Way Back When with Triggs | Ep 12 | Ted Bainbridge

Over the past few decades Trigger Brothers has accumulated a large collection of old school photo’s of Paul, Phil and friends from back when it all began! So we decided it’s time we get Paul to write up a short story about some of these classic moments in time… from local sessions and state titles to random road trips across the country.
Trigger Bros

 Ted Bainbridge at the Point

I first met Ted at Frankston Teachers college in 1970, he surfed occasionally when his family travelled from their Noble Park home to a holiday house at Tootgarook, but as a student teacher with more freedom he was soon to be swept away by a rising tide of surfing euphoria. Blonde hair, a lively sense of humour, endless enthusiasm, and a leather jacket with ”The Beatles” emblazoned on the back was a good match for the Trigger Bros surf Team. Phil and I made him a new board and his passionate obsession for surfing saw the trio following a pathway that would result in a lifetime connection with the ocean.

Greg Noll coined the phrase “The Search”, but it was Ted who put this into a Peninsula perspective when he talked us into checking out every back road from Rye to Portsea, and on most occasions after trekking through the sand dunes we would end back up at good ol’ Gunna. There were a few wins though, as I believe he was amongst the first to surf Pearse’s beach, where upon exiting, one of the group was dragged under the rock shelf luckily emerging half a minute later. On a sunny Saturday (1971/72) our convoy of Ted’s Bongo van and my wagon lost one another coming out of the Portsea back beach. Ian Portingale and I went back to Rye while Phil, Ted, and Ian Cochrane (who was only able to wear Speedo’s because his wetsuit was in my car) baptized a new surf spot we called Singers, because the rock formation long since fallen, resembled a singer sewing machine. Ted and I rode it on the following day a screaming 6 to 8 ft with a wall like Bells but hollow as hell, and a gnarly swim with no legropes. I recall pulling back on one of the largest waves that day and copping a serve from Ted when he said “you could have driven a bus through that barrell.” For a year or so we tried to keep this spot a secret by driving through the backstreets of Sorrento when tailed, eventually we simply took too many friends along and word got out. Because of the sharky nature of this beach local surfers Jeff Coker and the Parkinsons’ renamed it Spooks.

Fortunately or unfortunately Ted’s surfing obsession saw him only last one year at Teachers college. During the September school holidays of 1970 there were amazing banks at Gunnamatta.Ted, Jeff Coker and I surfed for 9 days straight before I suggested to him that we study the last 2 days before the exams commenced, but he simply couldn’t drag himself away from those freakish waves. A short career in banking was to follow, then a year at Rip Curl’s Frankston store learning the ropes before we opened Peninsula Surf Centre on Nepean Hwy. As an aside we met Jeff Coker through Ted, he was the big bird at 6’4″ yet on his day could surf as good as anyone on the Peninsula. I used to stay at his folks place in Sorrento some weekends and we were lucky he introduced us to surfing at the heads when a crowd was the arrival of a third boat. On our 1st trip to quarantine we borrowed Mr Coker’s boat and when we arrived back at the mooring he was waiting for us on the beach and let rip a few expletitives. Perhaps he had lined up to take his mates fishing in His boat. On our 2nd trip in we walked via the back beach, Ted, Phi,l Jeff, and I. when from seemingly nowhere, machine gun fire rattled across our heads and gave us a hell of a fright. The rifle range was directly above and they were targeting offshore. The isolation and outstanding quality of corsair saw us buy an old Put Put from our brother in law Keith Hunter within the month and the surf trips rolled on (I was recently reminded that we only ever paid the deposit and some 40 years later we may have to coff up with the balance). When this beautiful old vessel was destroyed in a storm we purchased a swiftcraft stiletto and made regular visits. No matter what claims the west coast crew make with regard to quarras they’re dreaming as we only ever saw Ian Duckworth from Queenscliff during those classic early years. Jeff joined our team from ’70 to ’74, he introduced us to Jethro Tulls music then pursued his own shaping career with the new groms from Portsea, the Parkinsons. Winding back the clock Phil and I agree that Jeff has been the most outstanding surfer ever to come from the Sorrento area, many falling by the wayside while in his 60’s he still carves it up.

Ted was a leader, an adventurer and big waves were his forte. He talked Phil and I into some crazy sessions, one in particular at Portsea when a pea soup fog cut visibility to 20 ft. Foolishly we followed him out to a low tide bank with 10ft closeouts literally descending from the clouds. During the 70’s I believe there was no one on the Peninsula keener for a surf, this was infectious for our junior team and would see us donning our icy cold wetsuits in the dark and joining crazy Ted out the back before sunrise. Surfing competitively he made a couple of finals at Bells in big surf. There was also a fourth place in the inaugural Pt Leo 1200. In hollow waves his tube riding excelled, while small waves (the most consistent contest situation) were a lost cause for Tidal Wave Ted. On a 1975 surf trip to Bali, I watched rather nervously as he dropped in at Ulu’s on the largest ridden wave of the day, a massive 15 footer that washed everyone else back to shore snapping legropes and bouncing bodies off the coral. Earlier that morning Brian Cregan (ocean and earth legrope founder) and myself had to swim about 300 metres having headed seaward trying to paddle over one of these rogue sets.There were only 2 for the day but they cast a shadow on the horizon the likes of which I had never observed before. The Saturday morning of Easter ’81 with the swell peaking at 15 ft plus was another memorable highlight for Ted. In the company of Robbie McCartney and Alan Atkins all from Victoria,  they were the first to paddle out while many of the pros scurried back to Torquay in search of Big wave guns. On one of these mountainous waves Ted fell from the top puncturing an eardrum, yet he still managed to help judge the contest.

From an early age Ted made a solid contribution to surfing, initially being one of the founding members of the Peninsula Boardriders Club in 1975 (we could have easily kicked off the club a few years earlier as we all met at Gunna on a Saturday in ’73 and postponed a proposed comp because of high winds. Phil, Ted and I then sneaked off to Portsea and selfishly surfed there again on the Sunday on a fantastic right hander protected from the wind .The moment was lost.) He was its inaugural President while at the same time being a committee member of the Victorian branch of the Australian Surfing Association. During this time a State round was finally gifted to the peninsula and to this day gives our surfers a chance to compete on their home break at Gunnamatta. In fact what we did was through the co-ordinating skills of Skip Easton, we loaded up the first meeting of the Vic A.S.A out numbering the West Coast guys by at least 5 to 1, we then selected our own committee with dominant representation. It was well orchestrated and quite premeditated but did have its drawbacks when at times we would have to drive away from great beach break waves on the East coast to a flat Torquay for a Saturday night meeting. Legendary President Stan Couper wife Vi and Daughter Gail gave us great support in the challenges we had to put Peninsula surfing on the map.


Liquid Gold Advert

Liquid Gold Advertisement, October ’75


Living behind our factory at Chelsea in the early 70’s I witnessed Ted’s entrepreneurial skills begin to blossom. At days end he would sit in the kitchen addressing letters to firstly radio stations then to the television networks. It was all pie in the sky from where I sat, but before long he was contacted to do surf reports for 3XY and later a summer stint with weatherman Rob Gel on Channel 10 news. Phil and I were flabber gassed, but there was more to come out of that kitchen when Keith Platt,Tony Murrell and Ted produced victorias first surfing magazine Breakway in 1974.This was followed up by the highly imaginative Surfworld on the banks of the Yarra in ’75, and with fellow backers Phil, Harry Hodge, and I, the surf movie Liquid Gold also became a Bainbridge reality. Yours truly did a 3 month projectionist course in Melbourne, then as a team even selling the tickets we ran for 2 weeks at the Brighton Town hall, plus one night stands at Geelong, Dandenong, and Frankstons Mechanics Hall.The highlights of this movie for us, were the surfing of Mick Pierce and Kiwi Kevin Jarret at Pumping station, and footage from our Bali trip of Jeff Hakman and Brian Cregan at Uluwatu. Unfortunately we have never been able to track down a copy of the movie even though it did showings Australia wide. A friendship struck between our film producer Harry and Jeff Hakman, which would later see them extremely successful partners in Quiksilver Europe.


Surfworld Advertisment, Breakaway magazine, October ’75

Though Ted had plenty going on he still managed to share fun times travelling.The two of us set off for the W.A. ’73 Aussie titles in his Ford falcon sedan with the back seat removed so we could extend into the boot for sleeping. On the outskirts of Adelaide as each mile passed we both began having more trouble seeing what lay ahead, we were tiring, our speed was dropping back until we finally realized our lights were no longer penetrating the pitch black. The next morning it was back to Adelaide for a new generator to keep the battery charging, then we headed back on the road, next stop the famed Cactus. Surfing magazines were limited in those early years, but while Ted drove I discovered a terrific article on great white sharks the large 6m variety in Womens Day. “Hey Ted aren’t we going to Seduna?” “Yes”, and that same day as we paddled out at to Castles (at least 8 to 10 ft as the whole bay was closing out elsewhere) one of us was thinking big sharks and Ted was buzzing on big waves. We had spotted a few fins earlier but a group of West Aussie surfers made the call dolphins and would join us. They never left the shore, I was hit on the head 1st wave and seeing stars and thinking sharks I swam a nervy 200 metres. Ted was oblivious to my situation but was glad to see me after I had drilled a whole in the back of my fin with a can opener and attached a nylon cord. We shared an epic session with references to Pipeline from young guys with imaginations running wild, but I swear we were launching into some hideous drops, just the two of us and what lay beneath. I recently read the Cactus story (pictorially excellent with history to suit) passed on to me by Rod Sly a disciple of the area having just returned from another pilgrimage. I was pleasantly surprised to read that our dear friend Don Burford was in that first car to discover and ride its magic waves. Don recalls visiting there for just over a year before any others cottoned on.

Travelling to N.S.W. (1972 aust titles) in my blue kombi, a reflex action almost put Ted in hospital. We were crossing Sydney harbour bridge at about 2am, and we were about to place a flashing hazard light in the middle lane. Perched in the open side door as we were slowing to around 30k’s he’s jumped out having lost an ugg boot. There was no warning, Phil and Ian Portingale saw him go into forward rolls,the first of which was a fair whack on the old bonce. A taxi braked hard and swerved convinced we were dropping a body.Ted jumped back on board laughing his head off. At some stage during the titles Ted and I struck up a conversation with an old sea salt overlooking the waves at Manly, it proved to be Snowy Mcalister the father figure of Australian surfing. Tanned, extremely fit and very approachable, its no wonder that Duke Kahanamoku left his solid redwood surfboard with Snowy back in 1915. We were so chuffed meeting such a legend by sheer chance, and Ted’s serious sense of history was coming through, then on the flip side a few days later he wins our Paddle Pop eating competition with a good dozen in record time. This proved to be a very popular event at the Trigger Bros Chelsea Xmas party, but Ted would eventually be humiliated by little Ian who downed 14.

Having developed some good friendships with the North Narrabeen crew during the W.A. ’73 titles, we decided to drive up for a visit in ’74, at this stage the Sydneys northern beaches were the place to be, and nearby Brookvale was the mecca for surfboard production. More recently this focus of surfing excellence would appear to be the Goldie with the superbank at Snapper and big time boardmakers spread out from Tweed to Burleigh. Upon arriving Ted and I were invited to stay with Al Hunt (big Al was one of the top professional judges for a couple of decades when the World Pro Circuit kicked off) and Brian Witty another keen surfer, who down the track invented the FCS system. The boys had a caravan virtually on the beach next to the Narra Lifesaving club. We were just settling into breakfast (Al having left for work early) when a fist came crashing down on the door scaring the crap out of the three of us. A maniacal voice began bellowing “Witty get your F…..ing arse out here”, which saw Brian turn a whiter shade of pale as he dove into the cupboard. The bombardment outside continued there were more expletives and an “I’m gonna kill you if you don’t come out.” Witty whispered “tell him I’m not here.” To save further damage to Al’s van Ted and I bravely opened the door to see a crazy eyed steaming Terry Fitzgerald looking in disbelief at two Vico’s, and not his glasser Brian who hadn’t turned up to work for a several days due to a wave on situation. Somewhat shocked Terry acknowledged Ted and I in a more subdued voice, and luckily believed us when we told him that Brian had headed off with Al. It’s amazing how much Terry had changed since the dope smoking carefree days depicted in Morning of the Earth. Running a boardmaking business with custom orders expected on time can be stressful especially when your employees are disappearing for surf. Added to that every 2nd week, the scientists tell us that prolonged marijuana use can produce permanent anxiety issues so its been a good thing that our mate Tidal Wave preferred the beverages.


Ted at the Point, 1978

The mid to late 70’s saw Ted becoming very innovative. He had his own model the ‘Rocket’ with a bear logo and was keen to experiment. Phil was at his best, glassing on 1 a tunnel fin, 2 a single fin with another smaller fin directly behind and 3 to top it off a marine speedometer fitted from the deck through to the bottom, and of course as soon as it was finished we had to drive to Bells beach to test it. I personally found it difficult to read the speed whilst trying to avoid fellow surfers. Surprisingly Red Hill Football Club coach Gary Colling revealed the whereabouts of this almost 40 year old relic as being under a house in Darwin still in reasonable nick. We are currently seeking its return to our Pt Leo museum. A few more glimpses of Ted looking through a glass onion which may very well have been his perspective after a session at Lisles Hotel with our Island mates. Some of our team were preparing for the comp by tossing down a few schooners, naturally the Sober bros were always the designated drivers. As we headed over San Remo bridge Ted talked me into pulling over. Before I knew it Crazy Ted was up on the rail and attempting to walk between the poles (20 m apart) I became very angry and managed to get him down. There are plenty of times to be brave, but in the dark high on a bridge half pissed is simply not one of them. A much funnier incident occurred after an evening at the Sorrento Hotel. As we walked back to our car Tidal wave slipped away unnoticed. I had no idea until I heard a noise coming from the crushed ice machine. Ted had slithered up the shute and was stuck with only his legs protruding. It took a few minutes to get him out with his prize a bag of ice which was then foolishly placed on top of our wetsuit bin. We slept in the suicide car park and at first light great waves and icy cold wetsuits were our combo for that session. Good one Ted.


Lasy year I had the good fortune to bump into Ted and brother Danny having a surf at Pines on his Birthday, it was like a flash back seeing that fun loving sparkle in his eye. The boy from the back streets of Noble Park has just returned to the Australian coastline having followed the footsteps of his father Sid who loved to sail. Tidal wave Ted has lived his dream sailing and surfing for 10 months from America through the Pacific islands and now back home to friends and family to celebrate his 60th birthday in a few weeks time. Well done Tidal wave Ted.