Coasting Up North

Sunday, June 23, 2013
About a year ago I was on a road trip to the far North Coast...... a bit of business, some surfing & a lot of rain. Camping out in the van, visiting a few luminaries of Australian surfing along the way mostly work but a fun job if you can get it. One of the things I did along the way was pick up a bunch of photographic prints for a customer from Albe Falzon. The favorite of the bunch for me was the one below of the guys outside the Wilderness Surfboards factory located on an old cane farm inland a little way from Yamba. Albe calls it 'the family' shot & dated it at around '68 or '69 for an early Surfing World article. It evokes a much simpler time but, with the personalities involved, it was also a hotbed of design & experimentation. No computers for this crew. Shape a board, test it out on the North Coast points, get back to the farm, refine some more & make another. 

On that same trip I dropped into the McTavish factory in Byron with my print. Luckily for me Bob was on hand & more than happy to chat about the image & the players. He even drew me a rough mud map of where it was located. Looking quite ravaged from years of neglect it still stands forlornly in a local Yamba farmer's paddock. He allowed me onto his property to take a look telling stories about the shrine like pilgrimages by surfers to the house. Full moon parties & all night raves amongst the broken floorboards & spiders. The house still driving people's imaginations even if helped a little with something imbibed.

Whilst trawling the McTavish website blog I read somewhere that Bob is putting together a book with a lot of photographs covering his years involved with surfing & the characters who crossed his path. Should be a great read. He also had a couple of images of the 'Wilderness' house on his blog with a little recollection of that time period that makes you wish you had  a time machine.

"In 1969 Gary Keyes, Chris Brock, George Greenough and I were making boards in this groovy old house at Palmer's Channel, just inland from Yamba, surrounded by sugar cane. Shape and sand downstairs under the awning where the shower was, glass and gloss in one of the bedrooms. It cost us just $3 a week to rent, and Gary and Chris (plus their girlfriends!) moved in to live amongst the half-made boards, as did George. Hangin’ in the itchies and resin smell!!

We surfed Angourie every day it was good, as well as every spot from Sandon to Iluka. Pippies in Yamba was a nor-easterly favourite. We made a few boards a week, just enough to survive on. The Sydney market was hungry for whatever we could make, and the Grafton Railway Station was our connection.

The house was featured in two movies: Alby Falzon's epic 'Morning of the Earth', and also in George's classic 'Innermost Limits'. These shots were taken by a visiting surfer Ric Chan, and show his travelling companions hanging on the verandah. That's their Kombi in the front yard. Great memories."


As a final homage to that whole era I thought this recent clip I lifted from Bob's site of a Byron local putting a 'new' tracker model through its paces was too good to pass. This design originated around 1968 & with some refinements in 2013 still looks like it does the business. Makes you want to try one out. Enjoy!!



Adrift Surf is not your everyday surf store. It's a place where anyone, not just surfers, can feel comfortable, find something not available everywhere and enjoy the experience. We aim to attract like-minded people and encourage a new generation of free spirited individuals with a vision of the surfing lifestyle.

Monday-Saturday 9.30-5pm
Sunday 10-5pm

133 The Entrance Road
The Entrance NSW 2261
T: 02 4332 8355

Sea Lovers