“I remember this building”. These were the first words legendary Californian Hall of fame big wave rider Greg Noll uttered as he was reintroduced to the Cronulla Surf Club 60 years after his first and only visit.
Noll was a member of the American lifeguard team that came to Australia as part of a demonstration event held at Torquay during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
During their visit they were bused directly to Cronulla Surf Club from the airport where they were given a civic reception to welcome them to Australia.
It was a time when two very different cultures met and after the formalities the local Cronulla Surf club members invited them for a surf at the Point where a good surf was running.
They had brought two styles of surf craft, five-metre racing boards and much shorter Malibu boards just for fun.
“We all paddled out the usual spot behind the break but they stopped where the waves were breaking with us thinking they would be wiped out,” said John Salmon a lifesaver from that day decade’s ago.
“We all caught the first wave when to our amazement they took off on the inside and were zipping up and down the wave-and none of them wiped out.”
Surfing in this country was never the same again as ever young surf club member became surfers and made the switch to surfboards that could ride the waves.
This weekend Noll and wife Laura has been brought back to Cronulla by Surfing Sutherland Shire to mark Surf Retrospect month which could only have been done by the generosity of Surfing NSW, Flight Centre, Olsens and Rydges Hotel group.
He will be unveiling a plaque on Cronulla Point with the mayor on Saturday at 10am to mark the Cronulla Surfing reserve location and there will be a Toothpick/Malibu re-enactment at midday on Cronulla beach.
A public photographic and surfboard display will be held in the Cronulla Surf Club all weekend and at 1pm on Sunday Greg will talk about his visit and surfboard design, cutting the ribbon to launch the Cronulla branch of the Surfrider Foundation.
“We came to compete but we also had some fun,” Noll said looking over the big Cronulla Point waves he rode years before.