inspiring folk · out and about · remembering / musing

Arcadia—sound of the sea … a memory-kindling photographic exhibition

Being fifty-something means that at least part of your teenage years occupied the seventies.

In my seventies teenage world, where our little house in the suburbs was a 30-minute drive from world-class surf beaches, the cool kids were the surfer boys … the guys who somehow disappeared each weekend, made their way to the coast and reappeared sometime mid-morning Monday in their subtly cooler version of the school uniform. They drove VW beetles or kombi vans, or hitchhiked with their boards and sleeping bags. They were typically chilled, bronzed, dreamy and sporting sun-bleached beach hair (their earthy interpretation of the seventies big hair trend).

surf culture, arcadia - sound of the sea, cool kids, subculture, being fifty-something, boomers, midlife
A snap of one of John Witzig’s images.

The other guys wanted to be like them. The girls wanted to be with them. But the surfer boys knew what they wanted … superb surf breaks, relaxation and the cool surfie chicks who also managed to make their way to the coast (not us).

The surfer boys were part of a sub-culture that was yet to be commercialised. They seemed to share a “natural” view of the world, a sense of freedom and a pared back philosophy that out-cooled the hippies of the sixties.

For me, Arcadia—sound of the sea, a photographic exhibition currently on at Geelong Gallery until 22 February, captures the seventies surfer boy spirit brilliantly. Most of the images are the work of John Witzig, co-founder of Tracks, a renowned surf magazine that explored the physical and political world of the surfer culture of the time.

From the Geelong Gallery flyer: “Imbued with a romantic conception of the awesome and spiritually restorative force of the sea, Arcadia—sound of the sea expresses the free-spirited, revolutionary character of a group of young and perfectly-formed (sic) Australian surfers in the early 1970s.”

The surfer boys were undoubtedly the “beautiful people” of my teenage years and I love how these images transported me back to a time when I coveted being part of their world … it’s a richly textured window into the cool kids’ cosmos.

Who were the cool kids in your teenage corner of the world?


Arcadia—sound of the sea

until February 22

Geelong Gallery
Little Malop Street, Geelong
Ph: 03 5229 3645

Open daily 10am – 5pm

FREE Admission


5 thoughts on “Arcadia—sound of the sea … a memory-kindling photographic exhibition

  1. Many thanks Sheryl, for sharing your memories and for your feedback on the special exhibition, ‘Arcadia—sound of the sea’, which is on display at the Geelong Gallery until 22 February. We’re so pleased that you enjoyed it. You might also be interested in checking out Robert Nelson’s review in today’s ‘Age’ newspaper: Thanks again for your interest in the Geelong Gallery and this exhibition. We really value your feedback and look forward to seeing you again soon. Best wishes for a happy and creative 2015!

    1. Thanks for popping by and for your kind wishes, Geelong Gallery. I have just been checking out Robert Nelson’s review; it’s a cracker. I loved our most recent visit to the gallery and will definitely be popping back again before 8 February to lay my eyes (once again) on the Andy Warhols in the “Lyons’ view – the Mayor’s choice exhibition”. So many stories, so well told in your current series of exhibitions. 🙂

  2. Robert Nelson’s review is a cracker. We were thrilled to see it in today’s paper and to read his perspective and also find out that he thought it was a “beautiful exhibition”. We’re so glad to hear that you loved your most recent visit to the Geelong Gallery and our summer suite of exhibitions and that you’ll be back to check out ‘Lyons’ view—the Mayor’s choice’ exhibition. And, pssst… the Mayor has just agreed to co-present a floortalk of this exhibition with our Director, Geoffrey Edwards on Thursday 29 January from 2.30pm: We hope you can make it! Thanks again for your feedback and for your interest in the Geelong Gallery. We deeply value your support and look forward to seeing you again soon.

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