The need to know, since 1770

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

It’s a funny old thing working for a company that tells people when the surf is good. Not funny ha ha, but funny because it frequently forces me to confront my conscience in a way that I don’t imagine brickies, or bank tellers, or school teachers, ever have to. Working in the surf industry makes for a weird collision between profession and passion. “Do what you love,” my careers adviser once said to me, “and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Except he was a non-surfer and never faced the wrath of an angry local trying to keep a new south swell on the lowdown. Yet at the same time there are other surfers - maybe stuck on the construction site, or in the bank, or at school - who desperately want to hear about the arrival of said swell. They need a surf report and will gladly use it.

It’s at this point, where market demands meet cultural pressures, that I place my focus. The realist in me knows that if there wasn’t the demand there wouldn’t be the product, while the idealist simply wishes every session was unattended. The focal point changes over time: what was acceptable then may not be anymore.

Recently, while wrestling with my conscience yet again, I spent some time tracing the history of surf reports. You may see it as a naked attempt to allay some guilt, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong, though it’s not the whole answer and anyone who’s followed the historical articles on Swellnet would appreciate that.

The surf nerd sees a hidden history there. A history that, in its scope, demonstrates the lengths surfers will go to find out about the waves, and a history that also charts technological change, because since the first surf boom in the early sixties, we’ve used every available medium - radio, telephone, fax, pager, and the whole gamut of digital signals - to tell others about the surf.

Don't forget to keep small change in your wetsuit: Telstra ad campaign, 1995

If we're looking for a place to begin then April 1770 will do. Mid-afternoon on the 28th.

It was then that Australia's first surf report was logged. The HMS Endeavour dropped anchor a mile off Woonona, near Wollongong, and Captain Cook launched the jolly boat to make landfall. Cook, however, was beaten back by a good Autumn swell:

“...we found that we nowhere could affect a landing by reason of the great surf which beat every where upon the shore,” was Cook’s formal description, while the Endeavour’s 2IC, Zachary Hicks, already knew the value of a soundbite - make it short and catchy:

“Ye captain went away in ye yawl, but could not land for ye surf.”

Nearly 200 years of unreported surf later the first reports - sort of - were advertised in the early surf mags. In the December ‘62 issue of Surfing World, 3UZ Radio proudly advertised their “aerial beach and shark patrol”. With one eye on the sharks, the 3UZ pilot also provided listeners with “parking availability” at the beaches - though made no mention of the surf conditions.

That changed in December ‘63 when Parkview Surf Shop advertised a “daily advisory service” for surf conditions from Lorne to Phillip Island. Soon after, Tony Olsson’s Melbourne Surf Shop provided a similar service.

"A surfing service providing for the king sport!" Surfing World, December 1963

Up in Queensland, Ken Gudenswager gave local reports on behalf of Adler’s Surf Centres. To scope the surf between D’Bah and Noosa, Adler’s had occasional access to a ‘helicopter’ in the form of young Chris Gudenswager going “whoop, whoop, whoop” in the background as his Dad, feet firmly planted on the factory carpark, reported on the conditions below.

Around the same time - the dates are unclear - Bob Evans, who also edited SW and never let an opportunity pass by, convinced radio station 2SM that a surf report would be in their best interest. He also convinced them it would be in their interest to install a landline at his Elanora home - cutting edge tech for the early sixties.

Evo filed his reports from Thursday to Sunday and included other info such as gossip and contest news, however, the quality that made him an ideal presenter, that he was a mover and shaker within surfing, also led to the report’s demise: Evo was too often away from home. A surf reporter has to be dedicated and diligent, unless your name is P. Jarratt that is, but we’ll get to that shortly.

As Evo was winding down, Australia’s longest serving surf reporter was just winding up for a thirty year career hollering down the line. Shane Stedman started doing surf reports with 2UW in 1967, though he was never on the air - he phoned in the surf info, the presenter read it out. That changed in 1971 when Shane switched over to 2SM joining Frank Hyde (footy) and Alan Wilkie (weather) on the celebrity roster.

By summer of 1974, the year of the first Surfabout, Shane was on air ten times a day, every half-hour between 6am and 9am, then 3, 4, and 5pm. He was given a boxy Suzuki 4WD adorned with 2SM logos and despite being based on the Northern Beaches he had the Sydney coastline covered. Just as Evo convinced 2SM to install a phone at home, Shane had them install one in his car - one of the first ever car phones! He’d call Vic or Ron Ford at Bondi, and Frank Latta at Cronulla to get an update on conditions.

Shane’s access to surf stars helped him enormously, but it worked the other way too. Under duress from Terry Fitz and Simon Anderson, Shane was forbidden to mention North Narrabeen in his surf reports. Shane worked for 2SM up until 1982, providing thousands of reports, yet only one of them exists on the internet - and Shane mentions North Narrabeen.

In 1982 the wheels fell off 2SM and Shane moved to 2WS where he remained, first doing surf reports, then surf and weather, up until 1996 when internet killed the radio star. In all, Shane reported on the surf for three decades. So ingrained had he been in people's lives that even years after he retired from surf reporting he'd have people coming up to him saying they'd heard him on the radio that morning.

In contrast, Phil Jarratt’s surf reporting career was short and ignoble: more a front for a punchline than serious reporting. Jarratt got a guernsey when 2JJ went to air in 1975 and often appeared opposite Tony Edwards playing Captain Goodvibes. The two once joined DJ Holger Brockman for a Sunday night surf show which went live to air for half an episode before the station pulled the plug. According to John Witzig “Phil’s reports were the most disgraceful as he didn’t even get out of bed to do them.” Jarratt had a storehouse of generic terms that said much while specifying little - a valuable skill for a hard-partying surf reporter.

Jarratt passed the 2JJ baton to Nat Young, who in turn passed it to Andy McKinnon, who became Australia’s second-longest surf reporter. Over 28 years Andy Mac worked for 2JJ and 2MMM in Sydney, 2LM in northern NSW, then in 1989 he began a gig with SEAFM on the Gold Coast where he became the voice of surf.

By the time Andy Mac had started at SEAFM the radio personality was already being superseded by technology. Celebrity reporters endured, particularly on the Gold Coast where Tappa Teece worked Radio Metro, Rocky Rawlings reported for Channel 9, JC appeared in the Bully and on 2MMM, and Brownie ran Coastwatch on Channel 7. Yet as electronic communication improved, curious surfers no longer had to wait for the hourly update on the radio, nor have to call a local surf shop and risk copping a bum steer.

In 1985 Jerry Arnold, David Wilke, and Craig Masuoka started Surf Line in California, a telephone surf report on the newly created caller-pay numbers. Soon after launching they hired Sean Collins, a skilled, self-taught surf forecaster. Collins left Surf Line in 1987 to start a competing company, Wavetrak. In 1991, Surfline (now stylised as one word) and Wavetrak merged. Similar surf reporting hotlines emerged in California but by 1998 when Collins bought Surfline most of them had disappeared.

Pay phone technology lagged in Australia, though by the early nineties two main competitors emerged on the 0055 number - a premium call code which was also enormously popular with psychics and phone sex workers. Many a parent was shocked by an outrageous phone bill, attributed to either Waveline or Surf Alert (“70 cents per minute - cheaper than petrol!”), and later on Dial A Wave, all of which had a national network of reporters and a three day “long-range forecast”.

By the nineties the days of the celebrity surf reporter were over but the new telephone services tried to inject personality into their products: Surf Alert takes the trustworthy approach with clean and ordered copy, while Dial A Wave, run by Ben Horvath of Underground Surf, keeps it loose.

Surf Alert was run by American expat Mike Perry who managed to stay abreast of the evolving media technologies, first as founding editor of Australia’s Surfing Life magazine, then Surf Alert, which he expanded from a phone message service to a fax service, and in 1996 Perry launched Surf Alert online as Australia’s first surf report on the web - just a year after Surfline had done the same in America.

And the tech developments kept coming. The same time Surf Alert launched online here, a product with the same name was launched in the states. It was a pay service that buzzed pager-equipped surfers when conditions met a predesignated threshold. Surf Alert (US) only lasted as long as pagers, which were worn hitched to a person’s exposed waist belt, were fashionable - so somewhere between two months and never.

Yet it was the move to online that assigned the paging systems, phone services, and daily fax alerts to the trash file of history. In 1994, Ron Britvich from San Diego wrote a program that uploaded a ten-second video taken every ten minutes from a camera facing the surf. The staggered footage appeared on a website called Surf Net and in 1996 the idea was improved upon by Surfline who put up the first around-the-clock live-streaming surf cameras using technology sourced from the porn industry. ‘Surf cams’ were a huge success and led the surf industry into the dot-com boom of the late-nineties. The shift to online was, according to Matt Warshaw, “nerd-driven, passive, and useful to nearly every surfer on the planet.”

Warshaw’s quip about online being driven by nerds deserves to be held up to the light and scrutinised because it cuts to the heart of the dilemma. Almost all the online surf forecasting sites were started by people with a strong scientific or computer background who had been trained to maximise their efficiencies and achieve good results, yet they were primarily surfers who largely kept those ambitions in check. Directing hordes of surfers to specific breaks was in no-one’s interest so, at least in their forecasts and reports, they developed prose that sat somewhere between full disclosure and Jarratt-level generalisations. Striking the right balance was key. Let the punters join a few dots themselves.

In 2008, WaveWatch III, the model that underpins most surf forecasting systems, was upgraded to the point that anyone with an interest in waves could code a website and have it running on a server while generating passable forecasts in graph form. A slew of weather sites appeared that also gave surf reports and forecasts. If you could afford to take a hit on accuracy it became possible to get all your surfing information from a non-surfing site, neatly sidestepping the gatekeepers and also surfing’s cultural mores.

More recently, surf media has fractured in so many ways that the gatekeeping style of old is becoming irrelevant. Take social media for example. When anyone can be a surf reporter by livestreaming a session on Instagram - sometimes from waves that were once deemed off limits to photographers - then it makes a mockery of self-imposed codes.

There’ll always be critics of surf report sites, but it’s clear that they’ll never disappear: surfers want to know what the waves are doing now, tomorrow, and next week - always have and always will. But anyone who reports on the surf has a fraught relationship with their audience: sure, surfers want to know, but more importantly, they don’t want others to know, so by and large surf reporters are loved in secret, loathed in public. At best a truce arises, where the demand for the product is balanced by surfing's cultural code.

The balance point is ever-changing but I've got my eye on it, wrestling with it, and it wrestling with me.

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:04pm

whatever happened to Mike Perry Stu?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:16pm

Disappeared.

Which is a euphemisim for someone who isn't on social media so has became bloody hard to find.

Mike was the everywhere man for a while, editing ASL, writing for Deep and TSJ (great bio on Bob Cooper), shaping for various labels, plus the aforementioned forecasting work.

These days he just does weekend surf reports on the Sunny Coast Daily.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:40pm

so he's living up the Sunny Coast?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:42pm

Apparently so.

Doesn't every ageing surfer move further north?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:51pm

I heard Wayne Lynch has had a gutful of living around here and is going further south.

but yeah cold water is shite for ageing bones and muscles.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:54pm

Wim Hoff would disagree.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 4:00pm

hahahah, true.

Graeme Murdoch's picture
Graeme Murdoch's picture
Graeme Murdoch commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 9:26am

MP's on the Goldy still. He does a great email weekend forecast that he sends to a select group of homies every thursday morning. Perry was my first editor and the best mag mentor a rookie could hope for. Together we knocked out a fair few analog ASL, SLAM and Riptides back in the day. A stellar fella.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:19pm

Good read Stu.

The old 70c per minute 0055 number makes $8.95 per month pretty bloody good value.

"surfers want to know, but more importantly, they don’t want others to know, so by and large surf reporters are loved in secret, loathed in public." That's quite a dichotomy to wrestle with and find a balance between, but I reckon you guys do good.

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:53pm

Those phone ads bring back memories! My parents had to call in the communications ombudsman because the phone bill shot up tenfold in one month after my brother and I discovered them. When they were going through the bill they found we'd called it about 8 times in a day and sometimes we called it 5 minutes apart from each other. They ended up getting a lock on it.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:56pm

Same. As a teenager in South Oz, I used to call every surf report phone line around the country, just to y'know, see what was happening at Burleigh, Bells, Cronulla and Margs. Like I could possibly do anything with the knowledge it was pumping (or not) interstate.

Then the $300 phone bill arrived.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:43am

haha..."Err mum I was doing some scientific research for a future business opportunity"

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:49am

It's difficult enough in 2019 to assess the merits of an online business... let alone in 1987 as a thirteen year old, just over a decade before the internet really became available in Adelaide!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 3:57pm

Unreal.

That’s the price of the subscription right there.

Appreciate the effort Swellnet goes to in maintaining that balance. You guys set the bar for the rest of the industry.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 4:15pm

Great article.

I thought you would have touched on Swellnet's humble beginnings and how it has now grown into the surfing behemoth that it is today, leaving all others trailing in its wake.

I remember always listening to Andy Mac twice a day for years on SEA FM and also of course JC on Brownies Coastwatch. I even got on the video snippets twice, once at Burleigh and once at Palmy. As a young fella, that was a bit of a thrill seeing myself surfing on the tele.

Prior to that I think 1184 or 1186 (can't quite remeber which, one was the time) on the home phone which would give you wind, direction and strength and swell, direction and period in a kind of automated voice. That combined with the synoptic chart in the newspaper was about the extent I went to trying to predict the waves. Even though it was aimed mostly at boaties it would give you a kind of indication what was in store.

How far we've come.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 11:42am

I wouldn't mind reading a bit more on the history of Swellnet too Zen. Ben, Stu and Craig are all fairly humble fellas, but I'd be keen to know how a backwater grom came to create what could reasonably be called Australia's most credible surf-related website.

Over to you Stu...

Don't let the bastards grind you down

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 4:26pm

Perth surf report back in the day 2211963, comitted to memory as rang it so often.

VelocityJohnno - the theory from back then, if the surf report phone number didn't have the message recorded, it was pumping because the reporter hadn't gotten out of the water.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 6:34pm

Correct, most days "hi its terrible down on the coast" (words to that effect)

If however there was no report...

Pedal to the metal, gun it to the coast. Thanks Simon O'Sullivan :)

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 5:02pm

You've jogged the memory Stu...3GL radio reports, Tidal wave Ted, phone line reports - most surfers in my era could even read a synoptic chart and at least have a bit of a clue. Thanks especially though to Dennis 'Strapper' Day and his employees in the eighties - D'Sas and Brenno. Even though surf reports were pretty easy to come by, we got our daily 'honest' report from these guys via phone call to the surf shop. They saved us a lot of time and petrol deciding whether the drive from Geelong would be worth it. It was also a pretty cool place to hang out.

WarriSymbol's picture
WarriSymbol's picture
WarriSymbol commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 12:22pm

Tidal wave Ted... was that Ted Bainbridge?

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 3:07pm

Tidal wave Ted Bainbridge. The one and only. Off topic, but here we go. My mate - new to motorbikes and completely unskilled thought he'd take on the Jan Juc carpark and gunned it up one of the levels. Didn't see Ted's wife's Volvo parked there. She didn't see him either until he T-boned the car and smashed his helmeted head through her passenger window. Ted was there within minutes and tore him a new one. Following behind in my car a different mate and I drove a short distance away to watch the action. Pissed ourselves for days.

singkenken's picture
singkenken's picture
singkenken commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 4:59pm

ican - Thanks for mentioning ol' Tidal Wave down here in Vicco', 3XY & 3 GL (Local) were the only source of info' then. Often biased towards PI & the East coast though. That story about the Juc Carpark is EPIC !!!. Later on the Strapper & Rip Curl phone reports saved me hundreds of $ in Petrol!.

kneepete's picture
kneepete's picture
kneepete commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 5:26pm

Tidal wave Ted Bainbridge! Ha ha....amazing what gets forgotten.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 6:30pm

Some memories there.

Also got in shit from parents for running up the phone bill for riding surf reports, also use to ring the boating report for conditions and forecasts.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 6:39pm

"using technology sourced from the porn industry"

Fantastic article Stu.

I'd love to hear where Swellnet comes into it, did Ben get to the stage where he customed his own charts or weather software to forecast?

2001 iirc, 3 of us at work with US Navy FNMOC charts up in the office, the Yallingup cam in the other tab with a 15ft swell running, it was revolutionary (and the surfers at work got no work done)

Also massive shoutout to Blackheath Weather, about this 2001 time, taught me about LWTs and storms, and how to calculate the LWT up to 2 weeks out, that was a huge development.

mr mick's picture
mr mick's picture
mr mick commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 7:50pm

Late 70's into early 80's used to ring surf clubs on the Goldy, impersonate a reporter from Brisbane papers & get a really good surf/weather at real time. never failed & cheap!

Mr mick

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 9:25am

Great idea!

gordie's picture
gordie's picture
gordie commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 7:57pm

Gold article Stu, brought back many memories. As a Melbourne grom I religiously read the reports in the newspaper which were usually pretty far off the mark but they would definitely get the juices flowing enough to jump on the vline to Geelong then hitch a ride to the surf coast.

Gordie

hoody's picture
hoody's picture
hoody commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 9:18pm

I'm confused as to maximum pleasure with lesbians. I get the feeling they will just ignore me and do their own thing. Tried to call to find out, but the number is no longer connected. Shame on you Swellnet for putting up false information.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 9:37pm

It's like herding cats

hoody's picture
hoody's picture
hoody commented Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 at 9:22pm

Seriously, used to love calling the duty forecaster at the BOM at all times of night, then getting a swell fax which was cutting edge thermal paper technology. Out with a ruler to check swell angles to see if secluded spots might light up. How far we have come!

tux's picture
tux's picture
tux commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 7:51am

Nice article...my old man was a cray fisherman and used to get the detailed reports over the VHF and then later the weather fax he was always good for a surf forecast...
1. "its shit"
2. "could be alright"

savanova's picture
savanova's picture
savanova commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 8:12am

I cant believe you left out Mark Warren's surf and snow reports on 2mmm Sydney with Uncle Doug Mulray, hands down the funniest radio DJ to hit the airwaves.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 9:28am

Listing all the radio reports would've turned into War and Peace - and listing all the online reports would've filled the sequel - so I had to stick with the trendsetters, so to speak, the first people on the scene before their scene was overtaken by newer technologies.

philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizingkerching's picture
philosurphizing... commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 1:12pm

Remember that Aretha Franklin song 'Sisters are doing it for themselves'.
Doug Mulray played it on MMM and at the end he says ...mmmm...Eveready will be happy.

Jamyardee's picture
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Jamyardee commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 10:12pm

I think it was Mark Warren on the radio in Kongs car on Mad Wax, in the late 80's. Hinting Summercloud Bay would be on, and the next clip was blackrock.

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 8:18am

How many of us have gone from trying to decipher the old black and white synoptic charts in the newspaper to learning about ocean fetches, swell periods, swell directions, intense polar lows, leading edges, wind fields, etc, etc.
In the modern era of surf forecasting the service Swellnet provides has turned us into closet meteorologists/surf forecasters and it’s a good thing. It’s like gaining an unqualified qualification in meteorology!!!
So, no need to wrestle with anything - I think most of us subscribers have ended up getting a higher wave count because of the service you guys provide.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 8:28am

Jeez you're a cruel man, Stu. I wasn't always in bed! But I was suitably vague: "Crisp nor-wester this morning and three foot east swell means plenty of opportunity for beachies this morning between Manly and Palmie. Oink, oink!" (That would be the Captain interrupting me.) And I never mentioned Whale Beach Wedge!

Phil Jarratt

Laurie McGinness's picture
Laurie McGinness's picture
Laurie McGinness commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 9:03am

Defamed on the Internet! Reputation in shreds. Will never work in the industry again! Call Slater and Gordon.

flow's picture
flow's picture
flow commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 9:21am

I remember phoning up for the report in the early 90's. Greeted by Ben Horvath :"good morning surfers...

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 10:32am

I saw this ad hidden in the corner amidst stiff opposition from the sex ads in one of the posters from above......"8 days a week"....sounds legit

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 9:42am

Before 0055 or 1900 service, the first South Oz phone-based surf report service I can recall was Boogieman from Wind 'N Wave, who used to record a report three times a day on the shop's answering machine. Problem was though, it only took one call at a time - so the bloody thing was always engaged!

Once the 0055/1900 services kicked in, almost every surf shop had a phone report: Andy Inkster at Big Surf Australia, Mark Bray at Ocean Graffix, the bokes at Southern Surf... I'm pretty sure some of the metro surf shops gave it a whirl for a while too.

Prior to that, Grant Cameron used to do a surf report on SAFM at 7:30am. I'm pretty sure he used to live around Seaford/Moana, so he'd check the surf in the dark around 5am on the way into the station, which was (and still is?) on Greenhill Road.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 10:32am

Modesty probably prevents your much apprecited afforts in this area Thermal, faxs and prints on surf shop windows.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:21am

Thanks AMB. We'll eventually do a 'history of Swellnet' at some point, maybe in 2022 to mark the 20th anniversary!

Jono's picture
Jono's picture
Jono commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 10:37am

And boogieman would take soooooo long ($$$$$) to read out the conditions on the mid with an overly detailed report, even though it was tiny/flat most of the time, and then do the south coast report afterwards, which is what everyone was after.

sledgedog's picture
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sledgedog commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 7:06pm

Vaguely remember JR’s Surf Report on the radio Saturday & Sunday mornings in S.A. early to mid eighties but can’t remember what radio station.Always tuned in whether we were heading down the coast or not!!

jezza64's picture
jezza64's picture
jezza64 commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 10:25am

Boating and bay weather from BoM, think it was 1194. Used to call it from work about 3:00pm, wait to hear the wind strength at South Channel Island then bail on Flexi-time. Tram home, throw the sailboard on the roof and hit Pt Ormond in Elwood. Fun times in the mid to late Eighties.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 10:40am

1194 ...."at the third stroke it will be..."

jezza64's picture
jezza64's picture
jezza64 commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 1:19pm

Hahaha..... brainfuddled from the flu. And it was a long time ago.

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 1:30pm

Yea I think it was 1196 which was the weather.....get well jezza.

peterb's picture
peterb's picture
peterb commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:00am

Did a little online surf reporting in my time ... Avalon in particular, every day with pics for 5 years and to buggery with the locals ...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:27am

Comedy, drama, and pathos, sometimes all within the one daily report.

The Avalon/Around the Bends report was my introduction to online surf reporting, and I lived 100kms away!

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:34am

Your daily scribe was one of the main reasons for logging into RS every day, Pete. 

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 8:46am

Oh yeah I remember the LA crew casting stinkeye at pete’s white 200SX circling through the car park over south Avalon
Heaven forbid your camera points down towards second reef

peterb's picture
peterb's picture
peterb commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 12:08pm

... and there was the once in a ten year day when Point Joe had me under the Barrenjoey overhangs shooting pics all day .. one month later in one of the surf magazines DHynd, who acquitted himself well, was most derogatory about having a surf-reporter share the day online.
And as much as I don't like pumping bozoblog - scroll down to the slide show - they are the only shots taken of the day.
https://petebowes.com/2012/11/02/point-joe-online-something-mr-derek-hyn...

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 3:30pm

The afternoon Before THAT day you posted a pic of the Joey rising NE swell onshore and unruly
I figured it could be on and was in the water at first light that morning - With Just one other guy out for an hour and half
Thought I was at outside corner!
Must have left as the others arrived as I would have recognised Northey
Once in a decade day

peterb's picture
peterb's picture
peterb commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 3:53pm

I got my Avalon Mafia ticket the day Roy called by home and asked if I'd taken any shots of him off the pool on another day .... we never dropped in on each other since.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:29am

Classic photo of Andy Mac from the GC Bulletin (I presume that's Blake and Lachie?).

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:30am

Behold SURFax!

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 8:35am

I recall the BOM had a fax back service in the 90s with swell Height and period maps

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 11:36am

My grandpa was caretaker at the local surf club and was up every morning before dawn. I'd get him to ring home if it was good but my parents got jack of the early morning rings so I used to have to turn off the phone in their room before I went to bed and he could only call for two rings and then hang up. We also had a secret code where he'd ring, hang up and then ring real quick again if it was pumping.
Love ya grandpa...RIP old mate.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

Jono's picture
Jono's picture
Jono commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 12:30pm

What a legend!

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 12:17pm

Fantastic Stu!
Gold Coast Groms recall 4GG Skywatch via Lanhams Aircraft...(tbb will load Jingle)
http://www.theradioantenna.com/?p=2140
I believe this started up early 1970's
Mick Careys Surf & Beach Report (sung as a radio jingle)...main feature of Skywatch.
Late '70's I believe Bill Bohlman (Stubbies) had a short stint + others in time.

(Early GC Surf Chix calling the shots)

Natalie Gruzlewski (1990's Radio-Surf Reports?)
https://www.celebrityspeakers.com.au/natalie-gruzlewski/
1996 Flipper (as The Bar Maid)
1996' Prime 7- "Surf TV" presenter/Surf Reporter
1999 TV Surf Reporter (GC 9 TV ) > (re: Pro Surfer - Luke Egan)

Liz Cantor (Pro Surfer + ASP Judge)
https://suzukiqld.com.au/suzuki-life/ambassadors-liz-cantor/
2005 Blue Water High (ABC TV) as Corrine Hardy.
2005 TV Surf Reporter (GC 7 TV)
2013 Radio Surf Reporter (Sea FM)

1998 tbb stayed at Ron Clark's Couran Cove South Stradbroke...(Big deal?)
Each Beach Shack was fitted out with a 24/7 Panning Live Beach-Surf Cam.
I recall this being a CCTV channel option as computers/www were only coming on.
https://beachsafe.org.au/beach/qld/gold-coast/south-stradbroke/couran-cove

peterb's picture
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peterb commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 12:37pm

Thanks, Ben, appreciated. And you too, Stu, and that lunch you owe me? It's now dinner.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 12:44pm

Another Ben Horvath masterpiece (thanks to the Cronulla Surf Museum).

"Check out this Waveline advertisement from the 90’s featuring Ben Horvath as the priest, thats Gooch kneeling and Ryan in the choir boy outfit. The pic was shot at Darook Park right on sunset, when we set the surfboard alight the neighbours thought there was some devil worshipping going on and called the police and fire brigade. Photo Chris Stroh"

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beachparty commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 3:03pm

in the mid 80s here in the west it was dave kennedy (rip) from star surf shop with a short report on radio morning and arvo, (my mates and I called it the dave kennedy chocky wheel) if we missed the report we used to phone up the surf shop and ask him directly :P (even though the shop was in the city and nowhere near the beach)

DBEARINDARE's picture
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DBEARINDARE commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 6:18pm

CRG. That story is the goods. Ya gotta love your pop for that. Reminds me of how cool my pop was. Dont you miss the old buggers? Selfless people back then, always thinking of others. RIP my nonno too.

Surprised nobody mentioned Reg Prasad. The black piston of Bronte.

andrew-pitt's picture
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andrew-pitt commented Thursday, 11 Jul 2019 at 7:56pm

the sequel would be - time line of the surf guide books & surf travel reports with the same surfer-ethical-dilemma issues

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups commented Friday, 12 Jul 2019 at 4:58pm

In the late 80’s here in NZ it was complete guesswork in a lot of places. Particularly for east swell for some reason. (South swell was different though as the city spots pick it up where I live) Anyway, we’d take the 2.5hr drive from Wellington out to the East Coast with pretty much no idea what to expect. Sometimes we’d rock up and it’d be 6-8ft off some cyclone that was off the weather map. Other times it’s be 2ft. We just kept going over there every weekend and sometimes you’d absolutely score with No one there. Impossible to do that these days as everyone is so in tune.
In saying that a lot of the younger guys rely so much on the reports that they get caught out a quite bit. All that ground-work us older guys did in the pre-internet days pays off. I reckon it gave us a wider knowledge, especially for figuring out the more fickle spots. That said there’s no way I’d go back to those old days. We used to get lashed all the time.

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John_Clark commented Friday, 12 Jul 2019 at 8:43pm

In the mid 80's as smart arse groms we used to get phone calls at Greenmount surf club from Brisbane radio stations for surf reports. Of course we told them it was crap when it was pumping and vice versa..

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Friday, 12 Jul 2019 at 9:22pm

Spuddups working all over Tassie for a year was like that. No idea of what you would encounter when you got to the East, North, West coast and all the nooks and crannies in the South. No internet, so just a synoptic in the paper or in the news. Look back on that time fondly.

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Spuddups commented Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019 at 5:13am

I have a couple of mates who lived there for a while and from what I hear it's a complete nightmare of a place to figure out unless you're a long-term local. You can't buy that kind of local knowledge aye; it comes with years of dedication, observation and trial and error. Much respect to those that have it.

garyg1412's picture
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garyg1412 commented Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019 at 7:58am

Been living in Tas for 20 years now and still struggle to get it right. My worst ever effort was a 600km drive for a 2 hour surf. A mate of mine keeps a record of the data of all the good sessions he's ever had for the past 25 years so now I just let him take the wheel.

ewagner's picture
ewagner's picture
ewagner commented Sunday, 14 Jul 2019 at 8:04am

Fantastic article! Love the idea and the effort to put this piece of history together. Invaluable.

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surfstarved commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 11:54am

For a brief period in the late 80s and early 90s the Sky Surfboards surf report - recorded on the shop's answering machine - was on speed dial at my place. Me and my three brothers would call on Friday evening and again Saturday morning then, if it was good, we'd bug Dad for as long as it took for him to cave in and drive us down to Byron/Broken/Lennox for a bash.

Then we learned how to read a weather map and started paying attention when the weather came on the ABC news. Luckily, it was around the same time that the hotline switched to a 0055 number.

Don't let the bastards grind you down

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mickos commented Monday, 15 Jul 2019 at 12:15pm

No one's mentioned Phill Byrne 's ,North side of point breaks, Wollongong report was every morning ,very handy cause you could figure out direction & gage the size by look-in out me window ,& how the splash was hitting Penguin head & where it was hitting .Pre internet ...

mickmack

truebluebasher's picture
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truebluebasher commented Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019 at 2:28pm

Credit to Stu for recognizing Surf History is as old as the stories themselves.

Crew equally respect Saltwater's East Coast surf reporting skills & events.
tbb informs of Birds,flowers & trees entwining fishing,shark & surf seasons.

1791 Bryant's family recorded the fist modern account of surfing waves ashore.
These seafarers of highest order stole the Governor's Surf Boat.(Oz Best Cutter)
Rounding Cape Moreton with surf running high for 2 or 3 leagues down White Bay.
The crew made shore at Tangalooma staying 2 nights in Quandamooka Huts.

tbb presented Qld Libraries with a folder + Charts / paper + Post'Cards + Souvenirs.

"The Providence" Bligh & (Flinders-Charts/logs) fought over Bryant's (Surf reports)

Bligh because Bryant's equally epic East Coast escape rivalled his own voyage.
Flinders was hooked on Bryant's 148 page Surf Mag of East Coast secret surf spots.

1799 Pro surfer Flinders was to later reclaim said surf spots for the ruling classes.
White Bay! Was it renamed 'Morton' Bay as tribute to Bryant's navigator (W.Morton)?

Bryant's East Coast surf Mag was unrivalled until commercial shipping.
Some say the Dutch have it + crew's letters are either locked in vaults or scattered.