By Martin (Marty) Olsen
Angourie is one of Australia’s mystical surfing destinations and one of those “Bucket List” places, which adventure surfers want to visit and surf within their lifetime! Angourie’s surfing history began when around 25 members of the Yamba Life Saving Club used to travel between Yamba and back beach Angourie looking for waves in the late ’50s. By the 1970’s it was regarded as “surfing nirvana”.
In the beginning, the road out to Angourie from Yamba was just a very rough dirt track, but by 2007, the road was sealed, the village was settled by surfers and Angourie was recognised and protected as Australia’s first ‘Surfing Reserve’. The flat, boulder-strewn headland, connected to the coast by a sandy isthmus, has been an important meeting place for the Yaegl (Aboriginal) people for generations. From here they could survey to the north, south and east, and it was they who named the place Angourie, which translated to ‘the sound of the wind’.
The only sounds that emanated from Angourie following white settlement, however, were those of diggers chewing out bluestone from the neighbouring headland, to provide stone for the Clarence River break-wall at Yamba. When they dug into a freshwater spring and the pit flooded, it was abandoned, forming Angourie’s famous Blue Pools, from where today you can look across the bay straight into the eye of the Angourie barrel.
It was discovered in the mid-’60s by an American adventurer and surfer George Greenough and became his “halfway house” home for many years. It was in this time that Greenough’s ideology of surfing took a new direction and began the influence of change to revolutionise surfing as a sport. George Greenough became surfing’s Edison, who was seeing something entirely different from the nose-riding norm of the era, he was hunting the tube. Greenough’s 1969 footage from inside the tube was the next progression that totally changed the way surfers view the wave. Together with Nat Young, Bob McTavish and others, they would influence one of the greatest changes in surfing history. Greenough began making movies of his tube riding exploits at Angourie and so the point developed its mystical fame!
Swells from the south wrap more gently around the point and are best described as fun. If, however, the swell is coming from the east or north, courtesy of a tropical cyclone, the swell will push back in on itself, and the place can get heavy, handling 8 to 10 feet of swell before closing out.
My first sojourn to this mystical destination was in the very early ’70s and on my first trip I had the luck to meet George Greenough and spend some time with him talking and discussing his design ideas of his spoons and his concepts of tube riding. This was an incredible inspiration for me and from that day, I took up kneeboard riding to gain my own experiences of deep tube riding in my home breaks on the Sunshine Coast. Kneeboards remained a part of my surfing experiences together with the rapidly changing short surfboards for several years.
Apart from those amazing right-hand barrels on Angourie Point, we also discovered on our many trips that in the northerly wind conditions, which destroyed the right-hand point waves, the back beach and point could provide incredible waves in the right conditions.
The other vivid memories of those early days camping in the camping ground above Spookies Point were going swimming in the amazing rock pools at the bottom of the cliffs beside the sea. The non-surf days and high tide doldrums were often spent jumping off the cliffs into the rock pools below.
Angourie certainly deserves it’s place as one the great mystical surfing journeys in the world and is a fitting place to have become the first National Surfing Reserve in Australia.
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Aloha and good surfing!!