SOUTH COAST SURF CHASERS
78 years (deceased 2014)
Jim Miller was one of the pioneers of stand-up surfboard riding in SA, and was the designer/builder of the original Surf Chaser car.
A member of the Henley Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, Jim moved to Chiton Rocks in 1958-59 when the first local surfers started riding Malibu longboards introduced by the Americans in 1956.
Other riders of the time were John Arnold, Peter Smith, Johnny Brown, Ray Jones and Don Burford.
Jim and Peter Smith bought an 1934 Ford V8, and Jim designed a multiple board rack and they called themselves the ‘’South Coast Surf Chasers”.
“We had the first surf chaser back in 1958 and I just got the idea we’d use that for around the south coast beaches.
I just made up these racks so we could slide the boards in on an angle, you don’t have to tie anything down, and we’d go all around Victor Harbor, Waitpinga and Parsons and down the river mouth at Goolwa.
We were well known, and everyone else thought damn this we are going to do the same thing, so they all got all these old bombs, and then it went on and on.”
In the early 60’s the Surf Chasers would park at the top of the Seaford ramp and the surfers would decide whether to surf the Mid Coast breaks or head to the South Coast.
Later they would venture west to Yorke Peninsula and Cactus.
“Going to Yorke’s we upgraded the surf chaser and got a Land Rover. We were the only ones with a Land Rover with racks on.
We used to leave it at Stenhouse Bay so we would just drive our cars there from Adelaide and get into the Land Rover and drive right to the surf.
Everybody else had to walk across the sandhills carrying their heavy boards.”
An American surf magazine had a contest to see how many surfers you could get into one vehicle, and Jim managed to cram 30 people into his Ford surf chaser but that wasn’t enough to win. The record went to a bunch of Californians.
“The old Ford got to the stage where she give up the ghost a bit, so we took her to the rubbish tip at Victor Harbor and drove it in there.
Everyone was throwing rotten eggs at us, ha, ha, we gave her a good burial you know…”
And then there was the discovery of Cactus.
“We were among the first group that went there. I think Donny Burford was in the group and he was actually the first person to paddle out at Cactus Beach.”
“It was primitive, there was plenty of fish around especially down Cactus way at Point Sinclair we’d go fishing and do all that sort of thing.
There were some days at Cactus beach it was that hot you had to get under the cliffs there at Caves and just keep cool until the tide came in.”
So what’s it like to be a surf legend ?
“I enjoy going back there because everybody appreciates you when you’ve been there and done a lot of things.
And all the old surfers, some of them around 60 or something but they are still surfing.
I go down to Cactus and they treat me really well.
It’s just a good fraternity, brotherhood sorta thing, and it’s a nice feeling.”
(Jim Miller was interviewed by Chris Warren in March 2013)
Hi my name is Rick Dabrow. I started surfing the Mid in 1963.
On this history site I intend to bring you interviews with four guys from the 1950’s and 1960’s who had an impact on SA surfing.
My first is with Peter Smith.
Peter was among the first guys (if not the first) to own a foam/fibreglass surfboard in the 50’s. Although Don Wallman was making Balsa ‘pig shapes ‘ at the bottom of Taps , Peter drove to Sydney to pick up a ‘modern malibu ‘ from the now legend Barry Bennett! His board was number 58 in Australia in fact and tangerine in colour so it could be easily spotted ( no clear boards were being made yet).
Peter was also the first with a wetsuit – a long sleeve jacket with beaver tail ! Who can remember them? He was surfing ‘the Trough ‘in the time when the cliffs were impassable and you had to paddle up from Moana, often surfing alone and sometimes with the Clement brothers who lived at the saw mill ,top of Griffith Dr , Moana.
He was a close friend of John Arnold and was the projectionist for the early 60’s Severson surf movies. He was co-founder of the South Coast Surf Chasers with charger Jimmy Miller and their iconic surf wagon would carry a dozen boards in its roof racks!
The ‘Chasers’ also included Billy Aitken and Rowley Dalziel .Peter and crew were among the first to open up surf spots at Yorkes like Daly Heads, Pondalowie and Baby Lizards (which Peter named!) because the ‘Landrover crew’ could go where others dared not!! That was early 1961…
Peter also tells the story of how, on the first trip to Cactus ,over a dozen cars left Adelaide for Ceduna but only 2 left Ceduna for Cactus!! The day they arrived it was onshore…Don Burford caught the first wave ,Peter the second and hot Junior,Bill Johnson the third then Dave Smyth! The next 8 days were perfect…..and just 2 carloads of mates to share with (the late Terry Matson was in the other car as well).
Peter also represented SA at the first National comp at Bondi in ’63 and the World titles at Manly in 1964 and hosted young ‘Baddy’ Treloar and his older brother Graeme (SA Senior Champ ) plus hot NSW junior, Rob Conneelly to the 1963 TunaRama Surf comp at Port Lincoln (Rob won).
Still very fit and sharp, his fondest memory is of surfing Noosa during a cyclone swell in the mid 60’s with only three of his mates to share four Noosa points. 6′ waves and one guy per point with no one else for a couple of weeks!! Then the floodwaters subsided and 50 NSW cars arrived in a day!
Won’t bother telling you about the 400 yard rides at Double Island Point with only 4 out, but that’s enough for now- thanks for sharing Peter.
Rick Dabrow’s second interview is with Gordon Hubbucks.
Many of you will know him from the time he owned the surf shop at South Port in the 1980’s (where Preece’s is now). Born in 1940, Gordon started surfing the ‘Mid’ in 1960 and was part of the Moana crew with others like Mal Lock, Peter Crofton , the Day, Mills, Clement and Arbon brothers. He was a member of the Southern Cross board riders club
It was on a flat comp day that Don Ransom, photographer suggested cutting some steps into the cliff at the ‘Trough’! Prior to that, the cliff was impassable, especially on wet days and you had to paddle up from Moana rather than lug a 35lb board.
Bert Bedford (Rod ‘Weasel ‘Bedford’s uncle) was making local boards and was President of the club. It was nicknamed ‘the BBQ club’ because it was so organised!! (Bert was also the SA cricket team spin bowler).
Gordon rode boards by Don Wallman and they plus Box Waldeck were the ‘Trough crew’. Gordon along with fellow club member, Peter Cox were renowned for being the ‘stormy kings’ (and Coxy’s still going hard).
Along with Bob Allan and Lance Crow, the 3M Man,Gordon was the first to surf ‘Ysteps’ and remembers it well as he ran over Bob and split his head! Bob was here from NSW for work along with Norm ?, Bob Anderson and Bob Toor and they became part of the Mo’ies crew and had a significant effect on SA surfing in the early 60’s.
Gordon was also good friends with our first State champ, Graeme Treloar (ex NSW and older brother of 70’s legend ‘Baddy’) who both represented SA at the 1964 World titles at Manly.
His favourite waves were the ‘Trough’ (named after the trough shape of the reef) and the ‘Hump’ at South Port. He also mentioned ‘Slides’, which was the early name for ‘Anzacs’.
Gordon also recounted a huge day, too big to get out at the ‘Hump’, so the’ stormy king’ decided to surf at ‘In betweens’ at Porties and was sucked out through the gap in the Porties reef and feared for his life!! Must’ve been #%*#* Big!
He lists his favourite surfers of the time as Graeme Treloar, Bill Johnson and Bob Toor.
Rick Dabrow’s third interview is with Greg Frost.
Born in 1948, Greg started surfing in 1959 in Kiama, NSW on a 9’3 Balsa board and arrived here in 1961 with a new ‘Jacko ‘yellow translucent tint and only 7’8″ long!! (everyone else was riding 9’6 – 10’ boards)
He made an immediate impact and I’m told that everyone came out of the water at Seaford on that first day, just to watch!! Must have been some show.
In my opinion, Greg and Bill Johnson were South Australia’s best surfers by a mile and could hold their own against the interstaters of the 60’s.
‘Frosty’ was an enigmatic personality and fitted perfectly in the hippie phase of surfing. A great surfer, shaper with his long ,bleached white hair he looked the absolute part as the local surf star, wandering the coast in his hi-waisted cord pants, braided shirts and full length fur coat!! And don’t mess with him in the water, his kick out was deadly accurate!
My crew would hang at the river mouth, rarely venturing to Triggs 2 and never to Seaford (you would be chased out of the water!) One day, Seaford must have been too busy, Greg and Mal Lock (another hottie) turned up at Rincon with their latest JA models to test them out in head high waves.
None of the hotties EVER surfed Rincon – this was like a visitation from above and everyone forgot about the perfect waves and came out of the water just to watch Greg! No one else had that sort of influence.
Today, Greg lives at Port Macquarie, owns a surf shop, still surfs and shapes and at 67 still rides a 5’11” board!!
His favourite local wave was Seaford and he was a member of the Oceanside club -they had a clubhouse just to the right of the Seaford track and would throw rocks at the Sand n Sea guys who had a hut on the left. He was the State Junior champ in 1966, had a surf shop for eight years in Port Noarlunga and his favourite surfers were Bill Johnson and Graham Godfrey.
I asked him if he had a favourite memory and he recalled a surf at ‘Ysteps’ late one afternoon when a huge fog came in. Everyone came in but for two guys who didn’t get in till midnight! Guess they couldn’t tell which way was in, but it was the psychedelic era!!
He also wanted to thank Graham Godfrey for teaching him to fish, Terry ‘Benny’ Matson for taking him surfing as a grom and Rob George for loaning him a board whenever ‘Ysteps’ was working.
Andrew ‘Arab’ McArdle
Rick Dabrow’s fourth interview is with Andrew ‘Arab’ McArdle.
Born in 1944, Arab started surfing in 1960 and was soon invited to join South Bay surf club.
His first board was a Balsa ‘pig’model and he soon moved to Don Burford and owned the first pintail.
He has always preferred light boards and his favourite was a red Hayden nose rider.
Andrew was the 1967 Open Men’s champ and pipped Bill Johnson for the title with a ‘cheater five ‘ nose ride from the Point at Middleton almost to the beach! And that was on a borrowed board! No mean feat to beat Bill!
Andrew’s favourite wave is Caves and he was the Headmaster at the local Penong school in the 70’s and that started a love affair to this present day.
His favourite local waves are Seaford and Triggs and though he’s from an era that showed no mercy in the water, he’s now slowing down, you’ll still see him around in that familiar white helmet and riding one of his own shaped boards, happy to have a chat.
I asked him what were his standout memories of the Mid Coast and clearly it was a hot summer day in 1965. As he was coming down Beach Road, Christies there were head high, corduroy lines to the horizon. Triggs1 was as big as it gets and holding up on the high tide. Andrew recalls getting some of the best barrels of his life. Must’ve been something coming from a guy who was a Caves local!!
His second best memory was the day he first saw Greg Frost surfing head high Seaford! Otherwise his favourite surfers were Bill Johnson and Jimmy Miller for his go-for it attitude.
(And thanks to Rick for taking the time to interview four great surfing legends of the Mid Coast)
David ‘Snake’ Ferrett
David ‘Snake’ Ferrett first experienced the Mid Coast when he was a young guy heading down for holidays with his family in the late 40’s. They used to stay in guesthouses and family holiday shacks in the Christies Beach area with his first surfing experience being on surf mats hired out at Port Noarlunga and Moana.
His passion for surfing on boards started when he joined Glenelg Surf Life Saving Club in 1958 and increased even further when he joined the South Port club in 1960.
A surfer and surf life saver, ‘Snake’ used to head down the ‘Mid’ in his trusty 1958 VW Beetle in the late 50’s where, after sleeping in the South Port, (previously known as ‘The Mouth’), sand dunes, his favorite surf breaks were the ‘Hump’ and ‘Rivermouth’ and he also regularly surfed at ‘Triggs’, Seaford and ‘The Trough’.
A successful competitor in 16-foot timber long board paddling at surf carnivals, ‘Snake’ was also interested in constructing his own surf boards. He was successful in constructing hollow plywood surf boards.
His first manufactured surf board was a Graham ‘Banana’ 16 foot long board, bought in 1958 from Sydney then a 8’10” balsa mal 1958 vintage Pig Board. In 1962 he purchased his first foam board, a 10 foot Keyo. All these boards are still in his extensive craft collection.
‘Snake’ has fond memories of regular early morning surfs after camping in the sandhills, walking down to Port Noarlunga for a pasty and an Amscol ice cream ‘brick’ for brunch and then back for an afternoon surf.
Once after having a surf at South Port in the late 50’s, the tide had dropped and when it came back in, he noticed a wave breaking on the point south of the rivermouth. Being an avid competitive board paddler, he paddled across to discover a peeling left hand break down the side of the reef. From then, members of the surf club named the break ‘Snakes’, a name still recognised by the surfing community today.
He has great recollection of enjoying good times and surfing on the ‘Mid’ with a regular group of surf club members including Tony ‘Tosher’ Peacock, David ‘Jacky’ Jackson, Harvey ’Suave Harv’ Williams, Keith ‘Midnight’ Adams, Brian St John ‘Robby’ Robb and George Wortman. All were avid surfers of ‘Snake’s’ Point.
Still an active surfer and body surfer, ‘Snake’ regularly surfs at various breaks on the ‘Mid’, and totally supports the concept of the Mid Coast being dedicated as a Surfing Reserve.
I used to row in a surf boat crew at South Port with ‘Snake’ and have fond memories of surfing in a surf boat at ‘Triggs’ expertly controlled by one of the Mid Coast’s great watermen, David ‘Snake’ Ferrett.
Complied from David ‘Snake’ Ferrett’s memoirs by Dick Olesinski.