Australian surfing in the early ‘70s was golden — living was cheap and easy, good waves were abundant and uncrowded, board design was enjoying a period of great experimentation and innovation. Why not escape the hurried masses, move into a camper van along some rifling point break, and surf your life (or at least your twenties) away? Turning Point: Surf Portraits and Stories from Bells to Byron 1970-1971, by surfer/photographer Rusty Miller, captures this era in all its halcyon glory. The book is wafting in stringy blond hair and old Valiant station wagons and square-jawed, self-reliant characters whose eyes suggest winding barrels and screaming off the lips. It’s a reminder of our free-spirited, countercultural past. It’s a spur. Here is a sample, with captions by Miller. . .
David Nuuhiwa in Jimi Hendrix mode
Cool and composed from Huntington Beach California. Absolutely the master of nose riding and a top stylist (both in and out of the water) in his day. Here, he was in the parking lot at Bells. There were no waves. He came in from LA, had a look and went home. It didn’t fit his style and mood at the time. The stylish hat is from a famous LA designer, whose name escapes me.
Reno kissing Joanne
Surf love. What keeps a surfer motivated and warm in body and heart when not riding waves and when wetsuits were not as snug as they are today? A post surf session good wrap up in blanket and the closeness of female companionship. In the background wearing the bandana with large sideburns is Dale Dobson, switchfoot from California, who could do anything on a surfboard and an unknown wearing the Bells contest t-shirt.
Wayne Lynch with Keel fin Lennox Head Point 1971
Wayne, rarely photographed at that time, is shown here with a tiny, Lennox Head village is in the background. A rough, dirt track, that is just to the left of Wayne’s VW Bug, ran parallel to the shoreline and when not too wet you could drive almost all the way out to the Point. In winter we had it almost all to ourselves. I first met Wayne in Kauai, where I lived, when he came over with Paul Witzig in 1968. I connected with him again at the Bells Beach event. So, perhaps this is why he did not mind me taking his photo. I feel privileged as this is one of the few photos I took of him, not knowing at that time everything he was going through. I also got to surf with Wayne which is always a special occasion. He made going backside on the long Lennox lines look like an advantage. (Note the head on the rocks to the right in the photo is that of Michael Peterson).
Good Ol’ Days at Lennox Head
We used to be able to drive in and park on the hill near the headland at Lennox if you had a four-wheel drive. This was Paul Witzig’s International truck with the peace sign on the inside of the back door. Not every other surfer had one in those days. Paul was filming Sea of Joy. This is my favourite lifestyle shot that shows what we were all into at that time, the perfect Lennox Head point day. Ah, when time suspended into long, warm sundrenched sessions. The consistent quality waves here were the main dynamic energy source and common denominator. They gave us life force.
Left: Russell Hughes and Mickey Dora, Byron Bay | Right: Nyarie Abbey, John Witzig and Garth Murphy
This is most likely the only photograph of surfing’s most renowned rogues/rebels together. Mickey had just pulled into town, unexpected of course, and here they sit on the fence on Jonson Street, Byron Bay, discussing where the best waves and opportunities lie. I love this photo showing the contrast in style: Mickey’s Italian leather shoes and groomed attire versus Russell’s country boy bare feet and scruffy long hair. And, of course, a Byron Bay when it was a sleepy town.
These three, lazily, you could almost say, are grazing in the paddock. I always relate to this shot as it reminds me of when we seemed to have a good balance of surfing, leisure and work, all with a pace which was similar to grazing. Fewer people meant that we did not have to rush to get to the surf before the crowd factor took away the fun factor. There was not as much of a feeling of being behind in getting a large number of waves under our belts.