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Tag Archives: Keith Platt

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.

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

Runaway boards caused safety concerns

Keith Platt, writing in Breakway (May ’74), canvassed the problems associated with runaway boards and moves by safety organisations to mandate board design, outlawing pointed noses and sharp fins. The universal take-up of leg ropes and separation of swimmers and surfers at popular beaches headed off the confrontation.


As the number of people using surf beaches increases, so will the number of problems facing boardriders. Boardriding as a sport tends to make its followers oblivious to the many laws of man and acutely aware of the laws of nature.

It’s easy to flow with and accept the laws of nature, but man-made laws tend to hit the unwary with an uncomfortable crunch…

And if boardriders do not watch out, they may be hit hard from two directions:

  • The Australian Standards Association is presently looking into board design with a view to making boards “safer.”
  • The National Safety Council of South Australia wants board riding banned on all Adelaide beaches.

Efforts are already being made to approach the Standards Association to put surfers’ points of view and if possible stop a ban being placed on pointed boards and sharp fins.

But no organised action agalnst a possible boardriding ban has been announced.

Unless surfers get together to fight possible limitations on their sport they may find the rules being set by outsiders.

The call for a ban on boardriding on Adelaide beaches came from a Mr Colin Daddow, president of the safety council. He made this statement in a South Australian daily newspaper after reports of swimmers being injured by “lost” boards.

Mr Daddow said: “Surfboards should be banned from all beaches where conditions are ideal for swimmers.”

Meanwhile, surfers being an uncaring lot while waves continue pumping through will leave all the hassle to others and probably wake up one day to find themselves ordered to use only round-nosed foam rubber boards on a specially preserved reef break off the north-west coast of Tasmania each August.


Read the whole article in BREAKWAY MAY 1974

Buy a digital copy of the magazine or download the entire set.