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mctavish : alexandra headlands in '53, 1969 

Bob McTavish : Alexandra Headlands in '53
Surf International
Volume 2 Number 6, January 1969, pages 40 to 43.

Bob McTavish's recollections of the early days, 1963-1965, in Noosa region, with a jump forward to the present and surfing the Great Barrier Reef.
The photographs are uncredited, the captions are guesses-estimates.

Volume 2 Number 6: Contents
Eccentrics in Surfing - Paul Carey
Shoot From The Water - Paul Witzig & Paul Koller
Greenough - John Witzig
The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun - George Greenough
They Hold Their Contests on the First Sunday of the Month (Narrabeen)
BOP - Lindsay Bjerre
Big Thursday - Ross Renwick
Alexandra Headlands in '53 - Bob McTavish
Surf Poster Contest Results

National Park

Bob McTavish

Alexandra Headlands in '53, there was a surf-club of cement and bricks, very ugly, and a Salvation Army Holiday Homestead, a few bitchin trees and the waves.

Hayden Kenny, on a new Gordon Woods balsa, the guy was hot.'s 1958.

In 1963, Cooper, Russell, Algie Grud live there.

Me and Mick, his old man, Tony, whose outasight, loves his car, hot Holden, really got good goodies
off top guys.
He wants to drive it if we pay petrol money up there, to Noosa.
He'd run us up.
It's November.
Only surf in Sydney, North Avalon but that's been good.

Lotsa flies, hellava lot of people, and those incredible Sundays, hot all day, super crowded, and the
locals handling the place with big smiles.
Fires on the beach in the twilight, and so many "goodnights" and the nights of many yesterdays close in, and we walk away lonely and stoked and anxious for tomorrow.

A pain in the heart on Sunday nights, for lost girls, days, years and they're just there, not quite,
in a vapour of gone days.

Nothing breaks clean, I'm at Mick's looking out over North Avalon, and it's small and the banks look worse (from behind the break, Mick's place is one of those up behind the rocks).

We don't mind saying goodbye to it.
Tony's off.
And I don't remember a thing to Ugh's Reef except that car and the way Mick's dad handles its power; he's so stoked - just a little kid, small grin, talking quietly and clearly and he's such a neat guy.

Ugh's, pure glass, and we wet our boards, the heat's fine, waves tiny.
I love my McDonagh Cabell model 9'8" light, quarter inch strip board, full nose, knife tails, a complete stoker.
Me and Lovedog are the only guys I know who ride 'em and love 'em.

So we flash by Crescent, and the rest of it, till Tony's asking me which turn-off to Noosa.
I say Tewantin, not knowing what state the dirt's in on the other routes.

Middle of the night, or may as well be at Noosa.
It's only nine, but the population, all 68 of them, are asleep (except maybe for a young girl staring out at the stars from her upstairs bedroom window waiting for her hero to come and take her away).
We bundle out our boards, a blanket each and airways bags, and Tony, without even turning off the engine, says 'Bye' and wheels off in the National Park gravel back to Sydney.

We settle down to sleeping on the dirt.
Small waves are gobbling through rocks, sounding like the big ones.
Probably five o'clock -we're in the water, leaving our junk as it is under the tree.
National - tiny, low tide and a few waves there and a few waves there and a few at Johnson's, and round to Main.
Three or four hours later and the wind turns.
We and the little curls turn shimmery, then spangley, then crumbly, and it must be ninety degrees already as we walk back to National along the dirt road.

A couple of locals, probably Miss Davies and her mother watch the two laughing surfies walk by.
Red nylon trunks and yellow canvas ones.
Big grins.

A guy with a board on his car is on uni. holidays, an Alex guy, and he's going back there in his yellow Hillman soon, and "can we get a lift".
Yes, and he adjusts his glasses and steps on it.
To Alexandra Headlands thirty nine miles past naked coast, over dirt roads behind Coolum, through sugar cane, more dirt, some jungle, and finally - Hayden's shop.

'Hi Hayden', he remembers me, from Kirra last April maybe. ...stoked. ...and Grud..."Hi, Cooper!" "Gedday"!
He's stoked, Rusty.
"Hiya boy".
"Ah, the boysl"
Telling of waves - and this morning it's a no surf day.
Wait till we see a swell.


Bob McTavish

Grud wheels us back to his pit, under the picture theatre, sorta.
Neat little surf pad.
He's not too popular, scruffy urchin, but there hasn't been any surfie rages in the area yet so he's got the place.

Got it wired.
We're all lobbed there.
Grud, Cooper, Russ , Mick and me, in three rooms.
A dingy pit room where 10 a.m. is still midnight, and Russell and Grud lob there in one double bed, and the room stinks a bit and the sheets have never been washed.
One's torn.
And the other room with one bed where Cooper lobs in his sleeping bag.
I don't know how in this heat and mosquitos.
That's where Mick and I lob on the floor, my head's out the door, really in mozzie country.
At least I can see the stars.

The other room is a kitchen, that's the favourite room.
It's sunny.
Food is a free-for-all.

Upstairs is McLardy's Cafe, where we all get credit, and try not to be lazy and buy hamburgers or fish and chips.
Mostly it's eggs, all varieties, and Weet-Bix.
But after a special run of surf, we'd fall into eating a steak and vegs there every night - too stuffed to cook.

We'd get runs of surf of four, five, six, eight, ten days.
Then we'd get six hours in the water plus a spot of work in at Hayden's.
Perfect surf, small up to six feet, but pure perfect with four guys out.
Much Tee Tree, then Main for a while, a month or so, then our tastes would maybe shift back to Tee Tree again, with high tide fills ins at National.
We were getting surf five days a week there, and two days a week it seemed the best we'd surfed it.
"Just like California" we'd think and say to each other.
It was hot every day, and we got very tanned and our hair went blond, and after we were too stuffed we'd drop our boards on the sand, feel the towel tear at reddish skin, and pull on a T-shirt and stroll around to the shops for some fruit and maybe a cup of tea and a sandwich on the verandah of the English guys shop, and check out the chick who worked there.
She'd check us out too.
Surfies, eh?".
Hmm, "We'll surfie you, sweetpea".

And stroll back to the beach sucking on a fruito and maybe around for a while, and soon slip out for some more of those beautiful glistening little waves.
Cooper's still out.
By himself.
Steamy days.
In the afternoons a couple of school kids would  slide down and join us.
We'd see them come walking round the corner, and see them start walking faster up the hill on top of the point when they saw how good the surf was.

Ten minutes later they'd be out there too.
Sue walked softly picking her way over the sharp rocks in Johnson's corner.
Bobby would just appear inside somewhere picking up piddlers and close-outs on his cut-down old huge log.

Then as the sun dropped due west, and the waves turned silver gold, then red, and thick clumpy clouds near the horizon fired up, the waves got better.

Pure glass.
Pure glass!!

The sets come in low after indicating on a reef wide of National.
Waiting here for a wave I can see Johnson's has good waves.
Can hardly see them in the glassy evening, the hill and bush behind reflext darkness over the bay, and white revolving circles is all I can see.
The set that's peeling down there is now about to hit me here on Main point.

Slip a couple by and the ocean level drops.

Hardly moving at take-off.
The 9'3", 5" shorter than the hot Cabell model, slides into the wave with ease, feel it lifting off.
We approach the sucky ledge of sand and I walk forward up the rail, so now as it lifts off we're turning into the back end of a tube wall and I dip into a crouch in full trim position and we're taking off.
Speed starts to push up my tail and now we're zooming.
Nine feet of rail tucked in.
The glassy black rips by my head for seconds, and now as I rise it's filling up a bit but the zips not letting off.
So I take two more gentle ones on to the nose.
Sneak the toes forward as I arch my weight backwards.

Grud has the only car.
A 36 Chev.
Or Grud Kelly.
We paid about a buck a trip to Noosa.
And even paid shares in repairs and spares.
Grud had me on my hands and knees many times.
Once under the dash board pushing the wiper blade back and forth all the way to Noosa.
At least he stopped at Coolum to give me a rest.

We all got lost in a swarm of people pretty soon though, and if I saw Bobby the school kid out on the water I'd say 'hi'.
Like meeting some-one in the street.
That'd be week-ends at first.

Kay and flappers started to hang on the beach a bit, weekdays and, Jeez, we'd laugh in the sun and ride some more perfect waves.
And we'd flip out in the water and get uptight with each other about whose wave it was and we'd compete and show off.

And get long, long noserides and perfect trims and creep onto the nose and hold it!
Hold - it!
Side slip and step back.
And the big board takes off and the green silver curl would fall between my legs and break on my knees and roar a little and then step up on the nose again.
And the board would life up into the centre of the wave and you could feel the force of nine feet three of board pushing you through the centre of it.
All the way till an island pullout in the closeout.
Down near the clubbie house nearby.

And Sue's little yappie terrier got a kick in the guts.

Back at Alex.
We'd sit on the swings at night, opposite the cafe in a little park.
And talk.
Cooper had lots to tell us about old days in California.
Sleeping in Velzey's rafters, hanging around Dora and Kemp at Malibu, and up at Rincon.

Saturday nights we could sit up on the tank stand and see half the movie for free through the big
slatted windows.
There was one good spot where you could see most of it.
Grud would be there half an hour early with his Marlboro and bag of lollies.

[Unknown location]

Russell Hughes

Then, we'd be sharing Noosa.
Well, Main Beach anyway, with all kinds of travellers, half of which we knew, kinda, from our travels. Brisbane guys, mainly from Woozer's (Woosley Surfboards?) board shop, starting hitting weekdays - Furburger's mob.
And a few Brisbane guys each lived in their cars up there for a month at a time, and talked of living there permanently.

The National saved us.
Whole new territory.
We left Main for the dogs, sorta, and put our attention on National, the rain forest, Hec and Olive's sandwiches and treats, and Tee Tree.
We clocked up many months on those tracks.

But it got faster and it still is.
So we flit through the pages -Bluff, Island, Cartwright, Greenough -the fire talks for hours and crude throb and ideas and youngness on our side.

Cement mixers of the mind find themselves unglueing and glueing and today it all is going back down, back down to from where it came - one man and one man's wave.
And do you know where to find it?

Go west - chase across the Nullabor.
Run, check it out.
Look for Byron, but untouched.
Find a Noosa there?
No, you'll find Western Australia.
How about the Pacific?
An Island?
The ever magic Island?
Go, Boy.

The Crown of Thorns starfish.
He is a critter who is polishing off the Great Barrier Reef at an incredible rate, right now!!
At the instant you are reading this, the ocean's surge is pushing against the reef.
Less reef than yesterday.
The sea bed is trembling as coral crumbles, minutely, but incredibly big scale to our eyes.
And time.
But as we get bigger time gets smaller, and now, here is tomorrow, suddenly, as we stand here amazed and recovering from our bewilderment.
My body is a bit mellowed out but just as lively for it, and my hair is. ...longer now.
My face?
My smile?

Tea Tree Bay, Noosa

Bob Cooper

Yes, it's slower, but longer.
I pad down through the jungle, pair of shorts hang from my waist, the trail's cool, green light mottled
on the white sandy dirt.
People must really be sweating it out in town -Townsville.

The sound of the surf sends a quick shiver up my spine - like I just got a charge of volts from within, and I round the bend, round the edge of the hill, into the tunnel through the trees.
Ahead is the glarey patch of the beach.
My eyes adjust and I see white sand and. ...yes. sea.

The waves are here again today.
Really stacked.
It's shallow a long way out, and the swells are standing up on the white sandy bottom as far as I can see.
Moving slow, emerald green and pale green fringing in the offshore wind.

The beach is much different today.
It's narrower straight out the point and up near the point it's scalloped out more.
A tree has collapsed into the surf out on the tip of the point.
Sand has been eaten away around its clump of roots.
A solid rip runs down the beach, remoulding the whole coastline, smoothing off the bumps, accentuating points and reefs.
I've got to find a place where there's deep water outside, so the swell can sock in with some strength.

The river!
Of course!
Rivers up here sort of continue out to sea cutting their beds into the sand out in the shallows.
I reckon that with an incoming tide I'll have all the swell I can handle.

Up the end of the beach, a little shack of coconut leaves and accumulation from the jungle, my seven foot, ten pound lying beside it.
It's six miles or so to the river I figure, so I better take some supplies.

Well, I won't need water, streams everywhere.
Billy, brown rice, carrots, onions, peas, hunk of bread.
I'll grab some fruit along the way.

I guess the little board could really fire if we're going to find a bit of power.

Change shorts (pyjamas) for trunks (work clothes) and I'm off.
Scunching up the beach towards more jungle, and I hope some kind of path.
If not, around the edge -rocks, cliffs, paddling etc.

A little scratched up, bloody exhausted and hot hot mid-day.
I feel stronger and a bit baffled at what projects like that do for me spiritually.

It's not a big river - but it's fast and clean.
It drops right off, from the rocky shore that looks almost as if it was packed by man.
But no man here, 'cepting me and the Abo camp I've heard about, over the other side of the river. Maybe I'll get to groove with them later.

Anyway, the rocks give way to the same white sand, and banks taper out from where the rocks end right out, and they sure look like mighty fine waves dropping off along them.

The wind's on shore now, and it's sorta animal.
But I'm gonna hit it.

Waves have sure got it out here.
Plenty suck.
Fast peel, long ride, plenty of power and with an off- shore wind this place'll do it.
Maybe tomorrow morning.

Reckon I'll slip across the river and lob with the abo's for the night.
Those guys have got it licked.
Be gas to turn 'em loose on my board out here.

Bob McTavish

Surf International

Volume 2 Number 6,
January 1969.

Cover photograph:
George Greenough.

home catalogue history references appendix

Geoff Cater (2010-2020) : Bob McTavish : Alexandra Headlands in '53, 1969.