WATER WORLD

A Look at ‘A Golden Age: Surfing’s Revolutionary 1960s and ‘70s’ (Photos)

John Witzig captured the heyday of the sport’s turning point. A look inside his new book of photography.

Rodney Dahlberg is another surfer who found it hard to leave Angourie. He's a fine surfer-shaper who arrived with a bunch of his fellow New Zealanders decades ago and is still there.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

Any good surf break, anywhere in the world, will have its crew. On the best days, they’ll probably get most of the waves, a product of local knowledge and the fact that they belong. The crew will be made up of kids who’ve grown up there, imports who’ve stuck around, and people passing through who’ve stayed for a while and gained some respect.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

Nigel Coates and Murray Smith surfing Smiths Beach just south of Tallingup. Much of this superb coast has been protected as a national park.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

The competition at Bells drew a lot of spectators. That the place is a natural ampitheater added to the attraction. Unlike Noosa in the mid-1960s, this was not a secret spot.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

Since I was working for magazines, I needed pictures that told a wider story than just what was happening out in the water. It happened to fit comfortably with my natural instincts and curiosity. I enjoyed documenting the life I saw around me — mostly my friends or people I knew a bit. It’s probably a failing that I rarely took pictures of anyone I didn’t like. There are more than a few significant gaps in my archive as a consequence, but it didn’t seem to have bothered me at the time. This house in Torquay was old enough in 1970 to be rented to surfers.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

Left: Bob McTavish with the V-bottom board he took to Hawaii in 1967. At Sunset, where the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational was held, Bob showed flashes of what was to come, but he also spun out and had a lot of swims. The board was treated with contempt by the majority of the old guard on the beach, but some took notice. The potenital of what Bob and Nat were trying to do would be realized later at Honolua Bay on Maui.

 

Right: Bob McTavish and Russell Hughes, at Main Beach, Noosa.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

Mark Richards was nicknamed the "Wounded Seagull" by some wit at some point. His surfing style was his alone. It was also very, very good.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

This picture was taken at Lennox Head (just south of Byron Bay), and there are early-morning arrivals as well as people who’d slept in their cars. You can't drive to this spot on the headland anymore, and simple camping out is frowned upon almost everywhere. I understand all the reasons — the inevitable result of the pressures of population — but we’ve lost something.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

Margaret River can handle serious size, and it’s a powerful wave. Tony Hardy surfed it well in the very early 1970s, and he’s still there when it’s big.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

The first time I went to Portugal, it was to find a break north of a town called Ericera. I'd seen pictures of it that an Australian friend had taken when there was surf. In 1976, there was no swell and Mark Allon and I had no car. We simply walked north from the town until we found where we thought it was — a perfect example of the lure of surf adventure. Unrequited, in that instance.

(c) John Witzig, A Golden Age, Rizzoli, 2013.

I like this picture of Sunset because it makes it look like just about anyone’s local break (if the person was really lucky). It also reminds me of my long held ambition to surf Sunset. I went out every time it broke at any size. I got dropped in on by both Mark Richards and Eddie Aikau. I reckon that I was sitting in the right takeoff spot at least a couple times.