For young surfers in the 1960s, there was an ever present desire to follow the sun and escape to a remote destination, surfing perfect waves with just your friends around. Sure the local spot may get good occasionally, but it was not the same as ‘The Search’. The early surf films and magazines of the day focused on the world renowned spots like Malibu and Sunset Beach, to which they became known as surfing meccas right up until the present day. Ten thousand miles away in Australia, the allure of getting away from your local beach was in every surfer's minds. Fuelling the fire were magazine articles uncovering another spot, not always- but usually naming the place too. For many years, the crystal clear peelers of Noosa Heads, Angourie, The Pass and Seal Rocks were all whispers and only the locals and the top echelon of nomadic (or tag-a-long beach bum) surfers in Sydney had the pleasure of surfing them.
With impending popularity, these waves became known as their own surfing mecca. Generally speaking, the popularity of a place draws a crowd, crowds bring consumption- money is made- consumption creates waste- pollution and crowds ruin said surfing mecca. It’s a bad cycle but fortunately many places on the East Coast of Australia have remained pristine and relatively unscathed from human development.
September 2017, a low-pressure system is bellowing down south and sending long period swell up the coast. Out of season, but perfectly timed for the McTavish team's arrival to one of the coasts original surfing mecca's. Like an old surf tale, day break greets us with 6 wave sets, a light offshore wind and a beautiful sunrise...timeless. The location could be any North Coast point break, the same car park vibe, the same whistles and stoked voices as people scurry into their wetsuits for what could be the last swell of the season. Photos tell a thousand words and the grassy crescent, boulder lined point and crystal green peelers would give the location away to any old surf aficionado worth his salt... and gosh was there some of those this weekend!
Coinciding with our weekend surf trip was an event which celebrates the glory years of 1960s surfing. Grassroots competition, run by surfers for surfers... camaraderie is high and respect is rife amongst the 100 or so gathered crew of groms, women, men both young and old. Fittingly, our accommodation for the week was a classic 1960s surf cottage with an old caravan parked out front and a wooden hut that wouldn't look out of place in a tropical location. We were back in the 60's and what better place to live it than Crescent Head... boards scattered everywhere and Eleanor's period Mercedes parked out front with boards stacked sky high.
The swell filled into the head high range, staying consistent all weekend and the sun was ready to do its damage. Picture perfect waves kept the stoke beaming, adding another element was the literal surf history lining the point with an array of craft from twin fishes to 16ft toothpicks. The contest divisions are based on the classic style of longboards and the associated style which is internationally considered to have ended in 1967. Greenough and D fin longboards, Toothpicks, Okanui's and modern logs were surfed by competitors of all ages and gender. Keeping a watchful eye and talking about the good ol' days were surfing elders Sam Egan, Bryan Hughes, Bill Cilia, Bob Kennerson and Bruce Channon among many others.
Growing up on the point breaks further north and getting the attention of the all the guys was Roisin Carolan. who surfed out of her skin taking out the Women's logger and Open D-Fin event. With surf royalty in town (not such a rare occurrence) the annual 'Show n Shine' was a real blast. Fittingly, best dressed went to Eleanor McCready, while in the board department some beautifully restored and original classics were on display. A special mention going to a surfboard belonging to yours truly, 1967 Bob McTavish shaped Keyo that Bryan Hughes remembers clearly in the factory. John Mantle had just finished laying down the Egg Shell and Blue colour combo, a Greenough style fin was to be fixed...which he did! This particular board won me the contest with a perfect 10 point ride to boot, I often joke about taking boards 'home' but this actually felt like it was a match made in heaven... or perhaps just a surfing mecca, same thing right?
- Matt Chojnacki