The West

WA surf pioneers relive swell times

In the days before multimillion- dollar sponsorships and surf shops, a group of mates would tie longboards to their cars to drive almost five hours south on limestone roads and set up camp under melaleuca trees at Yallingup.

It was the early 1950s and surfing was considered a fad, which some suburban councils were trying to ban from Perth beaches.

With new driver's licences, old cars, tinned food and a sense of adventure, the group of about 15 young boardriders were the first to go surfing "down south".

Back then, Yallingup consisted of just the Caves House pub, a shop and a few huts, so surfers had to "bush bash" to the beach.

Big wave rider Tony Harbison, who became a president of Surfing WA, recalls sleeping in hammocks around a campfire.

"The bush was so dense that the rangers who heard that surfers were camping in the bush couldn't find us," he said.

Len Dibben, who still makes surfboards at 76, said the breaks down south offered freedom for surfers who often ran into trouble with Perth councils or life-saving clubs.

The pair, who met up with 1960s surfer Keith Barrot to swap stories this week, will join other WA surfing greats in Margaret River on April 5 for the 50th anniversary of Surfing WA.

The West Australian

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