowing sort of an art.

TB: But isn’t a concave a basic thing in a board?

Phil: They only have a real affect if they’re pretty deep and right at the back of the board.

Paul: We’ve ridden boards with bonzas, tronzas, twin finners, five finners, swallow tails, scoop-outs and we always go back to a basic board.

TB: You’ve competed against all the top surfers in Australia and seen them in action, who do you think is the best?

Phil: Michael Peterson: he’s the best contest surfer.

Paul: He can go out in any contest and get a tube, do re-entries, cutbacks, and manoeuvre his board anywhere.

But in bigger surf there’re better surfers than him. There’s Farrelly, Nat Young, Drouyn, Wayne Lynch, Ian Cairns, Ted Spencer and Peter Townend.

Out of the international surfers, Lopez is about the best I’ve seen because he can manoeuvre his board radically but with continuous carving arcs.

He’s incredible because he’s about the best tube rider in the world, but if you watch him hot-dog he can hot-dog better than anyone, too. A lot of people don’t realise that: he impressed me as much as Peterson and Drouyn did at Bells’ contest, but he didn’t get the waves they did.

TB: Who do you admire the most in Victorian surfing?

Phil: I’d say Alan Atkins and Rod Brooks. Those two guys have been in the finals of almost every contest since the A.S.A. started down here (Victoria). Rod even won the last contest we had. His surfing has improved out of sight this year compared with the last couple of years. When you look at those guys, you can see that as long as you have enough time in the water you can still improve even through you’re middle and late twenties.


Read the entire interview by downloading the issue or the whole set.



From little ripples freak waves grow

How often have you been closed out by freak waves or a set? Believe it or not, there is a set rule by which you can tell how high a wave will be at a particular time.

Waves are formed out at sea (obviously). They begin from tiny ripples.

Once a “wavelet” has been formed (i.e. a ripple more than .67 in. high) it is governed under the same laws as the mighty seas into which it may grow. Its effect on the wind is to produce an increased pressure on the wave’s back or windward slope and a reduced pressure on the leeward slope, where the wind forms an eddy in the trough. The wave is at once pressed from behind and pulled in front.

The main cause of high seas is the wind strength and how long is blows. To give you an idea, after two hours of near galeforce winds (around 32 knots) on the open ocean, waves will have reached 41/2 ft. (1.44m.) and after 6 hours up to 8ft (2.56m).

After 24 hours when they’ve reached 14ft. (4.48m.) there is little increase. They may increase by less than a foot in the next 12 hours.

Wave heights, in the open ocean, of 30 ft. (9.6m.) from trough to crest are unusual and 50 ft. (16m.) waves are rare. However the American ship Ramapo made a reliable record of a 108 ft. (32.4m.) wave encountered in the north Pacific on February 7, 1933!

Waves of great height are the product of persistent hurricane strength winds raging over wide stretches of ocean.

As surfers, we’re more interested in swell than in open ocean waves, but a swell is formed as a direct result of storms.

The waves already described are left behind by the storms.

These waves keep moving (not the water – remember those physics’ lessons!) and gradually straighten out and become even as they travel through calmer water with possibly (hopefully!) a light breeze blowing the other way. Eventually they may reach land, and depending on how far they’ve come and how they’ve been refracted (bent around a point into a bay or something), then they’ ll be a part of a big swell or a small one.

People will tell you that every seventh wave is bigger than the rest. In his escape, Papillon dived off Devil’s Island using this theory to avoid being smashed on the rocks. This may be true with some swells but the pattern can vary from four to 14.

These bigger waves are caused by one swell coming into phase with another swell pattern – a joining of waves to form one big one.

Experts say that one in every 23 waves is twice the height of the average wave; one wave in every 1175 is three times the height, and one wave in every 300,000 waves is four times the average wave height. (By the way 300,000 waves would mean staying in the water for a month!) So if you want to start counting out in the line up you’ll be able to beat all the other guys to that freak. Perhaps a waterproofed calculator would help.

Footnote: Compiled from Volume 121no. 2459 of Motor Boat and Yachting article by Bill Bevis.


When Kanga Cairns jumped the opposition and won the Smirnoff

Ian ‘Kanga’ Cairns was just 15 when he first gained Australia-wide recognition as an aggressive surfer. It was around May, 1969, when the Australian Titles were held in his home state, Western Australia.

Even then he was regarded as an excellent big wave rider. During his first trip to Hawaii in 1972 he was acclaimed by many as being one of the hottest surfers on the North Shore. In November 1973 he became the third Australian to win the world-renowned Hawaiian Smirnoff pro contest. He received $A3361 for his trouble. It was a great achievement for the current Western Australian champion.

During a break in competition at the Bells Easter contest (1974), Ted Bainbridge talked to Kanga Cairns about Hawaii and his surfing


TB: How did you get into the Smirnoff contest?

Cairns: Well, I was second alternate and Clyde Aikau was the first – I was just there, you know, breathing down Fred Hemmings’ neck!, Clyde had got into it and Evo Honza, from Peru, didn’t turn up for his heat so I just went straight out.

I came third in my heat, second in my semi final and then won the final.


TB: Had you any idea you’d won it?

Cairns: I knew I had a really good chance. I knew I’d placed, there’s no way I couldn’t have placed because of where I’d taken off from and the waves I’d gotten. It was very close. The waves were 8 ft. most of the time, but I did get one that was 10 ft. It was probably 6 to 8 ft. but I got a couple of rare ones.


TB: Do those places (in Hawaii) work in the same way that Johanna works down here when Bells hasn’t even got a wave?

Cairns: Yeah. Except they all face the same way, but the type of reefs magnifies the swell different ways. Sunset is a really deep reef, but you can surf it down to 2 ft. near the point where it’s really shallow.

Rocky Point is kind of a ledging point which goes out under the water. The waves come in, hit the ledge and suck out over the really shallow reef. It’s because the reef’s so shallow that it makes the waves really rip off.

Then there are places no one ever surfs. We had a break with really a good left and right but no one ever surfed it.


Read the full Ian Cairns interview in BREAKWAY MAY 1974.

It’s weird winning all the time, said Peterson

Bells Easter, 1975: Breakway partner and editor Keith Platt is talking to winner Michael Peterson, who just won the event for the second successive year: “I’m thinking about dropping out all together. This winning all the time – it’s weird.”

Peterson then skipped home carrying cheque, another gold-plated bell-shaped trophy and another rather large piece to add to his already long string of wins.

Peterson won Bells ‘74, won just about every other contest held since, and returned again – to prove last year’s effort was no fluke. No one really needed convincing.

“Day Three, Sunday: Like the biblical Christ, the swell rose.

Wave size three was frequently called and surfers in heats usually split into two groups riding Rincon and the Bowl. Rincon riders sometimes got through to the Bowl.

This day also saw Wayne Lynch make his debut return to contest surfing. For once the rumours of his participating were true. Most were glad to see his return and relieved that he was still a Bells’ master.

Lynch caught the only left all day and his it-looks-easy style notched up points as he back-hand re-entried his way to the beach.


Who were the surf heroes way back when?

August 1976 was the Surf Heroes issue. We asked the best surfers in Australia who were their idols and why. There were some fascinating perspectives, but Peter Townend best reflected the rise of professional competition: “I haven’t got any surf heroes – just me! That’s the way it’s got to be these days!”

Wayne Lynch: “In the very early days the guys I idolised were Phil Edwards then Midget and Nat. I guess then it was more a matter of admiration. I really admired Bill Monie. He was incredible at Bells.

“We’ve got a right hand break out off the Lorne pier that breaks when Bells does, it’s a miniature of Waimea. John used to get out there and tear the place apart. He used to switch-foot on those waves. He was a really aggressive surfer, he dragged me out at Foresters a few times when it was pretty big. At present there are a lot of guys I admire. Lopez is probably the guy I admire most because of his surfing and his whole attitude.

Among those we talked to were Mark Richards, Mark Warren, Simon Anderson, Peter Drouyen, Col Smith, Gordon Barnes, Terry Fitzgerald and Ron Ford.


Ted Bainbridge reflects on the Surf Heroes issue: “When I interviewed Bob Cooper in that issue, and asked who his surf heroes were, he said Dora, Phil Edwards and Minyouse. That last surfer, of course, is Mickey Munoz, but I failed to look up the spelling in the Hobie ads as Bob suggested. My apologies Mickey!”