The History of Surfing in Lorne

In 1920, Louis Whyte from Geelong surfed using a solid redwood timber surfboard at Lorne beach. Whyte travelled to Hawaii in 1919, spending six months at Waikiki learning how to surf. He purchased four solid redwood timber surfboards from Duke Kahanamoku and brought them back to Australia. Whyte is believed to be the first person to ride a surfboard in Lorne.

Competitive Surfing

Surfing and competitive surfing in the 60’s along the Surf Coast was often a family affair. Groups of local and non-permanent surfers formed clubs such as Lorne Boardriders Club, Urquhart’s Bluff Boardriders Club, Torquay Boardriders Club etc. and enjoyed club and inter-club contests. These contests were usually a family day with parents organising events, picnic baskets, kids playing together, craft being shared and the occasional ‘novelty’ events such as tandem riding and paddle races. Competitions took the form of both individual and team aggregates and so much fun, with a focus on participation rather than results.

Lorne Point was used as a venue for the 1967 Australian Surf Titles, as well as the host site for the 1970 World Surfing Titles when competing nations from around the world marched along Mountjoy Parade to open the event. Some important surfers from Lorne include Warren Powell (an Australian Junior Champion), Greg Brown (an Australian Champion and member of the Australian Team at World Title events), Grant Price (Victorian Longboard Champ), as well as Kay Austin, a contemporary of Gail Couper and a significant surfer in Lorne in the sixties. There’s a lot of significant history and Lorne has played a major role in Australian Surfing. In fact, the National administration of the sport was conducted from Lorne for many years, chiefly through the efforts of Gail Couper’s father. Murray Del Mar was also a national administrator at that time.

The first Bells Beach competition, January 1962, included two Lorne boys, Geoff Tune winning third place, and Alan Clissold.

Gail Couper

Gail Couper was born in Melbourne in 1947 before moving with her family to Lorne in 1959. Gail started surfing two years later and before long was competing at surfing’s highest level as a finalist at surfing’s first official world championship at Manly (NSW) in 1964.

Gail started with a 9ft 4in board made by Max Gill. After that she used a 9ft 2in board which was made for her by Midget Farrelly. Her family embraced surfing. Her father, Stan, was an administrator for the Australian Surfing Association and a contest director at Bells Beach for many years. Her mother, Vi, also assisted with contest administration as well as traveling the coast with Lorne grommets, including a talented young local kid called Wayne Lynch, looking for waves.

For the Coupers, Stan, Vi, Gail and Geoff (Gail’s brother) surfing was a family affair. Gail won the first of fourteen Victorian State Titles in 1964, competing and making the semi final of surfing’s first official world championship at Manly that same year. She won Australian national titles in 1966, 1967, 1971, 1972 and 1975. Gail finished fourth in the 1966 world titles held in San Diego California, and again made it to semi finals at the 1968 world championships in Puerto Rico.

When she finally retired from competitive surfing in 1979, after five Australian titles, 10 Bells Beach wins, and 14 Victorian championships, Gail was inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame in 2000.

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Wayne Lynch

Wayne Lynch (b. 1951), surfer and surfboard shaper, grew up in Lorne, Victoria, not far from Bells Beach. A competitor from the age of ten, he won six consecutive Victorian junior titles and the Australian junior title four years running between 1967 and 1970.

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Lorne Surf Life Saving Club

Read about the history of the Lorne Surf Club

Sources

  • https://www.portrait.gov.au/people/wayne-lynch-1951 accessed 25 April 2024
  • Australian National Surfing Museum, ABC NEWS by Nicole Mills 17 April 2019
  • Mary Prince, April 2024
  • Peter Nelson, April 2024
  • Leonie Vrymoet, Facebook communication April 2024
  • Newspaper article, “It all began at Lorne” by Garry Brennan 2 January 1981, Geelong Advertiser
  • Murray Del Mar, Facebook comments, April 2024