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How Australia’s surf culture became the envy of the world


“It was a way of escaping the city and the boring humdrum nine-to-five, living in cheap sharehouses and surfing whenever they wanted.”

With hire averaging $20 per week, shared amongst many housemates, and vegetarianism the usual dietary selection, all many of the native surfers needed to provide you with was about $10 per week to maintain their utopian way of life.

Rip Curl co-founder Doug “Claw” Warbrick: ‘Me and childhood friend Dick Milledge with my first car, an EJ Holden, in Bell Street, Torquay, parked outside Dubby Davis’s milk bar, circa 1961.’

Rip Curl co-founder Doug “Claw” Warbrick: ‘Me and childhood friend Dick Milledge with my first car, an EJ Holden, in Bell Street, Torquay, parked outside Dubby Davis’s milk bar, circa 1961.’Credit:Courtesy The Rip Curl Story

And whereas trendy surfers lament having to battle crowded line-ups, Butch Barr, Rip Curl’s first accountant, says surfers within the ’70s really struggled to seek out firm.

“There were so few surfers, especially mid-week or in winter – I often struggled to find someone to surf with,” he says.

“[Torquay] was different – it was very rural with virtually no businesses [for employment] unless you worked in a pub. The mail was still delivered by horse and cart and if you had to go shopping or to the bank or the doctor, you had to go to Geelong. I don’t think any of us went there believing we could make a good living out of standing on a surfboard.”

An ideal melting pot

The surfers who’ve lived to inform the tales of this “golden era” of browsing say the folklore is fairly bang on; it really was a liberating time the place friendships – and waves – have been every thing.

“It was such a rich era [thanks to] a combination of the [surfing] short board revolution and counter culture and recreational drugs, anti-Vietnam [sentiment], sexual liberation and the Pill,” Baker says.

Bohemians all around the nation have been rejecting metropolis dwelling in favour of coastal hamlets the place they organically created a brand new surf tradition that turned the envy of the world.

Baker places a variety of Australia’s international browsing affect all the way down to the best way Aussies embraced quick boards that have been higher suited to our “punchy” seashore break waves, versus the cruisy lengthy boarding of California’s level breaks. At the identical time, browsing motion pictures depicted Australia as distant and untouched.

“In California the dream had already been a bit tarnished with a lot of coastal development, so I think a lot of surfers looked at Australia as this new frontier,” Baker says.

“Americans who came out here for the 1970s World Titles in Torquay just never left.”

The northern affect

Victoria was hardly the one nook of the nation with cottage industries working from each shed and kitchen desk. Gordon Merchant had began making Billabong board shorts on the Gold Coast in 1973, and Brookvale in Sydney’s northern seashores was one other hotbed of surf tradition.

“They were wonderful days – all we did was party and go surfing,” recollects Shane Stedman, 81, who based Shane surfboards and Ugg Boots.

“We had a brand new factory in Brookvale in 1967 for $60 a week in rent. Within six months we were making 150 boards a week and selling Ugg boots to the people who bought our boards.”

Like most browsing start-ups of the time, he employed gun native surfers who have been passionate in regards to the work and would work nights if the surf was up.

Shane Stedman in his workshop in the northern beaches in 1972.

Shane Stedman in his workshop within the northern seashores in 1972.Credit:Photo: Supplied

“We were a nation of workers – we’d been taught to work ever since we got out of the convict chains,” Stedman says.

“You got paid for what you did, and those of us who wanted to work could make good money.”

When the surf beckoned, he’d strap some boards to the roof of his Jag and velocity in the direction of the Sunshine Coast, stopping at surf outlets alongside the best way.

“You’d never [drop below] 100 miles per hour – there were no speed cameras then,” he says.

“You’d say, ‘I’m in town, come for a surf’ and you might buy ’em a meat pie for lunch and that was the extent of the bribery and corruption. They’d order half a dozen boards and you’d bring them up in three or four weeks.”

Capitalising on the tradition

It’s straightforward to take without any consideration the well-shaped surfboards and heat, versatile wetsuits filling surfshop cabinets at present, however rewind 60 years in the past and also you’d see a time of primitive designs begging for main innovation.

“I remember seeing some guys riding surfboards from a school bus window in 1962 and it was like seeing something from out-of-space – it was remarkable,” recollects Paul Trigger, 72, of Trigger Brothers, the enduring surf model from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

“There was no one to tell you what to do, you just saw something on the TV or saw what other people were doing and tried to copy that.”

While the “surf’s up, tools down” perspective of the surf manufacturers reigned supreme, a cohort of entrepreneurial thinkers spent sufficient time on dry land to construct their manufacturers utilizing tireless trial-and-error.

“Americans who came out here for the 1970s World Titles in Torquay just never left.”

Tim Baker, creator of The Rip Curl Story

“We were very experimental, going from having surfboards that surf clubs used to foam and then fibreglass. This all happened really quickly and things got better and better and better,” Barr says.

Rip Curl co-founders Brian Singer and Doug Warbrick at Bells Beach at the start of the Rip Curl Pro-Surfing championships in 2004.

Rip Curl co-founders Brian Singer and Doug Warbrick at Bells Beach at first of the Rip Curl Pro-Surfing championships in 2004.Credit:Paul Harris

“It was revolution rather than evolution.”

While Rip Curl targeted on boards and wetsuits, Torquay’s different main export, Quiksilver, based by short-time Rip Curl alumni Alan Green, was going gangbusters with boardshorts.

“In Hawaii, Quiksilver boardshorts became a really sought-after item,” Baker says.

“They were comfortable and hard-wearing [unlike] wearing shorts not made for surfing [that] would fall apart and rub you in places you don’t want rubbed.”

A golden age

In 1969, Stedman spent his yr’s earnings – $25,000 – on a block of land and a home, and in 1974 he moved to a $30,000 home on the finish of the headland at Mona Vale.

“You can’t do that any more [you] poor buggers – it’s a totally different place.

There were four sets of traffic lights between Mona Vale and Brookvale, and now there’s about 34,” he says.

“We had the best surfers, the best beaches and the best surf. It was total freedom with few restrictions. It’ll never come back again.”

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