Mike Mee's an ex-PE local (who’s now a Kiwi) sent in a bunch of cool old shots of PE and Jbay from back in the day. He has some flipping classic tales too. Take a read. Those were the days.....when ou's used to have to surf in rugby jerseys cos there were no wetsuits, you could hitch-hike to Jbay...and camp in ou's car-ports!
Just loving that shot of you and your boet thumbing it to Jbay. Run us through the whole hitching thing.
That shot was taken on our first JBay camping trip in the school holidays of April 1975. We were hitching from the corner store in the centre of town to Supertubes, as it was quite a long walk with boards. I think I was 14 at the time and Dave was only 12! Amazing how times have changed!
We did quite a few hitchhiking trips during school vacations to JBay or Vic Bay , although with boards it was always a bit of a mission. Often we hid the boards behind a fence or tree and when a car stopped, quickly retrieved them and tried to persude the driver to let us sqeeze them in!
On one occasion, it took us nearly 3 days to hike back from Vic Bay to PE. No doubt because of the boards, but probably due to looking rather feral, having just spent the week living rough in the bushes across the railway line at Vic Bay. On the first day of hitching home, we only made it to Knysna and had to sleep under a bridge on the outskirts of town. Not that we actually got much sleep! In the middle of the night, some locals started having a fight on the bridge above us, so terrified we crept into the furthest corner ready to flee!
Did you used to camp out at Jbay at all?
We camped at JBay quite often as school kids, staying in the campground a few times. Often, however, we just camped in the bushes (now houses!) just to the right of Supertubes, as that saved the hassle of hitching or a long walk to the surf every day.
Your one shot is of the Jeffries Baai Vakansie Oord! Where was that!?
On our first trip to JBay, dad dropped us off at the Jefferies Baai Vakansie Oord, which was on the road to Humansdorp, a few blocks up the hill from the centre of town. Probably a housing estate now? We pitched our tent under clear skies only to be woken by a massive storm that night, which thoroughly drenched everything. Even the labels washed off our tins of food! In fact the old Afrikaaner lady who owned the campground felt so sorry for us, that she upgraded us to a rondavel the next day. In the morning we scrouged some black plastic rubbish bags from the shop and used them to line our wet sleeping bags.
A year later, we were bush camping at Supers and after a few days were feeling rather filthy so we decided to sneak into the Oord (as we called it) and have a hot shower. Unfortunately the campground owner, the old Afrikaaner lady, saw us wander in. Midway through our shower, she burst into the mens change room and turned off the hot water. Then she started yelling in Afrikaans " Julle is nie van hier nie," and that she was going to call the police. I tied a towel around my waist and I signaled to Dave, in the next cubicle, that we had better to make a run for it. Unfortunately his gear was in the foyer, so he had to run past the old woman kaalgat! Unluckily for him, she had a leather belt and whipped him a few times as he ran past, trying to retrieve his clothes. She then proceeded to chase us through the camp ground yelling like a banshee. Finally we escaped and Dave managed to put some clothes on! We then hid in the bushes for about an hour as we were worried that the police would find us!
On another occasion, a mate's dad said that we could camp under the carport at their JBay beach house near Albatros, as they weren't using it that week. Four of us were dropped off at by one of the dads. Stoked at our relative luxury, we pitched a tent in the carport, gathered some firewood and started a nice braai. Just as we were sitting down to eat our boerewors, a car pulled up and strangely the occupants just sat and stared at us for about 5 minutes.
We thought this was a bit weird but then they left so we continued eating our meal. However, twenty minutes later, a cop van and the same car arrived and threatened to arrest us for squatting! We told the cops that we had permission to camp there, which provoked the car driver to start screaming at us in unintelligible Afrikaans! It then dawned on us; we were at the wrong house! After a grovelling apology for our mistake and telling the senior cop that we thought it was Dr Finestone's house, (whom thankfully he knew) he relented. He then pointed out the correct house, also with a white fence and carport, but a bit further down the road. We actually scored some really good surf at Albatross that holiday.
JBay obviously got well and truly into your blood, cos there’s a coupla shots there of you and your boet on some really solid surf. What were you guys riding out there?
My first JBay board was a 7’ single fin. I think I sold that one to Grant Myrdal, who was a young grom at the time. A year later for a birthday/Christmas present I was given a really cool 6’10 pink double winger, channel bottom, pintail shaped by Larry Levin. (He was always happy to let us watch him shape boards and fixed a few dings for us) A couple of years later the boards got shorter and I got into twin fins and stuck with them ages. I rode a couple of really good Glen D’Arcy designs. Even when thrusters were popular, I stuck with my twins. Dave got into thrusters a lot earlier than me, probably because as a goofy footer, they seemed better suited to backhand on the bigger days.
Any memorable sessions out there?
Probably that first day of our first surf trip. Thinking about it, we were just kids and it was probably a bit reckless of dad to let us go to JBay on our own. The massive storm front which drenched us the previous night, brought with it surf, which we could hear crashing in the distance.
On hiking to Supers, we encountered waves far bigger than we had ever seen before. Although terrified, but spurred on by youthful enthusiasm, we decided to paddle out. After waiting on the rocks for probably 45 minutes, watching unrelenting sets pour through, we finally leapt in. Although swept half way down the point, I finally made it out. Dave, who was only 12 years old at the time, gave a valiant attempt, but didn't quite get there. After 2 hours of sitting miles out and berating myself for being a big wuss, I finally plucked up courage to catch a wave. Or more precisely took off on a huge closeout, got thoroughly beat up and nearly drowned. Some what demoralized, freezing cold and completely knackered, we hitched back to our sodden tent.
However, the next day the surf dropped to a clean 4 -6 feet and stayed that way for most of the week. A week later when dad picked us up, we were totally surfed out, but stoked beyond belief, having had the best waves of our lives. From then on every school and university vacation was spent on surf trips up and down the coast.
My best ever session at JBay was on a solid 10 ft day and I scored a wave which I will probably remember on my deathbed! Boneyards through to the end of Tubes, with an insane barrel across Impossibles. I didn’t quite make it into Point, probably because my legs were too tried to pump! Although I did see Shaun Tomson make it the whole way through from Boneyards to the end of Point later that day.
Who were the crew that used to surf with in PE, and where was your local spot?
We started surfing as kids with our dad at Cape Recife Lighthouse. Our first board was his old longboard cut in half with the ends rounded off. As the older brother I got the longer back piece and Dave the shorter front end. His board's fin wasn't put in straight to it and made this weird buzzing sound as it went along! Cape Recife was a good spot to learn, but in this pre-leash era, a bloody long swim to shore if you lost your board.
As teenagers, the main crew we used to hang with were, the late Bryan Knowles, Steve McKechnie, Martin Haynes, Dave Collins, & Jason Marais. Pete McAinch came along a little later and we taught him how to surf old school style! We'd drag him out in some quite big waves telling him it was only 4 foot! Rincon was probably our favorite spot as it was often bigger than the other PE breaks and had very few crowds. Although we also surfed Pipe, Avalanche, Millers (when it broke!) were also keen on a lot of the Wildside breaks like Secrets, Lookout, Noordhoek, etc. Our crew was known as the bushmen by some of the guys, as we often made fires on the beach after a surf, a habit from our early pre-wetsuit, rugby jersey era.
Love the Pipe crew shot, plenty of legends there. When did that transition from the short boards back to into the longboards again happen? Did the guys ride both, or was it a case of guys trading in the shortboard for the longboard permanently?
I found my dad’s old longboard lying under the house in ’85 and just started fooling around on in when the surf was small (quite often in PE!) Steve McKechnie got quite keen on the idea and suddenly all these long boards were being dug out and a sort of longboard revival began. Most of that crew rode both long and short, but a few changed permanently to long boards. Nowdays I am still mainly riding a short board, but enjoy a longboard on smaller days or on fat, slower waves.
Despite being a ballie now you’ll still a full-on surf grom – see you did a recent trip to the Ment’s where you guys scored some solid surf!
We've actually done Ments for the last four years in a row. Having surfed JBay as good as it gets, it is still my favorite wave, however Rifles, a barrelling right, is a pretty close second. Mentawai surf is ridiculously consistent and of my 40 days there, I’ve only missed 3, due to a broken foot bone! Fin v foot in a wipeout at Hideaways!
Being a natural footer, the big sucky lefts like Hideaways, E Bay and the freight train, Nokandui are pretty scary once they get over head high. However my brother Dave, a goofy footer, is in surf heaven on these breaks and is still charging pretty hard. Thus said, he has donated a bit of skin! There are also some pretty cruisy waves like the ever reliable 4 Bobs staight out in front of Kandui resort, as well as a perennial favorite, a mellow left called Beng Beng.
You’ve got this Masters of the Mentawaii thing going, what’s that all about?
The Masters of Mentawai came off the back of the initial trip my brother and I took in 2009 to celebrate 50th my birthday (and before we got too old and decrepit to do this sort of thing!) We were so stoked after this trip that I jokingly suggested to Dave that since he runs an event company, he should organize an event which would give us an excuse to come back year after year. He thought this was a great idea and so he now hires the whole of Kandui Resort resort for 10 days. The aim is to get a bunch of like-minded, over 40’s surfers together and provide a fun, low stress surf trip with unlimited free surfing and the beauty of escaping the New Zealand winter. So we basically surf non-stop all day, and in the evenings chill out playing guitar, listening to music and watching the daily surf sessions pics, and enjoying the local drop, Bintang. The Mentawai Islands are awesome because they cater to all surfing abilities and being islands, within half an hour of the resort, somewhere is always offshore!
So this August (3- 13th) we are back again. We still have some slots open for this trip so if anyone wants to come along, contact James Calver at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also check out Masters of Mentawai page on Facebook for details
You’ve even written a book about it?
Earlier this year I decided to pull together some of the great footage from 4 years worth of Ments trips into a coffee table book for the guys called, Masters of Mentawai – a surfing odyssey. It took ages to compile, but I am stoked with the outcome, however I don’t think I will be able to retire on the royalties from it! The link for it is:
So you moved from the land of the right to the land of the left! NZ is pretty famous for Raglan, but any other decent surf that should get us booking a ticket over?
New Zealand has some really good surf and because of the length of coastline, no doubt some undiscovered stuff. In addition to Raglan, my favorite breaks include Shipwrecks Bay (a world class series of left hand points), Whangamata Bar ( mechanical barreling left hand bar), Whangapoua Bar (ditto but a right), Port Waikato Reef and Goat Island Reef. The Taranaki and Gisborne coasts have stacks of quality surf spots. I haven’t surfed the South Island much but the Dunedin region has a lot of surf, but is Cape Town cold! The Upper North Island has similar water temperature to PE, and only a few, well fed, friendly sharks. Other than Raglan and some of the Auckland breaks, crowds aren’t really much of hassle and to be honest, the Kiwis are quite friendly in the water. Far more chilled than our Australian cousins.
Last question – you a Bok or a Black?
Still a Bok, but we really need some wins as I have been taking a bit of flack these past few years!