Schoolies – why can’t they be like we were?

Mostly famous as a builder of classic homes, reader Alan Emblin is also a surfer, skier and poet. He sent in this wonderful memory of a big day at Bell to help us get through this surf less spring. Thanks, Alan.

By Phil Jarratt

Okay schoolies, you’ve trashed the beach, made a lot of noise and hopefully got it out of your system, but could you please go home now?

Apart from the disgraceful trashing of Main Beach last Saturday night, for which the schoolies deserve to be called out loud and clear, I guess it’s easy and predictable for older generations to put down this release valve and coming of age ritual.

For starters, we’re jealous. When I finished school more than half a century ago, it didn’t have a name but it was schoolies just the same. In a couple of weeks I would start work as a copy boy while I waited on results, uni admissions and so on, but for now we had a plan, and it involved four mates, a beater of an FB Holden with a pile of trackers and pintails tied to the roof and the Pacific Highway leading north.

Our mission was waves, women and whacko-the-diddle-o, and while the summer nor’easters meant we rode back beach dribblers most of the time, we found our nirvana at the Bellevue Hotel in Tuncurry, then home to the best live bands and hottest assortment of femlins on the mid-north coast. Surf all day at Boomerang or Blueys, hamburgers at Forster then on the prowl at the Belly before sleeping it off on the sand.

I’m not going into detail in a family newspaper, but we went home tired and happy, the old FB even more beaten up, thanks to Rutile & Zircon’s rough beach tracks. The suspension had gone completely and shifts in the backseat were painful. We had no money to fix it so there was just one solution – write it off in an accident and collect the insurance.

The plan was to drive across an intersection as an oncoming car would have to give way to the right, and the FB would be forced to swerve into a power pole to miss it. This was all very scientific, we even had a tape measure. After a couple of aborted attempts, everything looked perfect as a blue Hillman came towards the intersection. The signal went from spotters to driver and it was action!

From my spotting position I saw the FB cruise into the path of the Hillman, then swerve hard and aim for the post, which he missed and ploughed heavily into a deep drain as the driver of the Hillman swerved hard the other way and came to rest on the footpath. Our history master got out and grabbed the driver, threatening to call the police unless the accomplices showed themselves.

It didn’t end well, but no one was hurt and no one went to jail. And that was before schoolies became a thing, so it doesn’t count, right?

That season on the Bukit

While hunting vainly through archive boxes in vain for some documents I still haven’t found, I came across two old black and white prints I’d forgotten I had. I think they were taken by Bob Pearson (later Pearson Arrow Surfboards in Santa Cruz) who was my room-mate on my first trip to Bali in 1974.

It’s coming up on half a century since these black and whites were taken on a little Kodak, so the images might be sketchy but it’s definitely the Bali we knew and loved so much. It’s ironic that the waves of the Bukit peninsula had never been as empty as this again, until these past few months of lockdown.

That’s me on my Bali Easy Rider rented bike ($1 a day for 35 days) at the beach end of Poppies Lane 1 (there was no 2 in those days) just a stone’s throw away from our room at the Kodja Beach Inn. Note the boots, Carnaby Street specials from my London work stint a few months earlier. The shorts are from a new mob called Quiksilver.

The surf shot could be anyone but apparently it’s me on the best session I had that first year, speeding towards Padang Padang (which we didn’t know about yet) and probably looking for an exit at mid-tide Racetracks, Uluwatu. That looks like a fishing prahu almost in the lineup, and count the surfers in the water.

We had to walk in from the temple in those days, and apart from the Windro compound about halfway, there was absolutely nothing along that clifftop. Fortunately, Windro’s grandkids would come down with buckets of warm Cokes to keep us hydrated. By next season those same kids were carrying our boards in and out for a buck each way.

By the next year they started venturing out into the surf on broken boards, and the rest is history.

Get your tickets for the ball!

The Surfers’ Christmas Ball, a fundraiser for the World Surfing Reserve’s stewardship program for next year, will feature guest speaker Gary “Kong” Elkerton, the loveable larrikin of Australian surfing, surf toons from the evergreen SandFlys (and maybe a very special guest) and a three-course feast. It’s going to be the party of the year at Sunshine Beach Surf Club’s impressive upstairs function space, Saturday, December 12, 6pm till late. Don’t miss out.

For more information and ticket sales go to

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