Surfing Through Time with the Cronulla Surf Museum
By Jamie Apps
Cronulla is known for its beautiful beaches & one of the favourite pastimes to participate in there is surfing. In the grand scheme of things, surfing has an incredibly long history, dating all the way back to Polynesia where cave paintings indicate that surfing as we know it has existed since the 12th century.
Here in Cronulla though the history of surfing is also very extensive. So much so that we have our very own Cronulla Surf Museum. Established to help document the history & legacy of surfing in the area the Cronulla Surf Museum showcases the surfers, influential characters, competitions, clubs, classic days and memorable highlights from the 70s, 80s, 90s & beyond that helped make surfing a phenomenon.
The early days of surfing in Cronulla in the 60s
Surfboard riding evolved from lifesaving in the 50s, but as boards got shorter and lighter surfers broke away from lifesaving clubs.
In Cronulla riders like Bobby Brown, Frank Latta, Brian Jackson, & John Coleman soon put the local crew onto the surfing map. Bobby Brown was the Southside's first major star and next big thing until his untimely death after a pub fight.
Spots like Cronulla Point, Sandshoes and Voodoo became known thanks to Jack Eden’s magic camera lens. Bob Weeks was also putting his camera to good use capturing the mood of the time. The original Cronulla Boardriders club began in the early 60s and Graham Ferris, Norm Casey, Baron, G&S, Peter Clarke & Jackson Surfboards provided the equipment.
By the later part of the decade, music was changing with Hendrix and The Doors part of the Hippy rebellion. Hair was longer and boards were getting shorter. Kris Puckeridge, Ed Conlon and “Fast” Frank Latta were the first rippers to make the easy transition from long to shorter board length.
The rise of shortboards & the counter-culture movement of the 70s
The counter-culture wave of the 70s also saw it making a mark in surf culture with the sport moving in a new direction during the decade.
The so-called “Bankies” (people from Bankstown & surrounds), soon began to discover the joy of surfing & were seen invading Cronulla beaches in the hundreds every summer. Surfers like Michael Petterson &the stylish Terry Fitzgerald still ruled the waves though.
The Point became the centre of attention as the surfing world discovered its hollow powerful tubes. Steve Cores magazine Surf gave the local boys plenty of much-needed exposure. Riders like Greg Meluish, Banksy, Gary Hughes, Popout, ‘Chook’ & the unforgettable style of Bob Radical rose above the pack.
The 1976 World Champ Peter Townend called Second Reef home for a time. Photo guys ‘Simo’, ‘Butto’ & Dave Shaw took water photography to new heights. Southern Comfort, G&S and Emerald Surfboards by Steve Griffiths shaped the way. Twin fins and stubby designs flooded the market.
Up the beach, a new young crew was evolving and tearing up the contest scene. Ross Marshal, Pete Smith and Craig Naylor led the new rip-and-tear school. The Original Wall was smashed in the giant storm swells of 1974. Around the corner at Sandshoes the short but sucky barrel kept a hungry pack of local tube junkies stoked. The Ally Rip bowl became the centre focus of smash and bash ripping. KP, Voodoo and the soon-to-become infamous Shark island were all conquered and tamed. By the end of the 70s punk rock brought on a new style to the sport.
Punk rock mentality & surfing in the 80s
When we think punk rock we typically think black denim & leather but in the surfing scene fluro wetties, blow wave hairstyles, sticker sponsors, New Wave music and Corporate Surf brands like Billabong, Quiksilver and Rip Curl dominate the scene.
Channel bottoms and then Thrusters became the vehicles of choice. Force 9 shapes and Waterforce then began to arrive. It was the age of Pro Surfing, with an all business mindset, as the circus slowly came to town in Cronulla. Local entrepreneur Graham Cassidy brought Night Surfing and Fancy Dress to thrill the masses.
It was also the rise of a new era of Cronulla rippers. Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo, Richard ‘Dog’ Marsh, Alby Ross, Gary Green, Glenn Pringle, Dean Whiteman, Adam Brown, Andrew Murphy, Ashley Gee, Troy Dennehy and the Darcy Brothers all led the charge. Martin Potter moved into town and introduced high-performance aerials as standard moves. Michael Mackie, Chris Iredale, Richard James & the late Geoff Solness dominated at Shark Island.
Cronulla and the Elourea Boardriders Clubs develop a competitive rivalry that will last for years. Occy blitzed the World Tour aged just 16, & in his first year finished in the top 16. A while later Greeny took his chance on the world tour and finished 6th overall, before then retiring shortly afterwards to go soul surfing. Dog after winning the Pro Junior, then the Australian Open title hit the world pro circuit as well, where he became a constant threat for over a decade.
Cronulla dominates on the world stage in the 90s
During the 90s, after years of honing their craft here on local beaches, our best prospects continued their surge on the world tour & dominated for much of the decade.
Occy & Dog were the main two men on the world tour during the 90s, with the two schoolmates establishing Cronulla surfing as a world force.
At his peak Dog would finish 8th on the world tour while in 1999 Occy would come out of early retirement to finally capture the championship. At the age of 33, after battling through periods of depression, Occy would return to become the oldest world champion ever.
Back here at home guys like Rusty Moran, Sparky, Mark Ryan, Terepai, Jezza Hrbac, Boogs, Ox and Speg McKinnley go all out in the big stuff. Chasing down mutant swells on distant reefs way out on the horizons, with jetski tow-ins becoming the new toy of the big wave hunter.
2000s & beyond
The turn of the decade saw the rise of a new generation of Cronulla surf stars.
A wave of red hot kids like Blake Johnston, Kirk Flintoff, Luke Palmer, Joel Bonning, Andy King, Todd Mingramm, Chris Gerard, Dylan Hayllar, Joe Sear, Kirk Jenkins, Dylan Hannah, Keelan Veitch, Jake Stalker, Chicka Jackson, Wylie Fowler, Luke Weinert, Matt and Tommy Mulder, Fletch Hayllar, Matt Griggs, Dane Durban, Jack Irvine, Rory Jenkins, Jarrod and Jesse Horner, Harrison Martin, Zac Scott, Lachlan Gill, Beau Junk, Jordan Windenstrom, Jared Campbell, Connor O’Leary, Chris & Corey Robertson, Dane Long, Caleb Mclean, Rhett Clarke, Joe Wallace, Kurt Kiggins and longboarder Dane Wilson were making their mark.
Today the names & talent just keep coming.
While ever the swells continue to break, Cronulla will produce future champion surfers & blow away the surfing world with the awesome reef waves the Shire is renowned for.