November 3 - 9, 2019: Issue 427


Plaque Unveiled To Mark Phenomenal Surfing Revolution Commencement 

L to R: all Avalon boys; Bob Head Life Member ABSLSC, past President original Avalon Boardriders Club, introduced Malibu boardriding to Britain 1960s along with Warren Mitchell and the other ABSLSC members who went there as lifeguards, former board manufacturer....was present at the 1956 Avalon Beach carnival, Dave Watson NASA representative and Beach Without Sand proprietor, and his other hand on shoulder of... Mick Dooley winner 1964 Bells Beach Surfing Championship, 2nd Australian Surfing Championship 1964, 5th place First World Surfing Championship Manly 1964, former board manufacturer, Roger Sayers ABSLSC Life Member, local boardrider, current State Champion SLSNSW Boardriding over 70s division, Alex McTaggart local boardrider (Clr), David Lyall, Bilgola SLSC Life Member, former board maufacturer, was present at the 1956 carnival, Rob Bain NASA representative, current World Surfing Masters Champion, ABSLSC member- One community.  - photo by Annette Sayers.

The boys with the history marking plaque installed - photo by Michael Mannington, Community Photography, Nov. 2nd, 2019.

On Saturday November 2nd, 2019 a plaque was unveiled at Avalon Beach to mark one of the first significant public displays in Australia of the malibu style surfboard, which took place here on November 18th 1956. This started a change in the nature of board riding, beach culture, created a way of life, promoted the development of surf related industries, and has provided many hundreds of thousands of Australians with natural pleasure.

Alongside this tribute is another that marks the place where the first IRB trial took place to mark the 50th year of that step forward that has resulted in the saving of over 100 thousand people by surf life savers.

These significant historic developments involved your local surf club, Avalon Beach SLSC, and the Avalon Beach community and caused profound changes in surf lifesaving, surfing and beach culture in Australia.

The two plaques are long sought community projects, and are a result of and at the initiative of the surf club, Avalon Preservation Trust, Avalon Beach Historical Society, and in the case of the malibu plaque also with the support of the North Avalon Surfriders Association and individual local boardriders.

Birthplace of Australian Malibu Surfing 1956

Several notable events in the history of Australian surfing have taken place here at Avalon Beach. 

Australia’s first significant public demonstration of malibu surfing took place on 18 November 1956, when Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club (ABSLSC) hosted an international surf carnival. After the carnival, the American competitors paddled out on their new style “short” surfboards at South Avalon. 

“We all laughed, thinking they’d get smashed on the rocks. Everyone was amazed when they turned their boards and rode across the face of the wave in front of the rocks. Surfboard riding from then on was totally different.” - Max Watt, Life Member, ABSLSC.

The Avalon Beach international surf carnival  was one of a number of competitions organised by the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia as it was then known (now Surf Life Saving Australia, SLSA), to provide the Americans with some practice in the lead up to a carnival to be held at Torquay Victoria, coinciding with the Melbourne Olympics.  The day before the Avalon Beach carnival a smaller one was held at Cronulla, but SLSA’s Historian, Professor Ed Jaggard concluded in “Americans, Malibus, Torpedo Buoys, and Australian Beach Culture” Journal of Sport and History 2014,  that the Avalon Beach carnival was the biggie and had the most significant impact, as the short “Malibu” boards as the Australians called them, were seen by so many local boardriders who immediately appreciated their manoeuvrability. We don’t mind if Cronulla shares the history.

Until then boardriders had ridden the unforgiving 16 foot toothpick style boards. Bob Head Life Member of ABSLSC was present on the day as was David Lyall of Bilgola SLSC. Both say they were mesmerised as the Americans turned their boards this way and that, manouevres which weren’t possible on toothpick boards.  David reproduced the style of the boards in the only materials available at the time and constructed in the same manner as the toothpick boards. Other younger local kids sitting in the sand dunes watching the proceedings immediately changed their ideas on the kind of surfboard they wanted their parents to buy them. The local surfboard industry couldn’t keep up with demand.

The era of the toothpick hollow boards was over and that of the more manoeuvrable malibu, the forerunner of today’s surfboards, began. Events on that day and later developments revolutionised the sport of surfing, surfboard making and beach culture in Australia.

One of the original US Team members, legendary big wave surfer Greg Noll revisited Avalon in 1998 and was happily reacquainted with the surf club. 

L to R: Greg Noll and Roger Sayers - photo by Tim Hixson, 1998

A few years on, the first Australian Malibu Surfboard Riding Championship was held here on 27 and 28 May 1961, organised by Bob Head, President of Avalon Board Riding Club and member (later Life Member) of Avalon Beach SLSC. The first meeting of the Australian Surf-Riders Association, the forerunner of Surfing Australia, was held at Avalon Beach SLSC in 1963. 

Around that time some members of Avalon Beach SLSC, Warren Mitchell, Bob Head, John Campbell, John Fuller and Ian Tiley decided to travel to Old Blighty to work as Lifeguards in Cornwall. On those beaches they worked alone, so did not have the manpower at their disposal as in Australia to man rescue belts and reels, so they often used their Australian made Malibu surfboards they’d taken with them to do rescues of swimmers who had gone out too far and couldn’t get back.

When not rescuing people, Bob Head started making surfboards in England and a small troupe consisting of Bob, Warren, Ian, and John travelled around giving surfing exhibitions. No one had seen a Malibu board there before.

The Avalon Beach SLSC boys are acknowledged in the book “A History of British Surfing” (R Holmes, 1994) as the beach boys who introduced Malibu or modern surfing to Britain. Its impacts on locals who were interested in surfing were the same as in Australia.

While on lifeguard duty at his beach in Cornwall Warren was told by concerned parents that their child was missing at the beach. A large search was organised and unfortunately the child was found drowned next day, having fallen from a cliff. While it was no fault of Warren’s and he had done his best to find the child, the tragic event nevertheless weighed heavily on him. He began to think about ways in which life savers might be able to patrol beaches and rescue people in faster more efficient ways than those in current use, that were safer for the patient and the rescuer. He discussed his ideas with Bob Head and developed them further on his return to Australia, which resulted in the first successful trial of the IRB for surf rescues. 

Enjoy your surfing . . . enjoy your history.

Roger Sayers
Life Member of Avalon Beach SLSC, and Surfer

The unveiling of the plaque by Bob Head and NASA's   - photo by Michael Mannington

Local Appreciation - photo by Michael Mannington

Photos by AJG, November 2nd, 2019


Early Pittwater Surfers: Avalon Beach I  
1956: The Carnival That Introduced The Malibu Surfboard And Being Able To Surf Across A Wave Face

The post-Carnival photograph of Avalon Beach SLSC members and visitors. Courtesy ABHS.
In Autumn 2014 Pittwater Online News ran a report on the Arrival Of The Mal - 1956 Surf Boards, the Avalon Beach Historical Society Meeting where Speakers David Lyall and Bob Head, Mr. Lyall a member of Bilgola SLSC in 1956 while Bob was a member at Avalon Beach SLSC, shared their accounts of witnessing American surfers being able to ride a surfboard across a wave, something not done here before. David then began making such boards, while Bob organised running the first Malibu contest in Australia on a 'short board' - 'short' in comparison to the 16 foot long toothpicks that could only go in a straight line and became history, overnight.

In 2017 the indefatigable Roger Sayers, who fortunately retired in time to take up full time historical research, sent in the following:

"The first significant public demonstration in Australia of modern malibu surfing took place here at Avalon Beach on Sunday 18 November 1956. Its far reaching effects revolutionised the sport of surfing and Australian beach culture. 

After competing in a surf carnival organised by Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club, American lifeguards here to take part in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics surf carnival, went surfing on their surfboards and carved their way across the waves off South Avalon."

They paddled their boards out in front of the rocks at South Avalon and we all laughed thinking they’d get smashed on the rocks.  Everyone was amazed when they turned their boards and rode across the face of the wave in front of the rocks.  Surfboard riding from then on was totally different.(the late Max Watt Life Member Avalon Beach SLSC)

Max and Norma Watt - behind is Southern end of Avalon Beach SLSC in early 1950's - photo courtesy Norma.

Bob, David, Roger and Max aren't the only people who have spoken about this surfing display. Former Warriewood SLSC Member Norman Godden contacted Pittwater Online from New Zealand, where he now lives, after reading the ABHS article with;

"I was one of the Warriewood SLSC members attending the Avalon Beach SLSC carnival of November 1956. We saw the making of surfing history that day with the Americans. After the competition was over late in the afternoon, the Americans took out their boards and their bodyboards. The waves were quite big and they simply zipped across them, leaving all of us with gaping mouths. A long board guy, Windshuttle, tried to show that the long, hollow board was just as good. It wasn’t.  He caught the wave in the old traditional style and came off.

The show that the Americans put on that afternoon was amazing. One of them was Tommy Zhan from Santa Monica, California who later starred in a couple of films.

Tom Zahn who was the Hawaiian Board Champion - photo taken at 1956 at the carnival, courtesy Don Henderson, Freshwater SLSC via Surf Research

Sydney took to the new boards, with Northern Beaches' Gordon Woods making them from moulded ply (beautiful craftmanship) and a bit later, Roger Keiran making them from foam blanks. My brother and I bought one of the first Wood’s boards.
I now live in NZ but still think of that memorable day at Avalon." Norman Godden

The era of the ‘toothpick’ hollow boards ended on that day and that of the modern malibu, the forerunner of today’s surfboards had begun.  From that day on surfing changed to become whatever it is on the day you are reading this.

Fittingly the first Australian Malibu Surfboard Riding Championship was also held at Avalon Beach on 27-28 May 1961, organised by Bob Head President Avalon Boardriding Club and Life Member Avalon Beach SLSC. Roger Sayers

A copy of the Avalon News held by the Avalon Beach Historical Society reported the competition was originally planned for one day but had to be altered to two days due the degree of support it received from surfers. “The only exclusion is that no ‘long-boards’ will be permitted.

Following the competition a report was published in the Manly-Warringah News:

The decision to hold the event so late in the year was bold but the response from all over Australia showed that it was a sound one. Applications were received from over 200 people, including 14 girls.

“The championships were judged on skill and the task of the judges was not an easy one. The highlight of many thrills and spills was the performance put up by three youngsters in the sub-junior event.

“In the words of the judges, these lads were able to teach many of the older board riders a thing or two. They were Bob Young of Collaroy, Rodney Sumpter of Avalon Beach and Robert Brown of Cronulla. Popular singer and TV artist Col Joye presented the valuable silver cups

Bob Young is better known as Nat Young, who won the second world surfing championship in 1966, while Rod Sumpter and Bobby Brown are also well-known in the development of excellence in Australian surfing. Beth Jackman won the women’s event, making her the first women to win a surfboard riding contest at Avalon Beach.

Greg Noll R Sayers Avalon Beach Surf Club 1998 - Greg Noll, standing on the beach at Pipeline - this image was shot by John Severson (founder ofSurfer Magazine) on the original Big Wednesday of 1964. Yes, he went out. 

Roger, along with other community advocates, was seeking to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the day locals witnessed visiting Americans ride across the waves on Malibu surfboards by having a plaque acknowledging the feat installed at Avalon Beach for the benefit of those who visit and those who are the next generation and wish to know more about where they're standing and where they came from. Visit Issue 272; Community Seeks To Acknowledge Historic Groundbreaking Contributions

Greg Noll did revisit Australia in time for the November 18th 2016 celebrations held at Cronulla, where the visitors had been the day before, on Saturday November 17th, 1956. 

Their visit was timed to coincide with the 1956 Melbourne Olympics with then President of SLSA, Adrian Curlewis ensuring the spread of the Australian Surf Life Saving methods was before all eyes. Adrian was a boardrider himself from way back - this is him at Palm Beach, where he was a founding member of the Palm Beach SLSC and great mates with John Ralston, another early local surfer, and Alrema Becke, daughter of that once famous Australian writer Louis Becke who witnessed surfing in the Ellice Islands (now Tuluva) in 1880.

Adrian Curlewis, circa 1930 doing a headstand at Palm Beach - photo courtesy Philippa Poole (nee Curlewis), daughter of the 'Father of Surf Life Saving'.

Left to right. Miss Sue Russell, John (Jack) Ralston PBSLSC with Alrema Samuels on right circa 1934-36 with 9 foot surfboard. Image No.: hood_02985. This board is still in the walls of Palm Beach SLSC Members club.

A little about that surf carnival at Torquay while the Melbourne Olympics Games were happening:

We'll make a new Games' splash 
It's a lucky thing for Olympic Games organisers they are not holding events on Sundays.
Because on the two Sundays during the Games they would strike the toughest opposition, as far as a gate attraction is concerned, down Torquay way.
The opposition - 3,000 bronzed bodies, competing at Torquay in the international and Australian surf life-saving carnivals.
There is little doubt the Torquay carnivals will be one of the finest displays of the Games outside recognised Games events.
There will be 70 teams from all over Australia, and 70 overseas competitors from Ceylon, South Africa, New Zealand, and Hawaii.
And the surf carnival they put on for the Queen at Bondi, Sydney, will be a "pup" compared with this one.
There will be 60 teams alone in the march past, which is as colorful as the Trooping of the Color at Buckingham Palace, on a background of surf and sand.
Boat race
There are 60 entries in the open surf boat race, 40 in the junior event, and 300 competitors in the open surf race.
Then, just to pack in the thrills, there arc 170 entries in the surf ski event and 200 in the surf board title.
These are two carnivals that should be "musts" for everyone in striking distance of the 58 miles to Torquay on November 25 and December 2. We'll make a new Games' splash (1956, September 14). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 22. Retrieved from 

Australian association
President of the Surf Life-saving Association of Australia (Judge Adrian Curlewis), has announced that a team of American life-savers will come to Australia next month. The team will represent the Surf Lifesaving Association of U.S.A. which was formed only last month.
The Americans will compete in international surf carnivals at Torquay, Melbourne, and at Collaroy and Maroubra in Sydney in December. They will compete against teams from Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa and Ceylon. Judge Curlewis said the formation of an American Surf Association now made it possible for Australian surf teams to visit America in the future. Judge Curlewis said the formation of the American Surf Lifesaving Association and the coming visit of the American team were the direct results of the support the managing director of Ampol Petroleum Ltd. (Mr. W. G. Walkley), had given to surf lifesaving. 

"Without a gift of £2000 from Mr. Walkley, the S.L.S.A. would not be able to stage the coming international carnivals," .Judge Curlewis said. "Before Mr. Walkley made his magnificent gift, the S.L. S.A. would sought help from every council in Australia, but could raise only £1000. 

In addition, Mr. Walkley sent Mr. Arthur Fatkyn, Queensland S.LSA. official, to Honolulu to prepare an Hawaiian team for the international carnivals, "Last month, Mr. Parkyn went to California, and his visit led to the formation of an American Surf Lifesaving Association among sportsmen who surf on Californian beaches. 

This is something the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia has been striving for for many years. As a gesture to Mr. Walkley's efforts to foster international surf lifesaving, the American Association appointed him their patron." 

Judge Curlewis said that after surf lifesaving became established in Australia, the movement spread first to New Zealand and then to South Africa and Ceylon. 

"The Hawaiian Surf Lifesaving Association was formed in 1953 after the visit of an Australian surf team to Honolulu," he said. "Last year the Surf Lifesaving Association of Great Britain was formed with six clubs in Cornwall and Blackpool. "Now as a result of the formation of the American Association, we look forward eagerly to the day when an Australian team can visit California. "This has been the goal of many Australian surf enthusiasts for many years.

Judge Curlewis said entries for the international carnival had closed when word reached him this week of the formation of the American Association. 

"Naturally we are delighted to extend an invitation to the Americans," he said. "We expect a team of 10 or 12 to come to Australia. 

"The voluntary officers of the US.A. now have a lot of work ahead of them arranging transport, accommodation, equipment and training of the Americans." SURF LIFE SAVING (1956, October 24). The Biz (Fairfield, NSW : 1928 - 1972), p. 27. Retrieved from 

SYDNEY, November, 11. -
Twelve American and 10 Hawaiian lifesavers will arrive In Sydney on Tuesday, the advance guard of an international surf invasion. HAWAIIAN SURFERS. (1956, November 15). The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 - 1956), p. 16. Retrieved from

Reg Wood, on the beach that day, adds his account to Bob Head's and David Lyall's:

1956 Surf Carnival At Avalon Beach Recollections Of Reg Wood - Held On Sunday, 18th Of November.

Surf Carnivals in our time, were a gathering of wide eyed youngsters , full of life, ready to try themselves against whatever "Huey," the mystical god of the sea, could throw at them.

The Clubs from Warriewood to North Palm Beach were banded, by the Association together in a group. It was the practice that during the season each of these Clubs would have a Surf carnival, restricted to Mona Vale, Newport, Bilgola, Avalon, Whale Beach, Palm Beach and North Palm Beach. 

They were good days. The events started at midday, and you could compete in any and every event, It was at carnivals like this that one could learn the technique of pretending to move your craft back when the judge thought you had edged in front of the line.

The beauty of these carnivals was that regardless how good you were you could still compete, you knew someone had to come last, so what the hell. Every Club, when it was their turn had to put on an afternoon tea and this ranged from Palm Beach putting on a Keg to North Palm Beach, who had a caravan Park of supporters who put on a terrific spread of cakes and sandwiches.

Naturally North Palm Beach was our favourite carnival. Not only did they put on a terrific afternoon tea but we had a chance of meeting the girls from the caravan park who generally helped at the afternoon tea. Incidentally, we had a terrific Ladies committee, consisting of wives and girlfriends of the members and we generally put on a goad spread ourselves.

We started to win a few restricted carnivals. The boat crew was training well in the old boat on Sydney harbor, the ski and board boys were coming up with wins and places in the carnivals, our swimmers knew they would have to contend with a strong contender from Whale Beach, "Hal" Bailey I think his name was, a bloody strong swimmer. "Craney" was swimming extra laps in Garden Island Dry Dock to beat him and Douglas Wells, "Guts," the King of the Kids was strengthening his right arm for the pillow fight and our beach event lads were doing all right in flags but finding it hard to beat 'Horsey" Harrison from Newport in the sprint. The R & R was a mixture of Ski, Boat and Beach competitors so the R & R Squad comprised of whoever wasn't competing when the R & R was on.

Flush with confidence, when we heard that the Yanks and Hawaiian's were coming out, we applied to run this Carnival, content to put all our effort in running the carnival and forgo the chance of competing because we had been winning a few carnivals the association took a chance and bugger me, we got it.

What a job, over and over we went over who would do what, what was needed, where we would unload the water craft, where to park the trailers, which members would look after this section. Then the incidentals, "Craney" (Doug Crane) came good with Flags from all nations that he borrowed from Garden island. "Chera" had a talk with his Dad, a big nob policeman, re road control, another lad had contacts with the ambulance, gee, and a lot of favours were called in. The yacht Cub came good with a cruiser to help with water and I believe the Water Police dropped by for a while.  It is marvellous how when you chop a difficult job into bits, it becomes manageable.

I remember we had several meals in the Nan King Chinese restaurant in the Haymarket, where we went over our preparations, item by item, even in the case of emergency, how we were going to get a patient through the anticipated Crowd to the ambulance.

Sunday December 18th, 1956
What a day it was. Bloody beautiful, sun shining, good surf. Hawaiians, Americans and Aussie competitor.,, and what a crowd of spectators, our advertising had paid off. Girls that we had been trying to get to come to our beach turned up, but we were to bloody busy to say more than "Hello” and back to our allotted job. What a bummer.

It was at this Surf Carnival that we were first introduced to the short plastic surf board. I think it was an American who first tried out his board in the surf.
All eyes were on him as he entered the surf, waiting for him to be knocked off his board, but he negotiated the surf not too bad and the crowd waited for him to catch a wave.
“No bloody good in our surf” was the general consensus, then up came a wave…
“Go for it” went up the cry and he did, but Huey wasn’t happy and the poor Yank was on a dumper. Down he went and up he came with his board in two bits.
"Told you they were no bloody good" were the bulk of comments around us from the crowd and as usual, there is always one, "How the hell would you know”; Geez trouble I thought, but the pair were content with glaring at each other.

Looking at two different shape surf boards there is good points in both, we have the long racing surf board, fast and in the hands of an expert, able to handle big seas.
But I digress.

Back to the Carnival. As you can imagine in a race the small boards were slower than the long boards but they handled the surf better, when paddling out. The big plus for the small board was the manner in which the short board could travel across the face of the wave, something the long board has trouble with.

The general consensus was “No bloody good here Mate, they can’t handle the big seas”. How wrong were we?

A carnival would not be a carnival without a few hiccups. The flags for the public were in the middle of the beach and only a small corridor between the competitors and the public. One of the Boat captains had a god complex and bugger me, caught a wave and took his boat that close to the swimming area that his oars, that were in the drag position, had they been rowing would have been inside the flags. I forgot myself and abused the hell out of him, saying he only had to veer slightly and he would have collected the swimmers, 
"Not with me sweeping”, he said.
Just when things might develop, the carnival referee came down and told the sweep it was dangerous thing he had done and if he did not walk the boat up to the boat area he would not let them compete. You meet all sorts in a Surf Club.

Well, that's about it everything went well, the clean up, putting the gear away was a drag, everyone was tired and some of the boys had broken off to start  the Barbecue, but we were content. 
The barbecue was a thank you for the boys for working, not competing in the carnival. To ensure we had good meat, Harry Usher, himself a butcher, had brought meat up from Sydney in duffle bags and the best cuts, naturally, were put aside for the surf Club boys that were still putting gear away.

One member only competed in the carnival, you will never guess who it was, and he went in the ski race and won it.

It was strange, the next morning, to see getting on the bus for Wynyard, a surfer with the long shorts that was a trademark of the American surfers with a short board under his arm. He must have enjoyed himself.

A photo was taken of competitors, officials and Club members. Yours truly is laying down in the front with Max watt and on the right hand side, kneeling down in front of two American surfers you will note Norman May in a white t-shirt, remembered for his cry of “Gold, Gold, Gold” at the Olympics."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

US Surfers Show New Technique. (Avalon) 
Nearly 20,000 went to Avalon for the surf life saving carnival in which lifesavers from United States, Hawaii and New Zealand  competed against Sydney clubs. 
The American surfers, standing sideways on small 10ft. boards and moving at high speed, received a warm reception from the crowd. 
One of the American surfers, Ted Levine (Tad Devine) had the opportunity to demonstrate his country's rescue technique in a genuine emergency. 
Instead of the Australian belt and reel, he used a "torpedo buoy'. Thousands Throng Beaches: Many Saved. Sydney Morning Herald. Monday 19 November, 1956. Page 3. 

Surfers To Sell Boards 
The visiting Hawaiian surfers will sell their seven lightweight surfboards, which created a sensation at Avalon last Sunday, after their farewell appearance at Collaroy on December 9. 
The boards, which are made from balsa reinforced with two two long strips of redwood and coated with a thick layer of fibre-glass, weigh 26lb. 
The lightest racing boards in Sydney, made from 1/2 inch plywood weigh from 33 to 23 lb. 
The Hawaiian boards, which have been used at Waikiki Beach for seven or eight years, can be made in less than a week. 
Shorter, Wider 
They are eight feet long, compared with the average Australian length of 16 feet, but are about five inches wider than the local board's 20-21 inches. 
Three hundred people saw the Hawaiians give an exhibition of board riding after a special carnival at Avalon in a big surf last Sunday. 
Unlike Australian boardriders, the Hawaiians stood on the middle of their balsa boards, even when heavy white water from the broken waves swept around their feet. 
Harry Shaffer, captain of the Hawaiian squad, said last night of the boards : "There is no question of selling out to the highest bidder. 
"We plan to give our boards to the fellows we consider to be the real enthusiasts at only a token cost." Surfers To Sell Boards. (Wednesday 21 November, 1956. Page 15) Sydney Morning Herald 

Avalon Beach SLSC Carnival Sunday, 18th Of November, 1956 - March Past - Whale Beach, NSW, Australia leads visiting American team (courtesy Beryl and Don Imison) - who also witnessed the display
Teams of 12 American and 10 Hawaiian lifesavers have arrived in Sydney to compete in International surf carnivals in Melbourne and Sydney in the next month. They will be the first lifesavers from America or Hawaii to compete in surf carnivals in Australia.

The Americana and Hawaiians will appear at international surf carnivals at Torquay Victoria on November 25 and December 3, and at Maroubra and Collaroy, in Sydney, on December 8 and 9. They will compete against teams from south Africa, Ceylon. New Zealand and Australia and the belt champion of England. 

Their first appearances in Australia were at carnivals at Cronulla and Avalon. The visit of the American and Hawaiian teams was made possible by the sponsorship of the managing director of Ampol Petroleum Ltd. (Mr. W. G. Walkley). With the exception of their captain, 45-year-old Herb Barthels, their ages range from 18 to 24. They are a team of young giants. The baby of the team is 18-year-old Roger Jensen, of Malibu beach, who is 6ft. 5 ins. tall and weighs 190 lbs. Their appearance in the march past at the international carnivals should cause a sensation, because they will wear the most striking three, colour parade costumes ever seen on an Australian beach. The trunks of the costumes will be a vivid red, the midriff white and the torso and shoulder straps a rich blue. On the upper front of  the costumes will be the letters 'U.S.A' in red and white and two white stars. On the back of the costumes, against the blue background, will be five white stars. 

Magnificent march past costumes have also been made to New South Wales for the Hawaiian team. Because the Americans are professional lifeguards, at the international carnivals they will compete only in events where life saving equipment is used. OVERSEAS LIFESAVERS (1956, November 21). The Biz (Fairfield, NSW : 1928 - 1972), p. 17. Retrieved from 

Let's get some more surfers involved Sir Curlewis!:


Their 8000 mile trip just failed. Duke of Hawaii smiles his way in. Beaming their delight, Hawaii's top personality, Duke P. Kahanamóku, and his wife (above)step smartly to their seats at the Games opening yesterday. A former Olympic Gold Medallist in the swimming ranks, Duke was a great friend-and opponent- of the late Sir Frank Beaurepaire, who did so much towards winning Melbourne the XVI Olympiad. ILLUSTRATED. THEY CAME FROM EVERYWHERE FOR OUR GREATEST DAY. (1956, November 23). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved from

World surf stars thrill crowd
Tall, bronzed life-savers in their brightly colored uniforms, slowly and majestically marched across the sands of Torquay yesterday and 1 70,000 people cheered one of the most spectacular scenes of our Olympic Games Carnival.
Thirty-five teams representing the U.S., Hawaii, Ceylon, South Africa, New Zealand, Great Britain, and local and interstate surf life saving clubs-competed in the international surf carnival.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the events continued non-stop. As the crowds increased, they packed the beach, then the headland - soon cars took over the golf course.
And then the tide turned, and coming inshore, started nibbling the golden beach away.
The colorful march past was put forward an hour to 1 p.m. - and even then there was hardly enough beach left for the 35 bronzed and youthful teams to march on.
Wearing colorful costumes of blue tops with white stars, a white centre band, and scarlet trunks, the U.S. team brought cheers from the huge crowd.
But the more experienced New Zealanders won the international march past, with Ceylon second, and South Africa third.
White-haired Duke Kahanamouku, sheriff of Hawaii and former dual Olympic swimming champion, sat among the carnival crowd with Australian "Boy" Charlton, another former Olympian.
"It's great," the Duke said, "the sight of surf always thrills me."
But for once the Torquay surf was rather tame, no boats were upended and the small waves were hard to catch.
The Americans caused a surprise when they appeared with their version of surf boards.
Very narrow, and made of light fibre glass, they proved a lot faster than the normal Australian board.
And our reel-and-line method of surf rescue astounded them!
The American idea is to carry a coil of nylon line into the surf and play it out as they swim to the patient. They wear no belt attached to a reel, as we do here.
Judge Adrian Curlewis, Australian Surf Life- Saving Association president, said the international Olympic carnival had brought about an exchange of ideas - the Americans were going to try our reel-and-line method, and we would experiment with their torpedo line. 
Judge Curlewis added that an international advisory surf committee would now be formed. 
Hawaii won the International beach relay from South Africa and the U.S.  Tom Zahn, of Hawaii, won the board race from Mike Bright, of U.S., and G. Williams, of Western Australia.
New South Wales won the interstate rescue and resuscitation from Queensland and Western Australia. Jim Fountain, of Victoria, won the senior interstate belt race from R. Hounslow, of Western Australia, and R. Reid, of South Australia. The Americans claim the Australian reel and line is cumbersome, and that the "torpedo" would halve rescue time. The nylon line is in a rubber buoy fastened under the patient's arms. 
World surf stars thrill crowd (1956, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved from 

Tall, bronzed lifesavers march up the beach during the colorful International March Past at Torquay yesterday. 
Olympic sun gods parade (1956, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved from 


Australia Wins International Surf Carnival
SYDNEY, Sunday.
Brilliant performances by Sydney surf star, Barry Lumsdaine, to-day featured Australia's win in the international surf test at Collaroy.
Australian won four of the 10 events to-day to total 44 ½ points.
Lumsdaine narrowly won the surf race and 20 minutes later brilliantly won the medley surf race.
He proved himself Australia's most versatile surfer.
Australia had led New Zealand by only a halfpoint after the first series at Maroubra yesterday.
New Zealand won only the teams surf race to-day to finish second with 35 points.
South Africa gained 26 ½ points and the United States and Hawaii each 24.
Australia's other wins were in the R. and R. and the surf board race.
The Australian team drilled and swam splendidly to defeat New Zealand in the R. and R. and showed great improvement on their effort yesterday.Australia Wins International Surf Carnival (1956, December 10). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 9. Retrieved from 

An earlier carnival at Collaroy during 1956 from the magazine that would give many insights into surfing during the coming decades also lends a slight poignancy to a scene and idea that was seeking to highlight the great work of surf lifesaving in conjunction with the Melbourne Olympics and brought with it a giant wave of a surfing change that would also run parallel with greater change:

First of a series
A SURF CARNIVAL is our choice for the first picture in this new series of scenes shouting aspects of Australian life. 
This summer marks the beginning of the surf lifesavers 50th year of voluntary service to the public. Since 1907 they have saved 96.000 people. In the 198 clubs of the Surf Life-Saving Association of Australia there are now 8699 members, who pay an annual fee of 10/- for the privilege of saving life. Clubs which have adopted Australian methods are flourishing in Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, Ceylon, and Hawaii. Staff photographer Clive Thompson took this picture at the end of a march past at Collaroy, N.S.W. 

THIS IS AUSTRALIA (1956, January 11). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 11. Retrieved from
July 2016: Left to right: Geoff Searl, Kevin Dennis, Roger Sayers, David Lyall, Robbi Luscombe-Newman, Bob Head, Alex McTaggart 

The timber board Robbi is holding is from the original design that David Lyall talked about in a past article, The Arrival of the Mal – 1956 SurfboardsAlex McTaggart  found it on a clean up in the early 70s in Gladstone street, Newport and knew it needed to be ‘kept’! Roger has his Mick Dooley Mal in this picture.
Hot doggers' of the surf
By leaving behind balsa-wood surfboards after a 1956-57 visit to Sydney, a Hawaiian surf team helped to add a new expression - hot doggin' - to Australian beaches.

IN LINE on South Bondi Beach are members of the South Bondi Board Club. From left are Scott Dillon, "Bluey" Mayes, Andy Cochran, Rod Cartlidge, Barry Ross, and Des Price. Some wear long pants, and have foam rubber built into the knees, to protect their legs, especially when paddling their surfboards out to catch a wave.

HOT doggin' is manoeuvring a surfboard at high speed,
The Hawaiian boards were 20lb. lighter and 6ft. shorter than the type then used in Australia.
On a big wave they could reach speeds of more than 50 miles an hour - 20 miles an hour faster than Australian boards.
Thrilling to the pace of the balsa surfboards, Sydney swimmers went on to try other materials, using new lighter synthetics for greater speed and easier handling.
Hot doggin' now provides thrills for 500 surfers in Sydney alone.
To cater for them, the Surf Life Saving Association is to add a surfboard-riding contest to carnival progammes.
In surfboard riders' jargon the event will be a hot dog meet. It will differ from surf board races. Contestants will be judged on ability in riding the waves, not on paddling power.
Three experts will judge each event for style, daring and "walking the plank' walking as far as 8ft. to the front of the board for speed, or to the back for fast turning.
Instead of riding the waves straight to the beach, contestants will move in all directions, do reverse turns, trying to out hot dog each other.
Because of the popularity of hot dog meets on Hawaiian and Californian beaches, action films of expert board-riders are big business in the United States.
Two Californian surfboard manufacturers recently spent nearly £3000 on photographic equipment and paid all expenses for three of California's best surfers to go to Hawaii for a three-month film-making trip.
Brilliant surfer Bud Browne, of Honolulu, financed a trip around the world with two ex-citing 50-minute films taken on
Hawaiian beaches.
On this trip Browne realised an ambition - to surf in the choppy, cold water of the Bay of Biscay.
Hollywood is to make a film with a surfboard theme, based on an American best-seller, "Gidget," written by Californian journalist Frederick Kohler.
Introduced to a number of surfboard riders by his daughter, Mr. Kohler liked their philosophy and jargon. He called his book "Gidget," meaning girl midget, the surfers' nickname for his daughter.
BELOW: Barry Ross shows the expert balance needed for good hot doggin'. Barry and other members of the South Bondi Board Club keep their surfboards in a shed on the beach. Color pictures are by staff photographer Ernie Nutt.

THRILLS OF HOT DOGGIN' in a big surf at Makaha Beach, in the Hawaiian Islands. Hot dog meets have been held on Hawaiian and Californian beaches for years. They attract tens of thousands of spectators, who have their favorite board-riders in the same way Australians follow the performances of jockeys or cricketers. 
Hot doggers' of the surf (1958, December 3). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 3. Retrieved from 

IN LINE on South Bondi Beach are members of the South Bondi Board Club. From left are Scott Dillon, "Bluey" Mayes, Andy Cochran, Rod Cartlidge, Barry Ross, and Des Price. Some wear long pants, and have foam rubber built into the knees, to protect their legs, especially when paddling their surfboards out to catch a wave.

References And  Extras

1. TROVE - National Library of Australia
2. Geoff Cater (2009) Surf Research website: Australian Newspaper Extracts : 1956 Olympic Surf Life Saving Carnivals, Torquay and Sydney. At:

Holiday Makers' Guide.

We are passing on for the benefit of other intending holiday makers information about making a surf board, asked for by J. S. Hoskins, Ballarat. The simplest kind of surf board is a flat piece of timber, about 5 feet 6 inches long, 2 feet wide and an inch in thickness. One end of the board is rounded off to a blunt point, as shown in the sketch. This type of board is best made in one piece, as any screwed or glued joints are liable to scratch the surfer, or may come apart with the rough treatment the board gets. Any light wood is suitable for the board. 
Holiday Makers' Guide. (1936, November 20). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 5 (SUPPLEMENT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE). Retrieved from 

TEAM to represent Australia in the Pacific surf carnival at Honolulu in July was chosen last night by the \ Surf Life Saving Association. 
It Is:—
H. Doerner (Bondi)
A. Fitzgerald (Wollongong). 
L. McKay (North Cronulla). 
H; Scott (Newcastle). 
G. Emery (Queensland). 
W. Furey (North Steyne). 
F. Davis (Manly), sweep. 
J. B. Harkness (Mona Vale). 
R. A. Dickson (Mona Vale). 
W. A. Mackney (Mona Vale). 
F. Braund (Palm Beach). 
The team will leave Sydney on June 23. . Captain - Instructor Is Mr. J. Cameron. He was manager of the Australian surf team for New Zealand In 1937. For 12 years he was chief Instructor at North Narrabeen and for 10 years captain of the YM.C.A. Swimming Club.Wal Wal Mackney, who has already represented Australia at rowing and Rugby Union, Is a popular selection. Australia's outstanding surf swimmer, Rothe Bassingthwaite, was one of the surprise omissions. . Fitzgerald Is the Australian champion. Bill Furey was one of the most consistent performers In surf races last season, filling a minor place at practically every start. ' Surprise was expressed lost night at the selection of Dickson for the surf boat crew. . .... It was stated that had had no experience In surf-boat races. Frank Davis Is a Manly first grade Rugby Union footballer. For a time it seemed that the tour would not eventuate, because the amateur status of some swimmers may have been Infringed in competitions with professionals. The Amateur swimming Union, however, approved of the tour. It agreed that baths swimming would Do conducted as In Australia. There Is a possibility that champion swimmer Robin Biddulph and his trainer, Harry Hay, will accompany the team. _ . . It was hoped to match Biddulph with the American star, Frank Flannsan. Matches may be arranged with Kiyoshi Nakama, who hails from Hawaii. Surf-board contests will be held as well as surf and baths events. A surf boat and life-saving equipment have already been sent to Honolulu. HAWAIIAN SURF TEAM CHOSEN (1939, May 16). Daily News (Sydney, NSW : 1938 - 1940), p. 8. Retrieved from 

Palm Beach Prepares For Almost Adam-less Eden
A bumper season Is expected this year at Palm Beach, even though numbers on the exclusive stretch of sand in front of the Pacific Club will J be depleted by many sun-tanned "handsomes ' who have joined up for service.
THE affiliated clubs of the Surf Life Saving Association have contributed 1300 members to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force and the Palm Beach list has supplied its quota. The popular president of the Palm Beach S.L.S. Club, Captain Adrian Curlewis, whose name has been associated with the Beach for many years, is now with the A.I.F. It sounds like an almost Adam-less Eden, but Palm Beach Eves are not prone to moping. They are putting on their glad rags just the same, and setting up their house (logs as protectors. Life will not be as pleasantly indolent as in previous summers. The Red Cross branch is very active and all residents and regulars are members. At the branch's meeting on Wednesday members decided to hold a stall in Martin-place on December 6, selling all types of beach wear. Mine. Piat and Mitti Lee Brown, whose mother, Mrs. Scotty Allan, has that lovely pink rough cast house, The Cabin, on Pacific-road, will be mannequins.
Whale Beach and Avalon Red Cross branches are collaborating. 
MRS. ALAN COPE-LAND and Mrs. K. F. Coles had a big idea of turning the Coles' lovely new home overlooking the beach into a home for evacuated British children and forming a committee to look after them; but the scheme has not yet been accepted. 
Mrs. Alan Copeland has turned a serious mind, too, to vegetable growing, and on the scorched soil of the beach slopes has a fine crop of spinach, peas, beans, rock melons, and strawberries coming on. " 
She is an attractive figure at work in the garden in her little-girl cotton frocks which have set quite a fashion at the Beach. The Beach rules out housecoats this year and ...
Bookings are Tilling so rapidly this year, it looks as though the Beach is being sought as a haven. The Warwick Fairfaxes have taken Boanbong, the Mackay house on the front, for the summer. Mrs. Stanley Edwards has taken Palm Corner and will go down next month for the Christmas season. The Edgerton Tacombs have taken Far End, which used lo tic The Cornci- House. Mrs. John Laidley Dowling is > taking a house-party down. Captain and Mrs. Claude Healy are sharing with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Vincent.
'there'll he a housewarming among the Christmas celebrations if the Lionel Dares' new house right on the beach is finished in time. It is to be attractively simple and practical, like all the houses at the Beach, and completion is promised for December 20. The Jim Normoyles hope to build, too . . . and for the past few weeks Mrs. Normoyle has used up all her petrol coupons looking for suitable blocks of land. J|t
Winter Palm Beachers, MRS. IAN DODDS and WIMPIE, have Mrs. Laurie Ingram's house. 
MRS. MAXWELL HINDER has taken with ease to the simple life in her new home at the Beach.
Smart Beacher, and regular all the year round surfer, MRS. EDGERTON JACOMB in a new season's outfit of marine striped silk shorts and slack blouse.
MRS. FRED CHENHALL, whose husband, has left for overseas with the A.I.F., is Beaching with her sister, Mrs. Hinder.

MRS. JIM NORMOYLE'S Palm Beach wardrobe includes this suit of Bahama print that has just arrived for her from New York, the color . . . similar to Indian Red . . was designed for the Duchess of Windsor's brunette color-
Youthful glamor in a hooded frock, PAT FITZGERALD, who has already started her season at the Beach.
MRS. MARION MORFEE who is staying down at Whale Beach with Mrs. Bubble Cohen. 

MRS. ALAN COPELAND on the terrace of "Strayleaves," Palm Beach, now her permanent home . . . with her canine,' GEORGIE. She has gone in for pert little girl frocks for beach wear this year.

Left: It's the life all right . . . MRS. BUBBIE COHEN, who has taken Mrs. Douglas Doyle's house at Whale Beach for the summer.

MADAME HENRI PIAT, of Careel Bay;" her home is one of the snuggest- 'of the Beachites'. 
Palm Beach Prepares For Almost Adam-less Eden (1940, October 27). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 21. Retrieved from 

Maroubra Surf Life-Saving Club has decided to conduct a "surf-board pageant" to introduce the new style of beach entertainment agreed to by the Surf Life-Saving Association.
It will be the first event of its kind in Australia, and follows the style of American beach entertainment.
The club's publicity officer, Mr. Roy Arkins, said last night that the "pageant" would he held on a Sunday afternoon, probably early in December.
Main idea of the function is to introduce surf-board racing to Australians. SURF BOARD PAGEANT (1945, September 21). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved from 

THESE BEACH BEAUTIES, at Avalon, are models Patti Morgan, Joan Bell and Beryl Lawes. Their swimsuits came from a factory which made RAAF parachutes during the war. 
No title (1946, March 10). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 11 (SUNDAY COLOR MAGAZINE). Retrieved from 
The Beautiful Coastline North of Manly
The view is looking south from the Serpentine-road at Avalon, and shows the succession of bold headlands towards Manly. Newport Beach is in the right-centre.
The Beautiful Coastline North of Manly (1932, October 5). Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938), p. 44. Retrieved from 
Early Pittwater Surfers: Avalon Beach I  - 1956: The Carnival That Introduced The Malibu Surfboard And Being Able To Surf Across A Wave Face - from and by Reg WoodRoger SayersGeoff SearlBob HeadDavid LyallKevin Dennis, Norman GoddenMick Dooley and A J G - 1956 to 2019!