Dick Hoole on when Burleigh was the centre of the surfing universe
Burleigh Heads on Queensland's Gold Coast was where the 'real men' surfed during the '70s and '80s, and photographer and filmmaker Dick Hoole was there with camera in hand to capture it.
Now living in Byron Bay, there was a time when Hoole called the Gold Coast home while living the nomadic surfing lifestyle.
Dick Hoole. (ABC Gold Coast: Solua Middleton)
"In 1975, Burleigh was the main arena," Hoole said. "Just like Hawaii had Sunset Beach and later Pipeline — on the Gold Coast, Burleigh was the arena. Burleigh was the centre of our surfing universe since and still is."
''There was no superbank. If someone said 'I'm going down to surf Snapper Rocks', you'd probably say 'okay, when you develop your ability and you get good enough to come out here and surf with the real men at the Burleigh'.
"We knew where the quality waves were."
Crowds on Burleigh hill for the Stubbies Pro (Photo: Dick Hoole)
Media demand for surfing
To find the best surfers of the era, Hoole followed them to the competitions. Before there was the Quiksilver Pro or even the Billabong Pro there was the Stubbies at Burleigh.
"In the beginning it was only the Coke contest in Sydney, and the Bells contest in Victoria," he said.
"The Stubbies event put the Gold Coast surfing on the map. It was the most spectacular performance and surfing was in demand by the media."
MP in his late-70s prime (Photo: Dick Hoole)
"It was like Young Talent Time, everyone was interested in surfing, it was like a surf movie a tribal gathering."
Hoole started his career as a surfboard shaper in Byron Bay where he moved to from Sydney in 1967 as a 17-year-old.
"I remembered how polluted the surfboard manufacturing industry was," he said. "I was doing the glassing and sanding and I remember the environment was so polluted and toxic that I swore to myself I didn't want to be still working in a surfboard factory when I was a senior citizen.
Dick Van Straalen and Burleigh's best, including Thorton Fallander, Peter Harris, and Joe Engel, outside Dick Van Straalen Surf Design in the 1970s (Photo Dick Hoole)
The pay wasn't much
While he worked in the shaping shop, the stories of Hawaiian trips made by his older co-workers inspired him to take the same path. He figured the only way people would believe he made it all the way to Hawaii was to start taking photos to show them he was really there.
"That's basically where my interest in photography happened," Hoole said.
Richie West at Burleigh (Photo Dick Hoole)
"One of the photos I took there was put on the cover of Surfing World — Tom Stone surfing Pipeline.
"Seeing your name in print and seeing your photos published, that was about as exciting and rewarding as it needed to be, because remember you didn't get paid much.
After bouncing around Honolulu for a while he met fellow photographer and filmmaker Jack McCoy and his career changed gears after the two connected.
Dick Hoole, at left, and Jack McCoy with the equipment they used to make Tubular Swells. (Supplied: Carmel Hunter)
Bringing surfing alive on screen
Hoole returned to Australia to make the Gold Coast his home and embark on a film-making career.
"Basically, without a script or the Indiana Jones formula, we decide we're going to make a film," he said. "There was no script and no budget. We bought the camera and we just started filming the surfing that we saw around us," he said.
"It was just the simplicity back in those days that made it so unique. It was purely to make a film that was shown in the theatre on the big screen and that's when it came alive."
After the success of In Search of Tubular Swells, Hoole and McCoy followed up with Storm Riders. (Supplied: Dick Hoole)
Hoole and McCoy made history when they made surfing film Tubular Swells. "Tubular Swells was the first feature film made in Queensland, it was more incidental because there was no film industry up there," Hoole said.
"All the processing and sound mixes were done in the facilities of Sydney, but the film was actually made in Mermaid Waters."
They followed Tubular Swells with Storm Riders, which starred MR, Rabbit Bartholomew, Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch and Tommy Carroll.
Hoole said he was glad of the opportunity to document surfing history "because after all, we were just living our surfing dream".
// SOLUA MIDDLETON
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