Tag Archives: Surfing

No 31: Freshwater Beach – 5 January 2014

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.

Duke surfing Freshwater as depicted in the Daily Tele on Christmas Day 1914.

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).

Mateship means helping each other with the sunscreen.
Deceptively peaceful … thousands await over the horizon.

No 6: Bondi Beach – 18 April 2010

Bondi, baby, Bondi — THE Sydney beach.  The one everyone has heard of.

When you look at it from the esplanade you think — jeez it’s crowded that doesn’t look like much fun but down on the sand the people-watching and people-listening makes the day.  Its a mini UN of sunbathers; we must have heard half a dozen languages.

Bondi is 16 kilometres (10 miles) from home.

Not surprisingly Wikipedia has a lot to say about Bondi but here’s a few key things — ‘bondi’ is an aboriginal word meaning either “water breaking over rocks” or “the noise of water breaking over rocks” or maybe “place where flight of nullas took place”.

Bondi was a working class suburb for most of the 20th century and the landing place for immigrants, especially Jews, from eastern Europe.  Jewish in-migration has continued in the 21st century with newer arrivals coming from Russia, South Africa and Israel.  When I need a good bagel, I go to Bondi; but it’s not like American Jewish food with delicatessens and whatnot — different people, who came from different places, at different times.  A good reminder of what an ethnically diverse group Jews can be.

Bondi Beach is in the Waverley Council LGA, the state district of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and the federal division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, marginally (until he gets kicked out, takes the leadership again, or starts his own party) Liberal).