VALE: My friendship with Jack Eden who made certain that Surfabout did it first!

FRANK MORRIS

ONE OF THE CLASSIC SHOTS WAS ‘MIDGET’ WINNING THE FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AT MANLY IN 1964. PHOTO: JACK EDEN.

HE LITERALLY, AND PHOTOGRAPHICALLY, OPENED THE DOORS ON A BRIGHTER 1960s.

Jack Eden, Australia’s leading surfing photographer and publisher died on Sunday evening from Parkinson’s disease in a Sydney nursing home. He was 88.

Eden, who infused new life into the sixties, found a new way in this “irrepressible period of our history”.

His Surfabout photos exude a timeless quality that is rarely, if ever, found in collections of this genre.

A leading historian said, “The 60’s was a time when all wrongs of society seemed, for brief moment, to be curable”.
Eden, a photo-journalist, started Surfabout Magazine in 1962 at a time when the new guard of surfers were taking over. It was called the Swinging Sixties.

While it missed being the first by only a few months, Surfabout was the first to set the pace for what Jack Eden euphemistically called “the uniqueness” of being an individual.

Yes, it was the age of being free as a bird.

It was the age of more freedom, rock ‘n roll and less demanding friendships – only when it didn’t interact with anything to do with surfing. This was a time when Australia came of age on the waves.

Eden’s camera captured countless images, which infused the new life for surfers into what can only be described as an irrepressible period of our history.
 

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ABOUT JACK EDEN …
‘MIDGET’ FARRELLY, 1997: “LUCKILY JACK EDEN CAUGHT MANY OF THE MAJOR PLAYERS OF THIS ERA ON BLACK AND WHITE FILM. HIS PRECISION TRULY CONVEYS THE UNIQUENESS OF A NEVER TO BE REPEATED PIONEER PERIOD IN AUSTRALIA’S SURFING LIFE”.
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The historic debut issue, Surfabout, emblazoned with aboriginal motifs, sold out as it hit the streets. The first print-run evaporated in a week. A newsagent in Surfers Paradise reported selling 250 copies in sixty minutes.

“They went like hot cakes,” a very proud distributor said.

Where did the name Surfabout spring from? I asked him.

Eden pondered the question for a moment. He replied. “It took many hours of deliberation before we came up with the idea of adapting the aboriginal term ‘walkabout’ for the magazine title.

So Surfabout it became.

This was long before indigenous cultures became the vogue. Then, and in later issues, the cover design was simple, uncluttered and unpretentious – most of the illustration was left in on so that readers can get some true maturity of the action.

Surfabout was first:

TO pioneer surfing photography, attracting the best photographs from all over the world. Jack Eden was among the best.

TO attain not only national readership, but a worldwide audience: America’s West Coast, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and so on.

TO pin-up action spreads in duo-tone, to produce full colour front covers, and to feature an illustrated front cover by Archibald Prize contender Helen Dillon.

TO introduce international coverage, to have its photographs and articles republished in newspapers and magazines in Australia and overseas.

Surfabout sold for four shillings and sixpence, 45 cents in today’s currency.

From its pages, came a permanent reminder of who we are and the way we were.

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ABOUT JACK EDEN …
THIS IS WHAT SURFABOUT SAID ABOUT ‘MIDGET’ FARRELLY IN THE FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: “AUSTRALIA’S ‘MIDGET’ FARRELLY GAVE AN EXCELLENT EXHIBITION OF TIGHT, FUCTIONAL SURFING AND HIS SMOOTH DROPS AND TURNS GAINED HIM MAXIMUM POINTS.”
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Frank Morris comments:

Australia hit the scene as a surfing nation sixty years ago. I joined Jack Eden and the team as editor of Surfabout magazine.

I wrote him a screed and said that with “my experience” that the journal could go far. He didn’t answer my letter, he called to my house. I happened to be in. I got the shock of my life. I got the job.

Jack was first to find out that I wasn’t a surfer; I was a writer and newspapers were my specialty. That is what Jack liked.

“We’ve come of age on the waves,” I opined in the second issue of Surfabout. It was one of the first surfing magazines published in Australia and it attracted the best photographs from the world’s top surfing circles.
In many ways, Surfabout was ahead of its time.

To match my flow of editorial, Jack worked literally around the clock.

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ABOUT JACK EDEN …
JACK EDEN HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS “THE PHOTOGRAPHIC BIOGRAPER” OF AUSTRALIAN SURFING HISTORY. HE REGARDS THE SIXTIES AS SURFING’S GOLDEN ERA. HE CAPTURED ALL OF THE GREATS FROM THE TIME.
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My opening column, On The Surf-Front, was an editorial on the surf culture, Let’s Keep the Sport Fun.
The second issue, in December 1962, demonstrated a significant number of changes that would be influential in Australian surf magazines.

Inside the thirty-six magazines the masthead carried the sub-heading, ‘Australia’s Premier Surfing Magazine’, and also the features – surfers’ portraits, surfing maps, column from the doyen of overseas surfing writers and a general news spread.

“Jack was now listed as manager and John Morris-Thorne (Frank Morris) was listed as editor.”

With me as editor, I had to make the Surfabout-team happy too. They thought that I had “put the icing on cake”.
When Surfabout was sold in 1965, I did various features for the new publisher. One of the timely articles I penned was on the ‘young’ board industry in Australia and it was going to thrive through “thick and thin”. The rest is history.
And I thank Jack, truly. Our association turned into one of the most joyous friendships – a friendship to last for 57 years.

He was my best mate.

VALE JACK EDEN

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 30 September 19

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