Local surf legend shares life story

MAKING WAVES: Steve's Place in its early days in Robe - around 1972 - at the site which is now the bottleshop of the Caledonian Inn.

MAKING WAVES: Steve’s Place in its early days in Robe – around 1972 – at the site which is now the bottleshop of the Caledonian Inn.

A NEW book about the adventurous life of South East surfing legend and former gun shearer Steve Woolston will be released at special events in Robe and Keith this month.

Finding Steve’s Place will be self-published by best-selling author and former Mount Gambier resident Liz Harfull to coincide with the 50th anniversary year of the Robe Easter Surfing Classic, founded by Steve.

But according to the author, the book is about a lot more than surfing.

“Steve Woolston would never describe himself as famous, but it’s fair to say that he’s a legend in certain circles and he has some extraordinary and humorous stories to tell,” Ms Harfull said.

READY: Author Liz Harfull has documented the adventurous life of South East surfing legend and former gun shearer Steve Woolston.

“In fact, one of the things that drew me to writing the book is that Steve has led a diverse and often surprising life, which cuts across some fascinating moments in time.

“Many people, including members of his own family, are going to be astonished at some of his adventures and the characters he has come across along the way, including his years working as a shearer and some spells in the Outback.”

Ms Harfull said the book also presented the chance to write about the pioneering AMP Land Development Scheme, which transformed huge areas of the Ninety Mile Desert in the Upper South East into productive farming land in the 1950s.

“Steve’s father was among the men recruited to work on the scheme and he moved the whole family from suburban Adelaide to Brecon Station near Keith, where they lived in a steel hut for five years.

“It was a terrible trial for his mum, Shirley, but a boy’s own adventure for Steve, who was eight when they arrived.”

After leaving school, Steve trained as a shearer, working mainly in the Upper South East and the Adelaide Hills.

In his mid 20s, he also spent time in the Great Sandy and Gibson deserts, working with a gravity survey crew.

Then in the mid 1960s he discovered surfing, which led him to Robe, where he established a surf shop, Steve’s Place, and the surfing competition, believed to be the second-oldest continuously running surfing competition in the world.

“I did not know all that much about surfing when I started interviewing Steve, but what became quickly apparent is that his life and experiences intersect with some of the greatest moments and the most famous names in Australian surfing.

“As one of his mates told me, every day something funny or interesting happened, just because it did,” Ms Harfull said.

“Steve calls it a voyage of discovery and it truly was, including a surfing accident that almost cost him his life.”

Finding Steve’s Place is the author’s eighth book and the first she has self-published.

She has written two previous books about Robe – Almost an Island: the story of Robe, released by Wakefield Press in 2013 and Guichen Bay and the Chinese Landings, which was commissioned last year by Robe District Council.

Finding Steve’s Place will be launched by former Mount Gambier ABC presenter Lucy Richards in the Robe Institute at 2pm on December 15.

The book’s release will also be celebrated at Keith, where Steve now lives, on December 18 at 6pm at the Keith Hotel.

Books will be available at both events for sale (cash only) and for signing by both Liz and Steve.

After the launch, books will be available for purchase from select shops in the South East, including Collins Bookshop in Mount Gambier and Steve’s Place at Robe.

REWARD: Hard work as a shearer paid off for Steve Woolston when he purchased his first Sunbeam Alpine in 1963. He fell in love with the car after seeing movie star Elizabeth Taylor driving it in the film Butterfield8.