February 20, 2011No 13: Cobblers Beach – 20 February 2011
I would have posted Freshwater sooner but I got distracted by Duke Kahanamoku.
Kahanamoku, a native-Hawaiian, Olympic swimming champion and sometime-movie star, is credited with introducing board surfing to Australia. Australia without surfing is unimaginable; surfing culture is, to many, synonymous with Australian culture. Board surfing surly would have arrived by another route but we can credit Duke for surfing starting when it did and where it did – Freshwater Beach, Christmas Eve, 1914.
This from a report in The Daily Telegraph of 25 December 1914:
Going out into the water some distance, the Hawaiian laid full length on the board, and, waiting for an inrolling wave, he propelled himself beachwards with his hands.
As the roller gathered momentum, he raised himself on to his knees, then stood up, and rode gracefully for a considerable distance.
When Laura and I arrive at Freshwater the local denizens are readying for Duke’a Day, which is to be held the following Saturday.
The beach itself is utterly chock-a-block. I haven’t been to Freshwater often but I’d never seen it this crowded. At a guess there were a thousand people there. Swimmers, including a great gaggle of children, are massed between the flags with more filling the rock pool at the northern end of the beach. Surfers fill the rolling waves at the south end.
It’s steamily hot in the sun and I cower beneath my beach umbrella. New arrivals wander about looking for an empty spot to make their own. The waves land rhythmically on the shore with a sprinkling of excited children’s voices greeting each arrival.
I go for a dip. This will be the last surf beach for a while and I can’t avoid getting in it. I wish I had grown up with surf and had learned to read the ocean and feel comfortable with its power. Without my glasses I’m not blind but I can’t see well and that undermines my confidence in the sea. So I don’t spend long in the surf – I fight with the muscles of my legs and torso against the pull and push of the current, the power of a wave knocks me off balance. It’s all good but it’s also enough.
We finish our visit to Freshwater with a coffee at the Pilu kiosk.
Although a land grant was made in 1818 by Governor Macquarie the area wasn’t really settled by Europeans until the 1880s. From 1900 a working-men-only camp was established at the beach with tents soon giving way to huts. After World War I working-class families began establishing camps in the area. In the early 1920s the camps were viewed as disreputable by the local burghers – they were particularly concerned with those who flowed in at the weekends. They lobbied to have the destination sign-board on buses coming to the area to read ‘Harbord’ rather than ‘Camp City’. The beach didn’t regain the name Freshwater until 1980.
Freshwater marks the northern end of the Manly-Freshwater World Surfing Reserve which was declared on 10 March 2012. Its one of only five reserves so-dedicated worldwide, the others are: Malibu, USA; Ericeira, Portugal; Santa Cruz, USA and Huanchaco, Peru.
Freshwater Beach 30 kilometers (18 miles) from home. It’s in the Warringah Council Local Government Area; the Manly State Electorate (Mike Baird, Liberal); and the Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Liberal).