SURFING – WEWAK STYLE

by Sgt. Graeme Johnson

SURFING - WEWAK STYLE -

I was introduced to this pastime by a civvy mate Bob PRINS who was employed by the Administration in the then Department of Ag., Stock & Fisheries in Wewak town centre. He was friends with some of the sons of the Chinese store owners in town who were also keen on this pastime.

I understand prior to my arrival at 2PIR in June 1969 several contingents of Chalkies were also keen surfers. At some point the Chalkies, the Chinese lads or others unknown mobilized the local villagers to build a “beach house“ where the boards could be left.

It is clear one of that number had a sense of humour with the displayed signage “Please keep the sandflies on a leash”. The only downside of this enjoyable pastime were these critters who would make a meal of you if any time was spent on the dark beach sands of Forok beach.The resultant bite was very itchy and could lead to a skin infection if not given some medical attention.

Undertaking the 15 minute motorbike ride several kilometres east of Moem Barracks was the rocky Forok Point with the nearby Forok beach providing a decent wave. The local villagers were conditioned to many keen surfers visiting their patch. The routine was to leave your motorbike at the head of the pedestrian track near the village and walk to the beach via a sometimes very muddy and slippery pathway. A quick change into your sophisticated beachwear – a pair of racing bathers – and you were away.

A river discharged into the Bismarck Sea in the near vicinity so after rain detritus was a common sight. Some of this debris was floating, partially submerged, with the sometimes spooky feeling of items brushing past your legs dangling on each side of the board – expecting the worst from some “man eater.” Thankfully this did not occur!

With work finish time around 1600 hours, following a quick change into civvies, there was usually time before the evening dinner to undertake a beach visit on a regular basis. Frequently one would underestimate the elapsed time spent at the beach and you would be heading back to Moem Barracks with the 1800 hours curfew looming. The only solution to avoid the Guard House at the front gate was to use the network of access tracks that criss- crossed Moem Point. These were constructed years ago and maintained by a day labour force for which I was responsible. They provided access to the scores of WW2 bomb craters that held water and had to be treated on a regular basis for mosquito control purposes. Having an intimate knowledge of the track network, thankfully I only resorted to this route on rare occasions if my timing was out. Not being dressed in long trousers / long sleeves after 1800 hours as we all know was a chargeable offence which often resulted in numerous extra duties one could do without. Many hours after work and on weekends were spent at Forok beach. The beach located near the Windjammer Motel near town provided a reasonable wave when a ride to Forok was not possible.

Surfing tourism has now taken off in PNG with a number of companies offering packages in rather exotic locations you could die for. This includes Vanimo, the location of the now RPIR Company Outstation – a tropical paradise where Chalkies and others surfed in idyllic conditions. Always being interested in aquatic activities I made good use of the Barracks swimming pool which I understand is no longer in use. Many laps were swum to keep my fitness in order. Readers may recall the pool was located near the then ASCO store, a short walk from the Sgt`s Mess which was my home for a little over sixteen months.

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Frank Cordingley
Frank Cordingley
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3 Comments

  1. At the time I was in WEWAK, I was a tradesman with CDW… and often frequented Moem Barracks, mostly for Picking up or dropping off Army vehicles after bingle repairs… but also the occasional luxuries that I couldn’t get from the Chinese stores in Town. In 1969 I joined the PNGVR in Madang, and 6 years later joined the RAAF as a Fireman. However, in the PNGVR I was “Borrowed” to help some Native Troops speak better English… and as I knew Pisin fluently, could elaborate on meanings in English back to PNG PISIN.

  2. The author of the surfing article responds !
    I was the only bloke dressed for some REAL work wearing jungle greens most days, none of this starched shorts / shirt caper for me.

  3. This confession confirms the long-held story that you did no actual work at Moem Barracks. Many Chalkies have evidence of your Sgts Mess activities – eating, drinking, wandering around in Budgie Smugglers! Together with multiple sightings of you in the Barracks pool and surfing at the Beach, there is powerful evidence that your NCOs and ORs did all the actual Hygiene work.
    There can be no criticism of the Chalkies who were completely dedicated to imparting their knowledge and skills but the same cannot be said about this Hygiene Sergeant!!

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