SURF DAZE MUIZENBERG MEMORIES AND MUSINGS
ore often than not memory is an uninvited guest, popping up when least expected. And then, like so many other visitors, when one wished they’d come calling, memories stay away. In the chronological chaos of recollection it is hard, at least for this archivist, to line the events up neatly and well ordered, just as they occurred. So no excuse is made for the unruly memories that follow and one hopes that other, better-equipped brains, will sort out the rationale from the trash and all. Fact and fiction blur into faction or fict, as the case may be.
Long before surfing, I lived with my mum and dad in Barclay Court on Barclay Road in Sea Point. It was 1953 when we moved there, having arrived in Cape Town a year earlier from Sweden via Denmark. Life does from time to time give one clues as to where fate will take us. I was four years old. We lived there for close to seven years. A lot happened between 1954 and 1961. One night I stood with my dad in the middle of Barclay Road and watched the Russian Sputnik blink-blinking high up in the Southern Sky.
The days on Barclay Road were mostly fun. A young girl called Sally Little lived across the way; she grew up to become a golfer. A school chum on Barclay Road, Robbie Ferron, showed up years later in a Cape Times cover story as one of the students who occupied St. George’s Cathedral during one of the so called riots in Cape Town.
And on Barclay Road, the last building on the right hand side, just before you reached the steps that took you up to Ocean View Drive was a place of deep interest for me. An older guy – well he was older than me as I was only about 8, so most guys were older than me – spent most of his spare time working on what I was later to know as a Norton 500. He said he was motor racing driver and a hunter. Wow, I was impressed. And believed his motor racing tales. Hunting? Who did he think I was to believe that tall story? I had almost forgotten him. His name was Terry.
Then years later at the premier of a film called The Endless Summer I rediscovered Terrence, or Terrence of Africa, as Bruce Brown had appropriately renamed him in the iconic film. Oddly, I never mentioned to Terry that I was the kid who used to sit for hours in his garage in the late 1950s watching him work on his Norton. Years later he gave me a lift to the first Western Province Surf Competition held at Grotto Beach in Hermanus. I spent a lot of time in garages watching guys working on stuff that I had no clue of. Frank and Thys working on their crazy beach buggies; Terry on his motorbikes; Basford fixing the headlight on his old Morris Minor.
One Sunday when I was about 10 or 11 I was invited to join the Lemkus family on a day trip to Fishhoek. Mr. and Mrs. Lemkus loaded their Holden station wagon with enough food and drink to keep David, Mickey, young Bradley and I sustained for a day of body surfing and chasing one another up and down the rocks and across the wind swept beach.
The Lemkus family had a spot on the rocks where they preferred to sit. A spot where they could watch us kids and make sure we did not get into too much trouble. This was not the first time I’d been along with David and his family on one of these trips. It differed from all the other trips however in one unique sense.
As David and I sat on the rocks we saw for what was for me the first time, a guy paddling a big plywood board towards the shore and then being picked up by a crisp small wave and carried towards the beach. “We’ve got to try that!”
Finding a surfboard was not that easy in those days. I nagged my parents day after day. I scoured the newspapers in the classifieds. Nothing. I was 11 years old. We lived at the top of Bantry Steps in Bantry Bay in a house called “Manyuli”. David and I were schoolmates at Christian Brothers College (“CBC”) in Greenpoint. In the evenings I’d sit at the dining room table, making paddling motions in a very visual demonstration to my parents of where my desires lay.
Years before that I had a quasi-surfing experience, when my friends and I in Sea Point made tin canoes, beaten flat from old corrugated iron sheets. Old skirting boards (baseboards as they are called in Canada) were bolted on to the gunwales. Paraffin tins were boxed in at each end for floatation.
These small craft were used mainly for taking our kreef nets out behind Sea Point swimming pool and all along the coast towards Greenpoint. Later I was to learn that they were in use at Clifton too. The Jones boys, Buzz and his brother used them on 4th Beach. The Gillespie family lived in Clifton then and Mrs. Gillespie who taught at CBC.
It was quite common for us to surf those homemade canoes – I still have a long scar on my left leg from a less than successful morning surfing my canoe off the wall at Sea Point pool. I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. Surfing a canoe, not aware of the implications. Or what surfing had in store for me in later years.
Those memories are preceded by only one other surf-related glimpse into my past. As a 5 or 6 year old I received a blue and yellow inflatable Lilo for Christmas. In some sort of prescient moment I found that I could kneel on it and was able to remain upright on my knees while shooting between the slate black rocks that edge knifelike from the shell riddled shore in Sea Point. So surfing came to me slowly, in fits and starts, since the age of 5 or 6, not really showing its face for real until that summer’s day in Fishoek with David Lemkus and his family.
Finally, we found an old 9’ plywood board that was to be my first. It was natural wood, so I painted it bright yellow with a marine paint. Sadly, this board was totally unmanageable for the skinny little runt who owned it. Turns out that other than a few attempts at surfing this thing at Clifton and Glen Beach I ended up using it to take my crayfish nets out to the Whiterock at Fourth Beach. As a result I caught more crayfish than waves on my very first surfboard.
It was not until my parents moved to Wynberg and I started going to Westerfod High School that my love for surfing and the surfing life really kicked in. Two brothers, Frank and Thys Bokhorst presented an entirely new perspective for me; and the world of surfing opened up for the wide eyed kid from Wynberg.
While still at CBC I was a keen and competitive swimmer. One of the other swimmers was a fellow called Donald Paarman. At the time we did not hang out with one another, but our paths would cross again in another water-related sport, surfing. As it turned out it was only he and I –as far as I know - from CBC of that generation who took on surfing full time.
So. Up to the age of 11 or 12 my surf memory is quite clear, but as I entered my teens things got a little fuzzy. Clive Barber may be able explain why?
Westerfod High School was a place to go while one waited for the next surf. No sooner was I out of school than I was either hitch hiking or getting the train to Muizies. I envied Murphy and Thys because they lived right there. They could even cop a surf before going to breakfast or stay in the water longer at the end of the day. Moreover, they were smart students and I was an idiot, made worse by the fact that the only thing between my ears was the saltwater that I was never fully able to shake from my scruffy head.
Peter Basford, Peter Bales and growing up in the shadow of my many mentors. It was very lonely; I had no one to look down too. I could only look up to all my heroes. Everyone else was bigger, better and worse, they had driving licenses and cars. I had neither.
Sheep poaching with Basford outside Mossel Bay. Something, something, something. I think he even had a gun. A long story. I won’t go any further with that memory just in case the warrants for our arrest are still current.
Riding pillion with Basford at the helm was almost as scary as the Kom Outer. On one memorable day as we were coming down the hill from Misty Cliffs past the Kom lighthouse when I was bounced of the seat and landed on the rear mudguard, nearly loosing all that was dear me and my future in split second.
A slower death presented itself when Basford tried to make the railway barriers at Muizies Station on his Honda and we got trapped between the gates on the track with the Simonstown train toot-tooting towards us.
Then there was the time Peter pulled up alongside a motorcycle and asked the cop: “Hey doos, what’s the speed limit here?”
“35 mph,” the cop said. “Oh!“ Peter shouted back, accelerating away at 75MPH – we lost the cop in Noordhoek. I should really have been at home in Wynberg doing my homework, bored but alive.
Your surfboard is in the lane. Really? It is hard to imagine leaving one’s surfboard today in a semi-public place month after month without someone pinching it. But if you went into the lane behind the big building that dominated Muizenberg corner in those days you would find a hodge-podge of surfboards stacked up against the wall.
Once I got my own board I used to carry it up the steps – the long, long, long climb – to Murphy Bokhorst’s house where for some time I stored my board.
One evening in the Bokhorst garage either Thys Bokhorst, Murphy or Peter Basford came up with my nickname “Bosco”. I may be wrong, but I believe the logic was that I looked like or had a similar smile to the cow on the Bosco tin, a brand of powered hot chocolate. The only hole in this theory is that I don’t think that Bosco was sold in South Africa at the time, but apparently an old tin was standing on a shelf in Bokhorst garage that day.
Winter afternoons. The Bokhorst’s were surf theorists. Frank and Thys had a theory for everything when it came to the formation and behaviour of waves and behaviour of planks of fiberglass associated with waves once they had formed. Frank even made a contraption of wood with little spikes that moved up and down demonstrating how waves break on the beach.
Frenchie and soccer at the corner. Frenchie worked at Markham’s as a salesman. He lived at Muizenberg and was likely the most refined resident in the community. Suave and cool, he loved soccer. Surfing? Not so much. Mon dieu! He was a charming guy and I think he faired well with the ladies at the corner. I felt we were just bait for Frenchie who would ‘finish the girls off.’
The sound of steel wheels crunching on asphalt with the wind making your eyes water as you race down Boyes Drive on a surfless day is made more scary than ever, knowing that the only thing between the road and your knees and elbows is the piece of plywood to which the wheels are bolted. It was 1963 and we were already skateboarding. The introduction of the Delrin or softer composite wheels was a giant leap forward for skateboarders when it came.
And we were already wakeboarding, being pulled around Zeekoevlei on our surfboards by Colin Foster. In the 1950s and 1960s Skinny teenagers from Hawaii to Malibu and Muizenberg were laying down the foundations for multi-billion dollar industries during the 1950s and 1960s.
“I don’t go to bops.” Clive Barber. The fights. There seemed to be one a day at one point. Then it slowed to a manageable one a week, usually at the Fishoek “Bop”. No wonder Chemical Clive said he never went to ‘bops’. “I don’t go bops, but I take a dop now then,” was one of his famous sayings.
There was John Heath who had a hot Cortina GT with ‘fat tackies.’ And Clive Thompson, cool in his little bug-eyed Austin Healy Sprite. And Chris Bakker in his tiny car that he could have served more purposefully as a shoe than a car. You could hear the suspension groaning with relief as he stepped out from car with his broad smile, broad surfboard and quite often, a broad on his arm.
Cane spirits and coke. At a fairly young age I’d frequent the St James Hotel intrigued by its most famous patron, one wild beverage of a man called Frank Chalmers. There will be many, many stories recalled about Frank or Flash as he was known; perhaps for his flashing smile, flashing blue eyes or the way he flashed through the surf on his lifesaver’s paddle board. For reasons, which seem now less than apparent Mainstay cane spirits was thought of by us kids as some sort of voodoo drink with the power to flatten a man. I felt the need to be guided through the maze – perhaps haze – that may result from drinking a ‘cane and coke’ and so asked Flash if he thought I should try one. “Barman! Give this outjie a double cane and coke hey.” I loved it. Sadly, as things worked out, cane and coke proved more of a challenge for Flash in the end than it did for me. Injured in a motor vehicle that crippled him he plunged deeper and deeper into the bottle and succumbed finally.
I am lover not a fighter. I don’t know who said that, but it was said when one lifesaver was chasing another after the larger of the two discovered that the smaller of the two had been having it off with the big guy’s girl. The little guy was heard shouting, “No man, I’m a lover not a fighter!” just as the big guy dondered the little fellow. An no, the little guy – on this occasion at least – was not Bosco.
Grub Gillette Thomas, my black cat Margeaux and a six pack of Castles. When my old cat died we buried her at Robbie’s mum’s place. The drinking lasted long into the afternoon at Bulbinella. We loved that cat.
My attempt at making a surf -board (brander-plank) in Prince Alfred House, Waterloo Road, Wynberg. It became immediately apparent that I would never be able to shape a board and lay one up. Thanks to John Whitemore, Greg Stokes, Clive Barber, Peter Randle and many others, surfboard making was in better hands than mine.
Block Maclarty does a ‘terrible gnaw on the salami.” While I load up with cough mixture for a new experience. We were on our way to J-Bay and stopped at a gas station somewhere. The Block bought an entire salami and started eating it in the back of the Combi. Murphy or Spange asked: hey what are you doing. “I’m doing a terrible gnaw on the salami!” That saying stuck with us for years. It is odd what one remembers and what one forgets.
I spend the night in Wynberg chookie courtesy of Peter Bales. Drunk and disorderly on more than one occasion. Peter Bales owned a blue mini station wagon and was already a successful developer builder kind of an outjie. A large cheerful man, an exceptional swimmer by any standard and a lover of all that life had to offer. One day he was giving me a ride home from Muizies and asked if I did not mind if he popped in to see a customer in Tokai or Lakeside. Not a problem. As he hauled his frame from the tiny car he passed me a gallon flagon of Lieberstein wine. Here, amuse yourself with this while I’m gone.
How much wine can a 15-year old cope with? Well almost a gallon, as it turns out. For how long? Not very long, say 10 minutes before he throws up all over the car. If you remember what the dashboard of a 1960s mini looks like you will recall that if differs from all other dashboards in that it is a shelf. The perfect receptacle for a gallon of puke. Scared of what my mother may have to say about the state I was in Peter left me outside my mothers house, knocked on the door and drove away in his puke saturated car.
For my part I wandered off down to the Wynberg Police Station and began singing Die Stem on the steps our constabulary. Soon arrested and incarcerated I was to spend my first full night in gaol. I shared a cell with a gentlemen who did not get released, I am sure, as easily as I did. My mother paid R10 and I was a free man. Had I been sober I’d be in a position to describe the cell. I’m sure the cops had a laugh; particularly when I attacked them in the charge office. What the hell was I thinking?
My drivers: Peter Roberts, Clive Barber, Terrence of Africa, Peter Bales, Frank Bokhorst, Brian “Zakkie Murals” Delport, Gus Gobels, Peter Basford, Richard Muller and others from time to time.
The Gunston 500 in Durban. I remember very little about this competition. I know I did not do well. They had a big wave competition at Ansteys. Wetland and Van der Heuvel did well – no one else did. On our way back we stopped at J-Bay. I had a black eye – Hubbie Roux hit me. I can’t remember why? Occasions like this normally involved a woman, but I’m just guessing that this may have been the reason for this particular black eye. There were other black eyes; all probably heartily deserved.
Gus Gobels wanted to hit me at on the occasion of his wedding and I do remember why; Zakkie ordered 18 brandy and cokes for our table of 4 and I chased Murphy down the street with a palm branch – don’t ask.
The first Western Province Competition in Hermanus. Billy Bilson goes to chookie overnight and I nearly join him.
My fear of the Kom Outer, my love for the Kom Inner.
J-bay; the way I remember it. It seems that nearly all of us were the ‘first’ to surf Jeffreys Bay. The following extract is from a book I picked up in San Diego in August 2009 and the account seems fairly accurate though I can add a question mark or two when I turn to my own recollection. Here is the extract:
“The Cape Town crew who returned a few weeks later consisted of Gerald “Gus” Gobel, Brian “Block” Maclarty, Hubie Roux, Charlie Marshall, Claus “Bosco” Andrup and Frank Bokhorst, who were on their way to the Eastern Province Surfing Championships in Port Elizabeth. They pulled up around Impossibles, same as their friends. And, this being 1964, the crew was riding 9’6” flat rockered tankers-completely ill-equipped for the Impossibles/Supertubes section of J-Bay, even at three feet-and they came in quickly, all cut-up and dinged. It was too much. At this point Murphy Bokhorst went for a walk to look around. And after seeing the smaller, slower, perfectly tapered walls of what’s now called the Point, he came back running. They surfed for a couple of hours and headed to the contest and then home, stoked to share their discovery with the rest of the crew.
Jeffreys Bay Down the line at the World’s Best Pointbreak
Marcus Sanders & Kimball Taylor”
Here is what I know for certain, and Gus or Murphy can correct me. We first went to Cape St. Francis and arrived in the early evening. Gus was working for a steel furniture manufacturer at the time – I think they were called Heidelberg or something like that – and we traveled up the Garden Route in his white Valiant Station wagon. There were five of us, three in the back two in the front. I remember marveling at how Gus drove with the passenger side wheels so close to the shoulder that it kicked up a cloud of dust as it raced along.
I am sure I was not much older than say 15 and convincing my mother that I should accompany these adults on a long surf trip was no easy task. In the end I prevailed.
We arrived at Cape St Francis on the Hullet property where we arranged to rent a rondavel for the night. Here is where my memory fails due largely in part no doubt to the presence of more than one bottle of cane spirits. I remember Gus and Murphy looking at a map and commenting that we were in the wrong place. Further north is where we needed to be. It was agreed and so we fled the rondavel right there and then.
We arrived in Jeffrey’s Bay in the early hours and found a spot to park the car and put out our sleeping bags for a quick kip.
When I awoke there was something standing over me and I could hear heavy breathing. No, really. It was a sheep, wondering how I’d got into his field.
Once we got up and looked around us we were amazed to see these long, even lines marching in, peeling off in a most geometric, just as endless it seemed in their precession as in their precision. Unbelievable.
We surfed, what seemed to me, to be all day until an onshore wafted in later in the afternoon. That’s what I remember.
I also recall someone telling me that a crew from Port Elizabeth had surfed the place for quite a while but tried to keep it secret.
Elands Baai. Black is Black plays on the radio as Clive flips the VW Combi going over a cattle grate. We made it back to Wynberg eventually in a well-pummeled van.
Chemical Clive nearly drives into the back of a stationery truck on the NI. Just coming towards Groote Schuur hospital coming back from Cool Bay and talking shit to one another. Neither of us saw the truck parked in the slow lane under the bridge until the last moment. Then there was the Stuttaford’s Van line headed towards Grub Gillette and I in the mist outside Humansdorp. Getting to the surf presented way more challenges and dangers than surfing itself did.
Another guy does drive into the back of a truck at Noordhoek in his grey Ford Anglia – I can’t remember his name, but that was as close to fatal as I needed to come.
My first Whitemore board had 3 redwood stringers and a tail block. The main thing was that is was shaped from Clark foam.
Gaansbaai. There was nothing to compare to a weekend with Chemical Clive in Gaansbaai. Before the new breakwater was built we enjoyed the warm water and relative few crowds. Most of the time we were on our own. One day Clive called on the local dairy farmer’s daughter and the results were not good. We had to steer clear of Gaansbaai for several months.
In an unrelated incident years later I was visiting Gaansbaai with I believe Grub Gillette and our good friend Frank “Boetie” Wessels. It was a hot day and the southeaster had blown Walker Bay flat as a beach towel. Our only option was to hit the pub (the truth is that when the three of us were together this was the first option. And if Chris Bakker was with us there were simply no other options on the table).
We walked into the empty bar and ordered a few beers. The place was lifeless and not even the tatty old dartboard held any interest for us. The barman was a young man of indeterminate origin. We told him we were bored and were going to go the other bar across the road. OK man, he said, as he disappeared into a back room.
Walking into the next bar we were surprised to find the same barman behind the bar. Ag man, it is blerrie quiet around here so I work in both bars, he said shamefaced.
My first shave, with Basford coaching me. For some reason I landed up in campsite outside Port Elizabeth with Peter Basford. My recollection is that he paid an unannounced visit to his parents’ home. Reflecting on the visit, I remember that I was not invited in to meet Peter’s parents. All I know is that emerged triumphant with food from a house somewhere in Port Elizabeth. The visit had prompted by a what seemed in those days was a chronic shortage of food back at J-Bay.
I must have been 13 or 14 and facial hair was beginning to show. Brad said I needed a shave. I borrowed his shaving brush and somewhat tentatively brushed soap on to my face. I did not do a good job of it. Brad soon straightened me out and told me to brush my face with more vigour.
Traveling through Mossel Bay with Chemical he met a girl in a bar so I had to sleep outside the Combi that night. Being 15 is not all it is cracked out to be.
In memory of John “Boben” Bennet. Tall, blonde, blue-eyed and languid in his motions both on land and on a wave. Boben embodied, for me at least, what I imagined a Californian surfer would look like. A complex character who I never got to know as a teenager, I came to know him better in later years and found him as complicated, if not more so, as he aged.
Newfound pleasures at La Jolla, Carlsbad and Swamis in SoCal. As a kid paging through Surfer magazines I always dreamed of surfing in California. Now years later I have made a least half a dozen trips to Southern California and surfed a few of the spots that once were only the subject of stories in a magazine. The most enjoyable of these trips was the most recent when I had the opportunity to share a wave or two with Stan Boerbaitz at Swamis. Incredibly we had not been for a surf together since we were 15 years old at Muizenberg. Here we were, 45 years on, enjoying a small left and right peak in the warm Californian sun as though time had stood still.
Shit surf at Longbeach on Vancouver Island. Advice to guys who whine about surfing at Muizenberg; try surfing on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Maniac and Billy Bilson had a great cure for the no-surf blues. On the short gravel road leading into the Kom Inner I spotted Billy surfing on the running board of Maniac’s Ford “Puddle Jumper” Prefect. Other people may remember this.
The Aussies show up; Don Espey with the black mamba – a board we all were jealous of – and big wave rider Jim Pike, along with photographers John “Doringblik” Thornton who became world famous and his crony Ron Perrot; both ardent surf photographers at the time. My dad got Jim Pike a job in Namibia on a construction site and I believe Jim surfed the pier at Swakopmund. I tried it once or twice when on holiday there. We stayed in Hotel Bismarck and had coffee and very rich cakes at the Café Anton.
In later years many of us would overnight on Saturday’s at the Grendon cottage in Scarborough where Mr. and Mrs. Grendon did their best to control the unruly surfers who camped out on the little lawn in from of the shack. Most evenings were spent playing scrabble and Mrs. always won. When my parents divorced I was at a loose end and probably upset. One of my cures for the blues was to go up to the Grendon’s after school and play scrabble. Just me and Wenna. It was a very gentle way of getting away from the confusion at home.
On the nights after surfing and crayfish diving at the shack we played tons of Grendon home brewed games. We also played a typically odd Grendon game, which entailed lying on top of the big dining room table and then circumnavigating from the top, underneath and back up again without touching the floor. I think John Grendon was the only one to successfully achieve this stunt.
Between the South African Defence Force and the allure of Europe my surfing days ended in 1969. Between 1971 and 1976 I surfed periodically but by then things had already changed in that the short board had arrived. I never took to the short board.
Then in the 1980s I started surfing again on the few occasions that I visited Carlsbad in Orange County, SoCal. My favourite spot is La Jolla, although, as I said, in the summer of 2009 Stan Boerbaitz introduced me to the Swamis area and we had a great surf there; 3’ to 4’ glassy, warm and well formed. It was our first time in the water since we were 15. That’s what happens to 45 years if you are not paying attention. If you thought the last 45 years passed quickly just watch the next 45 years.
Grass surfing (or soccer as some people call it) and how the relationships are just as enduring. Since 1997 I have played soccer twice a week in the local BC Old Timers League here in the Fraser Valley.
While soccer ain’t surfin’ it nonetheless shares one abiding characteristic; and that is the spirit of camaraderie that keeps us coming back to the beach or the soccer field whenever we can. Guy’s hanging out, talking shit, teasing one another, praising one another and enjoying the fact that for most of us at least we’ve slid past a few steep sections and close-out sets to make it this far. Paddle on!!
Claus “Bosco” Andrup
Maple Ridge, February 2010