This photo is of Brian Jahn outside the Warren Cornish factory in Dec 1974 taken by his mate Peter Green. That is Warren Cornish's ute and Brian (and others) would often drive it to Sydney and back. Brian is from California, as is the photographer Peter Green. They chased the empty point break perfection in the early 1970s. Peter Green fell in love with Northern NSW and never went home to America. I wrote about his surfing life in the
For those who know the thriving metropolis that is the Byron Bay Industrial estate today, it is humbling and revealing to think it started with the surfboard shaping business.
Byron Bay was not a 'surfing town' in the 1960s, moreso a colonial outpost for whaling, fishing and originally a shipping port mostly for cedar timber; local names like Possum Shoot, Coopers Shoot and Skinners Shoot a clear nod to the timbers in the day where the loggers would 'shoot' the logs down the hill, then onto the ships. Today, there is still plenty of 'logging' albeit on 9 foot planks, in the surf.
Byron Bay had a history of gold mining too, at Tallows beach and yes there are some nice photos from that era and the whaling ceased in the early 1960s.
San Juan surfboards in opened in 1970, under the passionate entrepreneurial spirit of Ken Adler who was inspired by what Midget Farrelly had set up in Manly Sydney; a shaping facility with a retail shop adjoined. Midget was a pioneer, as we know and Ken Adler followed in his footsteps. The stories of 1970 around Byron Bay are not etched into surfing history. I wrote about that in the SwitchFoot 3 book.
Surfers trying to settle in Byron Bay in the 1960s, before the 'industry' was a bold move, to say the least. When Chris Brock left Sydney in the 1960s and hopped on the train with a surfboard and no money, he was heading into the unknown. Back then the train rolled right into Byron Bay town... many of us wish it still did. Brocky had no idea what he may or may not find, thus was the surfing spirit of adventure. When Brocky didn't come back to Sydney, his friend Baddy Treloar (rip) thought to himself 'hey if Brocky made it, maybe I can too' and Baddy set off himself, the early pioneers of city surfers fleeing for utopia... and they found it, they stayed and they prospered.
Warren Cornish (rip) is an interesting tale also...the entrepreneur businessman, going against the ilk of the salty beach bums of the era. For those that know the story, he was clever enough to buy the Bob McTavish name for a pittance back then as Bob was skint but he had a brand...he had a name known by surfers in Australia, Hawaii and the USA..the McTavish name still stands and probably always will, a testament to McTavish's commitment to the art of surfboard design.
Entrepreneurship and Byron Bay has firm roots that now grow strong brands and innovation. Who would have thunk that fifty years ago? The dream of surfers back then to re-locate to Byron Bay and follow a dream, to create something from nothing, that dream is still alive and buoyant, perhaps moreso than it has ever been. These days it is perhaps an even more challenging undertaking for those seekers of that lifestyle, as where once you could rent a shack for a pittance, today your neighbours actually file tax returns and spend $700 a week+ on renting a home and haemorrhage money annually on repairing their cars from the shitty roads. If that isn't enough of a deterrent, the sheer swarms of people, all of them surfers, makes the art of surfing obsolete; now surfing in Byron Bay is akin to a jockey race, complete with rapid commentary, a twist of street fighting, narcissism and the obvious wrestles with the ever-growing number of hungry sharks with sharp teeth.