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– a letter from Mark C, and a follow up from tim mooney

M Cherry, at home .. *

…… and reading about his surfoplane rentals really stirred up some memories of my own.

Where I lived a lot of us kicked off on surfos before graduating to boards. They were so good for learning about how the surf worked. Getting one for birthday or christmas one was quite the thing and even though they were all the same – each one was special.

Surfoplanes were pretty heavy but they had the advantage of being inflatable which meant you could carry them around on the bus or train without paying for them. I started on a surfo – Narm 6- the biggest in the range. There were at least 2 smaller models I think but the big one was the go. Looking back at how inefficient they actually were (pre boggie board and perfomance coolite) its amazing what people were able to do on them.

We kept ours pumped up hard and this meant technology. The servo near the beach was better than a foot pump. It always had grommets fevering around the air hose trying too get the pressure just right. At times this was the site of friction and seniority issues. If you went too hard with the air you could put a bubble in one of the chambers thereby queering it forever. It really was a science. Variables such as the air expanding in the heat during summer and then cooling down in the water made it tricky to get things just right.

Rolling waves was the biggest challenge. It was one of the things that made surfoplanes in big surf very hard work. Because duck diving hadnt been invented at that point (wouldnt have worked anyway) and eskimo rolling didnt work very well – the way we did it was to paddle hard at the foam and then dive over the front, one hand on one of the 2 handles to drag it through the soup. In big surf we’d slip off the side, grab both handles and sort of use our bodies as sea anchors. A set of six waves could really fag you out and because of the buoyancy issues you could get washed a long way back in at times. There was no avoiding the pain of dragging these brutes through the foam. Like boards, there were no leggies to fall back on – ‘chucking’ wasn’t an option.

Not all grommets abandoned their surfos in favour of boards. There was no shame in this. There were older guys who were acknowledged as surfo masters and they had status. They not only ripped but commanded as much respect as anyone else in the lineup. Surfoplanes were difficult to ride well and everybody knew it.

Mark C

* note: Mark C died last year and I found this ^ comment of his on an old post about surfoplanes here – 

and not to be outdone, this roughneck (tim mooney) commented about a surfo assault he made on his poor mother …. (below)

‘ Most of us have a memory of the thrill of our first ‘surfo’. I think mine came about 1961 and we loved terrorising four or five abreast screaming towards those inner sandbanks at North Bondi. Got my mother one day a beauty. She’s still here to remind me. Not the ‘surfo’ but. Have any remained unperished. Jees we used to give them a bloody hiding. Throw em on the 381 and head home to do the homework and plan the next attack.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Karen #

    Brings back much more recent memories. Great post Pete. Thanks, K.

    June 4, 2011
    • The old boy follows me around, if you know what I mean –

      June 4, 2011
      • Karen #

        So that’s where he is!

        June 4, 2011
  2. Scott Dillon.Loved the surfoplane story.My Dad Joe Dillon was sec,Treasurer of Bondi SurfClub.I was also a member when I came of age..We all surfed the old Surfoplanes at bondi back in the early 1930,s.Aub Laidlaw was the Beach inspector at this time.In Big Surf,we would walk around to the Fishermans sheds on the Point,and jump off from here and paddle down,to South Bondi where the waves were bigger,After every wave,we would run back to North Bondi,around the rocks to the sheds,and do it all over again.We were Super Fit in those days..One BIG DAY,Dad,my sister Helen and myself paddled down south in a huge swell,where Helen took of on a monster.Helen was wiped out badly.As the foam settled,there was Helens hair floating where she was wiped out.Dad paddled over,lifted the hair,and there was Helen,battered,but,OK.MEMORIES..SCOTT DILLON.I have so many stories from those early days

    July 30, 2011
  3. Scott Dillon again..More stories..We were taught to swim at Bondi Baths from an early stage.When the surf was big,It would break over the Baths Walls into the Baths.At this time,we would jump off the baths,the baths end near the beach,where there was a shallow reef.The wave that missed the baths ran over the reef,with a perfect small wave.You could either body surf it,or with a surfo.At the end of the ridden wave there was a heavy rope across the water,so you wouldn,t run headfirst into the rocks.Once I moved onto the Toothpicks,the best surf was always at the South End..We used the Bondi boat shed,using doors we made to store our surfboards..The shed was carved out of rock,under the cliffs..It was bricked up,many years later,as we all moved on…Scott Dillon

    July 30, 2011

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