When I was a kid in the early 70’s I was embarrassed that my mum was a surfer, when a lot of other mum’s stayed home and baked cookies and did what I thought was cool mum stuff, my mum and her best friend were out surfing straight after they finished the housework while we were at school. There were very few female surfers back then. It was not until I was much older did I realise that my Mum, Yvonne and her best friend Elaine Reid, were the coolest mum’s around! They still surf together and are both in their mid 60’s. Above is a photo of Elaine with my late “Aunty Rell” Rell Sunn The Queen of Makaha, a great friend to my Mum and Elaine over many years.
Elaine’s story was recently published on Surfsister by Narani Henson. Narani has kindly shared it with us here at Common Ground and we are happy to say that she will be sharing a few more stories from time to time on women’s surfing and the rich culture behind the sport. Surfsister is Australia’s first independent online magazine published for female surfers.
Water woman Elaine Reid is the original ‘Bay Girl’. After spending an afternoon hanging out chatting about surf culture from a time period spanning over four decades, stories including those about the whales and other sea life, and indepth local historical knowledge of Byron Bay one starts to see how connected Elaine is to the ocean. Its the very life force behind her eyes. Her first surfboard was a Barry Bennett, D-fin, 9’2, on which she learned to surf at the tender age of 16…The year, 1964.
Can you tell me what it was like to surf in the 60’s?
I learned to surf by Thomo’s Rock every chance I had… There were no leg ropes and the boards were really heavy! I had to make a turban out of my towel and balance my heavy board on my head…walking down to the beach and then dragging my board up to The Pass. I surfed the point with Judy Gibbon, Denise Campbell, Wendy McDermid and Leona Keevers, and we would surf for 3 or 4 hours a day. If you wiped out you had to swim for your board…so you had to be a skilled water person. Byron Bay has always been a surfing town with a variety of waves.
Watching surfing grow over the years and being one of the first women, what is your perspective on the development of surfing?
I really commend the new generations of female surfers, the versatility of the types of boards they are riding, mal’s, fishes, short boards, and toy mal’s… all different. I have seen local girls learn to surf and watched them progress into competent surfers. There are three generations of surfers in my family and I have really enjoyed watching ladies take on the surfing lifestyle.
You have a lot of surfing trophies, the last one being 2006, whats it like to compete?
I just really focus on the waves and getting three really good ones, then you have to deal with the lulls and just roll with it… But I really watch the water and block everything else out.
What have been your favorite boards?
McTavish that had three stringers and was about 9’6 x 23′ x 3′, D-fin, and was pink! as well as a Bobby Brown board that was 9’2…I really love to surf with Algy (Reid) its just, so much fun! get six or so waves at The Pass, just love it.Its clearly obvious that Elaine is very much in love with the ocean and surfing!
Words by Narani Henson from Surfsister