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Tag Archives: Rip Curl

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.”


Surfing history: the back story of Breakway online

This is a story of surfing history. It’s about vintage surfing in Australia, in particular, but it covers other parts of the world.

For almost 40 years I’ve had a three-inch (75 mm) stack of tabloids on the top shelf of my office cupboard.

They’ve occasionally been dusted off for research. Like when the local Reef team needed some background for a court case on past use of the name Ugg (Ug, Ugh etc) boot. The court was deciding if it was a generic term following claims that the name had been ripped off and used by an overseas’ manufacturer.

When we decided to post the four-decades-old magazine online, I turned the page on our first edition of Breakway magazine. It’s dated December 1973, has a 25-cent price tag, and features a classic cover shot of Alan Atkins doing a top turn at Bells. The first advert inside the cover was for Oke Surfboards. The Okes were a great supporter right through to one of the last ads of our final edition in January 1978. Today the second generation is in charge at Oke’s and still pumping out a range of sweet surfboards. And the range is really diverse.

The current crop of young rippers are riding all sorts of different equipment, and many have an old ‘70’s surfboard in their quiver, or one inspired by that era. Even current surf fashion has more than a hint of ‘70s flavour. Although the basic tee, boardies & thongs has remained the same since the ‘50s.

Oke is just one example of a number of manufacturers that started back then and are now being run largely by the kids. Bennett’s, Surfblank’s, Burford’s and McTavish to name a few.

As I scanned over the pages of issue one, I noticed a piece from Alan Hunt, relating a trip the Narrabeen boys had done to the legendary “Box” on the northern side of Pittwater, taking Al’s Dad’s fuel injected Volvo. Alan was our regular NSW contributor for many years. I’d met him along with other Narra surfers like Brian Whitty, Colin Smith and Terry Fitzgerald, when Paul Trigger and I pitched a tent next to theirs in the Margaret River camp ground during the 1973 National Titles. I was introduced to the ‘crazy eights’ card game by those guys, but rarely won.

Fitzgerald’s casual looks back into the tube on the Margaret rights had me awestruck, as did Smith’s powerful backhand attack on small waves near Dunsborough, when we hunted down a free surf in a strong south westerly blow. But Richard Harvey was the deserving open men’s winner that year, ahead of PT and Peterson.

Alan Hunt went on to become ASP tour director for 18 years, and has a gazillion surfing magazines in his collection.

I also met Tom Blaxell in WA that year and he became our regular correspondent from that area.

By the second issue of Breakway, we had a bunch of people come on board, who offered their contributions and became the nucleus of the magazine. Paul Harris’s (where are you Paul?) fabulous artwork and cartoons are featured for the first time. SA champion, Kym Thompson, provided an informative design article, with diagrams and dimensions – a picture is featured with Kym surfing the new design on a wave at Bells with no-one else in the line-up. In late 2014 he was enticed into crowdless rights again by Mornington Peninsula legend, Mick Pearce, while on a Mentawai boat trip with Damien Oliver, Alan Green, Brian Singer and others. It’s no wonder he’s head of surfboard production at Cobra, a world leading manufacturer, based in Thailand.

Greenough’s Crystal Voyager is advertised for a screening on 20 February at the Brighton Town Hall, with an accompanying photo of George and Nat about to start a surf session from the stern of Morning Light.

Radio 3XY DJ Rod Stone’s inaugural music column gives an insight into “Summer means fun” by ‘The Legendary Masked Surfers’, which was a compilation of old taped sessions by Brian Wilson, Leon Russell, Jan and Dean and other notables. Google it and have a listen; just for fun.

Sparrow’s (John Pyburne) 1969 photo of Fledge (Greg Hill) at Bells is a classic. No wonder he took out the Victorian title that year. I caught up with Sparrow recently in the depths of Ripcurl’s Torquay headquarters, making a subtle change to a steamer pattern. He’s on a 6ft7in SUP now and experimenting with foiling kite boards.

Former Maroubra surfer and runner up for the Vic Title in 1970, Charles Bartlett, had just changed his name to Charles Ofthesea and given up on surfboards. He is quoted, after ripping apart six to eight feet powerful Gunnamatta waves on a finless coolite kick board, that he didn’t want to make it too easy for himself. His iconic Bells sign “Don’t destroy what you came to enjoy” was to be immortalised by the ASA Victoria (now Surfing Vic).

There’s a letter about localism by John Witzig (co-founder of Tracks magazine), rumours of bizarre specs for an Australian Standards Association surfboard design, an interview with KKK and more.

The 1970 World Titles was a pivotal event for Victorian surfboard riding. Sprint Walker’s display at Portsea in 1926 was inspirational, the ’56 USA Olympic Surf Lifesaver’s and their Malibu boards prompted a huge popularity in Australian board riding. Peter Troy and his mates also stimulated things with their inaugural Bells Beach Board Rally in the early sixties. But Tony Olson’s untiring effort to bring the World Titles to Bells is what ushered in an explosion of design, fashion, life style and innovation to a sport with modern roots barely 50 years old.

Forty five years on, and much of what evolved during that decade is relevant all over again. In the four years that Breakway was published it captured a unique perspective of surfing which was coming to grips with professionalism, localism, affordable travel and a gradual acceptance from the wider population.

To open the pages now, and read interviews with the likes of Stacey Peralta, Gerry Lopez, PT, Midget, Simon Anderson, Tom Carroll or Peter Drouyn (now Westerly Windina) is a rare chance to get a glimpse of what inspired their surfing. For the interviewees who have passed, like Eddie Aikau, Stan Couper, Chris Crozier and Frank Latta, it is a fitting tribute to their surfing lives.

Breakway is now available in single issues or the complete set of 47 monthly magazines published over four years. You can now download pdf scans of the original pages and read the magazine as it was read by hard-core surfers four decades ago.

Claw remembers the rough track to a legendary break

Rip Curl co-founder Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick describes the first time he saw and surfed Bells Beach (from a Breakway interview, March, 1974)

“Bell’s had this really rough track to it. What happened was the government and surfers made a road through.

They saw Bob Pettit who owned the land there and asked him if they could make a road. The surfers all chipped in about five pounds each and hired a bulldozer and made the road through. That’s the old road that goes from Torquay past Boobs Bay. The worst bit used to be from Boobs there, where we swung around the corner – where the new road is, from there to Winkipop. That was really bad.

You couId never see Bell’s breaking, like Winkipop was completely different. There were all trees there and stuff. You had to get around the trees before you could see Bell’s breaking.

But getting back to the very first time I saw Bell’s. It was the Christmas of 1960-‘61 and I was down with some of my friends and one guy had an M.G. or something. We all climbed into his M.G. with our boards sticking out – he didn’t have one. We’d all been surfing Torquay for about a week and, feeling pretty confident, we decided to try Bell’s. It’s funny but there always seemed to be good waves then. Torquay aIways seemed five or six foot, offshore and glassy.

Anyway, we made our way around to Bell’s and there it was. Well it wasn’t a particularly big day, it was high tide, and although the waves weren’t very big they were very thick. It was basicalIy breaking off the bowl at high tide. I kept thinking how small the cove was and how big the waves were.

The dominant surfer out there was Marcus Shaw. Of course Marcus was one of the all time greats at Bells and he was a real heavyweight – at least he had the reputation of being a heavyweight. He was champion boxer and star karate man and all that sort of stuff. He used to just terrorise the surf.

Anyway we went out and tried to surf it. I can remember getting crushed a few times – didn’t get past the take-off. I was about 15 or 16 and getting run over by Marcus Shaw. One of my friends just about got in a punch-up with him and it was just sorta too much for us.

And oh, Marcus was surfing it quite well, he was a goofy but he was probably the first guy to do the big sit down backhand turns. Nat really brought that in, in about 1966, but Marcus had been doing it all along – it was just his natural style. He used to do big reverse flickouts and stuff in the shorebreak, even then.”


Oh, no … the $200 board, says Claw

Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick took to the columns of the surfing press back in 1975 to put the manufacturers’ case for an increase in surfboard prices. His arguments about economics, custom products and artisan producers probably still apply.

Surfboards for $200! “Crazy”, you say, “everybody knows boards have always been $100.” It seems the time has come for surfboards to go up, along with everything else.

The big board builders have had a series of bad years profit-wise and the shapers and workers want to make the same kind of money as any other skilled tradesmen. The world’s most famous shaper, Dick Brewer of Hawaii, has been selling his boards for $US300 and more.

Boards in Australia probably won’t reach that $US300 price for a long time, but they will get to nearly $200 before long.

There will still be cheap boards around. Everyone sells boards for lower than the established price when they first start making boards. Guys will make boards for just their wages with no profit while they are learning the trade.

There are two ways to learn to make boards, one is to start with an established manufacturer and the other is to start making your own.

The guys who start out by themselves usually just want enough bread to surf a lot. This is a great thing for a young surfer to do but, although their boards are cheap in price, they are nowhere near as professional as when these guys become experienced.

Boards have been creeping up in price about $5 or $10 a year for a few years. One reason for this was the increase in sales tax a couple of years ago. Now at 15% sales tax is one of the major components of the price of a board.

Of course, if you are just a beginner manufacturer, you don’t pay sales tax at all; at least I didn’t when I started out in the garage at home.

The biggest single increase in the cost of producing a board facing the established manufacturers is new legislation on workers’ compensation. The cost of workers’ compensation alone will increase the cost of each board by at least $5 for the average size manufacturers.

Most of the manufacturers in the Torquay surfing industry, the place I know best, are open to the public seven days a week and custom make boards and do repairs within one week. These people also sponsor surfing contests.

The traditional $120 or so for a board does not seem realistic anymore. Since the introduction of decimal currency around 10 years ago nearly everything you can think of has increased 100 per cent. In this time surfboards have increased from around $95 to about $120 to $130, an increase of less than 50 per cent.

In those days it took a young surfer at least three weeks pay to buy a new board, recently a young guy with a reasonable job has been able to get a board with a week’s pay. Working on the normal wholesale and retail mark-ups for other businesses, surfboards would be at minimum $225 already.

Surfboards. are a highly refined, high performance piece of equipment. Boards are available from true surfing champions and innovators. People like Wayne Lynch and Terry Fitzgerald who draw upon years of international experience in all kinds of surf to hand-shape boards just the same as they use to win professional contests or ride the classic waves of the world. These boards will cost around $185 this season. Top class boards by people who have also had great success with their designs like Geoff McCoy, Don Allcroft, Pat Morgan and Kym Thompson will probably cost around $175.

This is some attempt to explain the price rises in surfboards on behalf of the shapers, workers, owners and retailers of the surfboard industry by the maker of Victoria’s first cut price surfboard the $89 Rip Curl hot dog model.