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Sydney’s Northern Beaches

The summer of 1959, a small group of Sydney lads were emerging from school books, hitting Freshwater beach with their long boards, desperate to perfect their new found craft of surfing. The late 50’s was a time before specific surfwear existed, the lads had to make do with surfing in ‘swim trunks’ or whatever else they could find.

Watching over this little ‘band of brothers’ was a loving mother – Jean Platt, she was fiercely proud of her son Kevin, his friends and their passion for surfing.

The boys would constantly express their need for something better to surf in, something that looked good, could handle the abuse, give freedom to move and a host of other features. Jean, a skilled seamstress set about designing a more practical pair of shorts for the boys to wear while on their boards.

Jean innovated out of necessity. She developed new forms of stitching and used new technologies, like velcro and fasteners to ensure her shorts were robust. She experimented with different fabrics and how they responded to the rigours of the surf. She had constant feedback from the boys as to what was most practical, while always keeping style as a priority.

Before long the reputation for “Platt made” handcrafted shorts had spread all over the coast. The demand for dedicated surf wear exploded, an industry was birthed and Platts soon were everywhere.

From Australia to the world stage

‘For any Australian surfer who grew up in the golden era of the ’60s they (Platts Boardshorts) were the most coveted piece of surf wear in the country, before anyone even spoke of a “surf industry”. Tim Baker

In 1956 when Mike Doyle & Bob Cooper visited Australia for the USA, showcasing the ‘Malibu’ surfboard, it unleashed a frenzy of intrigue and aspiration among the fresh faced, preppy youth of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It wasn’t long until beaches were over run with ‘teenagers’ trying their skill at mastering a board on the waves.

By the summer of ’59 the ‘Malibu Movement’ had started and surfing was finding it’s home in the heart of Australia’s east coast. Colliding with this revolutionary time and space were developing surfers and developing names like Midget Farrelly, Nat Young, Bob McTavish – all close friends of Kevin Platt and avid fans of his mothers made-to-measure, custom board shorts.

Dee Why and Freshwater would become a magnet for young surfers looking for more challenging breaks to test their skills. Just a stones-throw-away, the Sydney suburb of Brookvale was quickly becoming the board manufacturing hub of Australia. Demand was immense and again developing shapers and developing names would go on to write their names into surf history, Gordon Woods, Barry Wallace, Scott Dillon, Danny Keyo, Greg McDonough just to name a few.

As the demand for boards increased, so did the demand for suitable surf wear. Platts was right on the cusp of that wave and quickly moving from manufacturing surfwear from the Platt family home on Carlton Rd to their own factory, employing local seamstresses and opening one of the first ever surf stores on Pittwater Rd.

Over the coming years history continued to shape the boards, the shorts and the boys, it was time to take Australia’s surfing best to the world.

Surfwear worn by legends

When Kevin, Midget and Nat set off to Hawaii to participate in the 1963 Makaha International Surf Championship, Platts would have been in their suitcases.
Australian made boardshorts, were being worn on international beaches for the first time. Platts boardshorts, Midget and Australian surfing were all making their international debut.
Kevin, Midget and Nat would make the most of their time overseas, ‘riding all the famous beaches’ – oblivious to the fame they were about to bring back to Australian shores. Kevin and Nat held their own in Hawaii, offering up fierce competition but it was the quiet focus of Midget Farelly that would go on to make true history, taking the place of the first ever Australian to win a world title. Platts boardshorts were the unspoken necessity for these future legends in the making.

The trio and a handful of other close knit crew would spend the following years travelling the east coast of Australia, finding all the sweet and secluded breaks, experimenting in everything from surf movie making, music and contributing to the evolution of the short board. Kevin and ‘Platts’ – all central figures to the unfolding story.

None of the boys would have ever guessed that surfing would grown into a 50 billion dollar global industry, or that they would be the focus of endless articles and fill pages of surf mags the world over.

Friends of Platts

Surfing – a burgeoning icon of freedom and reckless cool was an active pursuit that was as much about the individual as it was about the community. At the core it was about ‘the lads’, friends, family and community, a love of surfing and freedom that would go on to shape the surf world in Australia and the world.

The Brookvale Six

The innovators who turned “Brookvale into surf city’.

Bernard "Midget" Farrelly

A close friend through formative years.

The Boys at Keyo's

The shapers who shaped men and boards.

Albe Falzon

Thank goodness for those skilled with a lens, capturing historical treasures.

Pearl Turton

A special place in the Platt families heart.

Bob McTavish

Healthy competition is good for generating new ideas and innovations.