Surfer Gary Birdsall on hand to see Cronulla Point big wave ride re-created at Walk the Walls

By Murray Trembath
Updated December 12 2022

Gary Birdsall, the surfer whose big wave ride at Cronulla Point in 1963 was captured in an iconic photo and paintings, was on hand to see the moment brought to life in another art medium – a mural at Cronulla Walk the Walls.

The festival attracted many visitors over the weekend and the chamber of commerce says it will have ongoing benefits for businesses over summer and beyond in bringing people to Cronulla.

Birdsall, a Cronulla Point pioneer who visited the festival on Sunday, said street artist Jez Westblade (art name Mickwest) had done “a fantastic job” with his painting on the side of a building in Surf Lane, behind Hoyts.

Photographer Bob Weeks took the photo of Birdsall on the six metre wave, which was used on the cover of The Atlantics’ LP record Bombora and was later re-created by Birdsall, a renowned surf artist.

Birdsall, who now lives at Bulli, recalls it was “a weekday, and there weren’t many people about”.

“It was a big day, with a perfect line-up,” he said.

Birdsall said Bob Weekes photographed him as he took off “before I got absolutely wiped out”.

“I had a single fin board, which was the only reason I fell out of the face,” he said.

“We didn’t have tri-fins back then. If I had a tri fin, I would have stayed on the wave.”

Among the 40-odd art works in the festival is one by Kirrawee artist Bronte O’Shannessy, depicting the natural beauty of the former fisheries site at Hungry Point.

O’Shannessy described it as “an ode to the fisheries”, a message against developing the site.

Lettering artist Gillian Dinh (street name The Marker) took on one of the biggest challenges.

Her work, Too Nice, on the rooftop of the Croydon Street multi-level car park, is made up of extracts from about 100 anonymous messages of care, which she gathered from like-minded people on social media.

“I want to encourage acts of kindness when people say we shouldn’t worry or care,” she said.

Sutherland Shire Council staged the festival, using an $88,500 graffiti management grant by the state government.

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