This weeks photo was taken for a story in the Frankston newspaper back in ’82. Peter Wilkinson and Garry Taylor are celebrating Garry’s upset win at the 1982 Australian Cadet Titles. Along with his subsequent naming in the Aussie team to compete at the Friendship Games in Huntington beach California. Peter not only travelled as Garry’s coach and chaperone but as an Australian judge.
In his own right Wilko was a very competitive surfer representing Victoria at several Australian kneeboard titles. He started off at Trigger Bros as a polisher (definitely the best we ever had), then became a shaper and later on the store manager at Chelsea and then Sorrento. He taught G.T. to shape, and during his time at Trigger Brothers from 1974 to 2005 he was a larger than life, colorful, and sometimes provocative character who drew people through the door. Very few leaving without a purchase and some free advice. From his early years ‘Wild Man’ Wilko could always call on some personal experiences to pass on to the myriad of young crew who floated through the stores over the years.
As well as his rise to contest director for Rip Curls Easter Bells, Pete’s knowledge of judging criteria helped make him become the perfect coach for G.T. The strategy was to take ‘Flea’ out of his comfort zone, making him have practice heats in small grovelly waves at 1st Reef and Treloars, which was similar to the rubbish that the kids in N.S.W.and Q.L.D encountered daily. A couple of years on, and an Australian Cadet Title in Queensland was the reward for all his effort.
Garry and his brother Phil had been introduced to surfing at a very young age by the late John Taylor, who’s best mate Phil Trigger lived just around the corner in Frankston. This meant a continuous flow of boards and wetsuits was always close at hand. A trip around the coast with John Taylor was a hair raising experience, especially on the sandy roads around Gunna where we drifted sideways around every corner. It’s no wonder we all felt so safe in the ocean.
One of my most vivid memories of G.T. was Easter Saturday 1981 when Simon Anderson was destroying 15 foot waves at the Rip Curl event at Bells. It would surprise many that ‘Lake Leo’ had been transformed into a serious surf spot on this day. On the low tide there were some 20 surfers in the water with sets averaging from 6 to 8 foot, with plenty of bigger ones coming through. Thirteen year old ‘Flea’ had been cajoled to join the crew, but was lacking confidence and not really committing to any of the waves. Skip and I plus a few others were paddling back to the line up when we saw Garry paddling for an 8 foot wave. Everyone was screaming go go go, and he must have realised that he had no other choice with all his peers calling him in. By the time the diminutive ‘Flea’ reached the bottom the wave looked triple overhead. We were all screaming as his confidence kicked in. I doubt he ever looked back from that defining moment.
By the age of 20 G.T was no longer a ‘Flea’, he had developed super strong legs, Gunna rip shoulders and could easily touch his palms on the ground. Garry with some extra tutelage from Kenny Reimers and old Triggs had become the number 1 shaper on the Peninsula. He survived a couple years in the top 33 of the pro tour and in front of all his mates cheering him on, he came up with an inspirational win over Gary Kong Elkerton at Bells in the Quicksilver trials. He was just a whisker off beating World champ Tom Curren in the 1st round of that years Rip Curl event. With a string of Victorian titles thrown in, Garry rates as the 3rd most successful surfer in the state after Wayne Lynch and Troy Brooks.
Last season from the Heavenly valley chairlift at Hotham Hannah and I observed a standout snowboarder carving clean powerful lines down Slalom Gully. I’ve seen the same guy with Kenny Reimers skate the hell out of the half pipe at Chelsea and the Shed. Garry Taylor who at ten years of age, with tears flowing, had to be paddled back to shore at St Andrews. When he started surfing he had difficulty getting to his feet correctly, yet by 15 had won the Australian cadet title and by 16 was surfing 10 to 15 foot Hawaiian waves. It is a remarkable story.