A surfer rides a wave on Bondi during the annual Festival of the Winds, Australia's largest kite flying festival. Taking advantage of the consistent winds and dry weather of spring, the festival brings people back to the beach in preparation for summer.
Bondi – Fact Check

Surfers’ tales of U-Boats and ironing boards

Photo by Mark Metcalfe

Bondi – Fact Check Surfers’ tales of U-Boats and ironing boards

Holding its own alongside Hawaii and California as the home of surfing, Bondi in Sydney has seen a host of local legends.

Fiona Macdonald
Fiona Macdonald

Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku gave an exhibition at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach in 1915, riding a solid surfboard he carved himself from a local tree and kickstarting the sport in Australia. One one ride he carried a local woman, Isabel Letham, who thus became the first Australian to ride a surfboard in Australian waters. It was not long before Aussies made the sport their own, however.

Born in 1922, Jack “Bluey” Mayes was raised in Bondi and began surfing at six, using his mother’s ironing board. He kept at it during World War II, sneaking past the barbed wire and concrete barricades despite warnings that he could be captured by Nazis in U-Boats. An Australian surfing icon, he was regarded as the country’s best wave rider from the early 1940s to the mid-50s.

Jack’s son Brad was one of Sydney’s best surfers in the early 1970s, part of what was called the “Bush Hill Crew”, named after their hangout on a South Bondi hillside. Later members included Cheyne Horan, who was born in 1960 and started surfing at Bondi Beach aged ten. He went on to come second in the world title four times in a row.

More recently, the Bondi Board Riders turned an old bus into a “travelling circus” with DJ booths, hosting free barbecues every month on South Bondi for surf competitions. They aim to use surf culture to promote a healthy lifestyle amongst Sydney’s disadvantaged youth.

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Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku gave an exhibition at Sydney's Freshwater Beach in 1915, riding a solid surfboard he carved himself from a local tree – kickstarting the sport in Australia. On one ride he carried a local woman, Isabel Letham, who thus became the first Australian to ride a surfboard in Australian waters. Photo by Oliver Gerhard / Alamy

Oliver Gerhard

Oliver Gerhard

Agency
Alamy

Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku gave an exhibition at Sydney's Freshwater Beach in 1915, riding a solid surfboard he carved himself from a local tree – kickstarting the sport in Australia. On one ride he carried a local woman, Isabel Letham, who thus became the first Australian to ride a surfboard in Australian waters.

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