Source Documents
owen jones : north wollongong,  1960s. 

Owen Jones : North Wollongong,  1960s.
Owen Jones : North Wollongong Boys' Story, 1960s.

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 passing.

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 Pipeline.

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 comment.
Owen's recollections were perhaps inspired by events celebrating
the refurbishment of the North Wollongong Bathers Pavilion in mid 2012.
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.

riginally written in all-capitals, the article has been lightly edited with some minor spelling corrections.

Also see:
Surfriding in the Illawarra, NSW
Laybacks Longboard Club
North Beach Bathers’ Pavilion

Owen Jones : North Wollongong Boys' Story, 1960s.

G'day Andy, here is some history on the first surf board-riding at North Wollongong beach, NSW, circa 1958 to1967.


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 racing.

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 really.
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
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
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 club.
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 Beach .
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 surfers!
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 Designs etc.
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 day.

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.

Regards, yours in surfing
Owen Jones. 

Owen Jones : North Wollongong, 1956-1970.

Owen Jones : Pipeline, dog and rainbow, 1979.
Photograph: Jeff Devine
Nat Young : History (1983) pages 12-13.


Geoff Cater (2020) : Owen Jones : North Wollongong Boys, 1960s.