How Byron Bay Transformed From 'Reeking' Abattoir Town To Coastal Hotspot

Mark Bannerman
The Rearview Mirror

Byron Bay in 1976 was a long way from the tourism and traffic jams of today (Photo: Lee Pearce)

In 1982 the journalist Craig McGregor wrote about the delight of driving into Byron Bay.

"You climb up Highway 1 onto the hills that stare over the east coast … whip through the fast esses that snake along the ridge top … and suddenly there is Byron Bay… I've come to think of it as the most stunning seascape I've ever seen. See Naples and die; see Byron and open your mind."

With all that Byron Bay has become, it's remarkable to think that less than twenty years before McGregor penned those words the same town was an industrial hub with a piggery, an abattoir, sand mining and a whaling station. It was quite literally a working-class village drowning in its own excrement.

As the Byron historical society noted, "the town was unkindly described as reeking from the stench … with their effluent colouring the sea and washing up on the shores".

Walker's Abattoir at Belongil Beach in Byron Bay (Photo: Richmond Tweed Regional Library)

The question is how did Byron transform itself from that, to the holiday destination and counter-cultural centre it is today. A new book called Neverland charts the forces that created modern Byron Bay and it comes up with a few surprises.

Author Tricia Shantz explains: "Byron Bay was never really a hippy town even though the media today still perpetuates the myth…surfers set the agenda for what Byron was to become."

More than that, the book argues that despite playing host to a healthy number of Australian surfers, its was Americans who came to the Cape, surfing and setting up businesses including clothing shops, cafes, and surfboard factories.

Some had come to avoid the draft. Most were fleeing overdevelopment and endless crowds in their home country,

"The Americans were more entrepreneurial, but they had come to live a simpler life. They did not want to see what happened in California happen here," Shantz says.

The main street of Byron Bay in the 1970s (Photo: 'Neverland')

Sharks attracted by the abattoir

The second question is: how did these Americans know Byron Bay even existed? Well, as the book explains, we can thank filmmaker Bruce Brown and champion surfer Phil Edwards for that.

In 1961 they travelled to Australia and Byron Bay to gather footage for the film Surfing Hollow Days. When the film was released in the United States a year later the world saw Edwards surfing The Pass and Wategos Beach.

As Edwards recalled later, "I remember seeing shadows under me one day and I left the water… up at the Lighthouse I saw traffic, meaning the men in grey suits [sharks]. I later found out there was a meat packing plant in town."

Edwards and Bruce Brown were about to get second shock. While they surfed Wategos another American was surfing The Pass just a few hundred metres away. That man was Bob Cooper. Back in the States he would also talk up the surf he'd found in Byron and later in the ‘60s he'd make the move to Australia for good, opening a string of successful surf shops.

The impact of the film wasn't immediate, but it was profound. Slowly Americans, seeking to find the perfect waves they had seen on screen, began arriving.

In 1964-65 three people who would help define the location found themselves in Byron. The first was Derek Beckner. Raised in Los Angeles he had come to surf.

The beach at Broken Head (Photo: John Pennings)

In Neverland, Beckner recalls the moment he pulled up at the beach at Broken Head, just south of Byron: "It's still burnt in my brain. It's still one of the most perfect surfs I've seen in my life. Head high and peeling all the way from the point to the carpark."

Beckner was so taken by what he had seen he stayed, left for a short time, returning and finally becoming a resident and businessman in the bay.

Miki Dora and Russell Hughes with Ted Spencer on Jonson Street circa 1971 (Photo: Rusty Miller)

'A sleepy beach town with lots of fish and chips'

George Greenough was the next key arrival. Greenough was a creative and eccentric Californian who made his living as a professional fisher and film camera operator, as he recalls in the book: "In California I fished lobsters. In Australia I made films."

Typically Greenough was underselling himself. Within two years of arriving he would help create a revolution in surfing. Between 1967-68, inspired by Greenough's design theories, Nat Young and Bob McTavish began reducing the size of surfboards, effectively creating the template for the kind of boards ridden today. Significantly the waves around Byron Bay proved themselves to be the ideal testing laboratory.

The third key figure was Denny Aaberg. A Californian surfer and musician, he had learned about Australia and its surfing possibilities from an Aussie pen friend. In 1965 he boarded a Pan Am jet and arrived in Sydney to be met by Nat Young and Bob McTavish. They quickly found themselves going north.

"My first impression was a sleepy beach town with lots of fish and chips, meat pies and pastry shops. And, of course, a pub and a beer garden," he says.

Aaberg finally made his way back to California but he would never forget the trip. When it came time for George Greenough to create a film soundtrack for his movie, The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun, he went back to California and asked Aaberg and his band Farm to create the music.

It was no ordinary film, containing sequences shot inside the tube of the wave. To inspire the band Greenough would project sequences on a sheet, while the band would jam and create music that flowed perfectly with the pictures.

The film was a major international success and along with the soundtrack, served only to further expand the mystique of Byron, its waves and landscape.

San Juan Surfboards opened in 1968 (Photo: Carmel Hunter)

A beacon in the darkness

For all the mystique surrounding the Bay, in truth, it was not any easy place to live in the late 1960s. Jobs were scarce and the police were less than friendly. The one beacon in the darkness was San Juan Surfboards. Opened in 1968 and run by Aussie Ken Adler, it became a place where people could find work and a focus for the local surfers.

Dick Hoole became the company's first employee and to this day remains thankful for the community he found at San Juan. "This was a very special time in surfing because there was no real industry apart from us … more surfers were moving into Byron and things slowly started building."

Americans Rusty Miller, Garth Murphy, and Mike Doyle soon came to town and began making their own surf wax. Nat Young moved up to the region and bought a farm.

The impact of San Juan is hard to overstate. American Bob Newland was just 17 when he found a job there. In time he would open the town's third surf shop Bare Nature, creating the first Australian surfboard leg-rope, made by his own company Surf Aids.

Despite the major changes taking place, the surfers didn't have things all their own way. The police were not impressed with this new group or the values they stood for.

According to Tricia Shantz they targeted the Americans. "The Australians could be on the dole and the Americans couldn't. They were buying houses but there were no jobs around. So there was suspicion."

On location in Byron

If the ‘60s proved tough, the ‘70s brought a considerable change. It's been said the pen is mightier than the sword, although in Byron's case it may be said the pen and the movie camera.

Johnson Street in Byron Bay in the 1960s (Photo: 'Neverland')

In 1970 Tracks magazine was created by Albe Falzon and David Elfick. Edited in Sydney, Tracks adopted Byron Bay as its second home. Each edition of the paper focused on the surfers, the surfing and the environmental issues created by mining and over development on the north coast.

Those same issues also became the focus of the film Morning of the Earth. With key scenes shot in and around Byron the film told the world that here potentially was heaven on earth. To put it in the words of director Albe Falzon, "move to the country and tread lightly on the earth".

When Falzon needed a big wave surfer for a key scene in the movie he chose American Rusty Miller. Miller had moved to Byron but now found himself at the centre of what would become a surf film classic.

A year on Miller would start The Byron Express newspaper. With its banner declaring "For a Higher State", the paper took up the issues that would continue to define the location: the environment, development and a healthy arts coverage.

The golden era

As if to emphasise the connection between the surfers and Byron, at almost the same moment two women, Nyarie Abbey and Marilyn Young opened a shop. Called Neverland, it took its name from the Disneyland television series and suggested through its name that no-one ever wanted to grow up.

Sitting in Johnson Street filled with exotic Asian-made clothing and its exterior painted in exotic colours, author Tricia Shantz says it made a real impact on the town.

The Neverland shop, which Tricia Shantz's book was names after (Photo: Rusty Miller)

"It turned Byron from black and white to colour … The people at the shop looked very different to the townspeople and what they did, symbolised the changes that were happening."

It becomes clear reading Neverland and hearing the stories of the people who lived In Byron at the time, their love of surfing and their approach to life helped create the template for modern Byron Bay.

By the mid-‘70s it was possible to make a living there. Looking back, there is a lot of nostalgia about those times and the decade that went before. There is also a view that this was Byron Bay's golden era.

As Neverland's author points out, though, it wasn't that simple. Life was much harder than it seemed and for much of the time the future of the town and region hung in the balance.

"If it wasn't for the American and Australian surfers, Byron Bay may still be an industrial town rather than a cultural destination it has become."

For that we have much to give thanks for.

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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spencie Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 7:22am

I'll always lament the Byron of the 60s and 70s. Lived there for 30 years but finally left twenty years ago due to what the place had become. Unfortunately it is happening all around our country at almost every coastal town where the climate is agreeable.

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Fishlegs Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 1:02pm

Yep, MARGARET RIVER is heading down that sad and sorry path.

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ryder Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 8:40am

Could easily switch the title of the story…

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 8:50am

Yep, very arguable final statement.

Anyhow, I have the book and it's great.

Might do my own review, a little more factually based.

There were some clangers in there.

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StayAtHome Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 7:58am

looking forward to your review Steve!

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AndyM Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 8:58am

Would like to read it Steve.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 9:36am

It’s a bit of a shithole hey.

Byron certainly answers that age old question: “ Is it possible to irredeemably fuck a beautiful spot possessing incredible energy, simply through the addition of Israeli fire twirlers, pretentious Insta skanks and money-obsessed oxygen thieves?”

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JackStance Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 5:32pm


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DudeSweetDudeSweet Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 9:40am

Give me outfalls spewing offal into the lineup over passive aggressive, hairy -minged part time pseudo hippies on a gap year from their bank cubicle careers in Germany every day of the week.

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Robwilliams Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 10:57am

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peterb Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 10:42am

Some of us had first-hand experience ...

The building looked to be leaking some kind of wet grey smoke as we drove past, and trails of an airy spume funded the clear sky with a stink of old blood and long dead flesh.

Through the one open gateway that led inside and into the darker compounds we glimpsed a youth standing by a water trough plunging the steaming pink and grey entrails of slaughtered animal into a trough of slop, and despite the heat of the day he was wearing knee-high black rubber boots, a long black apron and black elbow length gloves. A tight black cap. An acolyte to the dark trades of this forbidding industry.

The car chatter stopped here for a moment, and all thoughts of a session off the pier were immediately seasoned by what was once just a hearsay knowledge, but now stood fully reinforced, and that was that all the bloody waste drained off the floor of this killing place was piped away into the ocean and off the same ancient wooden piles where we were hoping to loiter.

Jostling hordes of hungry sharks slipping through the bloodied water there, biting indiscriminately, ravenous, toothy, those quickened shadows.

Hundreds of beasts stood about the weedy lots surrounding the abattoir, bellowing in their week old hunger, and here and there a tame cow, calved into a family whose farm now lay listless and overgrown, sequestered by a bank unable to realize their loss.
Calm animals raised up with farm children now barracked up high in Fortitude Valley commission homes foraged the bare lots and wandered the lonely fence lines.

Byron Bay was not a home for itinerants in 1962, and as much as the Cape and its convected lines of breaking swell beckoned so many, the settlement price of a temporary home in the small town repulsed all but a few.

Sydney trains were often met by the bulky constabulary, and touring youths from cities north and south of the town were sometimes ungently sheared, then gently beaten before being sent back home.

Some of the frontier survivors however fronted up to Alby, the Works Foreman, and always well before dawn, all of them contracted to apply for work by the local dole office, and one by one were generally waved away and summarily dismissed as useless, not worth the waste of a day’s trial.

Squat little man was Alby, broad in shoulder and narrow in brow. A hat wearer in all weather, unsmiling and restlessly intolerant of Sydney surfers looking for a job in town, and all his interviews were timed to coincide with the morning smoko.

Alby had no interest in handshakes, introductions, or names or experience, his eye was for capable hands, thick arms and wide shoulders, and in these attributes most of us were well endowed, after six months of travel from Sydney and hundreds of hours in the water on the way up the coast.

New starters from out of town would wait in the yard, standing around, as the abattoir workers streamed out of the buildings on the morning’s first whistle, all of them heading for either the lunchroom or the kiosk across the road. Men and women from the boning rooms with their white overalls and caps lightly covered with animal grease, hooded men from the freezer rooms muffled up in layers of rags and old sacking, slaughtermen with their bare forearms and faces crusted with heavy sprays of blood, local toughs wearing scabbards full of razor edged knives. Cookermen, boilerkeepers, yardmen, and everywhere amongst them the rust colour of blood and the smell of its corruption.

Around and about us they hurried, without a glance, but their passing low murmurs and subdued laughter buried us in doubt. Townsmen.

The lunchroom was furnished with a dozen bare tables and benches, three large shining urns, and all around the walls were stacked bags and packs, lunch boxes and small leather suitcases. Everybody knew their seat, card players and newspaper readers, solitary old-timers and raw knuckled toughs. Foremen and leading hands ate elsewhere, union delegates conspired in the doorways, pay clerks loosened their ties on entry, and tightened them on exit. Everybody smoked. The back table was reserved for the card players; the walls were covered with union posters and football timetables.

A calendar of big-breasted women was tacked above fridge and it read January all year, nobody dared turn her over.

Young islanders lounged outside in the sunshine and for twenty minutes the killing business was forgotten. The animal pens too grew quiet, and a couple of bearded crows dropped down onto the scraps of flesh that had fallen from the offal carts.


A couple of younger men took their flasks across the road and around the back of the kiosk and settled themselves there on the sand and under the meagre shade of a leaning casuarina, where they watched the sea.


Alby lead the new starter into and through the main killing hall, a vast high ceilinged room littered with large stainless steel containers containing hooves and stripped heads, past the dozens of chain-hung cattle not ten minutes dead, past the wall-eyed beasts killed and skinned by the first shift and whose muscles still twitched and rippled under their cooling and marbled flesh.

Carcasses of skinned and discarded beasts were loaded into a small rail truck, as were the unborn calves, the slinks; sliced away and barely alive inside the transparent tents of their cows protective uteri, all dumped there together in a multicoloured gelatinous mass.

Down a corridor lined with wheelbarrows full of intestines, and into a room containing two large scalding baths open on one side to a couple of yellow painted pens, one scoured clean by steam hoses, the other crammed with noisome pigs. A yard of shuffling and grunting swine all rippled through by contagions of panic and lust.

The pens were separated by a low wooden gate and raceways rose from the concrete holding yards on the outside of the building where a hundred more pigs screamed their displeasure at being compacted into this narrow course.

A moving rail was built into the wall of the empty pen, and a deep gutter ran around the floor. A pair of wired up headtongs and a full butcher’s scabbard hung from a notch in the wall and the eastern suburbs boy was asked to sit and wait there for a spell. Not for long said Alby, just until Jimmy K finishes smoko, and by the way, you’ve got a job in the hide room later.

Alby left the lad and walked back through the vats where he stopped to talk to two large islanders, both of whom looked at the new starter over his shoulder during the conversation. Somebody said something amusing and even when they were laughing their hard gaze held firm on him.

The two roofless pens stood open to the north west and received the morning sunshine, and the eastern suburbs boy levered himself up onto the low wall that separated them and put his back into the warm sun. Behind him the pigs rubbed up and rumbled with eachother, grunting with a rancor, some males attempted futile mountings in the packed enclosure and had their exposed genitals attacked. They devoured each other’s excreta before it reached the floor and everywhere the new starter gazed down into that small room he saw Bedlam.

He looked over at the electric head tongs and saw that they were covered with a fine whiskery mass, and were all glued up with an opaque greasy substance, food enough for the dozen or so clusterflies that moved about the electrodes like a scrummaging scab.

Jimmy K was a young South Sea Islander, his great-grandparents a blackbirder’s profit and whose family had now lived in the town for generations, he had developed both a knockabout humour and a fearsomely efficient way with a killing knife.

Jimmy K was the leading pig-sticker in the plant, and he showed no surprise as he wandered into the pen after smoko and saw the eastern suburbs boy perched up there on the sunny wall.
Another new starter sent here for the testing, another little show for the old hands.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
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DudeSweetDudeSweet Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 11:23am

Nice work.

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Rabbits68 Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 11:51am

Incredible read mate. Thanks.
Painted quite the picture.
As hardcore as any working environment could be, surely.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 12:06pm

I can think of worse

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Rabbits68 Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 12:08pm

Haha! Close call alright.

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bluestick Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 8:08pm

Great story thanks

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Schreinermeister Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 11:19am

Someone has always been "ruining" Byron. First it was surfers, then it was hippies, then it was hipsters, then city folk, now it's billionaires. Truth is it's a special town with a rich history. It's as stunning as ever, and it has fended off development as well as could be hoped for a town with such focus thrust upon it. As long as the high rises and housing estates stay away, it'll continue to be a certain kind of paradise, and what clothes the people on the street are wearing couldn't be more irrelevant. And it's been more or less pumping for 2 years straight.

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Robwilliams Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 11:34am

Excellent reflections Peterb. It's a dirty job and someone's had to do it.

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john.callahan Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 11:39am

The Americans did it!

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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 11:14am

I used to frequent Bob's shop in cords in the mid 80's
Shrewd Businessman
Don't expect a discount.

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peterb Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 11:49am

...... and there's more.

Jimmy nodded a brief hello and walked over to the power switch that governed the jolt that the head tongs delivered and flicked it on, then he lifted his scabbard of knives from their hook and fastened it around his waist, shrugging it down onto his hips. He took a small whetstone from a pocket in his rubber apron and spat onto it, then he began to sharpen his knives. They were all thin 15 cm stabbing blades and Jimmy carefully stroked them down the stone each in turn, until they were keen to his satisfaction.

That done, he retrieved a half smoked cigarette from a gap in the brickwork and lit it up, then wandered over to the gate separating the two pens where he looked down onto the restive animals that waited on him, pensively smoking the cigarette down before he flicked it away and into them. A large sow immediately snarfed the butt down.

He turned towards the new starter and smiled, showing a dazzling mouthful of white teeth in his pleasant brown face, then turned away and took the headtongs off the wall, leant over the gate and clamped them onto the head of the nearest pig – very quick now.

The electrocuted pig screamed in surprise, ejaculated, shat and fell rigid all in seconds and Jimmy slid the gatebolt down and drew the stunned beast into the killing pen before any frenzy gained momentum. He then bent over the stunned beast and cut a neat slit in its heel for the shackle end and flicked on the power for the moving rail, he attached the shacklechain to the rail and the convulsing pig was raised up and trundled over to a far corner, shivering all over.

He quickly moved back to the gate and buzzed out the next animal, dragged the beast into the blood pen and slit and shackled and hung it, then he moved back for another, another.
Jimmy stunned and shackled up another six and then another six, and within minutes the pen was three sides lined with flesh.

He laid up the electric headset back onto its notch and took a knife to the first pig, and he placed the point precisely in the centre of its neck, just in front of the breastbone.
He severed the carotid arteries and jugular veins in one quick movement but then blocked the wound tight with his knife-hand, which he jammed hard into the deep slit, blade uppermost.

Here the test.

The new starter, away and off the wall now and standing in the only bare corner of the pen, could only gape at the rapid development of the industrial slaughter as Jimmy K turned and bestowed upon him yet another flashing Islander smile, and removed his fist from the deep cut.

A rich pulsing spurt of arterial blood gouted into the room and the choking animal gave out with a bubbling scream straight from the depths of Hades. Awakened to an imminent death the pig scrabbled its cloven feet at the concrete pen wall and heaved about on its shackled foot with great spastic writhings.

Regular spurts of blood emptied out of the beast as Jimmy walked his walls and attended to each upended animal. Skilled and calm, knowing where the blood would come from, keeping clean, switching knives as they grew blunt, his black rubber apron and gloves opalescent with bloody sheen; he moved serenely through the great ponds of blood that gathered around him and seeped slowly off the floor and into the deep gutters and he killed them all.

And all the walls were red now, and one by one the great beasts bled to death and became still, double mouthed, both agape.

Two months later Jimmy K and the new starter would sometimes drive into the town for lunch, spattered as they were with the commercial gore of the abattoir, and both would lean against his ancient Mercedes outside the Great Northern in the warm sun, eating pies and freaking out the tourists.

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Island Bay Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 4:47pm

Thank you, Pete. Excellent.

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zenagain Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 4:49pm

A horror story if ever I've read one.

peterb's picture
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peterb Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 6:28pm

We used to have lunch sitting up in the top of the shute where the cattle were killed with Les’ bolt gun, hoping one would survive the shot and get back onto its feet after being dumped on the slaughter floor, major panic that used to be with the butchers.

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suchas Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 8:14pm

mmm- just finished spectacular dinner of roast spuds and veggies---- with pork and crackling___

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andy-mac Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 7:11am

Great read, geez you made a good argument for vegetarians....
Very creative writing, thank you.

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andy-mac Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 7:23am

When was living in Bali, was with girlfriend at the time who had a nice house just outside of Cangpoo before it went totally down hill. Woke up to horrendous screaming from out the front of the house, sounded like pure horror. Went down to gate and in the street were about 8 - 10 pigs all tied and bound. The Balinese were getting ready for Galungan and we're getting some pigs ready for their banquets. Had a little production line happening where a pig would be dragged over to gutter where it's throat was slashed sending gush of blood into gutter and onto the street. Then the pig once blood had stopped spurting was dragged to another area where a guy would splash kerosene over animal and set it alight and then roughly brush all the hair and skin with a broom. Once completed it was dragged over to an area where a couple of guys would then start butchering the animal up into cuts of meat. All this was happening in full view of the bound pigs who could see what their fate was, hence their terrified screams. Pretty heavy really, didn't eat bacon for at least a week ....

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 12:24pm

Nice one Pete.

The Inghams chicken factory was the last the primary industries to be shut down in Byron (2014).

On a still night when the cool air pooled up in the swamp land which stretches from behind Byron to the edge of the escarpment the stench of blood and chicken guts would sometimes creep into the edge of town.

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Baron von Spatula Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 8:16am

“Shut up and take my money!”

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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 11:16am

I know that smell, always wondered what it was.

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Steve82 Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 5:04pm

Worked there for a few months in '05. One of the blokes who I worked with hilariously explained a day at Sunnybrand Chickens: "it's fucked, they'll piss on ya, peck ya, shit on ya. And the chicken's are pretty bad too!"

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KD@NAI HARN Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 12:29pm

Memories..the older we get the better they were. In the 60's remember cruising up the old coast road..crossing rivers in punts and savaging milk bars. Sleeping next to the abattoirs and hearing the cries of animals that would not be with us the next day. Seeing the vast array of different flavoured milk. The police were not polite but tolerated us as long as we behaved and respected the town. Going to Wategos over the road of a sorts and being offered to buy land there..dirt cheap as no one wanted it. Surfing and having fun..remember localism. The hinterland was a magic adventure with cows and all. Made new friends still to this day that will always welcome you. Broken Head still one of my favourite spots on the planet..not now.. 20 years ago crowds that you could walk on. ..never been back. It was the place for alternative lifestyle..with all the accessories. Elders later said that there were three roads out of to Yamba, one to Byron and one to India!. Most of my closest moved out a long time ago or went further inland to escape the commercial tidal wave. Those that stayed made some profit..not like now...then moved. On a return visit many years ago tried to have a surf...ridiculous crowds with no water knowledge..dangerous and surfers who thought they were in the Quickie finals. Never been back as those memories are more important to me...but blessed to have them. It will however imprint on generations to come just pray they respect the place..

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peterb Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 12:48pm

KD …. the hills are still the same.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
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DudeSweetDudeSweet Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 3:02pm

Would Byron be better or worse if it was still semi-industrial?

The small coastal town I now call home is thankfully well removed from a surf scene. There’s surfers in town and a broad undercurrent of coastal culture, but it’s aligned more towards boating, fishing and family holidays on the beach than it is about mating rituals amongst trendy young things and conspicuous aspirationalism. You’re much more likely to see an old cobber wearing a Rabbitoh’s beanie and a knitted jumper riding his mobility scooter down to put a bet on at the pub than you are a convoy of beautiful people taking photos of themselves on a headland.

For that I am eternally grateful.

Authenticity has currency even if it’s not always pretty.

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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 12:49pm

Did you start off surfing in seclusion ?
Or did the cynicism appear after moving from a crowded local to a new less crowded one ?

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 3:22pm

"Would Byron be better or worse if it was still semi-industrial?"

Really good question.

I will try and answer, at length.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 11:24am

I'd rather read about the surf history of Bribie.
Some stories will never be told.
You hinted on one recently.
Lets get the bigger picture.

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JackStance Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 5:39pm

All this talk about Byron, it's post-invasion history, and not one mention of Arakwal Bumberlin people. The invasion of Country, is complete with the colonisation of the minds of every Byron "expert" who fails to mention it's real owners, who never ceded their sovereignty.
Always was, Always will be...

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AlfredWallace Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 5:22pm

JackStance. Hear, hear. For some reason and i dont know why or understand the mind set of fellow Australians , we just cant as a nation get it right when referring to the history or the acknowledgment of the real owners, residents, occupants of a place, region etc. What’s so hard about making a truthful reference to the original inhabitants of the ‘Always was and Always will be..

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AndyM Sunday, 21 Aug 2022 at 6:27pm

“ it's post-invasion history”

Nah, the headline sums it up.
Indigenous crew aren’t relevant to this story.

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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 12:52pm

Harsh post bra.

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AndyM Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 1:16pm

No offence intended but surely it's self-evident?
It's not an article about Byron's "post invasion" history, it's an article about a period of time from, say, the very early 60's to the present.

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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 5:49pm

So Byrons most successful competitive surfer that was born and raised there . Who is of Aboriginal descent has no ties or links to its history?

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AndyM Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 7:33pm

If it was an article on Byron’s best surfers or indigenous surfers in Byron I dare say he’d be your first port of call.
If he’d worked at the abbotoir or was part of the monied set there, he might also be included.

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surfer1971 Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 10:04am

Best surfers to ever come out of Byron in a semi chronological order
Gary Timperley
Rod Anderson
Owen Walker
Craig Cornish
Anthony Mikolledis
Guy Walker
Sascha Sleigh
Danny Wills
Kieren Perrow
Soli Bailey
Garrett Parkes
Kyuss King
Lots of other surfers could be included if you include Brunswick Heads such as Jeremy Byles, Mark Plater, Matt Smith etc

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freeride76 Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 10:32am

Jarryd Sullivan

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surfer1971 Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 10:37am

Yep my mistake on that one. Forgot about Sully and others such as Jenny Boggis, Peter Phelps etc.

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AndyM Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 11:53am

Jenny still ripping.

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surfer1971 Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 12:08pm

She always has surfed well. Now lives at Lennox so I dare say she surfs the point well.

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AndyM Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 12:35pm

Tight in the pocket.

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udo Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 2:19pm
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freeride76 Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 2:28pm

Nice one Udo.

Craig Holley still gets my vote as most underrated ripper ever.

Did some of the best surfing I ever saw at the Point.

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bbbird Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 10:21am

Glenn Curtis power ripping is still vivid

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bbbird Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 7:54pm

.... sort'a like watching Dane Renolds is in this millennium

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surfer1971 Thursday, 25 Aug 2022 at 11:36am

Sad part is only a few still surf of that group. Byron was the best and worst place as alot of people lose their way in life in Byron. Smoke to much and no purpose.

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Lanky Dean Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 12:53pm

Harsh post bra.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Monday, 22 Aug 2022 at 2:46pm

The metaphorical trajectory Byron has chosen….substitute suits, executive titles and cards for boardshorts, creative startups and Insta profiles.

( All time scene)

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thermalben Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 7:04am

OK, I'm going out on a limb slightly beyond my comfort zone here...

To me, it seems that there are some parallels between Byron Bay the town, and Kirra the wave.

Over the last fifty or sixty years, both have evolved considerably (at a broad industrial/sociological level, plus related niches such as surfboard design). But there was a time step midway along the path - for arguments sake say late 70's Byron and late 90's Kirra - that is revered by those who were there. And also revered by some who weren't there, but read about it later on, and thought it sounded better than what it's like now.

And so, just like the discussion from ten years ago around "Bring Back Kirra" - which wasn't about restoring the wave to its natural habitat (which would involve removing all man-made construction between Kirra to Fingal), but recreating the accidentally engineered perfection of the 90's - it seems that Byron Bay is in a similar position.

I'm pretty sure no-one is pining for the return of the abattoir, the whaling station, the piggery, and for sand mining to recommence along the coast. Instead, everyone's wishing for that small 70's snapshot in time to return - experienced by a small few - where the elements aligned, and everything was 'perfect'.

I also can't help but think that there's a degree of selective memory. We've done an article on this before:

That's not to say that (for example) the 70's in Byron and the 90's at Kirra wasn't an incredible time to be surfing these places - I'm sure it was - it's just that life was probably equally as complex back then as it is now. And because our brains are generally hardwired to remember the dopamine hits, we tend to forget the parts that weren't very good.

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andy-mac Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 7:30am

Yep got to agree with most of that.
Lived on Goldie all through 90's and Kirra pumped sometimes, but it was still super crowded and competitive to get waves.....
TOS on the other hand.....
Guys were still getting punched out at Burleigh....

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zenagain Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 8:51am

Late 80's through the 90's were my years on the Goldy too. A good time to be there I reckon and my experience echos yours Andy.

Went over the border often chasing waves and sometimes to Byron. I remember the bloke behind the bar at the pub there would give you two different shaped glasses and short change you 10¢ if you asked for pots of beer- instantly identifying you as a Queenslander.

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Lanky Dean Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 10:18am

Don't turn up to Lennox with qld number plates. At least two years ago....Brown stinky substance found under door handles.

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zenagain Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 1:59pm


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Rabbits68 Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 2:14pm


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Lanky Dean Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 1:06am

S. H. I. T.

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andy-mac Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 3:43pm

Yep, reckon was really a good period of time. Goldie had everything, fun surf, good night life, lots of girls etc and you could afford an old beach house or unit across the road from the beach (or on) on hospitality wages....
Like you say, all of northern NSW just down the road. Tweed coast was so quiet back then....

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AndyM Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 10:55am

I always wonder how far gentrification can go, not just in Byron but in Australia generally. Dunno about anyone else but I've found it kind of heartbreaking to see little villages go from dirt roads and trees touching over streets to the latest hotspot for stockbrokers and QCs.
I figure as long as Australia is a consumerist society driven by the media (and social media), people are always going to look for the next cool up-and-coming place.
Seems like for those with the means, the balance between simply living, and changing a house, town or region for profit is right out of whack.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 11:16am

The key, as always, is to be ahead of the pack. Most crew only see the value in something after the price of it’s been raised enough to gain their attention.

It not so long ago that many people would have proudly declared that Byron was boring and you’d have to be a no-hoper deadshit to live there longer than a week over Christmas. The same types of people are still saying the same about those small coastal Aussie towns which don’t have much to offer except pristine coast and untrammelled environments.

I was at a beach recently and a resident was telling me how good it was, despite the fact that we were both looking directly at the beach at the time. Apparently I was remiss to not realise it was one of the best beaches in Australia. His evidence was the multimillion dollar price tags of the homes in his street.

Now this beach wasn’t the worst part of Planet Earth, but with its dogshit strewn dung brown sand , slimey weed -covered rocks and storm water drains emptying into puce-green cold water closeouts, it wasn’t even in the top 1000 Aussie beaches.

No point or benefit in trying to convince him of his mistake. His house was worth lots of money ….ergo it was an incredible place to live. He’d straight faced argue it was better than a much nicer beach elsewhere because some property speculator was willing to give him a barrow load of cash to take it off his hands.

Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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Lanky Dean Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 1:15am

Don't give away the trade secrets blow in.

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peabo Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 1:12pm

These days anything within 3 hours of a major metropolitan city is going to be fucked or at risk of being fucked in the near future.

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AndyM Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 12:26pm

I used to live in arguably the most beautiful place I've seen anywhere in the world, a little village of about 900 people, perched in and around a series of headlands jutting out into the sea.
Home to an eclectic collection of miners, fisherman, Indigenous crew, surfers, dope growers, artists and dropouts, myself included in that last category.
It was "discovered" in the late 90s, and so the barristers, media personalities and speculators started turning up.
Why do you live here with all these sponge heads, I was asked by the pretty young things from Sydney.
I couldn't explain it to them and I doubt they were really interested.
How do you explain the hold a place has over you, the fascination of seeing the changing wind and swell directions, the movement of sand, the change of sounds and smells, day to day, year after year.

Impossible to put a price on, as we all know.

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frog Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 2:19pm

We have all caused exposure of special places to some degree down through the ages. Mostly it was slow and haphazard. Ironically, even lauded events such as MOTE's release was an accelerant on a smouldering fire with both creators and consumers playing a role in the motivating the masses.

But now the exposure story continues into new generations on steroids through social media:

"More than half of Gen Z would quit their day jobs to become influencers" - perhaps a hidden beach, secret surf spot, a lesser known coastal spot, or some whales and dolphins as a backdrop - all to hunt likes and maybe monetization - what an ambition.... what could go wrong?

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Lanky Dean Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 1:30am

That last paragraph...The awful truth!

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truebluebasher Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 4:13pm

Oz has 6th largest US Population > Original Seachange
1900-7,500 > 1970-40,000 > 2000-60,000 > 2005-70,000 > 2010-90,000 > 2020- 200-300,000
US Careers in Australia never changed from day 1...Criminals > Draft Dodgerz or runnin' from somethin'!
Entertainers Actors/Music/Radio/TV > Writers : Photos/Magz /News > Agents /Preachers/Pollies.
Hence why Aussies never trust in 2022 Election ALP - Go & drop dead US Parachute Pancake.
Sports / Tradies : Miners > Farmers > Timber > Fishing + Latest whizz bang Cars > Tradie's Tools > Fast Food

Chronology of US > NSW > Sydney > Northern Rivers (swellnet exclusive) Respect to Arakwal

(Part 1) US Explorers & First Fleet/s
1700's First US ashore on Oz / NSW soil were said to be scattered nautical remains.
May 1770 US crew on Cook's Endeavor spotted Byron's beach-combing locals
1787 US arrivals settled 1st fleet camps in Botany Bay
1800's Pacific Solution > US Convicts & Maritime Prisoners were also sent to Oz
1850-70's Gold Rush (Republicans) rebelled in Eureka Stockade + Beach mining continues -100 years
1860's US Timber Getters / Ships traded Jamaican Rum to Northern' Rivers (vs) Qld Beenleigh Rum
Note Tweed Coast Shipping 1800's dividing line of (US influence) NSW US > (vs) < Qld UK

1870's (US expo) NSW (5) Cameron Ships Free US East Coast Travel for our Cousins to NSW
1907 Influence continues with Peters Ice Cream Franchise (Yes! American)

(Part 2) WW1
1908 Great White Fleet arrive in Sydney (US Navy WW1)
1912 US design Australia's Capital
1914 Panama Canal opens door for US travel to East Coast Oz.
1916 First wave of WW1 Draft Dodgers arrive from US
Could be argued the initial Oz Baptists Wave rejected both War & US industrialization at same time!
Northern Rivers Baptists date to same era...(Draft Dodgers had found their Northern NSW Aquarius)
1910-20 - US modern Political influence impresses Qld to change Labour Party > Labor Party
1930's Depression! US politically brands Oz as non favoured Trade Nation (Only Nazis held this tag!)

(Part 3) WW2
1940's US Navy takeover & camp / surf all East Coast Headlands including (Byron Pass Jetty)
Yank Navy used local tiny Ratz as machine gun practice while they surf the bay.
Also blasting cannon holes in the front sides of Julian Rocks ( Arakwal creator Nguthungulli )
Photos of the Shore side are rare...managed to find one showing these considerable hollowed shells.
Byron Gromz later stole the Navy's Guns & took a hammer to their Flares (Kaboom!)
1945 ~ 1,200 US War Brides + 10,000 US Ex Servicemen hit our shores.
1951 ANZUS
1950's US were already bossing #1 Oz TV quiz shows to #1 Oz Women's Magz + Funneling Charities!
1950's > Big Time US "Detroit" Lee Gordon books > Stars > Kings Cross Go Go's Strippers > Cops Graft
Influencing later 70's NSW Detriot Punk Club Sound to the border.
1959 US Revivalist Tours

(Part 4) 'Nam War Draft Dodgerz become lead Activists
Recapping Byron US Surf connection thru Endeavor > Surf Rafting > WW 2 Navy "Pass Lineup"
Timeline cont...with US entertainers / Agents / News / Pollies reshaping Byron's future!
1961 : (Insert excellent ABC/swellnet Surf Feature timeline Here) .......
1967 Timeline continues with more of these US Surfie Draft Dodgerz.
This is vitally important to Byron History & Byron thinks likewise
1967 Wealthy US Manhattan Beach Calif' Surfie Psych Folkie band > Nutwood Rug + Dodgerz
Yes! As our story goes they meet up at Gosford Cinema to watch Endless Summer Surf ya do.
1970 Oz Day Pilgrimage for Pop " US Ourinbah Fest" Surfie Bands 2 Day / 12,000 re: Woodstock
Read thru these for excellent breakthru Oz / US rock history
Take Away Page 34 The Golden Days of Byron...(Quintessential Byron article)
1970 - US Surfers Rusty Miller + Nutwood Rug Band members / Syd Student Union > Aquarius Festival
1973 The Byron Express (Free Paper) run by US Rusty Miller (eg: For a higher Shire)
1973 10 day Aquarius Festival is still seen as # 1 OZ / US tech > Solar/ Organics/Composting/ Recycling.
1976 Offshoot is Byron Jesus Easter Classic (Later Dan hooks up Music festival to companion Comp)
Mid '70's -Dan from Nutwood Rug buys the Piggery for $17k + "First" Wategos Surf Shack
1976-7 With his Oz Punk Partners Karen & Keven Oxford run OZ/US Gigs at Lismore Workers Hall
1977 The Blues/Punk Combo run the Byron Blues / Rock Festivals
1978 SUNROCK Oz Day Gig has Thorpie from Ourinbah Gig + Punk Bands Syd / Brizzo "Razar"
Billed as : [ Where the Old Wave meets the New Wave & washes up in Paradise ]
The Piggery "Arts Factory" also hooks Town'n'Country Twinnies HQ

(Part 5) US Byron Bluesfest & US Muso / Surfies stoked up the Town Protests
1979 Terania Creek Logging Sit-ins & Chain reaction
1983 - Federal Dam Protests
During this Time the Piggery becomes #1 Hot Spot for Touring Punks / New Wave Bands
The 1950's -70's Detroit Radio Birdman sound reverberates from Sydney to Northern Rivers
1984 (The Byron Guide) is also run by US Rusty Miller
1986 (The Echo) borrows Rusty's anti establishment theme... although run by ex pat Poms
1988 Bluesfest mini 2 day version version at the "The Arts Factory!
Revised (Echo) Bluesfest history...also excellent
1990 Bluesfest in it's own right as The Easter Event!
Over 20 yrs US Psych Surf Punk Dan grew Oz Day Rock Festivals > Week long Easter Festivals.
1993/3 Dan's Mum dies & shuts The return to US

1996 [ NO CLUB MED Beachfront] Protests
1998 NO Maccas ( This being a whole Northern Rivers Protest)
2003 Bugger Off Becton > White Shoe Brown Paper Bag Development.
2004 East Coast Blues Festival > Byron BluesFest ( Early 2000's everything ended in Fest )
2014 Bentley Blockade (Shut The Gate) CSG
2017 West Byron open slather urban sprawl (Think that was the Project name?)
2017 Lennox seaside Winter Olympic Ski Jump (One of those)
US Band of surfers feel right at home in Byron & right back at ya...Salute!

Of course crew will dedicate an essential Oz East Coast / Detroit punk slammer with Surfin' Clip ... You bet ya!

JackStance's picture
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JackStance Tuesday, 23 Aug 2022 at 5:12pm

that was cool.

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truebluebasher Friday, 26 Aug 2022 at 9:05pm

Disclaimer " Town & Country" refers to US/ Hawaiian peak era of surfboard design influence...
eg : 1973 Sky > (Town & Country Yin Yang Swirl twinnie Era 1979-1983) > T&C label- Late 80's.
1979/80/81 tbb's sponsor Veggie of Darby / Sky...(tbb rode a Proto Yum Yum Yellow with R/W/B swirl)
Mid 70's Lopez Lightning Bolt > Town & Country Swirl ( Sky ) Best fits US / Byron Timeline...(That's all!)
Please don't rack yer brains searchin' for an earlier Byron T&C...(Sorry if that threw the crew!)

Make it up with a bonus real life cultural treat for Byron locals > thru the eyes of a visiting Grom!
tbb will keep it real so it can be resourced as a rare share for local history buffs! (Happy to share!)

(Bonus) 1980 A Goldie Grom recalls his Easter Byron Pilgrimage to Mecca!
With boards/mate > Hitch a ride south to meet other Boardrider Club crew at Murwillumbah Station.
Only the one train / day so pretty much have to stand with board out back of last carriage of slow ride.
Arrive at crowded Byron on Dusk > Crews Pool money & race to book a room at The Great Northern.
Pubs would kick anyone out that let a Grom into the Pub or visit in their rooms during Easter weekend!
Crew had to sneak their pet gromz in from the roof (Easy & Often) or beergarden or risky staff entrance.

Crew would then trade 'gear' with the locals for a ride to Dan's Annual Byron Easter Comp Festival.

Again! No gromz were gonna be allowed thru main gate! So gromz bailed early to scope perimeter.
Gauge the mud depth > clear a path for the crew...30 taggin' our group, mostly stoners & Tipsy Chix!
All giggling & pissing themselves that security can't see or hear them screaming about the mud!

Bands rolled into Byron on shared tour bus...from memory they played on the back of semi trailer stages
Whole deal was like a circus with rides & Dagwood Dogs & Fairy Floss.
6th April 1980 Byron Sporting True Colours @ Belongil Swamp (Get shot for sayin' Mentals as well ?)

Next day the groms sneak out & everyone car pools to the Jesus Comp @ Tallows later Wategos
tbb made the Junior Finals in micro Wategos calm it was easy to spot the Shark & Yell Shark!
Only know tbb never won in 1ft surf in the jaws of a 15ft shark...recall being closest to shore...too easy!
(Typical Byron Easter!)
Recall surfin' Blood'n'Guts / Wreck & all breaks a few times & a grom could boss the Pass in those days!

2013/14 tbb & Goldie crew joined southern crews for Bodyshoot Exhibition @ The Surf Festival.
Crew can easily spot the true blue basher amongst the Womperz
Not long after became a Comp & the crew split...don't think they run the basherz post Covid!

Thanx to crew for noticing tbb has been chipping away at Byron Chronology...never just happened!
Great gigs all over this page...reckon this is a one stop shop for Byron cultural resource! Salute to all!

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Lanky Dean Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 1:36am

TBB made the finals ! Hope you have still got the trophy! !!!!
Railway after party?

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truebluebasher Sunday, 28 Aug 2022 at 1:58am

Lanky Dean is a dreamer...micro surf groms were zippin' & after tbb sunk on only wave...shark ended it!
Not saying tbb couldn't have a crack, but surf suited the micro gromz...good on them.
Only wish they kept it runnin' at Tallows to sort it...Them's the breaks...

They say it's the longest running Amateur Event & pretty sure it was strictly a Prize event back then.
Recall prizes as a Sponsorship / seed Invite...kinda like Gary Timperley wins the seed for Stubbies!
Pretty sure it was a premium step up deal...with a cozy Sponsor Prize Pack.
Could be be wrong but this current Cash Splash seems indifferent?

Anyhow! No Byron trophy for tbb...Yes! further south at Evans + the rest were North Burleigh / Goldie!
tbb was a tall Grom & did join a huge Surfie pissup at the Railway...good call Lanky Dean! Nailed it!

Byron's Posh Hippie Nosh
Surfari Gromz sussed out Milk Bars for Pinnie & smash a toasted Ham/Cheese/Tomato with Coffee Milk.
Locals might recall same era 1980 on the cnr of Jonson / Lawson...pretty sure it was there...
A Posh Nosh Vegie / Health bar...with a likeable Cool smiley Chef.
Surf Safari crews queued for Teriyaki Beef & Bean Sprout Kebab Wraps with a Banana Smoothie.
Some kinda brunch ritual for each Byron Visit...(No Goldie Cafes were doin' trippy Teriyaki 'n' sprouts!)
Byron led the way in this Surfie Hippie Food Trail...gromz held out for more traditional Road Kill.
On the way home pull in at Mullumbimby Uncle Toms Pies dusted with the bulky Apple Pie chaser.
Thank Lanky Dean for the Byron road trip bonus...detail brings out more 1980 Byron Surfie culture.
Considering it's pretty rare...reckon we're doin' the Town proud!

PS : tbb's barrel-rolls won respect from Grom Basherz at the 2013 bodyshoot exhibition...Hoot! Stoked!
Still got it in mind to share several barrel roll/s technique/ 10-15 years overdue.

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Standingleft Sunday, 28 Aug 2022 at 8:15am

Further addition to tbb comprehensive list > Division 1 winner 'satisfying post surf munchies' goes to broken head caravan park kiosk with their banana, honey and walnut toasties. 40 years later, still salivating

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Lanky Dean Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 1:25am

Thanks TBB
Once again epic write up, of the eighties Easter comp.
Shall there be many more memories for future groms.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 11:05am

I feel that the situation in Byron is as much the result of Northern Beaches Sydney surf culture fucking it over as much as it’s fucked everywhere else in Australia.

If there’d been a big fence put around the Manly to Palm Beach stretch in the late 50’s , Australian surfing would be a much, much better culture. The aspirational set fucked it for everyone. Think about every single exploitive practice in Australian surf history and where it originated. All the media, all the competition bullshit.

Everything from Bob Evans to Nat Young through to the modern Vanlyfe Insta influencers who are currently blowing up the quieter sections of the Aussie coast. They’ll all tell you they are selling surfing out to inspire people but the initial motivation has always been - “ How can I generate cash money and fame from this situation”

Everywhere had a keen core surf community but it was always the Northern Beaches pushing for the ugly commercial vibe. The outliers who weren’t from Northern Beaches often had much contact with the travelling Nortern Beaches colonists.

There’s a reason it’s the home of Tony Abbott’s political success.

Northern Beaches of Sydney is basically the Goldman Sachs giant vampire squid of Australian surfing ….Nuke it from orbit, only way to be sure.

Byron is just the latest and most obvious outbreak of the cultural rot which was spawned on the Northern beaches decades ago. The joint is cancerous.

Similar sized surfing populations everywhere from Newcastle to Wollongong to Perth to Adelaide. No where else comes close to the exploitation visited upon the country by Northern beaches surf culture. Northern Beaches surfing prides itself on its ownership and instigation of a surfing culture which was built around Sydney greed.

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frog Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 1:28pm

Surfing commercialism is driven by greed, but also the superficially more noble (but in my view often misguided) motivation of:

"Find Something You Love and You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life" that fertilizes thousands of pro surfer dreams and "industry" start ups from surf schools to vlogs.

Often this path translates into "kill a joy you once loved for a buck or two by sensory over exposure and muddied motivations."

I am more than happy my job has nothing to do with surfing. It remains an escape and a novelty.

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Lanky Dean Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 1:42am

Wow, brilliant frog.
Moderation is key to longevity in surfing.

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mpeachy Tuesday, 6 Sep 2022 at 4:36pm

Don't agree.

Always found the northern beaches to be a pretty nice place to surf, and not particularly commercialised.

If your point is that you can't buy a house there due to the prices, then totally agree that is annoying.

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Robwilliams Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 11:40am

I think surfing culture still exists world wide just not to the same romantic ideals it once stood for. Mass consumerism, fashion and access have all accelerated this. Whats pure is that the stoke still remains.

Greed has nothing to do with surfing in my opinion. People are always gong to capitalise, wether they should is another thing. Fair few crew exploit what gives through many aspects of life. Short or long term. Oblivious or knowledgeable to the consequences.

The feeling of leaving the sand is still the same, Freedom regardless of wave count or culture. I like surf culture of particular areas as it is often a social study of it's own. Byron was a real melting pot when ever I passed through, chi tea to booze, intellect to chaos. Some of it relatable, some of it confronting. Not all of it influenced by surf culture or consumerism.

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Robwilliams Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 11:51am

60mins or chi tea
Byron or anywhere
Freedom is seeked
when mass consumption and consumerism is questioned.

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velocityjohnno Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 11:53am

First saw Byron and the Goldie in 97, 99 stayed a while. All the pointbreaks up that coast were heaven coming from WA. Just so nice. In 97 it was a road trip with Dad, he'd just retired. He picked the Byron hotel immediately opposite the CES and was fuming at all the doleys collecting their pay on payday... "They don't do anything, live in paradise, and get my tax dollars," I didn't seem to mind as was doing the student version of surfing for John at the time, and with hindsight I'm so glad I got to do the roadtrip with the old man. We made it to a family place on the sunny coast and I took the car back to Lennox, I remember waiting for waves in a tent there and sleeping in a boardbag as I was typically organised, letting the Jacks send me to sleep as I shivered. In 2016 I got to share Dad's trademarked horse betting system with the lads on a boozy afternoon at the main pub on the beach at Byron and we were kicked out of the establishments shortly after 8pm - aging gracefully. Surfed over a baby bull shark at Broken, too. It was very cute. The water was waay too crowded compared to what I'm used to or other parts of the NSW coast. Kirra in 99 was pretty special, too.

I think it's nice to have a balanced economy in a town, and suspect it's the places that have just this - and don't seem to have go ahead in a speculative mania; often having a 'bad' rep - that are the real gems. A side effect is having affordable housing for young working couples.

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philosurphizing... Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 12:00pm

Some interesting links TBB.
Had never heard of the plans to dam the Wilson River at Federal, of course it was meant to be
a water supply for more coastal housing estates, what an even worse nightmare the coast would be if the greedy devilopers had not been stopped by people who care about the environment. The devilopers never give up, the most recent attempt being a proposal to expand the size of the Rocky Creek dam.
Then there is the question, how much higher would the Lismore flood have been if a dam had been built 39 years ago, hindsight is a wonderful thing, as are unforeseen repercussions.

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tubeshooter Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 12:11pm

'One of the most popular things to do in Byron Bay is to leave.'

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Robwilliams Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 12:31pm

and sitar for all

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wax-on-danielson Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 1:43pm

Byron is probably one of those places that a bunch of people used to go cause they like how it was, but a bunch of other people also went and thought, hey this place would be great with a new expensive restaurant, bar, shop, hotel, some parking meters. It is easy to complain about how much better it used to be I guess - but everyone that went to enjoy Byron over the years played their small role in fucking the whole town, even if they didn’t buy a property to turn into an Airbnb.
Anyway, has anyone heard of this town a bit south called Yamba? Gee is that place ready for some parking meters! Hahaha

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velocityjohnno Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 7:44pm

ryder's picture
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ryder Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 2:57pm

How Byron Bay Transformed From Coastal Hotspot to 'Reeking' Abattoir Town

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GreenJam Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 at 2:59pm

thanks for your work TBB - some interesting reading in those links

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Crab Nebula Thursday, 25 Aug 2022 at 3:36pm

Hmmm. Effluent to Affluent to....?

Nowhere is ever going to stay the same. Life is always in a state of flux but one thing has remained constant to me over the last 50 years or so: Its apparent Byron still stinks.
The 'Golden Era' that is often spoken about is subjective and all relative. It could be a case of rosy-retrospection influenced by the negative recency effect.
Like my father before me reminds me of empty clean waves from the Pass to the pub, I am at risk of telling my son that surfing Tallows in the late 80's and 90's was way better than surfing Johnson st roundabout in 2030 and so on. He can pass that on to his son someday like some family FU heirloom.
Those whose livelihoods effected by change may have a different view of the 'Golden Era' and of course the people before that as far back as the first trilobyte that crept outta the water to check the wind to only turn around and see an ammonite hot on his heals.
The more and more I hear about Byron's history filtering down through the ages, I come to think...hmm have we been sold some myth by some marketing genius?
The irony I find is that SOME of those who had it 'better' back in the day also made a lot of money capitalising on it's more modern take and indeed ushered in the very crowds and change they whinge about now.

upnorth's picture
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upnorth Friday, 26 Aug 2022 at 1:53am

Byron like many places on the east coast had its heyday, a period of time when for a surfer an itinerant lifestyle was an adventure of hand to mouth living, uncrowded waves and like minds. Like any movement or cultural shift, it was a relatively short, generation defining period of time and you were either there or you weren't.

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Lanky Dean Saturday, 27 Aug 2022 at 1:56am

Coastal town are like books, they have many chapters. Each generation has the energy and vision to do find its story.
If you live and surf there you either read the book , write the book or you become one of the characters.........
I will never be one to "own a property, yet never live there." To me that's the weirdest thing ever. ..............

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Paul McD Sunday, 28 Aug 2022 at 1:18pm

Loved the classic photos and stories above. The most amazing thing about the photos is seeing the roads in much better condition and pothole free some 50plus years ago!!
Spent a third of my life in Byron shire and surrounds. It used to amaze me you could go from an international melting pot nestled in the bay overlooked by the majestic cape, and drive 20mins up the road and be in Ballina Kmart surrounded by ozzie bogans. Byron really is it' own little micro universe. Agreed with comments above that Margs is fast becoming Byron, but possibly worse with the winery scene. Fucked.
I think when you spend enough time in Byron you
notice more of the underbelly of desperate poverty and homelessness, than the rest of the fluff that it's known for. Having not been there for a few years i can only imagine it's gotten worse post floods and covid in the shire and surrounds for these crew. Seemed to be a new wave of south americans moving into the region when i left too. Not sure if that's still the case post covid but i remember they'd have these massive raves on the beach near Suffolk inlet and leave their shit everywhere after. Bad form.

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AndyM Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 10:17am

You started to lose me with the "cultural melting pot" line, but yes, what you mentioned in the second half of your post brings some balance.
We all know there's a lot more to Byron than pretty people at The Pass.
There's still a shit-load of drugs, mental health issues and homelessness, and the seedy casualty, either Australian or international, is close to a cliche in Byron.
Travellers/tourists jammed in to houses continue to play havoc with longer term locals and there's plenty of tension.
As you alluded to, housing issues have gotten worse after the floods and naturally this takes in much more than just Byron.
And the vultures circle - real estate agents are sending out letters saying that landlords could potentially increase rents by 25% over pre-COVID/pre flood prices.
Of course, agents work on percentages.
And the Byron ripple effect continues, out to Lismore, Casino and beyond, and down to Woodburn and further.
There were very few Porsches, Range Rovers and top of the line Audis in Alstonville ten years ago, or even 5.
Amazing that a little town like Byron has, for better or for worse, had such a profound effect on virtually all of the north-east corner of New South Wales.

Paul McD's picture
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Paul McD Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 11:51pm

Yep, my bad. It's a melting pot, but maybe not of the cultural kind.
Bugger to hear that it's spreading out like you mentioned. Been hearing the same from mates. Still lament that highway and the swift changes it's dual carriageway is bringing down the coast from QLD.

bbbird's picture
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bbbird Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 9:58am

Were euro blow'ins are fortunate that the locals are tolerant mob, despite a history of abuse, slavery & neglect.

"We continue to have a strong association with this area which includes the coastal town of Byron Bay, known by the Bunjalung people as Cavanbah, which means ‘meeting place’. Many of us live and work here, or if living elsewhere visit whenever we can. To all of us it is our true home.

"Our relationship with this Country is more than just a place to live. It’s the living, breathing source of all life, our spiritual home and home of our ancestors’ spirits."

"Being in and part of Country keeps us connected to our culture and our ancestors. It’s our duty to look after Country. We look after Country and Country looks after us."

jedi old mate's picture
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jedi old mate Wednesday, 31 Aug 2022 at 12:01am

Respect to the First Nations people.
It’s not my battle or place to say but I will say there is more than one narrative than the most well known Arakwal version of Byron Bay indigenous history you provided. It is even a contentious issue depending who you ask.

bbbird's picture
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bbbird Monday, 29 Aug 2022 at 9:02pm

Our memory is selective

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spiggy topes Tuesday, 30 Aug 2022 at 11:42am

73-75. I have everlasting memories and friendships from when we swapped the south coast for the north. And a three bedder hardwood house on Hayter's Hill for $15/pw! BB, the Bubble, I don't know where its going but I know where it's been.