jones : north wollongong, 1960s.
Jones : North
Wollongong, 1960s.Owen Jones :North Wollongong Boys'
A personal, informative and modest article by
Owen Jones on the history of surf board-riding at North
Wollongong beach, NSW, circa 1958 to1967.
It was sourced following an enquiry by Sarra Robertson in preparing memorial material after Owen's
In 1968-1969, Owen Jones travelled to South Africa, meeting up
with Shellharbour's John Batchelador and Tony Wright, and in
the early 1970s he relocated to the North Shore of Oahu.
Owen was photographed leaving the
water by Jeff Devine after surfing
at Pipeline, a fantastic image
featuring Owen and a dog framed by a full rainbow, while
Pipeline breaks left and right (Backdoor).
The photograph appeared as a double page spread in Nat Young's
History of Surfing (1983, and subsequent editions).
Sarra contacted Jeff Divine who reported that the image
was in fact shot in 1979 from a 36 Kodachrome film when
living in a one bedroom apartment right in front of
The article was initially posted on the Laybacks web page in
2012 and kindly made available thanks to Club Secretary,Lara Murphy,
and Andy Goldie, the Andy noted in the opening
Owen's recollections were perhaps inspired by events
celebrating the refurbishment of the North Wollongong Bathers Pavilion in mid
These were to include an old surfboard display, a surfing
competition, and a surfing display by original North gong
boys, if their ageing bodies will allow them.
Originally written in all-capitals, the article has been
lightly edited with some minor spelling corrections.
G'day Andy, here is some history on the first surf
board-riding at North Wollongong beach, NSW, circa 1958
In the early 1950's
the North Wollongong Surf Lifesaving Club had
plywood 16 foot "toothpick" style surfboards with a
steel drain plug at the nose and a steel "D" hook or
handle at the other end.
They also had a raised timber rail on the top edges
to rest your knees against for knee paddling.
They were used as rescue craft and inter-club paddle
As young cadet members of the club we learnt to
paddle and catch waves on rubber surf'o'planes.
As we got older we were allowed to use the 16
footer's, they caught waves easily but were hard to
stand up on and turn, they were uncontrollable
In 1956 some Hawaiian surfers were in Australia for
a world surfing games and they had shorter hand
shaped balsa surfboards with them, they performed a
few surfing displays to everyone's amazement!!
These were the famous "pigboards"!
An Aussie surfboat builder, Bill
Clymer got some balsa and made a few with cedar
inlaid rails and big wooden fins and wide curved
tails and rounded noses, around 9 to 10 foot long.
A photo of one of these can be viewed on the
following website www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/library
A North 'gong club mate, Dave Anderton had one and
let me ride it, wow was it different and exciting to
ride, so much easier than the toothpicks!
John "Sparrow" Palmer had a hollow plywood
longboard, which took in seawater and you would have
to drain it out via a drain plug every 10 minutes.
It had a round nose and narrower tail shape copied
from Californian boards but it was heavy and hard to manouvre.
Then along came the polystyrene foam and resin
glassed longboards in different shapes and lengths.
All the older club members had them and they stored
them under the old boat shed under the stairs of the
bathers pavillion, where a few young life
expierences and sleep overs happened.
At one time there was a fire in the shed and a lot
of boards were destroyed, after this no more boards
were to be stored in the shed by order of the surf
Young cadets Des Lees,Owen Jones, Ken Bool,
Brian "Bruno" Sucur and others used to borrow and ride them.
Maybe John Skipp and Ken Middleton did also; I'm not sure-
they had wealthy parents who bought boards for them anyway!
We were the new wave of young gun surfboardriders of North
Older clubbies Bob Chapman, Sparra Palmer, Col Markham,
'Big' Bob Ferrell and others board surfed.
Soon a problem arose with members riding their boards
instead of doing beach patrols, so the younger blokes
rebelled and surfed in the southern corner of the beach and
parted ways with the club.
Some moved over to Wollongong Beach in the protected north
corner under the big lighthouse. On any good day of surf we would hang at the beach and
surf all day watching each other doing progressive moves
copied from American surf magazines and movies that were
travelling the coastal circuit in Australia. Among the best riders at North 'gong were Ken
Middleton,'Duke' Jones, Des Lees, Paul Hopkins, John Skipp,
Mick Carabine, John the 'Pom' Kenny Bool, Brian Jackson,
Mick Legge, "Lord' Ted Meades, Sharpie and
Steve Goodwin whose parents ran the kiosk and others. I apologise to the people I've missed naming, my memory
is not perfect these days. However visiting surfers from other local beaches were
Gary 'Droopy' Andrulis, Troy Williams, Kevin Parkinson, Mick
Cram, Warren Boyd, Paul
Brooks, Gary Birdsall and the soon to become famous Robert
'Nat' Young and friend's dropped in from Sydney.
Some of us would
watch the surfing and comment on who got the better waves
and who surfed the best on the day amongst loud cheers,
hoots and hollers and laughter at the antics of the
It was a new, exciting and beautiful event we were
witnessing- little did we know what surfing would become.
I feel this was the forerunner of what became surf judging
in competitions, the good surfers improved, and
reputations were formed by word of mouth.
Over the years surfing clubs were created with Wollongong
Boardriders Club formed in Ted Meades parents' house
garage around 1963-65.
From here legends were born and careers and lifestyles
followed; John Skipp Surfboards, Mick Carabine Surf
Phil and Dave Byrne surfboards came along in later years.
Some travelled the world and surfed perfect waves in
exotic locations, some becoming famous along the way, some
falling into misadventure, others passing away, may they
rest in peace.
But everyone enjoying and loving their surfing to this
The North Wollongong Bathers Pavilion refurbishment and
precinct opening will be an opportunity for all the
original surfboard riders of North 'gong to attend and
celebrate their surfing lives with an old surfboard
display and surfing competition.
There will be a special surfing display by the original
surfers of the North gong boys, if their ageing bodies
will allow them.
Owen Jones :North
Jones : Pipeline, dog and rainbow, 1979.
Young : History (1983) pages