Ian commenced surfing at Bonbeach in Port Phillip bay at age 8 back in 1967. Not owning a board he would sit patiently on the shore waiting for an opportunity to borrow one from the older guys surfing at the lifesaving club. More often than not it was usually Ian Portingale’s surfboard, and later when they were both on our team he was dubbed Little Ian. His first surfboard was a short plastic moulded Okanui that was purchased from Myers, at a time when everyone was trying to cash in on the new wave of popularity that was surfing.
Phil and I had just started making a few surfboards in our backyard and it was becoming quite a popular place to hang out. Ian’s first board from us was a 7’10” Pocket Rocket called the 5th dimension which he brought for $25 (he later sold it for $35 and bought another one of Phils hand me downs) .This particular board was shaped in the lane beside our house so mum and dad wouldn’t see the mess. As the sun was setting and despite my calls to quit, Phil continued to shape in the dark, the result being an ultra thin wafer that when launched at Pines was submerged like an Olea solid timber model. Ian at 40 kg dripping wet was the perfect match.There was no green movement back then and heaven forbid we regularly burnt off the waste until neighbours complained to the council about the ash in their swimming pool. Even at the beaches it wasn’t uncommon to see guys burning rubber tyres to help stay warm on a winters day.By late 1969 Ian had become a regular on our surf trips and one day having come in from the point we noticed him surfing goofy at Sometimes. Because he was still so small he had trouble turning the bigger boards from the takeoff so the easy way for him was to be a goofy on lefts and a natural foot on rights. Riding the short surfboards of the 70s he had no excuse so we told him to make up his mind and learn to surf backhand.
Ian’s mum Beryl was the head seamstress at Falcon sportswear and in 1976 suggested that she could manufacture Trigger Bros surf clothing. This kicked off with a zip up fleece and expanded to polos, thousands of hoodies, and a cool turtle neck skivvy that ran for 3 or 4 years. She was meticulous on quality and even when retired wasn’t afraid to point out any flaws in our shop garments, all the we had to do was have the garments screened and pay a few bills. Beryl had a heart of gold but still managed to lay down some disciplined house rules for Ian and older brother Paul. Ian recalls being warned about leaving his footy boots lying around or they would be thrown out with the garbage, one day it came to pass that just before a Saturday game when he was searching under every nook and cranny she reminded him that the garbage was collected on Wednesday (in fact she gave the boots to neighbour Jeff Brain.) In his teens Ian was a cheeky fun loving kid, 10 years my junior but like our little brother. I had 2 Christmas dinners at the Cochrane’s after we had surfed the early morning session. It could be volatile in the kitchen but I enjoyed ever minute of the colourful banter between the family members, and as the years passed those traits of competitiveness and fierce determination were passed from mother and father to sons. Phil and I will always be indebted to Bill and Beryl Cochrane for their contribution to help grow our business to what it is today.
While Ian Portingale was Swooping on his second Vic Open Title, little Ian was improving faster than anyone we had seen, he was simply a natural making every move look so easy. Only a miniscule 14 year old he placed 2nd at the Vic Junior titles in solid 6ft Bells Beach waves. But sometimes his sense of fun could get the better of him. On one trip to Phillip Island with Porti and girlfriend Polly in the EH wagon, the cheeky Cocky slipped his delicate hand around Big Ian’s neck. Polly new what was going on but when Porti started kissing Ian’s hand things got a little out of control. Porti almost wrenched Cocky’s arm from the socket. After that the friendship was never the same.
At this age Ian was also quite brilliant on a skateboard competing in team (his future wife Diedre was also in this team) and individual events, and going on to hold a Victorian junior title both on the skateboard and surfboard in the same year. The only other person I’ve known to have achieved this was John Law one of the co founders of Quiksilver, who’s a great surfer and an even more astute business man I would gather. One of our favourite tricks that Ian performed on the skateboard was his impersonations of the top surfers. His mimic of Mark Richards (The wounded seagull) was amazing as were those of M.P. and Terry Fitzgerald. Fifteen years of age was the legal loophole for Ian to escape from the disciplines of Aspendale Tech and after a few months of persuasion his parents relented and let him start a career making surfboards. Approaching 18 he had all the skills to be the most popular shaper on the Peninsula, however he could be easily distracted and on occasions we would find him in front of the pinball machines at the Fish and chip shop some 40 meters from our store. He held the record on every machine and at least we knew where to find him. During his teens Ian took up smoking fags and would disappear to his favourite hiding spot. On one particular occasion Phil recalls searching for him and from his smoke signals locating him under the lemon tree which was heavily draped in vines. Though he couldn’t be seen the smoke was a dead giveaway, so Phil announced he was going to water the lemon tree and gave it a good 5 minute soaking. Back in the glassing room Cocky finally fronted with Phil querying him as to how he’d managed to get so wet. “Been down the bay for a swim Harry?”
Paul, Ian, and Phil at Chelsea Store, December 73
Ian loved hanging out with the older guys, listening to our stories perched on a wooden stool placed between the seats in my 68 kombi (seat belts hadn’t been invented at this stage). Ted was relating a tale of a girl he was seeing as we were just about to go through the Seaford Rd Traffic lights when an excited Little Ian wrenched on the hand brake while exclaiming “like this Ted”. The van almost pitched onto 2 front wheels and by the time I had the car back under control I had gone through a red light, and Within seconds we heard that familiar sound of a Police siren and sergeant Maurie Millingham was only too pleased to pass on a ticket.
Paul, Ian, and Phil re-enacting their classic 1973 Photo at the front of the Chelsea store during it’s Auction back in 2006
Ian’s junior years were highlighted by regular invites to the triple J where he finished in the top 10 on most occasions and in 1976 he was the lone Victorian to compete in a surfing expresso filmed from start to finish by the ABC-TV .This event featured Nick and Tom Carroll and Cheyne Horan, who just some half a dozen years back relayed to Phil how Cocky had stayed with him for a few weeks, and how all the guys loved him because he’d fixed all their surfboards for nothing. On most of his Sydney trips Ian stayed with Kenny Oliver the hot younger bro of North Narrabeen legend Grant, he returned to VIC with new moves and some great ideas. Kenny, Cheyne and Robbie Bain (members of the Coke skate team) flew down from Sydney to join Ian for comps and demos at the 1975 Surfworld on the Yarra festival. These were valuable learning years, spawning new shapes, new moves and gave Ian a unique technical understanding of how to achieve each and every maneuver. Phil and I have always marveled at his ability to analyze correct and incorrect methods, whether it was related to surfing, kicking a football, hitting a golf shot, snowboarding or laying a tackle. He’s the ultimate skills coach when he has the time and passion. One of his theories for more accurate goal kicking is that by teaching the player to drop kick he learns the skill of guiding the ball to the foot. I ran this concept by Football Guru Gary Colling who used this technique to improve the goal scoring ability of Stewart Lowe by a considerable margin. His determination to get the best out of himself I saw close at hand when travelling together on a snow trip to Utah back in ’96. For 3 months prior he rode his bike to work some 30kms a day with the result when we hit the backcountry at Powder Mountain we called him legs of steel .
Ian in an advert for Surf World ’75
We are pretty sure he was the first surfer in VIC to perform forehand and backhand snapbacks but we would add that Wayne Lynch one of the worlds best surfers based at Lorne on the West Coast should not be discounted. One year Cocky came up with the idea of shaping a tail block and resining it onto the board approximately 6 inches up. He did this for all our team riders to help with the snapbacks and it is obviously the forerunner to the modern day tailblock on todays tailpads ala Gorilla Grip etc. Little Ian made surfing look so easy that we began to think he may have at times been under judged when competing, however he still went on to win the 1977 Vic junior Title and with an outstanding year as an 18 year old was a shoe in for the Open, but weeks of cancellations saw him paddle out for the Final at Bells quite ill, but he still managed a credible 3rd placing.
Cocky’s big year came in 1979 when he won the prestigious Alan Oke Memorial contest held at Woolami on Phillip Island. Surfing against two outstanding Goofy footers in Wayne Lynch (2nd) and Terry Richardson (6th) on a left hander was the catalyst for him to produce his radical backhand snaps under a series of hard hitting 6ft lips. Not even an aggressive paddling Maurice Cole could match his brilliant wave selection. With cash in the pocket his next foray was a trip to Mexico with our glasser John Jolly and Stretch Bingham The boys had great waves up to 12ft at Puerto Escondito but for Ian the highlight was skating with the likes of U.S. champ Jack Waterman and Sims rider Lonnie Toff who were pioneering a new craze (the forerunner to ‘halfpipes’) of Pool skating. They were sneaking into backyards and riding disused pools all over California plus hanging out at The Endless Wave Skate Park the first of its kind world wide. Upon his return Ian cajoled Phil and I to buy a block of land in Frankston and build a skate park (he was really excited about this prospect and offered to run it for us) but the risks of being sued by parents with injured kids would be far greater than the costs of creating a concrete jungle and we had to disappoint him.
From 1982 surfing started to lose the buzz for Cocky, we noticed he became less interested in small waves and began tracking Express point to such a degree we almost opened a shop down there for him to run. Back at Leo he was the 1st to surf behind the rock where he could backdoor the barrel. Tuberiding was becoming his speciality, and then by fluke chance a couple of games of Golf with Mick Schaffer saw him captivated, heading in a new direction and taking his handicap down under ten in just over 2 years. Fad man Cochrane had been reborn. In the coming years he would rekindle his passion for Footy (a highly skilled player at Red Hill), cricket, tennis, snowboarding and at the moment Poker. Ian hasn’t really surfed for some 30 years but has intimated he intends to have a crack this summer. I’d like to see that!