cliques, the bondi variety
Cliques were an important thread in the thin social fabric of the outlaw end of Bondi, particularly amongst the second-generation boardriders, the sixteen to eighteen year-olds.
And as cliques, or as closed societies are wont to develo they qualified their strict membership requirements by insisting that potential members had both ability and appearance.
A man had to surf good and look good, this was a basic given. Wealth, family and education were never a consideration – sadly though in later years this natural elitism was hijacked by the Wind an Sea organisation, a surfing club headed by a Mr. Thor Svenson, a foreign gentleman who suffered badly for his sins.
Morris and Spencer, leaders in the field.
Strategic positioning mattered, for instance – a group of lads who threw their towels down by the second ramp at South Bondi could never be considered for membership – their boards were always second hand, their girls chain-smoked, were generally pear-shaped and incapable of accumulating a decent wardrobe.
Second ramp habitués never traveled well, they always missed the Crescent Head turn-off and used the wrong knots when they tied their boards down – they stayed in the car, safe, when a party needed extra uninvited guests, though they usually did well enough at school to find employment selling new cars or commercial newspaper space.
The general rule in those days was if you had to do your hair to go to work you were in the wrong job.
Clique members however excelled in the more esoteric trades, like fashion and photography or transporting illegal substances across the Arafura Sea in small and badly maintained aircraft. Other members were found similarly wanting amongst the treacherous corals of the Great Barrier Reef with their fortune and their yachts lost to the azure depths.
These lads are known to meet from time to time around one of the tables of the Great Northern in Byron Bay with their part Filipina grandchildren squabbling around underfoot where they mutter and grumble over drinks about typhoons and squalls and Catholic wives.
A nod here to old friend M, always the gent; blessed with bad luck, bad weather and not enough diving gear.
Conflict sometimes arose when a girl who was acceptable to the clique took a fancy to an outsider and included him in some social events, like sitting around in a dark room, wrestling with each others clothing and listening to Crash Craddock singing ‘Boom Boom Baby.’
Crash was a big sweater man and he had some notifiable moves. Bobby Rydell was also acceptable, as was Gene Vincent and Del Shannon, and Johnny O’Keefe when he did his mental.
Drugs were generally unknown then and except for the girl who used sell amphetamines at a back table at the Royal Oak in Double Bay, were rarely available. That particular scourge came a few years later and many were claimed.
Short expeditions to the northern beaches were undertaken regularly by members who had access to a vehicle, particularly to the pastoral hamlets of Palm Beach and Avalon where the local surfing populations were easily subdued and their women quickly confiscated.
The young gentleman pictured below, Mr. Max Bowman, exhibits the style and confidence of a leading clique member of the day, and you may note that he is handsomely equipped with size 18 feet, a necessary surfing adjunct he seems more than happy display to the camera.
Max disappeared some years later in mysterious circumstances and if only half the rumours of his deeds and whereabouts are true he is rivalled only Bunker Spreckles in accomplishments.
Now these old boys might gather at a funeral in Bondi Junction or a memorial at Currumbin, or a movie night at Avalon RSL where the few survivors gather solemnly and count their losses. Surprisingly, many of them have maintained a good physical regimen and continue to surf on a regular basis, though the youthful skills are long gone.
Bullshit delivery though remains at vastly inflated levels, and the vanity level is undiminished.
So different, now, that long walk along the promenade and then back along Campbell Parade to North Bondi. So much the same with a cold easterly sweeping in from a murky sea and always the wintry shadows darkening the road.
And every now and then the face of a hard-bitten survivor appears in the crowd walking past, gone by too quick to be sure, and he doesn’t turn back.
The South Bondi Boardrider’s corner is now just another scattered pile of boulders, the old boatshed is gone and a curtain of Coprosma hides the faint rock carvings left by the survivors of the Great War.
The sea has washed in and out of this place a hundred thousand times since we left, like the good steward it is, cleaning and making new.