50 years ago the Surf Coast was a different place. Lorne was the place to be on the coast while Torquay was still a small fishing village about to begin embracing surfing in a big way. It was a weird time and crazy summer. Harold Holt disappeared, Holden launched its first Torana and the RAAF sent bombers to wreak death and destruction over Vietnam.
Surfing was growing in popularity. The 1964 World Titles had awoken mainstream Australia to the power of surfing. What was once cool and underground was now ‘out there’ as Mum and Dad suburbia rushed to the beaches with the latest Midget foamie or Bill Bennett long under their arms.
Lorne was ground zero for surf culture in Victoria. The waves that rolled along the point provided a training ground for many surfers from Lorne, Geelong and Melbourne. Peter Troy, Rod Brooks and other surfers regularly visited Lorne Point while surf photographers Barrie Sutherland and Rennie Ellis were some of the first to capture Lorne surf culture on glorious black and white film.
The Arab was the place to be seen… one of the first coffee lounges in Australia, it boasted only the third espresso machine in Victoria. Bohemian types mixed with surfers mixed with fisherman along the main street of Lorne. It soon became one of the coolest parts of Australia. Flower power and Afghan dogs pounded the footpaths.
While the early generation hipsters were walking the streets of Lorne, a young surfer by the name of Wayne Lynch was winning contests and getting harassed by the law. Wayne was your typical long haired surf grommet who in 1967 was winning Aussie Junior Titles at will and inventing surf moves people had never seen before. Within five years Lynch would be dodging the draft and being hailed around the globe as one of the greatest surfers ever.
The town of Lorne tolerated surfers (only just)…. provided they cut their hair, kept to themselves and dressed conservatively. It was a clash of cultures in more ways then one.
If the beach was the place to be during the day, the Wild Colonial Club was the place to be at night. Beatniks, surfers, beehive hairdos… It was all happening at the Club as beachgoers let down their hair to the latest beats often until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.
Much has been written about the Summer of 67 in Lorne. Jeff Raglus wrote a song about it, Rennie Ellis photographed it and your grand parents were probably partying until 4am in the morning after a day at the beach.
Gotta love summer on the Surf Coast!
Written by John Foss