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surfing in the 60’s .. what a bloody shambles.

Nothing is true, all those stories about surfing in the the sixties are fiction. Old men and their dreamtime. There is a record here that must be re-written and here we are with our hand up.

We were there, and we remember – and where to start.

The boardbuilders.

What a catastrophe ..!

Boardbuilders worked out of old sheds and basement rooms, an old stable off Bondi Road – under a canvas roof behind a petrol station on Campbell Parade. They chopped out and glued up balsa planks, clamped them up and left them in stacks for weeks. Forgot them. Left for all points north and locked everything away for the season. Some of them travelled to Hawaii and never returned, others fought their way into Queensland – fought their way out. They drove racing cars and played golf. Some were Catholics, demonstrably so.

Boardbuilders thought little about sending home some spindly youth who weighed about 70 pounds with a unit that weighed about 30. Some delivered the boards personally – Brookvale to Bondi –  and then spent the night drinking rum and watching rugby league with the family, this is after the old man had handed over the 30 quid. COD.

Deposits in those ancient times were like french letters, nobody bothered.

The boards.

There was a period when everybody wanted their boards bleached. This was a secret process and the balsa came out of it white allover. Just lovely. There was however some small complication with the glassing processes as many of the boards delaminated in sunshine and blistered up into massive air-filled mounds. Expert advice was to prick the bubble, squeeze out the air and glue it all back together, that or fill the cavity with Tarzans Grip.

Warranty was do-it-yourself in 1963.

Later on the salt water would penetrate the wound and in a very short period of time the 30 pound board became a 45 pound board – and nicely yellowed. Spongy, except for the rock-hard mounds of glue all over the deck. This led to another problem as the chemical properties of T Grip ate away at the balsa, like termites.


This you bought at the chemist. Big hard blocks of paraffin wax that scored lovely long fractures down the deck on first rub. Problems with softening this stuff occupied some of the finest minds of the time. Dunk the block into boiling water, lift it out with the fingers. Set fire to large wads of newspaper and hold the block in the flames, with your fingers. Melt it in a saucepan over a gas jet and mix it with turps. Burn down somebody’s house.

Wax was a big problem.

Fixing dings.

Three parts resin and two, one, one and a half, a bit, just a touch of hardener should do the job. This was the advice given and one by one we burned holes all the way through the deck to the bottom of the board. Shredded rails were fixed with waterproof builders putty. When the serious damage became too great to consider making good, portions of the board were sawn off and thrown away. Incidentally, this was the real start of the short board revolution. Everything else is lies and self- aggrandisement.

– then there were the girls, and none of it was easy.

header pic lifted from gowest blog

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jeez, Pete, and I thought the 70s were bad.

    Actually, they were.

    If only for the platform shoes….

    May 16, 2012
  2. davo's liver #

    How many drops of hardener was that again? I set my dad’s work bench on fire in my first ding repair effort.

    May 18, 2012
    • just a bit davo, not much – then stand back

      May 18, 2012
  3. Ben #

    On reflection the neon in he 80s was not such a ht idea.

    May 22, 2012
  4. Hi Pete,
    Love your blogs!
    I’m trying to get a history on the ramps at Bondi. I have been surfing with Bondigirlssurfriders & Bondi Longboard Club for over 10 years. The girls always meet at the 2nd Ramp and the Longboards at 3rd Ramp. I have always taken it for granted that it’s just because it’s the 2nd Ramp from the south end, but i know there is a lot more to it than that. I hope to share some stories on our Blog this year so the younger surfers are familiar Bondi Surfing history. My sister in-law was a surfer in the 70’s and hung with a group at 2nd ramp so i know it was a big deal which ramp you were associated with.
    Have you written any stories on this?

    February 28, 2013
  5. Terry Jenkings #

    Hi PB – you forgot the damage done to car roofs by ill fitting board racks ( often home made) and melted wax !!! It was a process of evolution , but most of us loved it and would return to the decade tomorrow ….did we ever leave ?

    May 21, 2014
  6. TJ: remember how it felt with your first short board, when your feet hung over the tail when you were paddling .. that took a bit of getting used to

    May 21, 2014
  7. Terry Jenkings #

    Never could get use to it PB ….from time to time I sneak in a wave with my old “relic” which still has a 1968 registration sticker .. …trouble is it gets heavier ( or I get weaker) each year.

    May 21, 2014
  8. Pellinore #

    Great read.

    June 5, 2014
  9. ta pell, muchly

    June 5, 2014
  10. Pellinore #

    Maybe I should have in included a smily face, or some really longwinded talk. Fuck computers.

    June 5, 2014
  11. the fuck away .. how else would you have read it?

    June 5, 2014
  12. Pellinore #

    just jealous, the best way I can describe it me and my mates and I were watching rage stoned of our head. A sixities song came on and the fella runnin around with balloons looked like my best mate (I was his best man). I told him so, he picked it up eventually, jesus, I cant remember the song. Something about nuclear war and shit. I picked up surfin, they didn’t understand it, went back to W.A, and paddled passed him without a word.

    June 5, 2014
  13. Pellinore #

    Thunder Clap Newton! Richard Bridges, Mundijong in Perth. Looks a bit like the fair haired goodie.

    June 5, 2014
  14. Pellinore #

    Here’s a poem

    The sixties, what a bloody shambles

    Shambling along, the sixties, did not know itself
    Shakin it’s head, it did not know if it was Arthur or Mary
    It could not ask it children because they where gone

    The sixties, what a bloody shambles

    Death and disservice where the captains
    But oh, how they fought back
    Their ancestors would be proud

    As they stand by there graves and boogie

    June 6, 2014
  15. Kristine Best #

    Spent my teenage years alongside Harry N. Rabbit, Mick Kiggins, Wayne Blyton and Wayne Williams, Astro, Carol p. Debbie McKinnon, trips down south, live bands at paddoHall.tamam Shud, the endless summer days. Yamba for ten years and Byron and the Whitsundays, Happy

    July 27, 2014
  16. Lorraine Lambert #

    Recently saw a doco on SBS about Bondi (Secrets of our Cities) presented by Greg Pickhaver aka HG Nelson. Memories came flooding back.
    HG got round to talking about the stink pipe and the raw sewerage that would sometimes aggravate surfers and swimmers at Bondi and that on Good Friday, 1989, a quarter million people gathered at Bondi Beach for the Turn Back the Tide concert which was being staged as a protest against the pollution by sewerage of Sydney’s beaches. I had moved to WA by then, pristine beaches, turquoise waters ideallic! But it prompted me to write a poem about my experience in the surf at Bondi on one of those occasions when the wind was blowing and the tide was running in an unsavoury direction and the fact that we literally didn’t give a shit what was floating in the water if there was a good wave to be had.

    In a time before Bondi’s waste was treated
    Regular bathers oft were greeted
    By a floating stool or toilet paper,
    Whilst in the air hung a putrid vapour.
    There were small brown deposits upon the sand,
    And were joined in the waves by a popular brand
    Of rubbers, or Frenchies, as some were known,
    From a certain direction whence the wind had blown.

    Now here I was, aged about ten,
    Surfing the swell with some older friends,
    And when I emerged from under a wave,
    A scream of terror my friends all gave.
    While they all screeched at the filament,
    I thought a shark bite was imminent.
    So I swam towards them in equal fright,
    But they swam away with all their might.

    And when we struck upon the beach,
    They continued screaming and to point at the “leach”,
    Which had draped grotesquely across my head,
    “Oh help me ” I cried, I thought I was dead!
    “What is it?” screamed I, ” Oh, get it off, please”,
    As I trembled in fear and went weak at the knees.
    Awaiting a strike, a bite or a sting.
    I had no idea what the next move would bring.

    I was alone in my panic and no one would dare,
    To help me out from my despair.
    Until I saw some help at last,
    But was greatly bemused when I heard it, laugh?

    The Beach Inspector had come to help,
    He was armed with a stick…..
    I began to yelp!
    ” Hold yourself still girl” as he removed the “leach”,
    And flung it down upon the beach,
    Where it was recaptured by the Sea
    While I was led away for a cup of tea.

    Lorraine Lambert (need Irvine)

    October 15, 2018

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