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).
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
Little Malop Street, Geelong
Ph: 03 5229 3645
Open daily 10am – 5pm